Former executive speaks out against Scientology
She will just be disfellowshipped and no scientologist will be allowed to talk to her again.
Religions are exremely hard to injure - they are protected by their followers' extreme reluctance to admit they were duped.
"Scientology Insider Emails Attack on Church Finances"
by Janet Reitman
On New Year's Day, the Church of Scientology, no stranger to scandal, was
treated to yet another dose, this time from a former church official named
In an email Cook sent to an astonishing 12,000 people—arguably the most
dedicated core of the group—she accused Scientology's leadership of hoarding
more than $1 billion in donations; spending lavishly on new churches; punishing
former executives with draconian measures; and overselling Scientology books
and services to members already stretched by high-pressure sales tactics.
What was stunning about Cook's email wasn't what she said—in researching and
writing my investigative history of the church, Inside Scientology, I heard all
of these stories and more, and the blogosphere has been buzzing with these
reports for more than a year. What was shocking was that Cook, of all people,
said it. Allegations of mismanagement and reports of physical, emotional, and
financial abuse have been the bread and butter of church critics. Cook, though,
is not a "critic" of the church; to the contrary, she was a devoted
Scientologist who, for years, has been one of Scientology's truest believers
and standard bearers
Cook spent much of her career heading Scientology's Flag Land Base, which is a
cluster of organizations in Clearwater, Florida, that comprise what church
members regard as their Mecca. Flag, as it's called, offers the most advanced
Scientology courses on land and access to its elite counselors, known as
auditors. (The very highest level of Scientology training is offered on
Freewinds, the church's highly secure cruise ship that spends most of the years
sailing the Caribbean.) Members who opt to seek counseling or other services at
Flag pay far more than at any other organization, and it had been Cook's job to
see that the operation ran smoothly. It was also Cook's job, as an elite member
of the Sea Organization, Scientology's management body, to protect the church,
something she did extremely well.
Most memorably, Cook presided over Flag during the 1990s, when the church was
rocked by allegations of criminal negligence in the 1995 death of Lisa
McPherson, a member who suffered a nervous breakdown in Clearwater and later
died while in the church's care. McPherson died of a pulmonary embolism, though
a coroner originally cited prolonged dehydration and bedrest as the cause. Cook,
who later admitted she'd been "kind of freaked out" by McPherson's death, was
one of many senior church officials who spent years afterward trying to shield
the church from scrutiny. So much was this the case that in 2000, when another
member suffered similar emotional problems at Flag, the church, under Cook's
leadership, told him to go home. The member, Greg Bashaw, a Chicago advertising
executive, later wrote to Cook claiming that he had suffered a breakdown at
Flag as a result of his counseling, and felt abandoned by the organization. Two
months later, Bashaw committed suicide.
These stories may seem peripheral, yet they speak to a far larger theme within
Scientology, which demands that its members, and particularly its officials,
protect the church at any cost. Cook was an exemplary soldier in this cause.
This is why her email is shocking for Scientology-watchers, and threatening for
the Church of Scientology itself.
Scientology's response to Cook's allegations has been to write her off as yet
one more “disgruntled defector” who was never the insider she claims, according
to spokeswoman Karin Pouw. This, Scientology's standard response, is part of an
overall policy to discredit critics, known as “dead agenting.” This same policy
has been applied to reporters for decades. Coupled with an even harsher policy
of harassment, known as Fair Game, it has dissuaded many from investigating the
In the past few years, a tremendous amount of previously unknown information
about Scientology has been made public, thanks to the bravery of former church
officials who have posted their stories online, as well as to the doggedness of
journalist colleagues like Tom Tobin and Joe Childs at the Tampa Bay Times, Tony
Ortega at The Village Voice, and Lawrence Wright at The New Yorker. My
investigations into the church began with a 2006 article that I wrote for
Rolling Stone, and culminated with my book last year.
Given how much is out there about Scientology, its most recent denigration of
Cook, like its denigration of those who have come before her, rings hollow. And
so does any defense of policies that have been exposed as bankrupt and in need