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Leah Remini is breaking up with Scientology. The King of Queens actress, a longtime member of the controversial church, has reportedly left after years of tension with leader David Miscavige. According to sources, Miscavige subjected Remini to years of interrogation, scrutiny and punishment -- all because of an incident that happened at Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes's wedding.
Here's how things went down, according to reporter Tony Ortega (who is writing a book about Scientology). In 2006, Remini attended Tom and Katie's super-exclusive wedding at a castle in Italy. The best man was David Miscavige, Cruise's BFF and the leader of the church since 1986. Strangely, David's wife Shelly was nowhere to be seen. So Remini, being an outspoken woman, wondered out loud why Shelly wasn't there.
It was a good question; in fact, Shelly literally vanished from the public eye around that time. But David reportedly took offense at the question and told Leah she didn't have the rank to ask about his wife. Leah, in turn, complained about David to other Scientology leaders.
Reportedly, the actress was then ordered to undergo an interrogation process called "thought modification" at Scientology's Florida headquarters. She was also encouraged to break away from family and friends who were critical of the church. Instead of falling in line, however, Remini only became more critical of the institution's policies.
“It all began when Leah questioned the validity of excommunication of people,” a source told the New York Post. “She is stepping back from a regime she thinks is corrupt. She thinks no religion should tear apart a family or abuse someone under the umbrella of ‘religion.’”
The church of Scientology is a mysterious organization, but holds a special influence among the Hollywood elite. Members like Cruise, John Travolta and Kirstie Alley claim that Scientology changed their lives and made them successful. The church depends on its famous spokespeople to bring in new recruits -- so it's very rare that a well-known Scientologist leaves the fold.
But Leah Remini is not the first. In February 2011, screenwriter Paul Haggis, best known for writing the films Crash and Million Dollar Baby, was the subject of a headline-grabbing New Yorker article about his break with the church. The following year, Lisa Marie Presley -- who was brought into the church by her mother Priscilla -- announced in a song that she was leaving Scientology. Shortly afterwards, Katie filed for divorce from Tom -- amid rumors that she was leaving him to get daughter Suri away from the church.
Miscavige has a reputation for being vindictive against people who leave Scientology -- one of many reasons the organization is often branded a "cult." But more and more, defectors are refusing to leave quietly. Several prominent ex-Scientologists have published blogs in which they describe their experiences and criticize the church. And earlier this year, Miscavige's niece wrote a tell-all memoir about growing up in Scientology's child labor camps.
Even so, few celebrities have ever spoken publicly about their reasons for leaving the church. Last night Remini released a statement thanking her supporters, saying, “I wish to share my sincere and heartfelt appreciation for the overwhelming positive response I have received from the media, my colleagues, and fans from around the world. I am truly grateful and thankful for all your support.” If the actress chooses to open up further about her experience, she'll be the first big-name celeb to do so. It will be interesting to see how the church reacts -- and whether she'll open the floodgates for other ex-Scientologists to break their silence.