We’re heading down to the courthouse now to begin talking to folks before the action heats up again.
Yesterday afternoon, Bexar County district judge Martha Tanner said that she’d begin day 2 of the temporary injunction hearing at 9:30 am, CST.
If you’re just joining us, the Church of Scientology is suing one of its former high-ranking officials, Debbie Cook, and her husband, Wayne Baumgarten, who live here in San Antonio. Cook was something of a legend inside Scientology, and for many was the “face” of the religion. But her final couple of years, she testified yesterday, featured confinement and degradation on an almost unbelievable scale. She says she gladly signed a draconian non-disclosure agreement and accepted $50,000 in payment simply in order to get away from the church. Then, this past New Year’s Eve, she sent out an e-mail to thousands of her fellow church members, complaining in part about how Scientology, under leader David Miscavige, is too focused on “extreme fundraising.”
The church sued two weeks ago, saying that by sending out that e-mail, she’d violated her agreement. The church was granted a temporary restraining order which has run out, and is now seeking a temporary injunction that would keep Cook gagged until a trial could be held. Ironically, that resulted, yesterday, in Cook testifying to horrible things she never even brought up in the e-mail. So much for gagging her. Her testimony, under questioning from her attorney Ray Jeffrey, will continue this morning, and we’ll be there, giving you live updates…
First update, 7:55 am, CST. Rainy day here in San Antonio. Heading over to the courtroom now with an umbrella that might not really be up to the task. But what I’m thinking about this morning is how we’re going to get everything done today. Ray Jeffrey was getting close to the end of his examination of his client, Debbie Cook, as we finished yesterday. But even if he wraps that up early this morning, won’t George Spencer, the church’s attorney, get a chance to re-examine her? And then, the church has indicated that it has a witness to testify — one of its own attorneys — and Jeffrey still has three: Debbie’s husband Wayne Baumgarten, as well as Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder.
Will all that get done today with a ruling from Judge Tanner? I sure hope so.
9:10 am. Just had a conversation with San Antonio Express-News reporter John MacCormack outside the courtroom. I really have to give him credit for making an observation in his story yesterday that I echoed in my own piece last night: if the Church of Scientology wanted to keep Debbie Cook quiet, it went about so in the worst possible way.
You have to wonder what’s left of this case at this point. With Cook’s sworn testimony to the horrible way high-ranking officials in Scientology were treated at Int Base, the way defectors are tracked down and hounded, and the sadistic way she was treated by David Miscavige, what’s the point of a continuing injunction, or even the lawsuit itself?
In place, ready to go. Judge Tanner still hearing other matters as the TV cameras are setting up.
9:30 am. The gang’s all here. Debbie Cook and Wayne Baumgarten are at the defendants’ table, Scientology’s attorneys have filed in, and folks are beginning to fill the seats.
BREAKING: SCIENTOLOGY WITHDRAWS REQUEST FOR TEMPORARY INJUNCTION — DEBBIE COOK IS UNGAGGED
George Spencer started proceedings by addressing Judge Tanner, saying that Cook had made “false and misleading statements” about the church yesterday, that she has done “irreparable harm to our client.”
“As we feared, the defendant has used the courtroom to…violate the agreement. She disparaged numerous officials not involved in this case.”
“The extreme falsity of her testimony is shown by the simple fact that she didn’t have a positive thing to say about any of the people she worked with…” he said.
Cook had “destroyed the value of the temporary injunction,” and therefore the church was withdrawing its request for one.
Everyone in the court is stunned. Jeffrey asked for a short recess to talk things over with Cook and Baumgarten and then they’ll reconvene.
Joe Childs looked at me and gave me a look that said, “Can you believe it?”
One of the people in the audience: Steve Hall, who runs an excellent Scientology blog.
Ray Jeffrey and his clients, Debbie Cook and Wayne Baumgarten, are back in court. Scientology’s attorneys are still huddling outside.
9:55 am. Jeffrey is saying that he wants to continue his examination of Cook on the record because he wanted to address her signing the NDA.
Spencer says the court can’t continue: “This thing is over.”
Tanner decides to allow Jeffrey to describe what Cook would testify to if she allows it to continue.
AND IT IS DONE.
Jeffrey came and spoke to us for a minute. I caught it on video, so I’ll post that a little later. For now we’re clearing out of here, and it may be a while before I have a connection again. But we’ll be trying to get an interview with Debbie and Wayne later today.
12:30 pm. The Church has sent out a public statement about today’s decision to withdraw their request for an injunction. I’m putting it here in its entirety…
The only reason the Church brought suit against Debbie Cook and Wayne Baumgarten and sought a preliminary injunction was to uphold the agreement they made not to make disparaging statements about the Scientology religion, Churches of Scientology, its ecclesiastical officials and parishioners. The Church demanded such covenants from Cook for good and sufficient reason: Cook in the past had made similar false and misleading statements and the Church feared that she would do so again.
The Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization has withdrawn its motion for preliminary injunction to preclude the court being used further as a forum for the defendants to violate the rights of the Church and its members with more false and disparaging statements. At the same time, Church counsel is pleased that Ms. Cook has admitted to the facts confirming both her agreement and the irreparable harm caused to the Church through her actions. The Church will use this evidence to seek Summary Judgment against Ms. Cook and her husband.
Using the court to disparage dedicated Church officials who are not even part of this matter is yet another example of the bitter hate campaign Ms. Cook is engaged in, much like the apostates she has joined. It is also evident from her testimony that the entire purpose of violating her agreement is to extort the Church for more money. The Church refuses to let her continue under the guise of judicial privilege to falsely disparage the Church. Further statements in violation of their agreements by Cook and her husband will increase the damages they will ultimately have to pay. The extreme falsity of Cook’s statements is evident from the simple fact that, incredibly, in three hours of testimony she did not have a positive statement to make about anyone she ever encountered in her decades long Scientology career. Moreover, true or false, her statement about Church staff clearly violates the ministerial privilege. The Church fully intends to use its ecclesiastical procedures grounded in Church Scripture to expose both Cook’s false testimony and her ecclesiastical transgressions.
Cook’s agreement makes clear that all disputes Cook and her husband may have had were to be presented to the Church’s International Justice Chief for ecclesiastical resolution, and failing that, to arbitration. Cook failed to do either further breaching her agreement.
Cook and Baumgarten have improperly used the court proceeding to entangle the court in fundamental ecclesiastical matters that it must avoid under the First Amendment. Courts cannot interfere with ecclesiastical ethics and justice proceedings even were Cook’s one-sided revisionist history true. She has already been expelled from the Church and a court may not interfere with that without violating the First Amendment. For over a century, the Supreme Court has made clear that courts must abstain from examining matters, which concern church discipline. Just last month, in a unanimous decision in the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC (132 S.Ct. 694, 704 (January 12, 2012)), the Supreme Court reaffirmed the prohibition of judicial interference with religious liberties and the power to determine matters of discipline, faith, internal organization and explained why it is blatantly unconstitutional.
The proceedings in this Court yesterday clearly violated these proscriptions.
Ms. Cook left the Church clergy over four years ago. Since her departure, the Church has expanded many times over – and particularly where she served in Clearwater. The expansion is coincident with her departure. She has no knowledge of the Church today. She has not attended Church in years as a parishioner and has become a squirrel or a heretic. It is evident that Ms. Cook is extremely bitter that she is no longer part of the Church.
The Church has always been true to L. Ron Hubbard’s teachings. Ms. Cook was expelled from the Church for violating Scripture. She and her fellow bitter apostates will never enter a Church of Scientology again.
The ecclesiastical leader of the Scientology religion has dedicated more than 30 years of selfless service for the good of the religion and ten thousand staff and millions of parishioners applaud that service. Further information is available at Scientology.org.
Debbie Cook Coverage in the Village Voice…
January 1: Scientology rocked by allegations of greed in e-mail to 12,000 church members
January 3: Is Scientology imploding? Watching the panic after a former executive dares to question church management
January 4: Scientology in crisis: Debbie Cook’s transformation from enforcer to whistleblower
January 6: Scientology in turmoil: Debbie Cook’s e-mail, annotated
January 31: Scientology sues Debbie Cook over her New Year’s Eve e-mail
February 2: Debbie Cook files to dissolve Scientology’s temporary restraining order: We talk to her attorney, Ray Jeffrey
February 3: Debbie Cook’s motion denied: Scientology’s restraining order remains in place until Thursday hearing
February 4: Scientology wants it both ways: The church’s opposite legal strategies in Florida and Texas
Also, please see our primer, “What is Scientology?”
Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he’s been writing about Scientology at several publications.
@VoiceTonyO | Facebook: Tony Ortega
SCIENTOLOGY IN THE VILLAGE VOICE
[All recent stories] | [What is Scientology?] | [Top 25 People Crippling Scientology]
[Commenters of the Week] | [Thursday 2pm Stats!] | [Scientology vs. South Park]
[This Week Aboard the Apollo] | [Sunday Funnies]
[Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis secretly recorded discussing “disconnection”]
[Benjamin Ring, LA deputy sheriff, wants you to spend your 401K on Scientology]
[Scientologists: How many of them are there, anyway?]
[Scientology hates clean ice: The “Fair Game” operation that should turn your stomach]
[Scientology hates clean ice, part 2: Another target, and the web as weapon]
[Paulette Cooper, Scientology’s original and worst nightmare: a Thanksgiving tribute]
THE TOP 25 PEOPLE CRIPPLING SCIENTOLOGY
1. L. Ron Hubbard | 2. David Miscavige | 3. Marty Rathbun | 4. Tom Cruise | 5. Joe Childs and Tom Tobin | 6. Anonymous | 7. Mark Bunker | 8. Mike Rinder | 9. Jason Beghe | 10. Lisa McPherson | 11. Nick Xenophon | 12. Tommy Davis | 13. Janet Reitman | 14. Tory Christman | 15. Andreas Heldal-Lund | 16. Marc and Claire Headley | 17. Jefferson Hawkins | 18. Amy Scobee | 19. The Squirrel Busters | 20. Trey Parker and Matt Stone | 21. Kendrick Moxon | 22. Jamie DeWolf | 23. Ken Dandar | 24. Dave Touretzky | 25. Xenu
HELD ABOARD THE FREEWINDS: TALES OF THE SEA ORG
[Valeska Paris, held against her will from 1996 to 2007 on Scientology’s cruise ship]
[Ramana Dienes-Browning, marriage at 16, sexual interrogation, life in the engine room]
[Melissa Paris, Valeska’s sister: forced to marry at 16]
SCIENTOLOGY VS. SOUTH PARK: INVESTIGATION AS RETALIATION
[Scientology targeted South Park‘s Parker and Stone in an investigation]
[More documents in the South Park probe: instructions to send in a young mole]
[Scientology responds in typical fashion] | [Lloyd Kaufman confirms the probe]
[Mark Ebner also investigated after South Park involvement]
[Mark Chauppetta, private eye, explains what Scientology operatives look for]
MARTY RATHBUN AND THE SIEGE OF SOUTH TEXAS
[Scientology has Rathbun arrested] | [Rathbun and Mark Bunker reveal surprising ties]
In Germany with Ursula Caberta: [Announcing plans] | [Press conference] | [Making news about Tom Cruise, Bill Clinton, and Tony Blair] | [Post-trip interview]
The Squirrel Busters: [Goons with cameras on their heads] | [Rathbun’s open letter to neighbors] | [Ingleside on the Bay, Texas rallies to Rathbun’s cause] | [Squirrel Buster’s claim to be making a “documentary”] | [VIDEO: “On a Boat”] | [“Anna” sent to creep out Monique Rathbun] | [Squirrel Busters go hillbilly] | [A videographer blows the whistle on the goon squad] | [Ed Bryan, OT VIII, shows the power of Scientology’s highest levels]
SCIENTOLOGY SPYING AND “FAIR GAME”
[Secret Scientology documents spell out spying operation against Marc Headley]
[Scientology’s West U.S. spies list revealed] | [Scientology’s enemies list: Are you on it?]
Spy operation against Washington Post writer Richard Leiby: [Part 1] | [Part 2]
[A Scientology spy comes clean: Paulien Lombard’s remarkable public confession]
[Scientology advertises for writers in Freedom magazine]
[Accidental leak shows Scientology spy wing plans to “handle” the Voice]
[Lori Hodgson and Disconnection: “No one’s going to take my eternity away”]
SCIENTOLOGY AND CELEBRITIES
[Hey, Scientology Celebrity, Here’s Your Media Training Checksheet!]
[Tom Cruise and X Factor‘s Stacy Francis singing together on the Freewinds]
[X Factor’s Stacy Francis: Her first husband, Michael Sandlofer, answers abuse claims]
[Tom Cruise and Baby Suri embarrassed by news item, so someone must pay]
[“Tom Cruise told me to talk to a bottle”] | [Tom Cruise likes coconut cake] | [Tom Cruise has a sense of humor] | [“Tom Cruise not a kook!”] | [Paulette Cooper on Tom Cruise]
[Paul Haggis, director of Crash, issues an ultimatum, leaves the church]
[Character actor Jason Beghe defects noisily] | [Actor Michael Fairman reveals his “suppressive person” declaration] | [Michael Fairman talks to the Voice]
[Giovanni Ribisi as David Koresh: Scientology-Branch Davidian link makes sense]
[Russell Brand weds ex-Scientologists in wild ceremony] | [Skip Press on Haggis]
[Placido Domingo Jr.: Scientology’s retaliation is “scary and pathetic”]
Grant Cardone, NatGeo’s “Turnaround King”: [Doing Scientology’s dirty work?] | [Milton Katselas complained about Cardone’s smear job] | [Cardone runs to Huffpo]
[Philip Boyd, Saving Grace actor, rips “the business that is Scientology”]
JANET REITMAN’S INSIDE SCIENTOLOGY
[Our review of Inside Scientology] | [An interview with Janet Reitman] | [A report from Reitman’s first book tour appearance] | [At the Half-King: Reitman not afraid]
[Scientology doesn’t like Inside Scientology] | [Q&A at Washington Post]
[A roundup of Reitman’s print reviews, and why isn’t she on television more?]
HUGH URBAN’S THE CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY
[A review of Urban’s scholarly history of the church] | [An interview with Hugh Urban]
EX-SCIENTOLOGISTS SPEAK OUT
[“The Money Machine”: another blockbuster St. Pete Times investigation]
[Marc Headley: “Tom Cruise told me to talk to a bottle”] | [The Nancy Many interview]
[Sympathy for the Devil: Tory Christman’s Story] | [Jeff Hawkins’ Counterfeit Dreams]
[86 Million Thin Dimes: The Lawrence Wollersheim Saga] | [Mike Rinder on spying]
[Scientology in Israel: Arson, attempted murder, paranoia — and a visit by the Voice!]
[Scientology dodges a bullet in Australia] | [Scientology exec Jan Eastgate arrested]
[All hell breaks loose in Israel] | [Scientology sees fundraising gold in the UK riots]
[Aussie former rugby pro Chris Guider calls David Miscavige “toxic” and “violent”]
[Stephen Cox, UK church newbie, pledges 20K pounds] | [Biggi Reichert: A German Lisa McPherson?] | [The Birmingham trove: 7,000 internal e-mails]
[Australian farmer blamed for giving Tom Cruise a bad shrimp, loses her friends, family]
ODD VIDEOS AND ODDER NEWS
[Scientology chillin’ with hip hop!] | [The curious career of Scientology rapper Chill EB]
[Chill EB and me: the Voice interviews Scientology’s in-house rapper]
[Scientology singalong, “We Stand Tall”] | [Captain Bill Robertson and “Galactic Patrol”]
[Scientology wins a major award!] | [Scientology wants your money: Meet Dede!]
[Birmingham in the House! The “Ideal” dance mix] | [Scientology and the Nation of Islam]
[When Scientology was hip] | [Sad: David Miscavige makes fun of his own fundraisers]
[Freedom magazine parodies The New Yorker. Hilarity ensues.]
[Scientology surf report: Anonymous parties outside the New York “org”]
THE VIEW INSIDE THE BUBBLE
[A scientologist’s letter to the Voice and its readers] | [Scientology silent birth]
[Tad Reeves: Scientology might listen to this guy] | [More Tad Reeves and family]
[Scientology never forgets: A heartwarming telemarketing holiday miracle]
[Desperate Scientology fundraising caught on video]