Church of Scientology, Former Church Official Settle Lawsuits out of Court

Apr 26, 2012 9:20pm

BY DAN HARRIS and MARY MARSH

The Church of Scientology and a former high-ranking church official have settled their disputing lawsuits out of court.

Debbie Cook, who ran the Scientology church’s spiritual mecca, the so-called Flag Base in Clearwater, Fla., for 17 years, said in an email to “Nightline,” “I can only confirm that we did settle and otherwise make no comment.”

Court documents show the settlement terms were filed on Monday and say that the church will drop its demand for damages against Cook and her husband Wayne Baumgarten. One provision in the settlement said Cook and Baumgarten are permanently and forever enjoined from “printing, posting, disseminating, circulating, quoting publicly, uttering or publishing any kind of statement in any form which is critical of, defamatory or disparaging against any of the Church Parties, either directly or indirectly.”

No money was involved in the settlement.

Cook created a firestorm earlier this year, first with an email to church members and then when she testified in a Texas state court alleging she saw the church’s leader punch another executive in the face, and that at his direction she, herself, was slapped.

Cook also testified that in 2007, while doing work at the Scientology International Base in Southern California, she was taken to a pair of double-wide trailers she called “The Hole.” She testified that she was held in “The Hole” for seven weeks, that there were bars on the windows and security guards posted at the door, and that the food ”was like leftovers, slop, bits of meat, soupy kind of leftovers thrown into a pot and cooked and barely edible.”

In a letter to ABC News in February, a lawyer for the Church of Scientology flat-out denied that “The Hole” exists, or that there was ever a place known as “The Hole.”

The letter stated that Cook and certain other Scientology executives and staff members “did participate in religious discipline, a program of ethics and correction entered into voluntarily as part of their religious observances,” but insisted, “the idea that the church held her or anyone else against their will [is] denied.”

In an ABC News interview in February, Cook was asked about the church’s claim that she and her husband are bitter “defrocked apostates” who are spreading lies and fictions about the church.

“I have never lost my passion or love for the church and all that it stands for, and all that it does to help others,” Cook said at the time. “That is my life and I loved doing it, so I’m not bitter. It’s really out of that passion and love and care that I am doing this to rid it of a situation that has grown out of control … it needs to get confronted and it needs to get handled. It can’t go on. You know, I know that L. Ron Hubbard would never approve of it.”

Read the Church of Scientology International’s Statement to ABC News

 

ABC News’ Lauren Effron contributed to this report.

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