In the first episode of her eight-part series exposing the cult of Scientology, Leah Remini pledged not to focus on herself or her celebrity, but instead on the stories of Scientology defectors. As promised, the second episode focused on one of the most highly placed executives in the “Church” to leave, Mike Rinder.
Rinder, an Australian by birth, was raised in Scientology since age six. He spent 46 years practicing the faith, and spent over 20 years serving as International Spokesman for the organization. He left in 2007, and two years later began to speak out—despite the fact that his entire family, including his mother and children, remained steadfastly committed on the inside. Rinder was reticent to speak out against Scientology initially due to his mother’s belief in the Church, her deep involvement in it, and her own failing health. Rinder told Remini he feared speaking out would literally kill his mother, who had already undergone a heart transplant before his defection.
Rinder was brutally honest about his role in the organization as a henchman. He spent his career in Scientology discrediting those opposed to it, actively trying to ruin the lives of those who dared cross the organization. He said he wanted to share his actions as a Scientologist not only to confess his sins, so to speak, but also to clearly illustrate exactly what happens inside the “Church.” Rinder spends the episode explaining to Remini and viewers the policy of “fair game,” which Scientology claims was banned in 1968. Rinder once headed the division of the Church devoted to fair game, and has spent a decade being subjected to it, and is thus the foremost expert in the world on the subject. The policy of fair game states that any enemies of the Church “may be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.”
How Scientology Uses ‘Fair Game’ To Destroy Defectors
Rinder himself was declared “fair game” upon his defection, especially after he spoke out in a 2009 interview with the St. Petersburg Times, along with other high-level Scientology defectors.
Rinder was subjected to long-term and serious incidences of physical abuse at the hands of the leader of Scientology, David Miscavige. Rinder estimated he was subjected to beatings between 50 and 100 times. As part of his henchman duties, Rinder was tasked with preventing a BBC special on Scientology, which included coverage of Miscavige’s physical abuse of congregants. The reporter, John Sweeney, accused Rinder on camera of being subjected to this abuse. Rinder denied the reports, but was unsuccessful in preventing the BBC special from being aired. In response to Rinder’s “failure” Miscavage decided to exile him to Western Australia, away from his family. At that point, Rinder felt as though he had “nothing to lose” in leaving the Church, as he would be disconnected from his family no matter what.
What might happen to the greatest critic of the Church as part of the policy of fair game? Standing alongside his wife in his kitchen, Rinder shared with Remini and viewers the most horrific experiences he was subjected to because of his opposition to Scientology. Here are six of the most shocking revelations Rinder shared on the groundbreaking A&E special’s second episode about being subjected to the policy of “fair game” after his defection:
- Scientology hired $10,000-per-week private investigators to follow Rinder’s every move—including stealing his garbage (his own garbage man was bribed to assist) to find incriminating or informative documents.
- Rinder’s entire family—including his ex-wife, children, mother, and siblings—“disconnected” from him, ceasing all communication. Before the St. Petersburg Times interview broke, Rinder received threatening letters from all his family members, warning him not to speak out against the organization. When his mother died, Rinder was not informed for months. He eventually received an email from a stranger.
- By speaking out against Scientology, picketers and cameramen were dispatched outside of Rinder’s place of work and his home in order to shame and harass him.
- Scientology planted one of its agents and her child to live across the street from the Rinder family in order to glean information from Rinder and his wife. The family became so close to the woman, she was invited to one of their baby showers. Rinder was tipped off to her true identity after a warning letter was deposited under his doorstep. After a move to another part of Clearwater, the woman again moved across the street in their new location.
- After becoming convinced that the Church was watching, Rinder began to search around his home for cameras. He found one in a birdhouse outside one of his windows, pointed towards his home.
- At a routine doctor’s visit, Rinder was waiting for his wife in the parking lot. Suddenly, an entire van of Scientologists—including his ex-wife, daughter and brother—arrived, in order to verbally attack and intimidate Rinder for his anti-Scientology efforts. As it happened, Rinder was on the phone with the same BBC reporter he had lied to prior to his defection, who recorded the entire exchange.
Why Defectors Continue To Speak Out, Despite Consequences
Why has Rinder continued to be outspoken, after experiencing all this at the hands of Scientology? Rinder feels deep guilt for bringing his two children into the Church and then leaving them in it. He even decided to settle in the same town as the flagship of the Church where his son was living and working, in Clearwater, Florida. In the event of his son’s defection from the Sea Organization, Rinder wanted to be as nearby as possible in order to provide shelter and assistance.
As with Remini, the Church’s strongarm efforts at silencing its former member has backfire in an explosive way, leading Rinder to work doubly hard in exposing its abuses, hoping these revelations may lead to the implosion of Scientology. With the viewership and superb storytelling of the A&E special and Remini’s starpower propelling defectors’ stories, they just might make a dent in the billion-dollar enterprise.