Saying it is saddened but not surprised by her remarks, the Church of Scientology has responded forcefully to former church member Leah Remini's latest interview,
calling the actress "self-absorbed" and her comments "absurd" and "insulting."
Remini, 43, said in an interview with BuzzFeed
this week that she left the church last year
because she had come to believe "everything the Church taught me was a lie."
The actress went on: "They say they're loving, caring, non-judgmental people, but secretly, they were judging the world for not believing what they believed. To me, that is not a spiritual person. That's a judgmental person, and that is the person that I was. I was a hypocrite, and the worst thing you can be in this world is a hypocrite."
Karin Pouw, a Scientology spokeswoman, disputes that version of events, saying Remini was trying to remain in the church even as she was rebelling within it.
Pouw says in a statement to PEOPLE: "It comes as no surprise that someone as self-absorbed as Leah Remini with an insatiable craving for attention would exploit her former faith as a publicity stunt by rewriting her history with it, including omitting that she was participating in a program to remain a Scientologist by her own choice, as she was on the verge of being expelled for her ethical lapses."
Remini's major revelation in the BuzzFeed interview was that she was worried about her daughter Sofia, 9, who would soon have to be acclimated into the church. Remini said she had already been spending too much time at church and not enough time with her daughter.
"I was saying 'family first,' but I wasn't showing that. I didn't like the message that sent my daughter," Remini said.
Pouw disputes that as well. "Ms. Remini was not attending Church services for years," she says. "In fact, she was upset because no one in the Church was calling her or her family, going so far as to drag her daughter into the Church to insist upon being given special treatment. Sadly, this is the accurate, flip side of the events she now is spinning, which are absurd, insulting and motivated entirely by a desire to grab attention."
Dispute the high-profile dispute, Remini says she really doesn't want to fight.
"I don't want to be known as this bitter ex-Scientologist," she says. "I'm not trying to bash anybody, and I'm not trying to be controversial. I just want people to know the truth."
For its part, the church would like Remini to stop battling as well.
Says Pouw: "We are saddened that Ms. Remini now feels compelled to attack her former faith as if there is something wrong with a good work ethic, encouragement to live a drug free life, a happy childhood and strong family – all values she and countless others experience from the strong religious community in the Church."