Dani Lemberger is back from a well-deserved weeklong vacation in the country of Jordan and we talked to him briefly yesterday, asking him what he could say about his recently concluded trial in Tel Aviv, Israel.
We have talked to three people who were in the courtroom during the trial, and we also obtained transcripts of much of the proceedings. We knew that Dani and Tami Lemberger were suing the Church of Scientology for libel and fraud, but that they were asking for only a modest amount in damages — 80,000 shekels, which is about $22,000. The church, for its part, wanted the Lembergers to stop violating church trademarks and copyrights when they offer “independent” Scientology at their “Dror Center” in Haifa. So how did things turn out?
Dani, who sounded very upbeat and satisfied, said he couldn’t divulge the terms of the settlement. But when we asked if Dror Center would still be open for business, he said, “open and thriving.” He says that about 60 people currently are active in auditing and courses at Dror Center, with others taking correspondence courses from overseas, particularly in Latvia, Ukraine, and Russia.
Our observers in court say that there were several stunning moments in the trial, which featured testimony by both Dani and Tami Lemberger, as well as Oregon resident Ronit Charny, who was Tami’s auditor at the Flag Land Base. Charny’s testimony detailed how frustrating it was for Tami to try and finish the expensive auditing level “OT 7” because Dani had become outspoken in his criticisms of Scientology leader David Miscavige.
Charny testified that Tami Lemberger spent thousands of dollars for interrogations, and had to endure pressure from Scientology officials to divorce Dani if she wanted to complete OT 7. At one point on the stand, Charny broke down as she related how Tami was manipulated and lied to by Scientology executives.
Dani Lemberger began his testimony in a January hearing, but our observers tell us that Tel Aviv District Judge Ruth Levhar-Sharon stopped the proceeding, seemingly astonished by what she was hearing about Scientology’s methods. At that point, she complained to Scientology attorneys that they had no representatives present in the courtroom from the organization itself who could make decisions about a settlement to end the lawsuit. She then rescheduled Dani’s remaining testimony and cross-examination for February 20.
It was during Dani’s cross-examination in the Feb 20 hearing that Scientology’s local attorney, Mattan Ben Shaul, told Dani that he had contacted former church official Mark “Marty” Rathbun, who had turned over a damaging email that Dani sent Rathbun in 2013, which we wrote about earlier. After the cross-examination of Dani was over, Judge Levhar-Sharon asked if the church had brought representatives, as she requested. In the courtroom, two of Scientology’s American attorneys were present — Eric Lieberman and William Walsh — and they then brought in two more of Scientology’s familiar faces — attorney Monique Yingling and Sea Org official Marc Yager.
Yes, Scientology’s star attorney who featured in a couple of ABC 20/20 episodes, Monique Yingling, had made the trip to the Tel Aviv courtroom.
Our court observers say that Judge Levhar-Sharon dressed down the large church delegation in English, telling them that she had heard “terrible” testimony about Scientology’s treatment of people, and that if the two sides could not come to some kind of settlement agreement, she would be writing a judgment that she said was so harsh, it would likely end Scientology in the state of Israel — and might, she added, have a global impact on the church.
She asked the church why, if the Lembergers dropped their damages claim, it couldn’t simply agree to leave the Lembergers alone to practice Scientology the way they saw fit. Our observers say Yager replied that if he were to do so, that it would make him a “heretic” in his own church. Wow.
The Church of Scientology and the Lembergers found a way to come to an agreement in the weeks since that remarkable court hearing.
But we can’t help wondering, if Judge Levhar-Sharon felt that the testimony in her court horrified her to such a degree that she had the power to shut down Scientology in the state of Israel, why should it be allowed to continue there simply because it found a way to settle with the Lembergers? Shouldn’t Israeli government officials be made aware of what horrified Judge Levhar-Sharon? We only wish we knew a journalist there who might take this subject as seriously as we do.
As for Dani and Tami Lemberger, we haven’t made it a secret that we admire them for their principled stand against the church, and we believe they should be allowed to practice “independent Scientology” as long as they want to. (We support all independents to believe what they want, as long as they don’t harm people the way the Church of Scientology does with its abusive policies — and yes, we say that even as we find L. Ron Hubbard and his ideas perfectly ridiculous. We respect all Scientologists as people, but we believe we are under no obligation to respect the ideas of Scientology.)
If anyone has some good ideas about how the testimony in this court case might be presented to Israeli officials so they might be made aware of Judge Levhar-Sharon’s statements, let us know. It might make for an interesting story in the Israeli press.
Nancy Cartwright’s dream came true yesterday and Scientology’s San Fernando Valley “Ideal Org” was finally opened after years of intense fundraising. Now that David Miscavige has showed up to release some balloons, it can go back to being simply an empty building.
HowdyCon 2017: Denver, June 23-25. Go here to start making your plans. (And thank you, Observer!)
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Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.
The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)
Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts
Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ
Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield