Paulette Cooper, a journalist based in Florida, wrote the book The Scandal of Scientology in 1971. She was the first reporter to expose some of the unsavory elements of the Church and its teachings. As a result, the Church hounded her for years and tried to intimidate her into no longer challenging them. She didn’t give in.
Paulette agreed to respond to some of her frequently asked questions here on Jewcy, as well as discussing her Jewish roots and explaining how the Holocaust led her to take on Scientology.
What made you decide to expose Scientology?
My parents and almost all of my family were killed in Auschwitz. As an infant, I was briefly in a camp in Belgium (where I was born), and I spent my first six years in four different orphanages in Brussels. Then, happily, I was adopted and moved to America.
I have always felt that if more people had had the courage to speak out about Hitler in the ’30s, that what happened to me and 6 million Jews might have been avoided. So while I realized as soon as I started researching Scientology that they were dangerous, and that my life would (unhappily) never be the same, I didn’t feel that I should let my fears keep me from sounding the alarm.
What was your background?
I never was a Scientologist which gave me more credibility. I graduated from Brandeis in ’64, studied comparative religion at Harvard one summer so that I could graduate in 3 years, and later received an M.A. in psychology.
What happened to you as a result of fighting Scientology?
I spent 15 years pretty much the only person outwardly trying to expose them and help their victims, so they aimed their considerable guns trying to silence me. They sued me 19 times all over the world (which I had to support), criminally framed me and had me arrested (they were later caught), sent 5 disgusting anonymous smear letters about me (accusing me, among other ridiculous falsehoods, of practicing sexual perversions with my rabbi), broke into my doctor’s office and spread my records around, put my name on bathroom walls so I would get vile phone calls, and much more. You can find the story here.
If you follow the Scientology links on my site, and you can also read my book for free. Of course I’d rather people buy my latest book.
What do you think is the worst thing about Scientology?
That so many people have been persuaded to give them all the money they can get their hands, causing them to max out our their credit cards and be forever in debt, spending their inheritance so they have nothing less, pressuring their families for money, etc. All to pay for their outrageously expensive "auditing." I think it’s deplorable that Scientology has broken up so many families (and friends) because they encourage people to "disconnect" from family members who disapprove of their becoming Scientologists. It’s disgraceful that they sue and harass people like myself who try to reveal what’s really going on.. It’s sinful that what members reveal to them [during auditing processes] is not always kept confidential afterwards. Indeed, they recently revealed secrets to the St. Petersburg Times for their series about members who defected.
I also feel sorry that some of [Scientology’s] own members have been so mistreated, working long hours for almost no pay, and sometimes sent to what they call the RPF – sometimes for years – which is a "rehabilitation" unit. As my (adopted) mother used to say: "You don’t want to know from it."
Why does Scientology attract so many Jewish people?
I’ve asked myself that question a lot over the years. Is it that Scientology often attracts intelligent people because it has a veneer of science? Is it because Jewish people often have money and Scientology is enormously expensive? Is it because some people need a more structured dominant religion in their lives (such as Orthodoxy or Catholicism) than Judaism has been for them? Is it because so many Jewish families revolve around the mother, and some are looking for a more male-dominated leader/teacher such as L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology’s revered deceased leader?
Do you feel that you accomplished anything in trying to expose them?
I often get e-mails or read comments on anti-Scientology newsgroups or message boards from people who say that they got out of Scientology because they read my book. Or they read what Scientology did to me as of my work and realized what Scientology was really like. After all, what Temple or Church harasses and sues someone who says negative things about them?
Are you still working to expose them?
No, I moved on in my life more than 20 years ago on wrote 15 other books on different subjects. I’ve given almost no interviews on Scientology and if they had cleaned up their act more, I would have given no interviews ever.
Are they still powerful?
Don’t underestimate them! For example, after years of harassing the IRS and filing over 2,000 lawsuits against them, the IRS granted its members a tax exemption that even Jews don’t have. If you want to send your child to Hebrew school, it’s not deductible. But if you send your kid to a Scientology school it is. Still, Scientology is definitely on the wane. There have been major defections, important lawsuits against them, and books exposing them (with a big one coming up). Fortunately, the Internet (and a group of brave people calling themselves "Anonymous") has made it harder for them to keep harassing and suing people because more of their ugly deeds have come to light and backfired by turning people against them.
Are you religious?
No. The family that adopted me is, and I was brought up in a kosher home. My cousin is a conservative Rabbi, and several of my relatives live in Israel. Although I’m definitely pro-Israel, I am not religious. Ironically, I am spending quite a bit of time in temples now because I’m giving lectures in Florida and New York at shuls and Jewish organizations on my new book about bargain shopping in Palm Beach County. I am also turning over some of my profits to the temples and organizations.
There are certainly plenty of details like that to think about. Which is a wonderful examine start up. I provide thoughts above as general inspiration but clearly you will find questions such as the one you talk about in which the most essential thing are going to be in the honest excellent faith. I don?t determine if guidelines have emerged around stuff like that, but I am certain that your job is clearly referred to as an affordable game. Both boys and girls have the impact of simply a moment’s pleasure, through-out their lives.