A former Scientologist is coming forward with her story of how she was allegedly persecuted by the church after she came out as gay.
Michelle LeClair recently published a memoir detailing her experience titled “Perfectly Clear,” where she described herself as the “poster girl of Scientology” before she was allegedly harassed even after deciding to leave.
LeClair, an Oklahoma native who moved to California when she was 16, told Fox News she first learned of Scientology in 1990 at age 18 after suffering from a car accident. She said her mother walked into the hospital with a Scientology minister.
“I think at that moment, I was searching,” explained the 45-year-old. “I was having a lot of questions about myself. I think anyone at 18 is naive and trying to find out what the world is about. They had an answer for everything.
"For me, it was [that] they believe all accidents and illnesses stem from a potential trouble source, meaning [there’s] somebody that’s in your life who might be suppressing you or holding you down. So they want to help you figure out who that is. Well, it sounded good to me.”
By age 19, LeClair said she realized she was attracted to women and felt “very confused.” And when she tried to come out to the church, she claimed an official, known as an auditor, gave her writings by Hubbard that denounced homosexuality. LeClair said she then tried to put aside her feelings out of fear of being considered “a bad person.”
“As a young person, I didn’t have any experience,” she said. “I had decided to stay in the Church of Scientology instead of going to college. I didn’t really get a chance to explore my sexuality. I didn’t get a chance to be educated outside of the church. ... And I didn’t want to be considered a bad person. … [I] shut it down.”
LeClair insisted that while the Church of Scientology has publicly shared it is accepting of gay members, her experience was completely different. Instead, she claimed the church pressured her into getting married to a man. LeClair tied the knot with actor Sean Seward in 1994 with whom she shares four children.
She claimed that over the years, the church persisted in its requests for monetary donations to help support the foundation. LeClair alleged she donated an estimated $5 million over the years. She also claimed that when her marriage came to an end in 2008, the church allegedly required a donation of $250,000 to set the divorce in motion.
Meanwhile, LeClair couldn’t deny her true feelings. She said she was nearly 40 in 2010 when she fell in love with a woman, Los Angeles-based music producer Tena Clark.
LeClair claimed that her Scientologist mentor pressured her into deciding between love or the church.
“Everything in me wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, ‘I can be a Scientologist and I can love the woman that I love, and you’re not going to take that away from me,’” she said. “But I knew that wasn’t going to happen.”
LeClair alleged a friend warned her that the church was also investigating her successful life insurance firm.
“He said, ‘You are being investigated by the Office of Special Affairs, of the Church of Scientology,’” she claimed. “They are looking into every bit of business that you have done. … I am scared for you.”
In her book, LeClair alleged the church instigated the state of California to charge her with running a Ponzi scheme, which ultimately led her to shut down her life insurance business.
A rep for the Church of Scientology told Fox News in a lengthy statement that LeClair's story is “pure fiction from a scam artist.”
“We are outraged by Michelle LeClair’s attempt to slander the Church of Scientology in an effort to divert attention from the fact that she bilked millions of dollars from her investors,” they wrote.
“… Everything else Ms. LeClair is saying is a red herring. Allegations that the Church stalked Ms. LeClair or harassed her in any way after she came out as gay are complete fiction, as is her claim she donated $5 million to the Church.
"Contrary to myths spread by Ms. LeClair and her publishers as they try to sell her book, the Church has no position on sexual orientation and told that to Ms. LeClair at the time she came out. The Church is on record as being opposed to discrimination of any sort, including on the basis of sexuality.”
The rep added Josefina Dobin, a former personal assistant who appears in the book as “Celeste,” has consulted with attorneys about statements made in the book regarding her.
“It is shocking that an individual who narrowly escaped jail time for masterminding a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme built on her lies would be deemed a credible source,” they added. “Not shocking, however, is her new scheme to monetize her delusions through more lies about her former religion. Sadly, Ms. LeClair has turned the bitterness growing out of her financial malfeasance into an excuse to spread hate and bigotry for cash.”
In 2015, the Los Angeles Times reported LeClair and movie director Dror Soref were accused of operating a Ponzi scheme. The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office told Fox News LeClair agreed to return the funds.
“In May 2017, Ms. Seward agreed to return $1.3 million to more than 40 victims, many of whom are elderly,” they wrote. “The money has since been paid. She was accused of giving presentations where people were encouraged to invest their savings for the 2009 movie ‘Not Forgotten.’
"She earned commissions from those alleged fraudulent transactions. Victims were promised double-digit returns on their investments that carried no risk. A judge dismissed all 72 counts against her after she agreed to return the commissions.”
The Department of Business Oversight also told Fox News the white-collar crime had nothing to do with Scientology.
“The notion that this case had anything to do with Scientology is patently false like the claims made to investors in LeClair’s Ponzi scheme,” they wrote. "LeClair conned Californians, most of whom were seniors, out of their life savings and she got caught.”
LeClair alleged it was church officials who had the state of California go after her business as punishment.
“… I was hired to raise money for a producer and he was a Scientologist,” she claimed. “… This man took off, went to another country, came back and said the company was bankrupt. All the red flags went off for me. I was not an owner of that company, I was not an owner of those bank accounts, and I personally invested with him.
"There was a lot of money lost. I personally lost more money than anybody, but I took huge responsibility for that. … The Church of Scientology protected this man who was a Scientologist and tried to turn that investigation on me. But at the end of the day, truth prevails.”
Today, LeClair happily lives in rural Georgia alongside Clark, 64, and her children from her previous marriage. She has zero regrets about her life-changing decision.
“[This] was the greatest love I had ever know,” she said about her new life with Clark. “It felt right. … I felt like this is what true love was about, and I knew inside of me that it was important for me to show that I wasn’t walking away from this.”