A&E’s remarkable series, Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, will return for season two on August 15 at 9 pm. Everyone can see the effect that their show is having on Scientology and the public’s perception of it. Not so long ago, it was rare for someone who had spent time in the Church of Scientology to come out publicly about it. But these days, the floodgates are open.
Just as an example, one day, we were looking through some posts at a closed Facebook group that discusses Leah’s show, and a woman named Anne Renner Krzanowski spoke up.
I wasn’t in the Church for nearly as long as so many others, but I still had my time and my horror story. I joined in 1986 when I was 17, still living at home with my parents, just graduated high school and was curious. The Church of Scientology got a hold of me so fast and they were so relentless in recruiting me. Once I went in, I went through the auditing, they found my vulnerabilities and weaknesses and exploited the hell out of them. I was ordered to disconnect from my parents and family. I was ordered to move in to the church, where I would be taken care of, have everything I would ever need, I could contribute to the “greater good,” reach my best and highest spiritual enlightenment, and they would marry me off to a “suitable match.” Thank GOD that never happened. But I believed all their promises of this beautiful, purpose-filled life. I started to disconnect from my parents, I was being indoctrinated by the Church and their brainwashing was starting to work on me. My dad knew something was going on and I finally broke down and told him everything. He wouldn’t let me move out of the house, told me not to answer the phone, or the door, and to have no contact with Scientology at all. I’m leaving out a lot but my parents were declared SP, they relentlessly pursued me to get me back. I snuck out and went back one more time and they put me thru a 6-hour audit that messed my brain up severely. After that many hours with no break, no water, no food, etc., you will say whatever they want to hear just to make it stop. I “confessed my sins” to them of being conflicted and confused and doubting if I wanted to stay in the church. After that day I went back to my parents home, terrified of the Church, and my dad ultimately intervened and told them they would have to go through him to get his daughter and they were NOT going to get through him. He saved my life. I was declared and they said they expelled me from the church because I was associating with SPs. I was only in for about a year but their damage was done. The scars are still there, 30 years later. I thank God for Leah Remini and Mike Rinder and everyone who has been brave enough to be willing to tell their story to the world. So much innocence has been stolen by this horrible cult. So many families destroyed. Mine came so close. I was on the edge, about to jump. If it hadn’t been for my dad who pulled me back from that edge, Scientology would have had me probably for decades. I’m just so grateful for what Leah, Mike and all the others are doing. People need to know. Scientology isn’t glitzy, glamorous hanging out with Tom Cruise. They are your worst nightmare.
Following are some questions and answers about Anne’s experience in Scientology.
You said you were 17 when you joined the church in 1986. What part of the country were you in?
I grew up in Maryland. There wasn’t a church in Baltimore so I had go to Washington DC.
How long would you estimate between the time you got in and they were encouraging you to distance yourself from your parents?
I guess around six months. Once they knew my vulnerabilities, having been abused by my mother and being brought up in a very religious household (my father was a Methodist preacher), they knew how to exploit that to their advantage. They would refer to my parents as my “physically and verbally abusive mother and my overbearing Christian father” so I would be increasingly unhappy with them and be more drawn to what the church offered. It was purely manipulative. I couldn’t see that I was basically being brainwashed. Indoctrinated into their world.
When you say you were “ordered to move in to the church,” do you mean that you were being recruited for the Sea Org?
Yes. They talked to me about joining the Sea Org and how their work would help me achieve my truest version of myself. That I would be able to do the work that I wanted to do, helping the planet, helping third world countries, etc. And that the depression and anxiety I was struggling with from my childhood would go away without the need for medication. I was being filled with promises of a life filled with purpose and spiritual awareness at the highest possible levels.
How far did you get up the Bridge? Did you ever join staff?
I did not. I had started taking the intro courses but never got that far up.
What do you think convinced you to pull back and tell your father what was going on?
My dad noticed I was distancing myself from him. I had always been close with him so it was a distinct difference in my behavior. He started asking if there was something going on that I wanted to talk about and I would say no, that I was fine. I also had stopped going to our family’s church where he preached, because I was going to DC for the Scientology Sunday service. After I had confessed my doubts to my auditor they told me the best thing for me would be to move out of my parent’s house and move in with the church. That was when they talked about my joining Sea Org. They said they would help me where my parents had failed. In my gut something didn’t feel right and I started feeling wary of the church. That maybe they weren’t what they seemed on the surface. Remember this was 1986 and I was a naive, shy 17 year old girl who had a very sheltered upbringing. Information wasn’t as readily available as it is now. There was no Internet, no smart phones. What we learned came from what we were told, or from books. So Scientology at that time was almost entirely in charge of their public image. I didn’t know any different until I got in and the layers started peeling back.
How did your parents get declared? How did you become aware of it? Had they been Scientologists?
They were never in. The church sent them a letter after I had confessed to my auditor that I was feeling confused and getting mixed messages between the church and my parents. That I was starting to doubt if I wanted to be in this particular church. In retrospect that was my biggest mistake. I was too open with them. But by that point my auditing sessions were like therapy sessions and they were exceptionally good at making you feel safe and letting your guard down. It’s what they want.
What kinds of questions were you asked in the 6-hour audit that “messed up your brain”?
Questions like “have you ever had thoughts of harming your mother?” “Your mother was very physically abusive with you. She told you that you were worthless and unlovable. Did she ever touch you inappropriately? Did she touch you sexually?” “Do you feel you connect more with women than with men? Have you ever had thoughts about having sex with a woman?” “You said you were closer with your father. Have you ever had sexual thoughts about him?” “Have you ever had thoughts about hurting your father for not protecting you from your mother’s abuse?” “Have you ever had thoughts about suicide?” “Have you ever thought about killing your family?” “Have you ever drunk to excess?” “Have you ever taken any illicit drugs?” The sexual questions were very disturbing to me. I was still a virgin at the time, and very shy. It was horrifying to me that anyone would ask me such personal questions. Beyond the questions themselves, it’s that they asked them repeatedly, over and over again, looking for a different answer or a crack in the armor as I started to wear down. After hours of these intensely personal questions I was crying off and on, and eventually started answering some of the questions with a “yes” just so they would stop asking them. I just wanted it to be over.
How did you find out that you were declared? Were you ever shown your declare order?
After that last auditing session I stopped going. I didn’t take their phone calls and told my dad how scared I was of them. He had figured out by then that they were a cult and were trying to get his daughter. He instructed my mom and brothers not to give the phone to me if anyone called for me that they didn’t know, and I wasn’t to answer the phone at all. They called many times (I don’t know exactly how many) and after about six to eight weeks after I had stopped going and stopped responding to their calls, I received the declare order and a letter that I was being expelled from the church.
Could you explain more what you mean specifically about how that experience still affects you 30 years later, even though you were only in for about a year?
After I was finally out I was still very withdrawn from my family. It took a long time, close to a year, before I started to come back out of my shell and rejoin my family. My family isn’t known for talking about things so this experience just wasn’t ever discussed, even in my own home with my parents and brothers. They just never acknowledged that it happened and went on with life. So I swallowed it, all of the confusion and anger that I felt, some of which at the time was toward my dad. I never dealt with any of the aftermath. I was never able to go back to our family church, or to any church. I still can’t. I have a deep seated fear/hatred of organized religion regardless of what faith. I also have a lot of regret for never thanking my dad for saving me from them. For recognizing them for what they are and intervening before it was too late. I was so confused and still somewhat brainwashed even after I stopped going to the church, and for a long time I felt some resentment toward my dad even though I knew what he did was out of love for me. He died in 2010 and I never said thank you or I’m sorry to him for any of it. I know he was always saddened that I wouldn’t go back to our family’s church, I never heard him give another sermon for the rest of his life. I know that made him sad. I regret that.
What are you doing now?
After a 25-year career in healthcare administration I was laid off about three years ago and am now an activist and documentary filmmaker. I’ve discovered a real passion for helping bring a voice to underserved populations and causes. I’m currently working on a documentary about a historic event in the Native American community and how it’s still relevant today.