A brief history of the Jada Pinkett Smith Scientology rumors

Carly Milne
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment & Lifestyle
Will and Jada Pinkett Smith are the subjects of many rumors. (Photo: Getty Images)

Leah Remini has cemented herself as an outspoken opponent of Scientology, calling out current members for their complacency in what many say is a dangerous cult and even outing so-called secret Scientologists — and she claims that actress Jada Pinkett Smith is one of them. Although Pinkett Smith decried Remini’s claim today on Facebook and Twitter, the rumors have been following her — and her husband, actor Will Smith — for quite some time.

The whispers mostly stemmed from their friendship with former Scientology power couple Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. The rumblings were loud enough to encourage Will to comment on the subject in 2006, when he told the World Entertainment News Network, “I’ve talked to Tom about it. [There’s] lots of incredible, wonderful concepts, [but my wife] Jada and I don’t necessarily believe in organized religion. I was raised in a Baptist household, and my grandmother would get up out of her casket [if I became a Scientologist].”

The Smiths sat with friends Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes at a 2008 Hollywood fete. (Photo: Getty Images)

But then the Smiths did something that sent the rumors into overdrive: They opened a school in 2008, called New Village Leadership Academy, in Calabasas, Calif. (yes, that’s the home of the Kardashian clan). It was a private elementary school situated close to the Smith home, focusing on using Study Technology (a popular Scientology method of teaching), Montessori, Gardner, and Bruner methods of learning — but whispers were rampant that it was actually a Scientology school. Prior to that, the couple had donated $20,000 to the Hollywood Education and Literacy Project (HELP), the basis for Scientology’s homeschooling system, in 2004 — hence the concern over the school’s curriculum.

When Fox News reported about the school, they noted that the Smiths were staffing it with Scientologists. Will repeatedly insisted that while the school may have drawn from some concepts of Scientology, it wasn’t a Scientology school. As he said during an appearance on Live With Regis and Kelly, “There are just very powerful educational concepts that we believe in, and we feel like we want to design the system that revolutionizes public education.”

Jada echoed Will’s sentiments when she spoke with ABC News a year later, saying, “Study Technology is a secular methodology intended to help students better understand what is being studied and apply it to real life. NVLA integrates this methodology as a tool in instructional design by providing teachers the framework to design lessons and curriculum.”

But the school was fraught with controversy. Anti-Scientology protesters picketed, the school’s principal and teachers either were fired or resigned (some of whom were replaced with Scientologists), and eventually rumors abounded that parents were uncomfortable when they learned of the school’s teachings from the church. The school eventually closed in 2013 without comment from the Smiths. But the Scientology rumors didn’t die down — especially after the release that year of After Earth, which starred Will and his son, Jaden. Critics were quick to point out how the film seemed to espouse some Scientology ideals in its plot.

However, on the heels of the debut of the HBO documentary Going Clear, the Smith Scientology rumors were dampened by two vocal Scientology opponents interviewed for the feature: former church member Mike Rinder and journalist Tony Ortega. The two insisted that most of the celebrities involved in the religion had been born into it or got into it during the ’70s and ’80s, so the Smiths couldn’t possibly be involved. But then, in late summer 2015, stories started circulating that the duo were leaving the church — even though their direct involvement was never 100 percent confirmed.

And this brings us to the present-day stories of Remini, who shared how Cruise allegedly encouraged Will and Jada to play a game of hide and seek in his mansion, and how Jada denied it as a story that Remini made up; this caused Remini to double down on the claim by insisting that Jada was involved in the church, which prompted Jada’s comments on social media this morning. Whether Will and Jada were, or are, truly a part of the church outside of casual study remains to be seen. But for now, we’ll just have to take Jada’s word for it.

Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle: