This week's episode of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath explores the treatment of children in Scientology. Two former students sent to a Scientologist-run reform school allege corporal punishment, manual labor, and other poor treatment.
The episode followed two survivors of the Mace-Kingsley Ranches in California and New Mexico, where Scientologists would send their children "to get them onto the straight-and-narrow and move them to the first steps of the Bridge," according to Remini's partner, Mike Rinder.
The original Mace-Kingsley Ranch was started in 1987 by "celebrated Scientologists" Debbie Mace and Carol Kingsley, and was modeled after military reform schools, according to the Church — although the Church also said the Ranch didn't have any Church members on staff.
Third-generation Scientologists Nathan Rich and Tara Reile both attended the New Mexico Ranch in the late '90s, and outlined some of the treatment they say they received there.
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"Life at the Palmdale ranch was generally that you [when you] wake up, you've got to clean your room immediately," Rich said. "After breakfast came physical labor and cleaning the grounds. "You would do some kind of like schooling — things that you need to know for Scientology...there wasn't any, like, math or history or anything like that."
In Scientology, children are viewed equal to adults with adult responsibilities, so it was typical of children to do a lot of physical labor at "camp."
"A child is a man or a woman who has not attained full growth," L. Ron Hubbard wrote in The Scientology Handbook. "Any law which applies to the behavior of men and women applies to children."
Children at the ranch were required to write "knowledge reports," or K.R.s — documents Scientologists are supposed to write if they witness actions or in-actions not in line with Scientology practices.
"If you didn't like a kid, you would write a K.R. on them even if they didn't do it," Rich said.
Rich said that once he was punished for being dirty after playing outside by being taken to an outdoor shower and having the entire student body and staff watch as a security guard scrubbed him with a metal brush. As a punishment for smoking, Rich said ranch manager Wally Hanks spanked him with a wooden paddle.
The California camp relocated to New Mexico in the early '90s, which is where Reile attended after acting out when she discovered her father cheating on her mother. She says she was promised a three-month program with fun outdoor activities, but instead discovered days filled with strenuous manual labor.
She said she was once punished by being thrown in the lake with her only warm, dry clothes, and then forced to collect spring water for everyone each morning.
Even though Reile graduated (which required completing a complicated 10-step procedure), her family refused to take her back and held the expensive $150,000 cost over her head.
Reile says she still struggles with deep-rooted problems instilled in her by Scientology.
"The whole Scientology aspect of that, of truly making you believe that you are at fault for everything that's happened, it really, really messes with you as a person. I still struggle with that. I still have that deep-rooted fear that I am a bad person and I'm not worth it and I don't know why I'm here," Reile said, breaking down into tears. "I don't know how I've made it this far because I've wanted to give up many times, and I'm still trying to figure out how to just be okay."
The New Mexico Ranch closed in 2002, and the Church denies having any knowledge of the kinds of events Rich and Reile described, but Remini spoke out against the Church's response.
"Scientology schools are run on Scientology technology. It doesn't matter if you're just an average Scientologist, it is all run the same way," she said.