Prominent Scientology insider blasts church as greedy

USA Today/January 3, 2012

A widely respected Scientology insider has gone public with a dramatic e-mail to fellow church members that criticizes the church's leadership and describes what she calls heavy handed fundraising practices.

The e-mail blast to thousands of current and former Scientologists this weekend came from Debra J. Cook, who was a top executive at the Scientologists' headquarters in Clearwater, Fla.

In her e-mail, Cook calls on members not to give any more donations unless it can be justified by specific writings of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology.

The story first broke in The Village Voice, which published the e-mail. It was followed by a story in the the Tampa Bay Times, formerly the St. Petersburg Times, which recently published a multipart investigation on the church titled "The Money Machine."

It is particularly striking that the internal criticism came from a prominent leader and not from a disgruntled defector of the highly secretive church, the newspaper notes.

In her e-mail, Cook said the church is hoarding "well in excess of a billion dollars" yet continues to press members aggressively to contribute more, using intimidation tactics including threats that their "spiritual progress" will be slowed, The Times reports.

The newspaper, which has written extensively about Scientology over the years, says the church did not respond to requests for comment.

Tony Ortega of The Village Voice initially posted the e-mail, but took it down at Cook's request. Cook has acknowledged its legitimacy on her Facebook page in a posting that itself prompted a discussion.

Ortega, who has often written about the church, says the e-mail "condemns church leader David Miscavige for turning Scientology into little more than a money-hungry fundraising machine."

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