A prominent member of the Scientology church has openly criticized its leaders for aggressively seeking substantial donations from members and hoarding over a billion dollars.
Debra J. Cook, a top executive at the Scientologists’ headquarters in Clearwater, Fla., sent an email to thousands of fellow church members complaining about the church’s obsessive fundraising practices. Cook maintains her commitment to the Church of Scientology, which boasts notable members like Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
However, she is extremely critical of the Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige.
Miscavige has led the Church of Scientology since the death of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, 26 years ago. Miscavige has been accused of tyranny, physical assaults on colleagues and most recently, continuous fundraising, according to The Guardian.
Cook’s email, which was first published in The Village Voice, accuses the church of hoarding over a billion dollars and still pressing members to donate more. In the email, Cook said Miscavige uses intimidation tactics, including threats that members’ spiritual progress will be slowed if they don’t donate, according to USA Today.
Cook quoted the church founder’s declaration that the maximum sum a Scientologist must pay over a lifetime is $75. However, under Miscavige, Scientology has acquired a vast and largely unused wealth, according to the official.
“Currently, membership monies are held as reserves and have grown well in excess of a billion dollars. Only a tiny fraction has ever been spent, in violation of the policy above,” Cook wrote. “Only the interest earned from the holdings have been used very sparingly to fund projects through grants.”
The Church of Scientology is supported financially by specific donations, which are requested by church members.
In a St. Petersburg Times report, a former member of the Church of Scientology speaks about how the church pressured him into donating $50,000 twice. Brian Culkin had donated $50,000 to the International Association of Scientologists for his “patron status” in February 2010, after a year in the church.
Soon after, they asked for an additional $50,000 to become a “Patron with Honors.”
They promised he could earn the money back during a trip to Moscow collecting further donations. However, he refused to donate the money, feeling pressured, and he later left the church.
In another case, a man who had just donated $150,000 was being pressed to donate another $350,000. He was told that if he didn’t give up the money, his wife would be declared an enemy of the church and he wouldn’t be allowed to talk to her.
A Church of Scientology spokesperson denies these claims, calling ex-members apostates that are unreliable sources.
According to Cook, an obsession with money was contrary to Hubbard’s teachings and a distraction from efforts to disseminate his beliefs.
Cook goes on to accuse Miscavige of dismantling the church’s original structure. She cites the construction of lavish headquarter buildings that remain empty and the removal of a Watchdog Committee. She also accuses him of getting rid of laws designed to prevent the church from turning into a “one-man dictatorship.”
Cook urged members not to make anymore donations unless church authorities could produce a Hubbard teaching to say they were required. She added that no one will be able to produce the references because they don’t exist.
In a statement to The Times, the Church of Scientology dismissed Cook’s email. They say that Ms. Cook’s opinions reflect a small, ignorant and unenlightened view of the world today.
The statement goes on to say that Cook’s views are not shared by the thousands of Scientologists who are overjoyed by 27 new churches and what they mean to their respective communities.