the Church of Scientology
since 1968
ALEX GIBNEY & HBOThe Prison of Propaganda

Letter from Norman Taylor to Sheila Nevins


February 16, 2015

Dear Ms. Nevins:

One of the subjects of your HBO film is my ex-wife, Sylvia “Spanky” Taylor, who your director Alex Gibney refers to as a “hero.”

Gibney’s “hero” is now walking the red carpet at the Sundance Film Festival premiere because she chose to reinvent events from 30 years ago so they would fit into the hatchet job Gibney has the gall to call a documentary.

I have firsthand knowledge about these events. Alex Gibney, Lawrence Wright and HBO never attempted to speak to me, even though I recently flew to New York to offer my evidence.

It speaks volumes that Lawrence Wright, Alex Gibney and HBO never tried to reach me to at least hear my recollection of events concerning my then-wife and child, and see the evidence I have to offer. It seems logical and ethical that one would want to check the credibility and accuracy of one’s sources with an available witness—especially when the events occurred more than 30 years ago. It would have been easy to find me because my legal offices are in the next town over from where Spanky lives. No doubt all of you feared that I would discredit Gibney’s “hero.”

According to what I have read about the documentary and have been told by those who have seen it, the biggest lie Spanky tells involves our daughter Vanessa Taylor. She was never “taken away” from Spanky by the Church, as Spanky claims. I was with Vanessa daily. I took her for walks outside in her stroller every day. I would sing to her. I was a proud father and she was a happy baby. When I worked, she was in day care and was well cared for. She was well fed, changed when she needed it and was a happy child. I loved my daughter.

Spanky is still bitter about her decision to voluntarily participate in a program aimed at helping her stop the pathological lying that got her into trouble on the job. She could have left at any time—just like others have chosen to do over the years from time to time, including myself. For Spanky to say her daughter was “taken away from her” is simply not true. I was there taking care of Vanessa, and Spanky knows it.

It is obvious to me that she spun this story for dramatic effect because she is still angry today and hopes it will harm my Church and religion. It is consistent with the party lines of the hate group she has chosen to associate with for many years.

The “Great Escape”

I also understand that the film includes dramatic “recreation” of an “escape” from the Church by Spanky. Except there was no “escape” as Spanky Taylor would have the audience believe. I should know because I was there when she left.

This theatrical assertion is once again based on the implication and fallacy that she was being held against her will. She was not. That she chose to make such a melodramatic episode of her decision to leave staff was peculiar to Spanky Taylor, consistent with her general character to create drama in her life, of which I had plenty of first-hand experience.

To up and leave without giving notice was not the typical conduct of staff members who, for whatever reason, decided to no longer be staff. I know. I too eventually decided to leave staff and did so without episode or drama. There was nothing to “escape” from. I decided to leave and that was it. This is all that Spanky had to do as well.

In fact, after Spanky simply refused to show up one day, I went to her and appealed to her reason to come back and give proper notice like decent people do when leaving a job. She did so and left. For her to say or imply that she had to “escape” is an utter lie.

Post Staff Years

Just because one is no longer a staff member of the Church does not mean one is no longer a Scientologist. In fact, Spanky continued as a Scientologist for more than six years after leaving Church staff. So it makes no sense that she had to “escape” from a religion that she chose to continue with for six years. In fact, she opened a Scientology field group. Because of her exposure to celebrity personalities when working for the Church and the fact she was starstruck, she used many of those connections to try and advance her career. She did publicity for some of them, shopping movie scripts around, seeking finder’s fees with business associates.

Ultimately she spent far more money than she ever made, driving our family into debt. A large factor in my decision to leave the Church staff was to take a job to pay off the bills Spanky had piled up from her failed ventures. So, I left staff – without incident. I got a new job that paid well and went to law school at night. Over the next two years I spent more time with our two children than Spanky did.

In the mid-1980s, Spanky began an extramarital affair with one of her clients. I never learned the full extent of their involvement but I was very aware it was breaking up our marriage and family. I asked Spanky to come to the Church with me to see the chaplain in an effort to save our marriage and keep or family from unraveling. She refused. She was more interested in her new relationship than in salvaging our marriage and family. I left her in 1985. Our divorce became final in 1988.

After I separated from Spanky in 1985, I would visit the children frequently. However as time went on, it became obvious to me that something was affecting my relationship with the kids. I could not put my finger on it. They just wouldn’t talk to me as they used to. They wouldn’t open up anymore. It wasn’t until years later I learned from more than one of Spanky’s former friends that, to turn the children against me, she had them seeing a psychologist specializing in counseling children whose parents were “cult” members. I learned the hard way that Spanky had used the children to try to hurt me. While I was hurt by this, I can’t imagine the harm brought to our children. She accomplished the breakup of our family, and didn’t care if she hurt our children. It was selfish and insensitive.

I find it ironic that Spanky now associates herself with persons who claim Scientology “breaks up families” when she imploded our family. She is part of a band of bigots, some of whom have been criminally prosecuted. She herself is guilty of the very thing her group of bigots accuse the Church of doing.

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to the Church and families. It values the family, and helps repair broken ones as a regular part of its ministerial practices. It was Spanky’s extramarital affair, dishonesty and unwillingness to work through it with our Church chaplain that broke up our marriage. Then she poisoned her children’s relationship with their father based on lies, prejudice and hatred. I loved my children. She stole their affection from me.

It made me sick when I read in recent media that persons were touting Spanky as such a courageous woman to come forward to speak out against the Church. Liars are not courageous, they are cowards. People like Spanky lie because they are afraid of the consequences if the truth were to become known. HBO has dug itself in deep with this project with such a large investment into what amounts to nothing more than a gathering of the usual collection of vitriolic liars like Spanky to support a predetermined story from the beginning.

But it’s still not too late. Do the right thing Ms. Nevins. Pull the plug on this project.


Norman Taylor

The Church of Scientology is committed to free speech. However, free speech is not a free pass to broadcast or publish false information. We have all seen what happens when facts are not checked or those being reported on are not given a chance to respond. The Church is taking a resolute stand against such actions—both on its own behalf and for others who either cannot or will not do so.