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Ex-Scientologist says he fought to go to twin's funeral

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 4/01/2017 Erin Jensen

For the sixth episode of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, the A&E series returned to Clearwater, Fla., which The King of Queens’ cohort, Mike Rinder, said was home to “the spiritual headquarters of Scientology.”

Remini and Rinder visited Aaron Smith-Levin, a former parishioner who claimed he was with the Church for approximately 29 years before departing at the age of 33.

The religion’s website states, “With Scientology, millions know life can be a worthwhile proposition, that Man can live a fulfilled life in harmony with others and that the world can be a happier place.” However, Aaron’s Scientology tale was one of heartbreak, claiming members of the Church played an integral role in dissolving the relationship he had with his twin brother, Collin, by encouraging disconnection.

Aaron Smith-Levin © A&E Aaron Smith-Levin

The Church has previously denied having a disconnection policy in a statement addressed to the series’ executive producer.

“There is no policy in Scientology that requires members to disconnect from anyone, family or friends, who have left the Church or who have different religious beliefs,” the statement reads.

“No Scientologist ‘disconnects’ from someone because they left the Church. Disconnection or ceasing to communicate with someone happens when an individual obsessively attacks the individual or those things that affect his spiritual progress, including his religion or Church and only after all other options have been exhausted.”

Aaron shared with Remini and Rinder that he, with his mother and brother, moved to Clearwater to train to become auditors before he was 13-years-old. On its website, Scientology explains, “The goal of auditing is to restore beingness and ability… by: (1) helping individuals rid themselves of any spiritual disabilities; (2) increasing spiritual abilities.” The website says auditing utilizes “… exact sets of questions asked or directions given by an auditor to help a person locate areas of spiritual distress, find out things about themselves and improve their condition.”

Aaron claimed not being able to pass an auditing training test took a toll on Collin, who decided to leave the Scientology campus without permission. Aaron also alleged Collin’s unauthorized departure made him “a criminal” in Church members’ eyes, and Collin’s mother got on a plane to retrieve him.

Aaron said his brother once again became immersed in the Church, but was demoted to a Scientology staff position in Philadelphia, where he was sent without his mom as a teen.

“No one at (the Church’s headquarters) told my mom she should go with Collin,” Aaron said to the camera in an interview. “She wasn’t expected go back to Philadelphia with my 15-year-old brother. She was expected to stay.”

Later, Aaron said Collin revealed to him he was writing papers “on how Scientology is a destructive cult that tears apart families” as a student at The University of New Mexico.

After speaking with his brother, Aaron said he wrote a knowledge report, defined in the episode as “a report submitted to Church officials, informing on a person or situation believed to be in violation of Church policy.”

“Scientologists are expected to write such reports,” Rinder explained in an interview, “because they believe that by writing them the person who is transgressing in some fashion or doing something wrong will be pulled in by the Church and corrected and that will be for their own good.”

To the camera, Remini claimed Church members aware of a crime who do not report it will be punished as an accessory to the transgression.

Aaron said his mother also wrote a report and Collin was officially kicked out of the organization, which Aaron alleged meant Church members who spoke to Collin would also be kicked out.

“Unconditional love does not exist in Scientology,” Aaron claimed while in tears to Remini, who agreed with his sentiment.

“Unconditional love is what Scientology isn’t,” she said in an interview. “The Scientology ‘family’ turns their backs on their own family members because they’re not in good with the Church.”

Aaron told Remini he had to sign a document stating he would disconnect from his father in order to be given permission to marry his wife.

“You can’t get married because you talk to your dad who talks to your brother,” Aaron said to the camera. “I mean the stupidity is incredible.”

Aaron told the camera he went through the motions of disconnecting to be wed, which didn’t ensure a happily ever after.

Aaron received news that Collin died from injuries sustained in a car accident before the brothers could repair their relationship.

“I had to fight to go to the funeral,” he told Remini. “My commanding officer was like… ‘He was just a (Suppressive Person). Why would you bother taking time off post to go to the funeral?’ I’m like, ‘He’s my identical twin brother, that’s why.’”

But that alleged incident wasn’t enough to get Aaron to leave the Church. He cited a series of unflattering reports about the organization in the St. Petersburg Times as “the beginning of the end.”

It seems Aaron doesn’t regret his decision to exit the Church in 2014. “Our life is much happier now,” he shared with the camera. “We don't’ have to worry about our friends spying on us, or turning us in, or reporting on us. We can just live our lives the way we want to live it... (Scientology) wants you think the world is a terrible place. The world’s a great place to live.”

In a letter addressed to the series executive producer, the Church alleges Aaron was “… expelled for violent behavior, especially toward women.”

“In all, 100 separate reports were written about Smith-Levin being abusive toward others,” the Church claims. “Of these reports, 20 included his being physically violent with others.”

“Having cut himself off from former friends and family,” the letter continues, “he now rants about his time on staff, feeding his hateful lies to hate blogger Tony Ortega and doing YouTube interviews with Mike Rinder and other members of the anti-Scientology clique.”

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