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Actress Leah Remini says Scientology split was family decision

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actress Leah Remini, one of the most prominent celebrities to leave the Church of Scientology, said on Monday that her family felt they could no longer belong to the church and had lost many friends because of the decision.

"Over time my eyes opened and I just could no longer be affiliated with the organization, and my family felt the same, so we left," Remini told daytime talk show host Ellen DeGeneres on "Ellen," offering a view into her rationale for leaving.

The 43-year-old actress best known for her role in the CBS television sitcom "The King of Queens" did not elaborate on why she broke from the church after some four decades.

"It was hard and we've lost friends that can no longer talk to us who are still in the organization," added Remini, who will take part in the upcoming season of ABC's celebrity reality competition "Dancing with the Stars."

Remini is also planning to write a memoir about her life in which she was brought into the church as a child by her family.

In July, representatives for Remini confirmed that she had left the church founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in 1954. The church counts actors like John Travolta and Tom Cruise among its members.

Followers of Scientology believe humans are immortal beings whose experience extends beyond one lifetime. Critics of the church describe it as a cult that harasses people who try and quit, a criticism the movement rejects.

The New York Post said in July that Remini left the church after coming under special scrutiny when she asked about the whereabouts of church leader David Miscavige's wife in 2006.

The actress had also filed a missing person report with Los Angeles police for Shelly Miscavige, but authorities closed their inquiry in August, saying it had been "unfounded."

The church has called allegations that Shelly Miscavige is missing "harassment" and a "publicity stunt cooked up by a small band of unemployed fanatics who live on the fringe of the Internet."

(Reporting by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and Tim Dobbyn)

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