Leah Remini filed a bombshell lawsuit on Wednesday against the Church of Scientology and leader David Miscavige that includes claims of harassment, defamation and surveillance. Remini broke from the church in 2013, and has been one of the organization’s most outspoken critics. The 53-year-old actress says her career has suffered as a result of the church’s mob-style operations against her, and she’s seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
“For 17 years, Scientology and David Miscavige have subjected me to what I believe to be psychological torture, defamation, surveillance, harassment, and intimidation, significantly impacting my life and career. I believe I am not the first person targeted by Scientology and its operations, but I intend to be the last,” the King of Queens star tells Yahoo Entertainment in a statement.
Yahoo reached out to the Church of Scientology to comment, but did not immediately receive a response. Religious Technology Center, Inc., which the complaint alleges manages policing operations and principally enforces Scientology’s punishment orders, is also named as a defendant.
In the wide-ranging, 60-page lawsuit, Remini claims the Church of Scientology and Miscavige “have undertaken a campaign to ruin and destroy” her “life and livelihood.” The actress, who was a high-ranking member of the church for decades, believes she was targeted after attending Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’s 2006 wedding in Italy. Remini says she started asking questions about Miscavige’s missing wife, Shelly, and “was immediately admonished by the group, despite the fact that she and Ms. Miscavige were good friends.”
Remini claims Scientology also started to orchestrate and finance attacks on her family, friends, businesses partners, associates, advertisers, proposed future advertisers and potential employers.
“With this lawsuit, I hope to protect my rights as afforded by the Constitution of the United States to speak the truth and report the facts about Scientology. I feel strongly that the banner of religious freedom does not give anyone license to intimidate, harass, and abuse those who exercise their First Amendment rights,” Remini adds.
Legal experts think Remini has a strong case if her allegations are proven true — and there is a lot at stake.
“The lawsuit seeks more than an award of damages. She seeks a court injunction against the Church’s harassment of ‘suppressive persons,'” defamation lawyer Jeff Lewis tells Yahoo. (Anyone who publicly leaves Scientology, like Remini, is declared a Suppressive Person.)
“This lawsuit has far reaching implications beyond just this plaintiff,” Lewis adds. “If she wins, it will impact the relationship between the Church and all of the Church’s ex-members (aka ‘suppressive persons.’) The lawsuit is the functional equivalent of a class action lawsuit on behalf of all ex-members.”
Litigation attorney Cynthia Augello, partner of NYC-based Warren Law Group, notes to Yahoo that Remini’s “primary challenge” will be substantiating the “allegations elucidating instances of harassment, stalking, defamation, and emotional distress she endured following her departure from Scientology.”