Last week's cover story and subsequent Navel Gazing post on the Church of Scientology garnered a fair amount of comments from OC Weekly readers.
And some may recall that your humble scribe was called out by Karin Pouw
, a Scientology spokeswoman, for not immediately responding to her request for an email with questions prior to running the Paulien Lombard
story, in which Lombard said the church sent her out to spy on critics. (Oh, and the glaring lack of reference to my phone calls to the church in Los Angeles
seeking comment before the story ran.)
In the midst of it all, I received an email from Lombard, saying she was never involved with, nor has she heard of the Scientology Parishioners League, of which Pouw alleges Lombard was a part. Pouw also said while in this group, Lombard "took some initiatives" with other parishioners against religious discrimination, bigotry and hatred.
The kerfuffle stems from my questions to Pouw as to whether it indeed sends spies to collect data on its critics.
Lombard told me in her email that her effort to spy on Francois Choquette was an order from the Office of Special Affairs, and that Scientology doesn't "like to be connected to things like this since they know it gives them a bad reputation towards the general public."
She went on to say that a woman in charge of the OSA (also referred to by Scientologists as the Department of Special Affairs) named Mari Murillo had told her "that if anyone ever asked me who had given me the order to go out to Lake Elsinore to harass Francois, that I should say that I did this on my own initiative, nothing to do with the church."
I followed up with Pouw through an email Thursday, asking if she had evidence that Lombard was a part of the Scientology Parishioners League, and if the church in Los Angeles or Orange County (which previously referred me to Los Angeles for official comment on the cover story) had sent Lombard to Choquette's home. On Friday, I emailed Pouw again, saying I would be posting another story today. Pouw replied by email Saturday, saying she responded by way of a letter for publication that was sent to my editor, and I would receive a copy as well. The letter is scheduled for the Weekly's print edition this Thursday.
"I really don't have anything more to add at this time," Pouw said.
Here's a part of Pouw's emailed letter, most of which reiterates the talking points the Weekly posted last week:
"Josh Dulaney's article on Scientology (February 22 online) misinformed readers through inaccuracies and by inadequately representing the Church's response. The subject of the article, Paulien Lombard, was a member of a group of parishioners who organized themselves to protect their churches, much the same as a neighborhood watch will warn families of criminals and sexual predators."
Pouw repeats the claim that Lombard was part of a group that organized themselves to, as Pouw phrases it, "protect their churches."
We will let Weekly
readers judge for themselves, while taking a looksy at the following two letters of commendation allegedly sent from an Orange County church leader to Lombard, who said she received them after spying on two Scientology critics. Lombard provided the letters to me, and said the first one refers to the work she did on Choquette. She said the second letter is related to the spying she says she did in 2009 on a Laguna Beach
woman, who has since identified herself as
Patricia Curtis Susan Elliott