Scientology Rocked By Allegations of Greed in E-mail to 12,000 Church Members
Very shortly after midnight last night, after the ball had dropped in Times Square to welcome in 2012, we started to receive fevered e-mails from several of our Scientology-watching sources.
The first big breaking story of 2012 had happened only 36 minutes into the new year.
A woman named Debbie Cook dropped something of an atom bomb on the membership of the Church of Scientology last night, and as of this minute -- about noon on New Year's Day -- her Facebook page is still going a bit crazy as her fellow church members deal with the fallout.
Cook was once a very high ranking executive in Scientology's Sea Org. She led the Flag Service Organization in Clearwater, Florida, which made her one of the most important executives at the spiritual headquarters of the worldwide organization. Several years ago, she left that position and the Sea Org, but she is still a member of the church in good standing.
That will probably change after the e-mail she sent out, reportedly to 12,000 members of her religion, which condemns church leader David Miscavige for turning Scientology into little more than a money-hungry fundraising machine.
Today is a holiday, so we're having a little trouble reaching some of our usual sources to get their perspective on Debbie's e-mail. And Debbie herself has not answered a message from me. But while I wait to hear back from people, we're going to publish Debbie's e-mail in its entirety, which she authenticated at her Facebook page this morning, as you can see here:
Some things to keep in mind as you read her message. (New to Scientology watching? Here's an introduction to the religion.)
-- Debbie is aware that her fellow church members are not used to hearing criticism of church management, and would automatically suspect that such a message would be sent from someone outside the church, or from a disaffected member who had been declared a "suppressive person" (excommunicated). So she stresses repeatedly that she is still a member in good standing, is writing only for her fellow church members, and does not want her message to be seen outside the church (a very naive notion).
-- She, like many other longtime church members who have been leaving Scientology, is fed up with the intense pressure under leader David Miscavige to raise money from people who are already giving every penny they can. As we saw in the recent blockbuster series in the St. Petersburg Times, "The Money Machine," even very loyal longtime members are simply becoming exhausted from constant pressure to donate large sums. [UPDATE: Tobin and Childs now have their own story about Cook's e-mail up at tampabay.com.]
-- What really makes this document unique is the way that Debbie appeals to her fellow church members by going to the "Source" -- L. Ron Hubbard's own words -- to show how "out-ethics" (outside of policy) Miscavige is with his emphasis on fundraising.
-- We are left with a lot of questions after reading this clearly heartfelt appeal by a longtime Scientologist who is alarmed at what her church has turned into: what will become of Debbie Cook? Will she be declared a suppressive person for raising these questions, and will her many friends be told to disconnect from her? Will her e-mail generate an actual discussion among longtime church members about these problems and foster even more defections to Marty Rathbun's blog and the independence movement? Or, will Miscavige finally begin to see the light and start making critical changes to save Scientology from problems that seem to be splitting it apart?
As always, we look forward to your thoughts on these questions in the comments section.
So, without further ado, here is the e-mail sent out last night by Debbie Cook....
UPDATE: Debbie Cook has requested that her e-mail not be republished. At this point, I'm inclined to cooperate with her, and I'm hoping she'll continue to talk to me about what she's going through. [We've now put it back up, and with annotations!]
2nd UPDATE: We now have this analysis of Debbie's e-mail from Jefferson Hawkins. A former Scientology executive of exceptional insight, Hawkins posted this in our comments section, but I'm putting it here so that it gets the exposure it deserves:
Good on Debbie for speaking out. That took guts. And good on her for "coming out" with a well-planned, well-timed surgical strike aimed at enlightening the faithful Scientologists.
For many, many years, Debbie was used as the spokesperson for the Flag Land Base. Her picture was featured prominently in every issue of "Source" Magazine, with a "Message from the Captain." She made many, many promotional videos extolling the virtues of coming to the Flag Land Base. The Church deliberately built her up as an "opinion leader" for Scientologists. There was a lot of work that went into establishing her as a high-profile opinion leader for the top Scientologists.
Now all of those pigeons are coming home to roost. Some might criticize her for not doing more to expose the abuse and cruelty at the top of Scientology (which she had personal experience with), but remember that her message is not for us. It's not for ex-Scientologists or critics or even Independent Scientologists. It's directed at those still in Scientology and still supporting the organization. And, for those people, it's pitch-perfect. It quotes Hubbard extensively and uses the Founder's own words to show how far Scientology has strayed from its own writings and principles. And it's an argument that will resonate with every Scientologist.
They KNOW something is wrong. You would have to be deaf, blind and dumb not to. Even the most indoctrinated Scientologist, in full denial, has to keep those cognitive dissonance suppressors going full time to keep his doubts and questions at bay. They know something is wrong. And for a key opinion leader like Debbie Cook to come out and say, "yes, there is something wrong, and this is what it is" is major.
We may not see an immediate effect here in the "real world," but I can assure you her message is having a major impact internally. You'll see a lot of panicked damage control from OSA in the coming days, attempts to "dead agent" Debbie and so on. But the damage has been done - this letter will go viral internally, under the radar.
3rd Update: Debbie Cook is now a meme. We just noticed this video made today by the very clever San Jose Chanology anons who picket the Los Gatos, California org. As Scientologists come and go to the building, they shout, "Heard from Debbie Cook lately?" and "Go home and check your e-mail!"
Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several publications.
Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin' Scared
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HUGH URBAN'S THE CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY
EX-SCIENTOLOGISTS SPEAK OUT
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