Leah Remini sounds off on how her relationship with fellow celebrity Scientologists Kirstie Alley and Tom Cruise has changed since she left the controversial church

By Jodi Guglielmi
Updated November 03, 2015 05:00 PM
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Leah Remini is opening up about her three decades in Scientology and why she decided to leave. Subscribe now for this exclusive interview full of explosive new details, only in PEOPLE!

When Leah Remini decided to leave the church of Scientology after more than three decades and speak publicly about her experience, she knew there would be backlash from people still tied to the controversial church – including fellow celebrities.

But Remini, 45, said on Howard Stern‘s SiriusXM radio show Tuesday she understands why Kristie Alley, a longtime Scientologist, lashed out at Remini and called her a “bigot” when she first left the church in 2013.

“I understood it,” she told Stern. “I understood it because I know the policy. I understand that hiding behind, you know, religious bigotry is the route to go.”

Alley famously slammed Remini for speaking out against Scientology, saying, “When you decide to blanket statement that ‘Scientology is evil,’ you are my enemy.” And while Alley has since said her feud with Remini is “water under the bridge,” Remini said Alley’s defensive response is expected from someone who is deeply rooted in the church.

“I know why she thinks she’s angry with me, and I know, again, hiding behind that veil is something that is per policy,” she explained. “They see me as an enemy.”

For much more from Remini, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

She added: “I respect her beliefs and that it works for her and you can also respect somebody who was in the church for 30-plus years who maybe had a different experience.”

Remini, who recently released her new book, Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology, has also been vocal about her interactions with one of Scientology’s most famous faces, Tom Cruise. Remini claims she was punished for her actions at his wedding to Katie Holmes. Her book also chronicles some of her personal experiences with the actor.

Remini says she understands why Cruise’s A-list Hollywood status afforded him special respect in the church. But, she also pointed out that at one time she was technically superior to him within Scientology.

“I never compare myself to Tom Cruise. He’s a superstar, you can’t take that away,” she said. “But as Scientologists I felt we were on the same level – if not I felt a little superior in certain areas because I was higher.”

Despite their interactions within Scientology, Remini says when she decided to leave the church, she knew her relationships with Alley and Cruise would be over. She says she now doesn’t even expect them to acknowledge her if they pass each other in public.

“If I did [see Alley] I wouldn’t say anything because I know she couldn’t talk to me. I’m shunned. She couldn’t talk to me, same with Tom Cruise he couldn’t talk, and I wouldn’t put them in that position,” she said. “They’d look away, they’d walk away, they’d go to another room,” she said.