What's A "Suppressive Person" In Scientology? Leah Remini's Docuseries Explores The Controversial Label
While Hollywood is often known for public, messy separations, a particularly explosive Hollywood split came when Leah Remini left The Church of Scientology. Remini previously released a memoir exploring her side of her time in Scientology, but now she's turning the lens to other people who have left Scientology in the A&E docuseries Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath. In the premiere episode, Remini interviews former Scientologists who have since been labeled "Suppressive People" by The Church. But, what is a "Suppressive Person?" The series and Scientology's official website both delve into the matter from different sides. (As seen in the documentary, Scientology gave the following statement about it: "The Church disputes many of the statements made by those appearing in this program." In a lengthy statement to Bustle, the Church again took several issues with the series. You can read the full statement here.)
Remini uses the docuseries to explore this aspect of the religion by having ex-scientologists recount their experiences. As the documentary shows, for those who left Scientology, being labeled a Suppressive Person has meant some people have lost touch with any family still involved with the church. (In Scientology, members have the right to "disconnect" from Suppressive People, which can sometimes end up being family or friends.)
"If you read about what a Suppressive Person is, this is a person who loves that people are destroyed. This is a person who loves when people are in pain," Remini claims in Scientology and the Aftermath. "So if you have that idea that Suppressive People are these other things that come out of the ground ... you never think you're going to be considered one of those people as a Scientologist ever."
The official language from the Scientology website states that "A Suppressive Person will goof up or vilify any effort to help anybody and particularly knife with violence anything calculated to make human beings more powerful or more intelligent ... Within this category one finds Napoleon, Hitler, the unrepentant killer, and the drug lord."
The Church of Scientology does not tread lightly when it comes to dealing with Suppressive People. However, some former Scientologists, like Amy Scobee, featured in Scientology and the Aftermath find freedom in being labeled a Suppressive Person — usually those who wanted to leave the church anyway. (Reps for the church claim that Amy is a "discredited source." You can read the church's full statement about Amy's claims here.)
Bonny Scobee, Amy's mother, was at risk of being labeled as a Suppressive Person if she decided to follow her daughter's decision in leaving the church. "I didn't mind being declared [an SP]," Bonny said, according to the series. "They could've declared me a thousand times. I didn't care ... but I cared for [my husband]. I didn't want him to give up his dreams or his wife ... I mean, we do love each other." The risk of a family being split up by the church is one of many motivating factors that can contribute to someone staying in their church, even if the person in question doesn't like the religion anymore.
In a statement to Bustle, The Church claimed that the religion does not require or encourage families to disconnect, but that it is a member's right to choose not to communicate with certain people.
Because Scientology is a new religion, Scientologists often have family members who are not Scientologists and who may practice the family’s traditional faith or no faith at all. This causes no conflict for Scientologists. Scientologists do not “disconnect” from family members, or from anyone else for that matter, because of a difference of beliefs. One disconnects when he or she decides not to communicate with a hostile individual who is attacking one personally, one’s way of life or one’s beliefs. These kinds of choices are made routinely in everyday life and are not unique to Scientology.
Although Scientology claims that being a Suppressive Person places you among the ranks of "Napoleon, Hitler, the unrepentant killer and the drug lord," that hasn't stopped multiple former Scientologists from speaking out publicly against the church — either through Remini's show or otherwise. Although the show is only in its first episode, Scientology and the Aftermath is already generating a lot of buzz and getting people to look at both sides of the issue to determine who they think are truly the suppressive ones — those who left or the church itself?