Former Scientology leader Debbie Cook settles lawsuit with church

Only weeks ago, after delivering hours of damaging testimony about the Church of Scientology, former church official Debbie Cook sounded as if she was just getting started, say Joe Childs and Thomas C. Tobin in The Tamba Bay Times:

She said she had much more to tell. She hoped out loud that raising the curtain on church abuses might spark “a reformation from within.”

This week, her voice went silent.

Cook and Scientology settled a church lawsuit that backfired when she took the stand Feb. 9 in San Antonio, Texas.

Cook gave a riveting account of how she and other religious workers were physically and mentally abused at Scientology’s desert compound near Los Angeles. She said she was detained and otherwise controlled when she and her husband, also a former church staffer, tried to leave the church’s Clearwater campus in 2007.

The next hearing in the lawsuit was scheduled for May 7. Now Cook, the church and their respective attorneys have laid down their arms. The agreement dated Monday allows both sides to essentially call it even and go their separate ways. Neither pays the other side money, and Cook and her husband are legally prohibited from ever again speaking ill of the church.

The church walks away having suffered through a day of brutal testimony that remains in the public record. Cook and her husband are back where they started before Cook sent out a New Year’s Eve email to thousands of Scientologists that criticized the church’s money raising tactics, questioned church management and called on parishioners to push for reforms.

Former top Scientology executive Marthy Rathbun — now, while still a believer in the teachings of Scientology, a critic of the Church of Scientology — reports on the settlement at his blog

Debbie Cook and Wayne Baumgarten have settled their litigation with Scientology Inc in a manner satisfactory to themselves.

For context I think it is important that people read my 12 February post Battle of San Antonio: A Review, and pay particular attention to its conclusion: […]

Miscavige read and heeded it.  He bought the finest Texas legal muscle money could buy — and brought in attorneys from Los Angeles, New York and Washington D.C. to join them.  All to get him out of the mess he had gotten himself into.  But, like I wrote on 12 February, the damage had been done and there would be no unringing of the bell.

David Miscavige, the current head of the Church of Scientology, has been under fire from ex-members of the church who allege that he engaged in various abuses.

Rathbun followed that post with another one, titled ‘Abuse of Process — David Miscavige’

Abuse of Process is a civil violation of law.  An Abuse of Process is accomplished when the court’s processes are used for an imroper purpose — a purpose other than that which a party purports to use that process for.

In my professional opinion David Miscavige has used the Bexar County District Court for purposes that are improper and fraudlent.  That is assuming that the Tampa Bay Times has reported straight facts this evening. […]

Since David Miscavige has instructed his lawyers to fraudulently use the court’s processes to lie in order to cover up his serial criminal acts committed against a woman, I will weigh in with my professional opinion.

You can take it to the bank that Miscavige agreed to pay Debbie Cook and Wayne Baumgarten seven figures, at least two times — and possibly three times  – over to make them go away.

In fact, I have bet everything I have on it.  That is because if I am wrong, David Miscavige has every means available to haul me into court.

However, at The Village Voice, Tony Ortega writes

For those who seem to think Debbie Cook walked away with a large cash payment, you might review the facts in this case first. I just had a lengthy talk with Scott Pilutik, our resident legal resident on Scientology matters. He reminds me what Cook was facing in this case: she had put out a single e-mail, expressing her religious feelings, and for that she had been sued by a church that was demanding $300,000 in damages and probably a lot more than that as the case went forward.

Cook had to be concerned about the draconian nature of the agreement she had signed in 2007, which was simply astounding in some of its terms. As Jeffrey had pointed out to me, if they strictly followed the terms of that agreement, the church was entitled to ask for millions in damages from Cook and Baumgarten.

At any time, however, the Church of Scientology could simply drop this case and walk away from it if they wanted to. So why, no matter how well Cook had been doing in this case so far — and she had been doing very well — would the church pay her to get out of the lawsuit?

Pilutik and I have no knowledge of the actual terms of the settlement, but an educated guess tells us that Cook and Baumgarten may have made a new promise not to speak publicly about the church in return for Scientology dropping its demand of hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of dollars. A scenario where the church would pay Cook is harder to imagine.

Indeed the Tampa Bay Times story referred to above says, “The agreement dated Monday allows both sides to essentially call it even and go their separate ways. Neither pays the other side money…”

The Church of Scientology is known for its litigious nature and its heavy-handed, unethical ways of dealing with ex-members and other critics — among the reasons why Apologetics Index, parent site of Religion News Blog, refers to Scientology as a hate group.

Scientology’s use and abuse of the legal system is based on the writings of the cult‘s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, who wrote:

The purpose of the suit is to harass and discourage rather than to win. The law can be used very easily to harass, and enough harassment on somebody who is simply on the thin edge anyway, well knowing that he is not authorized, will generally be sufficient to cause his professional decease. If possible, of course, ruin him utterly.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday April 25, 2012.
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