In the latest episode of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, Remini and co-host and former Scientologist Mike Rinder take the church to task on its alleged takeover of the town of Clearwater, Florida, the organization’s “spiritual headquarters” despite blowback from its residents and city leaders.
In 1974, operating under an alias, the Church of Scientology moved into Clearwater, Florida, and proceeded to make the city its own per the show’s official A&E site which explains the premise behind the episode titled, “Buying a Town.”
In 1977, an FBI raid uncovered the church’s alleged secret plans to take over the city and explained the lengths the religious organization would go to, which included claiming available properties for its churchgoers and officers in the area.
In this stunning episode, Remini and Rinder visited Clearwater and speak to some of the city’s most prominent Scientology critics.
Rinder explained that when he was a member of the Sea Org, the elite organization within Scientology, he and others lived on a yacht named Apollo with Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. The Apollo was a flagship that Hubbard reportedly used to run Scientology from the sea during the years 1967 to 1975.
The Underground Bunker detailed that by 1975, the Apollo had abandoned cruising the Mediterranean and Atlantic and had worn out its welcome in the Caribbean. Scientologists left the ship in The Bahamas and split into groups to enter the U.S. in New York, Washington DC, Miami, and Daytona Beach, per the website.
Hubbard purchased the Fort Harrison Hotel and established the Flag Land Base in Clearwater, Florida. Hubbard had his followers come into the city and start buying up property under the fake name “United Churches of Florida,” revealed the panelists in the episode.
Remini was emotional about returning to Clearwater, as it was there that she, her sister, and mother lived after leaving their Brooklyn home to begin their lives as full-time Scientologists.
In the emotional episode, Remini spoke about being in the Sea Org as a child and living in what she called “a rat-infested hotel dorm room with eight other girls” in the year 1984.
The downtown area, which allegedly, was once a vibrant area, according to the panel on the episode, is now supposedly “lifeless” as Scientology owns more property than ever in the town.
“I feel like I’m in this movie where the villain is winning forever,” Remini noted in the episode.
Rinder and Remini spoke to local residents. Filmmaker Mark Bunker, defense attorney Denis Devlaming, and attorney and magistrate Betsy Steg revealed their frustration at how Scientology allegedly used “underhanded” tactics to take over the town of Clearwater, including a years-long fight against then-mayor Gabe Cazares, who attempted to try and stop them.
Steg, who was not a Scientologist, revealed that she allowed Rinder and wife Christie Collbran to have their wedding at her rental home in 2013 and was subsequently “targeted” by the church for her act of kindness.
Scientology and the Aftermath Season 3 airs Tuesdays on A&E.