George Anthony Remini was the father of actress and former Church of Scientology member Leah Remini. According to the actress, her father died a month ago, but she was not notified about his death or funeral by Scientology members.
Remini has long been an outspoken critic of the church, and is the creator and executive producer of the nonfiction docuseries “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.” Remini said that last Friday she received a message from her sister Nicole, who had been contacted by a stranger “passing on his condolences for the passing of our father.”
“We had no idea that he had died a month ago,” Remini wrote on Instagram. “We weren’t aware that he had been sick leading up to his death. A funeral came and went and none of us knew anything about it. We were not able to say goodbye.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Scientology Used Her Father as a “Pawn,” Remini Wrote
On Sunday, Remini accused Scientology officials of dictating the last chapter of her relationship with her father. The church “took my dad in as a pawn against me” and “likely robbed him of any last ounce of heart,” she said.
“I’m angry that Scientology found his personal weak spots and got him on board not with their beliefs but with their smear campaign against me. That was his last presence in my life,” she said. “Knowing my father, after taking the offer from Scientology to betray me, he wouldn’t have thought that he could ever come back from that in our relationship. If he thought that, though, he would have been wrong. I would have forgiven him as I always did.”
Remini wrote that while she and her father had a “difficult relationship,” she had hoped he would some day acknowledge “who he had been and what he had done to us as his children.”
“That alone would have been healing in its own way,” she wrote. “We never got that, yet I can’t help but grieve. I am angry at myself for crying for someone who didn’t ever cry for me. I am angry that I still wanted this man’s love.”
2. Remini Says She Was “Indoctrinated” into Scientology as a Child in New York
Remini has said she was brought into the fold of Scientology as a child, while living with her mother and sister in New York, according to her website.
Eventually, she moved to Los Angeles, “where her dreams of becoming an actress and advancing Scientology’s causes grew increasingly intertwined.” As an adult, she gained a prominent place in the “hierarchy of celebrity Scientologists,” including actor Tom Cruise. Remini said she spent time with Cruise and was invited to his wedding with Katie Holmes in 2006.
But when she started asking questions about some of the church’s actions, Remini said she became a “target.”
“In the end, she was declared by the church to be a threat to their organization and therefore a ‘suppressive person,’ and as a result, all of her fellow parishioners – including members of her own family – were told to disconnect from her. Forever,” her website reads.
3. Remini Finally Broke With Scientology in 2013 and Wrote a Book About the Experience
In 2013, Remini “loudly and publicly” broke with the Church of Scientology, she said. She later wrote a book called “Troublemaker” about splitting from the church and its controversial practices.
Though many former Scientologists have spoken out against the church, Remini’s celebrity helped propel her memoir to the New York Times bestseller list.
“Her new memoir, Troublemaker, might make her the most famous former Scientologist to publicly criticize the religion,” National Public Radio said of the book.
4. Remini’s series about Scientology Received an Emmy Award Nomination This Year
Remini’s docuseries about Scientology, which she is the creator and executive producer of, debuted in 2016 on A&E Network. In 2017, the series won an Emmy award for “Outstanding Informational Series or Special,” according to Remini’s website. The show also won a Television Critics Association Award for “Outstanding Achievement in Reality Programming” and a Producers Guild Award for “Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television.”
This year, the series was again nominated for an Emmy in the category of “Outstanding Informational Series or Special,” but did not win.
Leah said that while she didn’t take home an Emmy this time around, her 15-year-old daughter wrote her a touching note afterwards that said: “You deserved that Emmy. I hope you know that. But this one loss does not reflect the impact of your show. I love you, and so do millions of others.”
5. The Actress Has Called Scientology’s Cruise Ship the “Freewinds” a “Ship of Horrors”
This May, the Scientology ship the “Freewinds” was quarantined in St. Lucia because of a confirmed case of measles, Newsweek reported. Dr. Marlene Fredericks James, the national chief medical officer, said at the time that there was concern about the disease spreading within a small area.
“This outbreak could be a blessing in disguise because maybe some people can get off this ship of horrors,” Remini told Newsweek. “Circumstances like this give an opportunity for some agencies or authorities to gain access to this ship beyond what would normally be offered.”
Other former Scientologists have talked about finding it extremely difficult to escape the Freewinds. Ramana Dienes-Browning told ABC News in 2012 that after she attempted to leave the ship, she was put in a “re-indoctrination program,” which involved doing hard labor in the ship’s engine room.