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Scientology executive tells of beatings and torture
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Scientology executive tells of beatings and torture http://thetim.es/ychCDb
10:48 PM - 15 Feb 12
[Edition 2] (web subsription or in print ony)
by Jacqui Goddard. The Times, London (UK), 16 Feb 2012
An attempt by the Church of Scientology to gag one of its former executives has backfired after she used her day in court to blow the lid on a "horrific" litany of torture, harassment and abuse by the organisation's leadership.
In a humiliating climbdown, the church, whose leader, David Miscavige, is accused by multiple ex-members of ruling by "terror" and "tyranny", abandoned a court hearing against Debbie Cook, who repeated in the witness stand the very allegations they had been attempting to silence. "Ms Cook was beaten, she was tortured, she was degraded," her lawyer, Ray Jeffrey, told the court in San Antonio, Texas.
The church had applied for an injunction against Ms Cook, 50, a former head of its spiritual headquarters in Florida for 17 years, accusing her of violating a confidentiality agreement that she signed when she quit the church in 2007. But the church abruptly pulled out of proceedings and admitted that Ms Cook had dealt it "irreparable damage" with her allegations that she was persecuted for challenging Mr Miscavige's abuses of policy.
What she endured over the years left her so broken, and so desperate to leave, that "I would have signed that I stabbed babies over and over again and loved it. I would have done anything", she told Bexar County Court during tearful testimony.
She said that on one occasion Mr Miscavige, a friend of Tom Cruise, the actor, ordered his secretary to slap her, which she did so forcefully that Ms Cook was sent crashing into chairs.
She was held for 45 days, along with 100 other Scientology executives, in a den known as The Hole at the church's California desert compound, where she was subjected to distressing "confession" sessions including being forced to stand in a dustbin for two hours while water was poured on her head and abuse screamed in her face.
"It had bars on the windows and the one entrance was guarded by security 24 hours a day," she said. "The place was infested by ants, so ants would crawl on you, and there was a twoweek period during that time when the electricity had been shut off -- as ordered by Mr Miscavige -- and this was of course in summer in the desert so the temperature in there was about 106." She said that in 2005 she "witnessed Mr Miscavige physically punching in the face and wrestling to the ground another very senior executive". Another was beaten by his assistant and made to lick a dirty floor for 30 minutes.
During another confrontation, Mr Miscavige came at her with his hands held out "as if he was going to choke me", she told the court, adding that he stopped short and instead "grabbed my shoulders and shook me while he was yelling".
In her final months working for the church she was "imprisoned" at a compound in Florida and followed everywhere, even to the lavatory. "I called my mother and told her if I wasn't out in three days, to call the police," she said. Ms Cook was eventually let go and given a $50,000 (Pounds 32,000) payoff and a contract to prevent her from speaking ill of the church.
The court clash came after she e-mailed church members in January, denouncing Mr Miscavige's autocratic ways and overbearing fundraising tactics and urging them to help restore Scientology to its roots. She is the latest in a series of high-level defectors who have left, vowing continuing loyalty to the spiritual teachings of the church's late founder, L. Ron Hubbard, but accusing his successor, Mr Miscavige, of having steered the church "off policy".
A statement issued by the church stated that it withdrew its motion for an injunction against Ms Cook and her husband "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". It branded her a "heretic" and vowed: "She and her fellow bitter apostates will never enter a Church of Scientology again."
Ms Cook said: "I take seriously being under oath. I absolutely told the truth."
Credit: United States Jacqui Goddard Miami
Caption: David Miscavige: ruled Scientology by "terror and tyranny"; Debbie Cook, right; David Miscavige with Tom Cruise, one of the church's most famous members
Not bad coverage for the UK this week.
Daily Mail : 2,011,283
The Times : 405,113
The Sun : 2,751,219