The QueQue: SA Scientology spat may rope Cruise's best man, Child trafficking fight needs resources
Published: March 7, 2012
SA Scientology spat may rope Cruise's best man
Last week saw a flurry of legal wrangling in the Church of Scientology lawsuit against a former leading member here earlier this year. The church, as promised, filed a motion for summary judgment Friday against Debbie Cook, targeted by the church for supposedly breaking a sweeping non-disclosure agreement. Last week Cook filed her own counterclaim, seeking to draw the whole of Scientology leadership, including frontman (and best man at Tom Cruise's wedding) David Miscavige, into the fight, not just her former employer, the church's Flag Service Organization, part of the church's spiritual mecca in Clearwater, Fla., which filed the original suit against her in January.
For those just starting down the Scientology rabbit hole, here's a quick primer: Cook has effectively been exiled in San Antonio since the church pushed her out in 2007. At issue in the church's lawsuit against her is a sweeping non-disclosure agreement the church claims she broke when she sent out a New Year's Eve 2011 email to fellow Scientologists criticizing the church's leadership (Miscavige) and its controversial fundraising tactics.
In a remarkable court hearing earlier this month, Cook delivered stunning testimony that's made international headlines and deep ripples within the insular world of Scientology detailing widespread abuse within the church, including claims that church leadership threw high-ranking members into a prison dubbed "The Hole" for weeks, even months, at a time. Cook gave emotional testimony alleging routine physical abuse by church leaders saying she was imprisoned for weeks at a church-run compound in Clearwater and subjected to mental torture before she ultimately signed her non-disclosure agreement.
Asked in court if she signed the agreement under duress, she gave this chilling response: "I would have signed 'I stabbed babies' over and over again and loved it. I would have done anything at that point."
Central to the church's case is that Cook and her husband each took $50,000 checks when they left, and therefore willingly entered into their non-disclosure contracts, the church claims. Last week, Cook's lawyer, local attorney Ray Jeffrey, provided the Current a letter showing in mid-February, Cook and her husband offered to give the money back in exchange for the church voiding the non-disclosure agreements. Days later, a church attorney fired off a letter rejecting the proposal and chiding Cook for her appearance in the national media. In its motion for summary judgment filed Friday, the church largely sidestepped Cook's troubling claims of abuse, framing the lawsuit as a dull contractual matter.
Contractual? Maybe. Dull? Hardly. In addition to receiving nasty letters from the church each time the Cook case makes headlines both nationally and internationally, Jeffrey claims the church has trained spies on his clients and even set up a surveillance operation outside his Bulverde law office. "My clients are followed by private investigators with video cameras. My office building has been staked out, and the investigators have driven slowly through our parking lot to video the license plates of the cars parked there," he said last week. "I know of no legitimate purpose for these activities. The obvious illegitimate purpose is intimidation."