Leah Remini Reveals She Left Scientology for Her Daughter Sofia

Exes actress opens up about defecting in July 2013 and credits Jennifer Lopez with standing by her side

By Zach Johnson Feb 27, 2014 2:10 PMTags
Leah Remini Larry Busacca/Getty Images for EJAF

Leah Remini is laying her cards on the table.

In a wide-ranging Buzzfeed interview, the actress opens up about leaving the Church of Scientology in the summer of 2013. "I don't want to be known as this bitter, ex-Scientologist," Remini says. "I'm not trying to bash anybody and I'm not trying to be controversial. I just want people to know the truth."

The former King of Queens star says "dozens of influencing factors" prompted her departure in July. The foremost reason, however, was that her daughter Sofia, 9, approached the age when auditing—a process that involves a series of probing questions—became required for acclimation into the church.

"In my house, it's family first—but I was spending most of my time at the church," Remini recalls. "So, I was saying 'family first,' but I wasn't showing that. I didn't like the message that sent my daughter."

Remini says she tried to speak to fellow Scientologists to instigate change, but "they only cared that their lives would be disrupted if they stood with me. They didn't care about doing the right thing."

"We had a chance to make a change from within, but they didn't want to," Remini, 43, claims. "That showed me they didn't actually care, which went against everything I thought we stood for."

The former Talk co-host says she grew up "resenting" her own mother for spending more time at the church than at home. After Remini defected, however, her mom came to her defense. "The fact my mother stood by me after all her years in the Church totally took away any resentment I may have been harboring. When it mattered the most, my mother was there for me. It was the moment that erased all those days she wasn't there. That moment proved to me she was with me. 'Ride or Die.'"

Remini says she lost many friends after renouncing the religion seven months ago. "In the Church, you're taught that everybody is lost," explains the actress, married to Angelo Pagán since 2003. "They say they're loving, caring, non-judgmental people, but secretly, they were judging the world for not believing what they believed. To me, that is not a spiritual person. That's a judgmental person and that is the person that I was. I was a hypocrite, and the worst thing you can be in this world is a hypocrite."

She leaned on her famous friend Jennifer Lopez, who suggested she listen to daily affirmation tapes. "Jennifer made special rings for all the women in her life that say, 'I Love Me,' and I've really come to realize you have to love yourself before you can expect someone else to," Remini tells Buzzfeed. "You have to learn to believe you deserve love. And I'm getting there. I'm starting to believe it."

After leaving the Church of Scientology, Remini found solace by focusing on her work. She competed on ABC's Dancing With the Stars and finished in fifth place with pro partner Tony Dovolani. She now stars on TV Land's The Exes, which, like King of Queens, is taped in front of a live studio audience.

"This is one of the best jobs I've ever had," Remini says. "When you get the applause or the joke lands and you get the laugh, you can't match that feeling. This business that I love is the drug I never took."