Watch CBS News

Leah Remini sues Church of Scientology, alleging "harassment, intimidation, surveillance, and defamation"

Actress Leah Remini sues Church of Scientology for harassment, emotional distress
Actress Leah Remini sues Church of Scientology for harassment, emotional distress 00:24

Actor and former Church of Scientology member Leah Remini filed a lawsuit against the organization and its leader, David Miscavige, on Wednesday. 

Remini, who left the church in 2013 after being a member since childhood, alleged she's been the victim of harassment, intimidation, surveillance and defamation for 17 years. She's seeking compensatory and punitive damages for the economic and psychological harm she claims the church inflicted upon her. 

"Most importantly, she seeks injunctive relief to end Scientology's policies against Suppressive Persons so that current and former Scientologists, and others who wish to expose Scientology's abuses, including journalists and advocates, may feel free to hold Scientology accountable without the fear that they will be threatened into silence," her attorneys wrote in a 60-page complaint filed in California's Superior Court. 

According to the church's website, "Scientology is a religion that offers a precise path leading to a complete and certain understanding of one's true spiritual nature and one's relationship to self, family, groups, Mankind, all life forms, the material universe, the spiritual universe and the Supreme Being."

Remini has spoken out against the church for years. But several prominent celebrities, including Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Elisabeth Moss and Danny Masterson, continue to be affiliated with the religion.

Remini has said in the past that Cruise was one of the reasons she left Scientology.

"Being critical of Tom Cruise is being critical of Scientology itself ... you are evil," she told  "20/20" correspondent Dan Harris in 2015. 

The Church of Scientology responded to Remini's suit on Thursday, calling her allegations "pure lunacy."

In a statement, the Church of Scientology slammed "Remini's obsession with attacking her former religion, by spreading falsehoods and hate speech," and said, "All the while, Remini has profited handsomely from her fabrications, through the sale of hate books, hate podcasts and paid-for tabloid hate television."

"If Remini does not believe in free speech, then she should consider emigrating to Russia," the church wrote. 

In a Wednesday press release, Remini said she and others should be allowed to "speak the truth and report the facts about Scientology."

"Those in the entertainment business should have a right to tell jokes and stories without facing an operation from Scientology which uses its resources in Hollywood to destroy their lives and careers," Remini said. "With this lawsuit, I hope to protect the rights afforded to them and me by the Constitution of the United States to speak the truth and report the facts about Scientology without fear of vicious and vindictive retribution, of which most have no way to fight back."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.