Actor Jason Lee commented in an interview last week that he no longer practices Scientology. This revelation is evidence that there were problems in the church, according to Lee's ex-wife Carmen Llywelyn.
For more than a year now, Lee and his wife Ceren have been staying in Denton, Texas, where he bought a house and leased an office space to work on his photos. He also sits on the board of the Greater Denton Arts Council.
His presence in the area apparently raised questions regarding his plans. Speaking in an interview for local media outlet The Dentonite, Lee set the record straight.
"If Ceren and I had an idea for a business, it certainly wouldn't happen at the cost of someone else's. And being that we don't practice Scientology, and that we aren't particularly interested in opening religious centers in general, we have no plans to open a Scientology center," Lee said.
He clarified that the rumors circulating about him and his wife wanting to "buy up" or "take over" the city were not true.
"Quite a few rumors about me/us floating around but none of it's true. We're not here to buy up or change or take over Denton, put some kind of personal stamp on it," Lee explained. He said they only want to be involved in the city's "very cool creative community" and "perhaps help where we can."
His ex-wife said she was glad to hear the actor already left the Church of Scientology and no longer adheres to its teachings.
"I was glad to hear that Jason came out and said he no longer practices Scientology," Llywelyn told Fox News.
Former Scientology member Chris Shelton said Lee could have been seeking a quieter life after leaving the church.
"I feel like Jason Lee left (the church) a while ago, and started a new life and finally felt safe to say he left," Shelton said, according to Fox News. "He had to say that so people knew he wasn't a part of the religion anymore."
Shelton parted ways with Scientology in 2013 after being a member of the church for 27 years. He said the church membership has gone down remarkably in recent years.
According to Sheton, about 50,000 people would attend church events back in 2009. As of two years ago, that number has dwindled to about 20,000 people. However, he said "the church won't provide hard numbers."
The accessibility of online information about the church could have led to the decline in its attendees, Shelton said.
"Getting new people to join Scientology is almost impossible due to the negative news about it on the Internet," he said.
Lee is not the only celebrity to have left the church. Leah Remini, who was part of the church for 36 years, left in 2013. In November last year, she wrote a tell-all book about Scientology entitled "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief."
Remini said her daughter was the primary reason why she left.
"She was getting to the age where the acclimation into the Church would have to start," Remini said in an interview with BuzzFeed. "It includes having children answer questions like, Have you ever pretended to be ill? Have you ever decided you didn't like some member of your family? Have you ever been a coward?"
Remini started to question some things practiced in the church, such as its "church first" rule, something she went against because she believed in putting family first. She offered suggestions to change them, but her opinions were met with a challenge. People from church started branding her as a person who refused to abide by the church's practices.
"We had a chance to make a change from within, but they didn't want to," Remini said. "That showed me they didn't actually care, which went against everything I thought we stood for. They didn't care about doing the right thing. That showed me everything the Church taught me was a lie."
The Church of Scientology issued a statement denying Remini's claims, saying she was "on the verge of being expelled for refusing to abide by the high level of ethics and decency Scientologists are expected to maintain."