For three seasons now, actress and activist Leah Remini has been a boon for A&E thanks to her documentary series Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath. The show has attracted its share of controversy, earning rampant criticisms from the Church of Scientology itself, but these most recent accusations are perhaps the most troubling yet, as Remini and her A&E show are being blamed for inciting the murder of a Taiwanese-born Scientologist living in Australia.
For background: On January 4, a 24-year-old Scientology security worker named Chih-Jen Yeh was at work at a Church headquarters in Sydney, Australia. As he was walking a female church member over to her "purification ceremony," the woman's 16-year-old son approached them, brandishing a large kitchen knife. The teen then stabbed Yeh in the neck.
Chih-Jen Yeh was taken to the hospital, where he died in the emergency room. Another 30-year-old male also came away from the attack with minor injuries. The teen, whose name has been withheld, is currently being charged with murder, and is being held without bail while awaiting a court appearance currently set for February 19, according to THR.
A week later, on January 11, A&E Networks Group president Paul Buccieri received a letter from the Church of Scientology spokesperson Karin Pouw that alleged the teenaged assailant voiced "religious hatred and propaganda" while stabbing Yeh. The letter, in no uncertain terms, purports the network and Leah Remini's show to be responsible for inspiring and encouraging such hate-mongering behavior.
Here is a reported excerpt from the letter, per The Underground Bunker.
For years, A&E executives ignored our warnings that the series was inspiring bigotry and violence. You knew what you were doing. Your intent was to stir up hate and turn it into cash. Now somebody has been murdered. Your indifference and obsession with stirring hate underwrote this murder.
You are well aware that whistleblowers have described how Leah Remini coaches people on the show to incite hatred against Scientology. We have repeatedly told you that all evidence points to the fact that every person on that program has been compensated, often "under the table" to try to hide it. You could care less what that scandalous bigotry --- lie after lie after lie --- can cause.
Closing things out with "Stop your program," spokesperson Karin Pouw makes the Church of Scientology's case clear with its strongly worded letter. It claimed that the teenager had previously voiced intentions to burn the Church down, and said that he was influenced by an anti-Scientologist website that linked back to the former King of Queens star's A&E series, and also featured people who are or were involved with the show.
Scientology and the Aftermath's co-host Mike Rinder had this to say by way of refuting the Church's accusations.
What is amazing about this letter is that they couldn't even get [Scientology attorney] Gary Soter to send it, let alone a reputable attorney because it is such BS and is going to turn out to be complete manufactured conjecture. Ultimately the records of what this guy said are going to become available.
With all that said, it is unclear what, if anything, will actually happen next involving this tragic incident. Without any official proof tying Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath to the murder of Chih-Jen Yeh, A&E likely won't change anything due to the Church's direct accusations. It's certainly possible, if things got litigious, that someone could take a deeper look at the cable docu-series' content to deem whether or not it could be responsible for incitement. The situation has not reached that point yet, however.