By Dakin Andone and Sara Smart, CNN
(CNN) — The actress Leah Remini has filed a lawsuit against the Church of Scientology and its leader, David Miscavige, claiming she has suffered years of harassment, intimidation and defamation as part of an organized campaign of retaliation for her criticism of the church since leaving it a decade ago.
The 60-page lawsuit – filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, according to a statement by Remini’s representatives – seeks a trial by jury and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, as well as a requirement that the church “cease and desist” its “unlawful conduct.”
“For 17 years, Scientology and David Miscavige have subjected me to what I believe to be psychological torture, defamation, surveillance, harassment, and intimidation, significantly impacting my life and career,” Remini said in a news release she shared on Substack. “I believe I am not the first person targeted by Scientology and its operations, but I intend to be the last.”
The Church of Scientology on Thursday denied the allegations in Remini’s lawsuit, telling CNN in a statement the “lawsuit is ludicrous and the allegations pure lunacy.”
Remini starred alongside Kevin James in the CBS sitcom “The King of Queens.”
Remini spent more than 35 years as a Scientologist, the lawsuit notes. She joined the church as a child and would go on to be a prominent public face of Scientology, commended and praised by its leaders and “held up as an example of a model Scientologist,” the lawsuit says.
After leaving the church in 2013, though, the actress became a fierce and high-profile critic: She published a memoir in 2015, “Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology,” and went on to host three seasons of the docuseries, “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath,” on A&E.
The Church of Scientology is widely known for its associations with Hollywood celebrities, but it has become increasingly scrutinized in recent years amid allegations of abuse and manipulation by former members, in part due to Remini’s docuseries and HBO’s 2015 documentary, “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief,” based on a book by Lawrence Wright. HBO and CNN share a parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery.
“Leah Remini has become what she once vowed she would never be: ‘This bitter ex-Scientologist,’” the church said in a 2016 statement in response to the series. “As we have stated numerous times, Leah Remini needs to move on with her life and career and stop blaming the Church and others for all of her personal and professional setbacks. Most of all, she needs to quit promoting hatred and religious intolerance as a means to line her pockets.”
In its statement to CNN Thursday, the Church of Scientology went on to say, “Now that Remini’s propaganda has been exposed, Remini has spun entirely out of control by filing a frivolous lawsuit attempting to stop free speech exposing her false propaganda. Remini’s decade of harassment and fabrications are all coming back to haunt her.”
CNN has reached out to representatives for Remini for further comment.
Lawsuit alleges Remini targeted by ‘mob-style tactics’
The lawsuit alleges nine counts, including civil harassment, stalking, intentional infliction of emotional distress, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage and defamation, describing a “campaign to ruin and destroy” Remini’s life and livelihood in a “coordinated and malicious” attack after leaving Scientology and advocating for its alleged victims.
“For the past ten years, Ms. Remini has been stalked, surveilled, harassed, threatened, intimidated, and, moreover, has been the victim of intentional malicious and fraudulent rumors via hundreds of Scientology-controlled and -coordinated social media accounts that exist solely to intimidate and spread misinformation,” the lawsuit claims.
The church allegedly paid social media companies to promote the posts targeting Remini, the lawsuit says, adding Scientology’s “old-school, mob-style tactics” extend beyond social media.
The lawsuit claims the church had dozens of people film messages in which they falsely accused Remini of abusing her mother and daughter and being a racist. And while promoting her book in 2015, the lawsuit says, Remini was followed around New York by private investigators hired by Scientology, prompting her to hire bodyguards.
The alleged stalking and surveillance persist today, the lawsuit claims.
This alleged abuse is the “punishing, inescapable, daily cost of” Remini “exercising her First Amendment right and moral duty to speak out about Scientology’s conduct,” the lawsuit says, and has caused Remini psychological and economic harm.
“Defendants have also incessantly harassed, threatened, intimidated, and embarrassed Ms. Remini’s family members, friends, colleagues, and business associates, causing her to lose personal relationships, business contracts, and other business opportunities,” the lawsuit says.
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