As it has claimed in the past, Scientology says that Aftermath is inciting hatred against the church, even personal injury and threats against its members.
“To date, Remini’s reality show has led to some 500 documented threats of violence, death threats, acts of vandalism and hate targeting the Church, its parishioners, and its leaders,” reads a Scientology-created website. “One came from a 13-year-old boy who posted a death threat against a Church leader after binge-watching Remini’s show.”
Remini, 46, along with ex-elite Scientologist Mike Rinder, 62, are in the midst of Season 2 of the popular exposé show, which seeks to tell the unheard stories of people who’ve managed to leave the religious organization. Along the way, the viewer gets some insight into Rinder’s and Remini’s experiences as well.
Both of them are now classified by the church as “Suppressive Persons” (SPs) — people who seek to speak ill of Scientology — along with any journalist looking to tell a negative story about the religion. The treatment that befalls SPs is meant to be so unbearable, and in some cases so completely life-ruining, that they’ll cease their crusade to bring down Scientology.
The group of Scientologists behind the advertiser targeting, called The Scientologists Taking Action Against Discrimination (STAND), has been inundating companies with harshly worded letters. Companies among the recipients include Fiat Chrysler, Geico and Anheuser-Busch.
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“There is too much conflict and turmoil incited by people like Leah Remini, and it is time to not only cancel the show, but to air the truth, share the proven technology to help people better themselves and end the hatred she promotes,” reads one letter from “Gillian Christie” of Santa Barbara, Calif., dated Sept. 18.
“I will be telling many to boycott advertisers who support this hatred,” it continues. “Hopefully you will realize that positioning your products with lies and hatred will quickly destroy your brand equity and will cause you to become known as a company dealing in lies and hate. I sincerely hope that this is not the outcome.”
Another email, dated in August, was sent to Geico’s assistant vice-president of marketing, Bill Brower.
“Leah Remini’s hate campaign of religious bigotry in its first season alone generated more than 400 incidents of harassment, threats of violence and vandalism against our churches and members,” it reads in part. “The threat level has again risen, precisely coincident with A&E’s promotion and airing of the second season of this show, now spawning even more threats — bombings, murder and acts of physical violence.”
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The three above-mentioned companies had no comment on the letters, and A&E didn’t provide access to Remini for her take, but it’s possible she’ll address it on the next episode of Aftermath. (Often, at the beginning, Rinder and Remini run through Scientology’s replies to their latest episode.)
A&E defended Aftermath, noting that it picked up an Emmy for outstanding informational series. It’s also the top-performing show on the channel in two years.
“We are enormously proud of the quality and importance of the series, which was affirmed by the show’s recent Emmy win, and we intend to continue to share these brave stories with viewers,” a network spokesperson said in a statement.
It’s unclear how much of an impact the letters have had — if any — but it’s not stopping Remini and Rinder.
“Don’t misunderstand me,” Remini said in the past. “People who know me know that I have a very big mouth, and I have been that way since I was a kid. But I never want to give the organization of Scientology the idea that anybody is scared of them. We are not. And the more they react in the way that they do, it makes me think we’re doing the right thing.”