Leah Remini has issued only a brief statement since her headline-making split from the Church of Scientology last week but now her sister is speaking out, claiming that the church is attempting to drive her family’s friends away.
Nicole Remini, the actress’s older sister, who herself left the church several years ago, told a Minneapolis-St. Paul radio station this week that Leah Remini’s relationship with the church began to sour years ago at the 2006 wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes in Italy.
Nicole Remini says that her sister was rebuked by church officials after asking the head of the church, David Miscavige, who was Cruises’s best man, where his wife, Shelly, was. Shelly Miscavige has not been seen in public for years.
“She was totally shocked,” Remini-Winslow told myTalk 107.1FM. “She did not at all expect that type of response and then it just kind of escalated from there.”
Remini, 43, did not include a reason for her departure from the church in the statement she issued last week, saying only that she was, “truly grateful and thankful” for the support she had received from, “the media, my colleagues and fans from around the world.”
Her sister Nicole also spoke this week to People magazine.
“According to Leah’s sister, when Leah asked if she could call Shelly Miscavige, she was asked to write a letter and that the church would hand it to her,” People’s Raha Lewis told ABC News. “The church claims that Shelly Miscavige is a private person and just does not like to be seen in public.”
The Church of Scientology declined to comment about Leah Remini to ABC News, saying in a statement last week, “The church respects the privacy of parishioners and has no further comment.”
When asked by ABC News Wednesday about the reports surrounding Shelly Miscavige, the church issued a statement that, “Mrs. Miscavige continues her work in the church as she always has.”
Remini, who co-hosted “The Talk” for one season and starred on the sitcom “The King of Queens” for nearly nine years, is not the first celebrity to break from the Church of Scientology, – “Crash” director Paul Haggis left the church in 2009.
Remini was so close to Cruise, one of the church’s most high-profile members, that, in 2006, she was one of the first people to speak publicly about Cruise’s then-newborn daughter, Suri, with his then-wife Katie Holmes.
She also, according to her sister, served for one year in the church’s elite “Sea Org” religious order.
Now, says Nicole Remini, church officials have forced the Remini family’s friends from their decades of involvement with Scientology to choose between them and the church.
“We have been involved in Scientology for 30, 35 years of our life, so you can imagine the circle of friends that my mother has, my sister has,” Nicole Remini said on myTalk 107.1. “They literally have pulled in these people and told them they had to choose between relationships with my sister and my mother or the church.”
“And I’m going to tell you,” she said. “These people chose the church.”
The Church of Scientology has repeatedly denied that members of the church are forced to cut themselves off from former members, saying such decisions are voluntary.
The church has also publicly denied the story that Remini confronted David Miscavige at the Cruise-Holmes wedding.