An Inside Look at Fighting Televised Bigotry
Craig Reisdorf was the victim of a cheap reality TV show made by A&E, Mike Rinder and Leah
My name is Craig Reisdorf and I am a human being, a boyfriend, a surfer, a painter, a worker and a Scientologist. A&E and Leah Remini decided to report about my religion, decided to interview my parents and my brothers. They chose to show bigotry and prejudice toward my religion and to disrespect my freedom to practice my religion.
I was born in South Africa in 1990. Apartheid was just coming to an end in a racially divided South Africa. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines apartheid as “A former policy of segregation and political and economic discrimination against non-European groups in the Republic of South Africa.”
A great man, Nelson Mandela, took a stand against this segregation and discrimination. While most of the world was praising Mandela for the change he accomplished and for the equality he brought to a nation divided, there were some who did not want such change, who felt that the blacks of South Africa should be separate and did not deserve the rights of Man—and said that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist.
Some of those individuals were my parents. When a child is born he is like a sponge. I was one of those sponges, remembering my dad using the word kaffir, which the Oxford Dictionary defines as “An insulting and contemptuous term for a black African.” He would talk about how black people steal and they are worthless people. I was educated into thinking that this was true. My mother, Lois, allowed my dad to talk this way in front of me and my two brothers. Not only did I hear my father talk about black people, Indians, women, Jewish people, Muslims, etc. I also heard him talk negatively about the Church of Scientology and David Miscavige.
“My dad [used] the word kaffir, which the Oxford Dictionary defines as ‘An insulting and contemptuous term for a black African.’ He would talk about how black people steal and they are worthless people. I was educated into thinking that this was true.”
When I was 8 years old we left South Africa and moved to San Diego, which is near the Mexican border and has many Hispanic residents. They became the new target of my dad’s discrimination. I often remember him joking with my mom and brothers about Hispanics being “wetbacks.” He would also degrade women, making sexual comments about them. If my dad ever saw the old South African flag, the one from the apartheid era, he would call it the “right South African flag.”
The attitudes of my parents that I heard when I was a child—about women, people of color, Hispanics, the Church of Scientology—I thought were true. I was raised believing that all people are not equal, that some are lesser beings. I was taught to believe that white men were supreme, that other races were less. And I was educated into believing the Church of Scientology was bad and that the leader was worse.
In 2009, I had finished school and I went back to South Africa to stay with relatives for awhile. While there, my aunt asked if I would like to do Scientology spiritual counseling. I was a bit scared, as I had heard so much negativity from my mom and dad.
But when I walked through the door of the counseling room, I saw a quote on the wall: “We of the Church believe that all men of whatever race, color or creed were created with equal rights.” At that moment, I knew Scientology was something good, and over the next six months I experienced amazing changes in myself. I gained more personal integrity, love for man, respect for others, and a better understanding of life.
I remember how my parents would attack Nelson Mandela, calling him a terrorist. I remember how my dad resented Martin Luther King Day, how he attacked Michael Jackson and made fun of him. But while spending six months in South Africa, I found that the people of South Africa were amazing and beautiful. I found that Scientology was good and was there to lift people—all people—from the shadows.
“… my parents would attack Nelson Mandela, calling him a terrorist. I remember how my dad resented Martin Luther King Day, how he attacked Michael Jackson and made fun of him.”
I realized that my “education” from my parents, degrading other people’s race, religion and gender, was wrong, that any human being, no matter where he is from or what he believes, has equal rights to life. I soon realized that my parents had lied to me and that I had become a racist, sexist bigot.
When I experienced South Africa for myself, I learned that black people were amazing and beautiful. When I experienced Scientology for myself, I saw firsthand how much it helped me and others. All my parents’ other lies clicked. My life changed forever.
Since becoming a Scientologist I have learned the truth about humankind and about life, and because of this my parents’ “education” has been nullified. Over the past seven years they have tried to stop me from practicing my religion, they have tried to attack harder. One day last year on my way home from my church, my brother Brett chased me on the freeway and then tried to break open my door and enter my apartment. My brother Brandon tried to break open my door at 2 a.m. one night, screaming at my fiancée and me. Later that night he went to my church and threw a hammer through the window and was later arrested. My mother has continued to attack the Church of Scientology, and then—with your support—has appeared on your show and spread her bigotry.
My question to your organization is why would you allow a person who has attacked other people for their race, religion and gender and who supports governments that segregate and discriminate, and whose children have committed hate crimes against a religion, be on your television outlet?
Why would you condone attacking my religion? How could you excuse and try to justify what my brother did? Was it because he attacked a Church of Scientology? If you changed out Scientology with the other groups they attack—Muslims, black Africans, women, Jews, Hispanics, Asians and on and on—you most certainly would not have them on your show. So why allow anti-Scientologists, real haters, on your show? To me you are guilty of the same crimes as they are.
By allowing my parents on your show to exploit their son’s religious choices, by allowing them to spread their bigotry toward Scientology, you are also supporting the bigotry, racism, and hatred they hold toward other religions, races and genders.
I am happy and successful due to Scientology. My parents refuse to accept this truth. Instead, they continue to spread the same hate about Scientologists that they spread about Nelson Mandela in South Africa and Latinos in San Diego.
That may be the way they want to live their lives, and the kind of hateful existence blessed by Leah Remini, Mike Rinder and A&E. But it’s not the life I’m ever going to lead.