Scientology Wants SCOTUS To Enforce Arbitration Contracts Against Rape Accusers

Scientology Wants SCOTUS To Enforce Arbitration Contracts Against Rape Accusers
Church of Scientology of Los Angeles | Church of Scientology… | Flickr

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this piece stated that the arbitration contracts in question were related to "billion-year" contracts that are part of Scientology's "Sea Org." Those are not the same as the arbitration contracts signed by Scientology members and employees, which the church is asking the Supreme Court to enforce. Wonkette regrets the error. -- Ed.

In 2019, four women accusing "That '70s Show" actor Danny Masterson of rape filed a lawsuit against him, the Church of Scientology and Scientology leader David Miscavige for harassment. Now, the Church of Scientology wants the Supreme Court to bar them from doing that, on the grounds that the women lost their right to sue the church for anything when they signed arbitration contracts back when they were Scientologists.

The women say that, in order to keep them from filing charges against Masterson, the Church deployed it's "Fair Game" policy against them, which basically means that once someone is declared a suppressive person the Church can go and ruin their lives by any means necessary. They say the Church "surveilled them, hacked their security systems, filmed them, chased them, hacked their email, killed (and attempted to kill) their pets, tapped their phones, incited others to harass them, threatened to kill them, broke their locks, broke into their cars, ran them off the road, posted fake ads purporting to be from them soliciting anal sex from strangers, broke their windows, set the outside of their home on fire, went through their trash, and poisoned trees in their yards."

They are also suing Scientology for things that happened within the religion when they first told officials Masterson had raped them. One, known as Jane Doe #1, said that "when she reported that Masterson had raped her to her Scientology ethics officer, he required her to do an ethics program which pressured her into confessing the 'evil purposes' she had toward Masterson and Scientology."

The Church says the women should not be able to sue for any of this (and that they should not have been allowed to press charges against Masterson to begin with), because when they joined Scientology they signed contracts agreeing to "religious arbitration" for any disputes involving the Church or its members. An appellate court has found in favor of the women, saying the contracts are not enforceable because they are no longer Scientologists and have every right to leave the religion.

“Individuals have a First Amendment right to leave a religion. We hold that once petitioners had terminated their affiliation with the Church, they were not bound to its dispute resolution procedures to resolve the claims at issue here, which are based on alleged tortious conduct occurring after their separation from the Church and do not implicate resolution of ecclesiastical issues,” the ruling read.

In a 114-page petition for writ of certiorari, the church argues that it is religious discrimination for a court to not enforce these contracts just because they are a religion and not a secular entity.

The dispute here is simple. The Respondents, as a condition for joining Petitioners’ church, repeatedly and expressly agreed to religious arbitration of any disputes between them and Petitioners, regardless of when those disputes arose. The agreement to submit disputes to religious arbitration is not anomalous. American courts have long recognized the right of religious institutions to use dispute resolution procedures derived from and guided by their foundational beliefs and scripture. Secular courts have placed agreements to submit disputes to religious arbitration on equal footing with agreements calling for secular arbitration – and declined invitations to discriminate against religious arbitration just because it is religious.

To be fair, since 2010, the Catholic Church has not allowed people to officially unCatholic themselves either (meaning that the Catholic Church considers me a Catholic even though I am an atheist who has been to mass less than 10 times in her life). But that doesn't bar anyone for suing the church over sexual abuse.

If the Supreme Court were to find in the church's favor, this would give them even more freedom to ruin the lives of ex-members. I would say "allegedly," but anyone who has ever seen any documentary on Scientology has seen this with their own eyes, and former Scientologists have admitted to doing it. They are basically arguing that they have the right to do anything they want to ex-members, and that is pretty messed up.

But this Court is really messed up, so who knows what they'd do, were they to take this case?

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse


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