The Church of Scientology, known for celebrity and controversy, is now in the middle of another public relations crisis as a former high-ranking official has created a firestorm, first with an email to church members and then testimony 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.
For 17 years Debbie Cook ran the church's spiritual mecca, the so-called Flag Base in Clearwater, Florida, where she ultimately rose to the title of captain. But Cook testified this month that beginning in 2005 she saw behavior exhibited by church leader David Miscavige that disturbed her deeply.
"I witnessed Mr. Miscavige physically punching in the face and wrestling to the ground another very senior executive at Scientology International level," Cook testified in court.
A few weeks later in an interview with ABC News, Cook repeated that assertion. She also said -- as she had testified -- that Miscavige never hit her, but that he ordered his assistant to slap her, and that slap was so hard that Cook was knocked down.