Leah Remini Claims Church of Scientology Wanted to Recruit Jennifer Lopez
By Meredith B. Kile
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Leah Remini, who spent nearly 30 years in the Church of Scientology before becoming one of its most famous defectors, opened up about the controversial religion in an interview with 20/20 on Friday night.
Remini, who grew up in the church after her parents divorced when she was seven years old, made allegations about the church's Sea Org similar to those described in HBO’s controversial documentary, Going Clear, but it’s her life in the spotlight that provided some truly eye-opening moments.
The 45-year-old actress explained that Tom Cruise’s 2006 wedding to Katie Holmes was a major turning point for her in the church, opening her eyes to what she described as the inner workings of Scientology and its behavior towards A-list members.
Remini claimed she was invited to attend the wedding, under one condition: that she brought along her friends Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony. The actress had met the then-married couple through her husband, Cuban musician Angelo Pagan, and obliged. "The church was really the one who invited them, on Tom’s behalf," she alleged.
However, once they were in Italy for the festivities, Remini claimed she found herself being kept away from Lopez, seated at different tables and forced to ride in separate vehicles.
"They were trying to extract me," she alleged. "I can only assume because they wanted to make Jennifer a Scientologist. Maybe I was barring that road for them."
After the wedding, Remini claimed she returned home to discover that other church members had filed "knowledge reports" against her, including one from Katie Holmes herself.
"I was dismayed at the behavior of Leah Remini during the events leading up to our wedding and our wedding," the actress allegedly wrote in the report, which Remini read from during the 20/20 interview. "The behavior as a guest, a friend, was very upsetting."
At the time, Remini wasn’t ready to leave the church, and potentially her family, behind so she said she was then sent to Scientology’s base in Clearwater, Florida for "reprogramming." (Remini and her family left the church together in summer 2013.)
"Basically, they were just trying to get me to recant what I said,' she told ABC News' Dan Harris, "to apologize for ruining the wedding of the century."
Holmes publicly apologized to Remini in a statement on Friday saying, "I regret having upset Leah in the past and wish her only the best in the future."
The Church of Scientology on the other hand, was less effusive, saying in a statement to ET, "It comes as no surprise that someone as self-absorbed as Leah Remini with an insatiable craving for attention would exploit her former faith as a publicity stunt by rewriting her history with it, including omitting that she was participating in a program to remain a Scientologist by her own choice, as she was on the verge of being expelled for her ethical lapses."
"It’s not a shining endorsement for the Church of Scientology to say that I’m deeply flawed after 30 years, reaching the upper levels of the church," Remini countered after hearing some of the church’s statements against her, which were hand-delivered by parishioners to ABC News headquarters in New York City in the week leading up to her interview.
But the actress said she doesn’t regret her time spent in the church.
"I don't regret what I’ve been through, I don't regret spending my life there because it really did teach me a lot," she said.
Remini’s memoir, Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology, hits stores Nov. 3.