Scientology Wants It Both Ways: The Church's Opposite Legal Strategies In Florida and Texas

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Back in November, the St. Petersburg Times uncorked its best expose of the Church of Scientology yet -- "The Money Machine," a look at Scientology's incredible appetite for fundraising among its members.

Just three months later, two court cases are putting an exclamation point on that investigative series (which should really win the paper, which has changed its name to the Tampa Bay Times, another Pulitzer prize this April, something its Scientology reporting has garnered in the past).

But what's even more interesting about these court cases -- the lawsuit against former church official Debbie Cook taking place in San Antonio that Scientology watchers around the world are already glued to, and another lawsuit taking place in Clearwater, Florida that Times journalists Joe Childs and Tom Tobin described just yesterday -- is that they take completely opposing legal strategies which illustrates the church's highly malleable concept of religious freedom enshrined in our Constitution.

In Texas, Scientology is asking for $300,000 in damages because it says that Cook violated a contract when she put out her famous New Year's Eve e-mail criticizing problems in her church. Rather than a religious dispute, this is purely business, Scientology's attorneys will be arguing.

But in Florida, Scientology is saying the opposite: it is defending itself against a claim by former church members Bert Schippers and Lynne Hoverson, who want money back they had banked for future services that they never used. In that case, Scientology's lawyers have told a judge that the courts should butt out. "Only Scientology law applies" in what is strictly a religious dispute, the judge has been told.

Oh, really?

Hoverson and Schippers appeared in the "The Money Machine" in November -- they were in the installment that focused on some of the extreme fundraising techniques in the church, and about the seeking of donations for the International Association of Scientologists in particular.

The couple also did what many dedicated Scientologists do, banking large sums of money with the church for future services as they moved up the "Bridge to Total Freedom," as Scientology's system of increasingly expensive spiritual advancement is called.

And like others, after leaving the church, they then wanted to get that unused money back, so they've taken the church to court. Write Tobin and Childs...

The church argues the couple first must submit to "binding religious arbitration" as laid out in a standard church contract Schippers signed before giving the money. The contract calls for a panel of three Scientologists in good standing to decide what would be fair.

As former members who have been declared "suppressive persons" by the church (Scientology's version of excommunication), Schippers and Hoverson say that they can't get fair treatment from a panel of Scientologists.

And besides, Schippers points out, the documents they are required to fill out in such a process are really just designed to get them to return to the church.

"The whole goal of this form is to get you back into services at the church," Schippers told the Times. "Therefore, it's incompleteable."

This is not a random observation. The Times itself has documented how Scientology deals with church members who "blow" -- defect -- with processes designed to get them to give up their notions of breaking away. In a 2009 piece, Childs and Tobin described the incredible experiences of Sinar Parman and his then wife, Jackie Wolff, as they blew and were coaxed back multiple times, and each time with promises that they could leave if they just did it properly, filling out forms and completing "routing out" programs.

Schippers wanted nothing to do with Scientology's own internal rules for refunds. So he and Hoverson sued. The church's response?

Church lawyer F. Wallace Pope Jr. of Clearwater said...Numerous courts have held that the First Amendment shields religions from judicial intrusion. To rule on the merits of the contract, Schaefer would have to entangle himself in religious issues, Pope said. He argued: "Only Scientology law applies."

Seems clear enough: In Florida, Scientology is saying that its First Amendment rights protect it from the courts getting involved in its contracts with church members.

Meanwhile, in Texas, Scientology wants a court to see things completely the other way around. Former church executive Debbie Cook will argue that the First Amendment protects her decision to exercise her rights of religious freedom by sending out an e-mail on New Year's Eve to thousands of her fellow church members which complained that the church, under leader David Miscavige, is getting away from the principles of founder L. Ron Hubbard. But Scientology is arguing that the courts should intervene and award it damages because, it says, her e-mail was a violation of a non-disclosure agreement she signed in 2007 when she left church staff.

In Florida: it's about religion, not contracts.

In Texas: it's about contracts, not religion.

As a strategy, Scientology as a matter of course counts on judges and law enforcement agencies (and the general public) to be clueless about its past and its methods. And in this case, is Scientology counting on judges in different states having no idea what it's up to?

We turned to our legal expert, Manhattan attorney Scott Pilutik, who gave us this rundown...

In one sense, the Schippers/Hoverson refund dispute with Scientology is somewhat ordinary fare, given that ex-members have forever been getting the runaround from Scientology when they try to get their money back on account. But the timing and venue of this action are striking in light of Scientology's case brought against Debbie Cook in Texas.

In Florida, Scientology lawyers are arguing that the court cannot interpret the Schippers/Hoverson contracts, without impermissibly entangling itself in religious issues.

But in Texas, Scientology has shamelessly invoked the court's jurisdiction to interpret the Debbie Cook e-mail and enforce the parties' nondisclosure agreement.

The two cases differ factually, but for the purpose of an establishment clause argument, they're tougher to distinguish. If anything, a refund dispute can far more easily be adjudicated by neutral principles of secular law than can the question of whether Debbie Cook violated a nondisclosure agreement by sending a Scientology-jargon-filled e-mail to fellow members.

By Scientology's view, there's no inconsistency at all--on the one hand, questions over a parishioner's right to exercise her opinion is a matter well within the court's subject matter jurisdiction; but on the other, a dispute over money is sacred and non-justiciable. Well, it's consistent with Scientology at least, if not the law.

I was initially curious why Scientology didn't sue Debbie Cook in Florida and instead filed their breach action in Texas, where Cook lives. There are any number of reasons to speculate on, but perhaps Scientology attorneys feared having to argue before the same judge in the morning that Florida law holds the sky to be blue, and then in the afternoon that upon closer reading, the sky is actually orange.

Here's the kicker though: The Cook/Baumgarten NDAs have choice of law clauses requiring the court to follow Florida law. That means that not only can the Texas judge be made aware of Florida law, he/she can be made aware that Scientology apparently doesn't believe that Florida courts following Florida law can interpret the agreements it reaches with its members without violating the US Constitution. Scientology's attorneys might want to word clear "estoppel."

"Scientology's attorneys might want to word clear "estoppel." Thanks, Tikk but it's Saturday and I need a little relaxation, so I'm just not going to do the work to translate that line for our readers who maybe aren't quite up to speed on Scientologese and legal jargon. (But here's a good place to start! Our primer, "What is Scientology?")

But I think our readers will get the idea. For decades, Scientology has counted on judges, governments, and the public being ignorant of what it's up to from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. At least the readers of the Tampa Bay Times and the Voice have a chance to keep ahead of the game.



Debbie Cook Coverage in the Village Voice...

January 1: Scientology rocked by allegations of greed in e-mail to 12,000 church members

January 3: Is Scientology imploding? Watching the panic after a former executive dares to question church management

January 4: Scientology in crisis: Debbie Cook's transformation from enforcer to whistleblower

January 6: Scientology in turmoil: Debbie Cook's e-mail, annotated

January 31: Scientology sues Debbie Cook over her New Year's Eve e-mail

February 2: Debbie Cook files to dissolve Scientology's temporary restraining order: We talk to her attorney, Ray Jeffrey

February 3: Debbie Cook's motion denied: Scientology's restraining order remains in place until Thursday hearing

Also, please see our primer, "What is Scientology?"


Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several publications.

tortega@villagevoice.com | @VoiceTonyO | Facebook: Tony Ortega

Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin' Scared


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Aa
Aa

I hate to sound like a cult apologist, but isn't this kind of courtroom hypocrisy fairly standard in the legal system? For example, let's consider the case of the recently raided file-hosting site MegaUpload:

Mindful of previous court decisions that considered a file-sharing site's inclusion of a search engine to be an encouragement of copyright infringement (by making it easier for users to find illicit content) MegaUpload did not provide a search engine. But now the government prosecution is making the exact opposite argument; that MegaUpload's decision not to include a search engine was a deliberate strategy to make it harder for content owners to find --and hence demand removal of-- unlawfully duplicated material. If the Feds can make this point stick (which I don't doubt for a moment) that leads to yet another interesting legalistic and technical paradox -- that a search engine both increases and decreases the amount of illegal downloading, presumably simultaneously.

.... but back on topic ... considering Scientology's reputation for chicanery, it's somewhat surprising that they don't bury refund-seekers in such a complex web of draconian fees, inane stipulations, and endless hoops to jump through, so that in the end, everyone ends up practically owing the cult money when they finally get their refund. And that's not even counting the fact that they could conceivably be back-charged the full non-discounted price for every course previously taken. The cult has been very successful at ripping people off (and getting away with it) by getting them to sign abusive contracts that no sane person should ever sign. I wonder if these contracts award themselves the right, as so many otherwise-legit companies demand these days, to later change the contract terms at will?

I've noticed that on many consumer scam-reporting sites, there are often plenty of "satisfied customers" who instantly pop up to defend a disliked company. (though why so many people who never felt scammed in the first place would spend their time cruising complaint sites is another question entirely) So  I've got to wonder if the many Scientologists who report that they easily got their refund -- if these are real people, or just the usual sockpuppet suspects?

Tom Crews
Tom Crews

I got my money back rather quickly.  I first asked for it but they said I had to do a "routing form".

I walked out and contacted my attorney and he simply wrote a letter to them and I had my money returned to me within a month.

Tye Solaris
Tye Solaris

Maybe it was because your name is Tom Crews...

Would be so funny if they got all flustered and confused over the name

and sent you a check for 5 million or so.

Jonhenke
Jonhenke

Far be it from me to defend Scientology, but I don't see how these positions are not reconcilable. In the case of Cook, they had a signed contract promising a specific consideration (50k) in exchange for various things (non-disclosure, etc). In the Florida case, did they have a legal contract defining the payments rendered and services due? If not, then it seems like Church of Scientology could plausibly claim that Cook's contract is reviewable by a court, while a Church "practice" is not.

I just hope somebody has the guts to call Miscavige to the stand. It seems to me it would be very relevant to know what the Ecclesiastical Leader of the Church thought about contracts and other church practices.

JustCallMeMary
JustCallMeMary

re: the florida case, the contract would be a receipt for payment on account for or toward specific scientology services and a then cumulative statement of account for each. 

These people wanted a repayment of unused funds ( not a refund). It is foolish for the church to be arguing with the plaintiffs on thus case because they are just not going to win. In 1993, The church specifically wrote the IRS in it's Settlement Agreement Form 1023 agreement that getting a repayment or refund is not a problem and that the steps are simple and under time constraints ( all of which they have violated in this present case) 

From Lermanet:[..] The following is the Church of Scientology's written response to IRS questions as part of Form 1023 filing. This information can be verified at the Exempt Organizations Reading Room in the IRS office in Washington, D.C. This document was created specifically to answer IRS questions on CoS public policy and is available for public viewing and reproduction; there is no indication that any of the wording is copyrighted material.[..] BEGIN FAIR USE QUOTE: It has been a long-standing policy of the Church that if someone is dissatisfied with their Scientology services and asks to have their contributions returned within a three month period, these amounts will be returned. Likewise, if the person asks for return of contributions for which no services were received (i.e. an advance payment), there is no three month limitation period. Anyone newly enrolling in services at a Church of Scientology is informed of the policies and signs an agreement to abide by them. As a further condition of receiving a refund or repayment, the person understands that they may not again receive services from the Church.

Within the Church, there are two separate terms: A "refund" refers to a return of contributions to a parishioner within 90 days of participating in religious services while a "repayment" refers to a return of a parishioner's advance payment before he or she has participated in religious services. For simplicity, the following discussion will use the term "refund" to describe both types of transactions, because both involve a return of parishioner contributions.

The Church's refund policy is exceedingly fair. If someone isn't happy with Scientology -- which is a very small minority of people -- he simply has to make a proper request for his donations back, agree to forego further services and his donations will be returned. For the Church, in addition to the fact that this policy aligns with Scientology principles of exchange, it also serves the purpose of allowing our churches and the parishioners who are very happy with Scientology, to carry on without the unhappy few in their midst. END FAIR USE QUOTE. http : // www DOT lermanet DOT com/exit/scientologyrefundpolicy DOT htm

One can also see the complete 1023 form at xenu-directory DOT net

Jonhenke
Jonhenke

I appreciate the thorough response. I take your point that their refund "policy" is a documented practice that they have claimed to legal authorities.  That's clearly a significant factor.  However, is a somewhat vaguely defined refund promise as legally enforceable as a written contract?  I am a bit skeptical. It seems to me that a court would probably defer more to the CofS on a vague process issue then would be necessary in an NDA dispute.

The more interesting issue, I think, could be whether the courts take sides in what amounts to a "theological" dispute. It seems plausible that a court could simply say that Cook's letter was clearly intended to be a defense of "real" Scientology, and the court is not prepared, competent or entitled to decide which sect of Scientology is correct.

THAT would be an interesting ruling. And it would blow the doors open for more of an "independent Scientologist" movement, since (presumably) that would mean indies could take advantage of benefits currently only available to the formal CofS. Admittedly, that is a, um, mixed blessing of a ruling.

Note: I have no legal training, so take my uneducated speculation as such.

sizzle8
sizzle8

 Perfect!

JustCallMeMary
JustCallMeMary

Thanks but I realized that the reference needed to be located, since the quote is all over the internet but the link to the source document isn't. 

Here is the exact section it comes from, with a link to the IRS copy of the particular form attachment to the questions that the church wrote answers to ( and note the delusion about the Cult Awarenes Network (CAN) ;P :Discription of Tort LitigationQuestion 10 pages 10-20- to 10-22

Description of Tort Litigation:The suits listed on pages 10-20 through 10-22 each have their own set of facts and assortment of claims, but for the most part are of the same general character. They involve frivolous claims by "crazies" who think they can make some money suinq Scientology; suits against former spouses or business associates naming the Church to seek a tactical advantage; and a considerable number of suits inspired by the Cult Awareness Network, which bombards the person with negative information about the Church and then refers them to an attorney who tells them they can sue the Church and get rich. (See the "Introduction To Question 10" for further information on CAN). There are a few instances, like the Rabel case, where a stereo speaker fell from the window of a Scientology mission injuring someone walking below, where there was a valid claim which the Church equitably settled. Not one of the cases asked about in Question has been adjudicated by a court; thus all the claims listed are unproven.

Because many of these suits are refund suits, it is useful first to review the Church's refund policy. It has been a long-standing policy of the Church that if someone is dissatisfied with their Scientology services and asks to have their contributions returned within a three month period these amounts will be returned. Likewise, if the person asks for return of ccontributions for which no services were received (i.e. an advance payment), there is no three month limitation period. Anyone newly enrolling in services at a Church of Scientology is informed of the policies and signs an agreement to abide by them. As a further condition of receiving a refund or repayment, the person understands that they may not again receive services from the Church.

Within the Church, there are two separate terms: A "refund" refers to a return of contributions to a parishioner within 90 days of participating in religious services while a "repayment" refers to a return of a parishioner's advance payment before he or she has participated in religious services. For simplicity, the following discussion will use the term "refund" to describe both types of transactions, because both involve a return of parishioner contributions.

The Church's refund policy is exceedingly fair. If someone isn't happy with Scientology -- which is a very small minority of people -- he simply has to make a proper request for his donations back, agree to forego further services and his donations will be returned. For the Church, in addition to the fact that this policy aligns with Scientology principles of exchange, it also serves the purpose of allowing our churches and the parishioners who are very happy with Scientology, to carry on without the unhappy few in their midst.The presence of a considerable number of refund suits in the following list is directly related to the influence of CAN and CAN attorneys. As described in the "Introduction to Question 10," CAN's modus operandi is to seek out anyone who is unhappy with Scientology feed them negative information and then refer them to an attorney. The CAN attorney then convinces the person that he can not~onTy get a refund of his donations, but by allowing the attorney to handle the claim he can get damages as well, and possibly get rich. As will be seen in the descriptions of the cases that follow, almost one for one such suits are ultimately settled for the refund amount the person could have obtained in the first place simply by requesting it.

It is also of interest that we know of no suit filed for refund that wasn't instigated by CAN. In fact, the Church rarely has any refund requests, by suit or otherwise, except when instigated by the IRSsanctioned CAN. And in most cases, further discussion reveals the person was quite happy with his service at the Church and seeks his money back only after CAN has told him how "terrible" Scientology is.http : // www DOT xenu-directory DOT net/documents/corporate/irs/1993-1023-csi-questions-3-10 DOT pdf

JustCallMeMary
JustCallMeMary

tikk said [..] Here's the kicker though: The Cook/Baumgarten NDAs have choice of law clauses requiring the court to follow Florida law. That means that not only can the Texas judge be made aware of Florida law, he/she can be made aware that Scientology apparently doesn't believe that Florida courts following Florida law can interpret the agreements it reaches with its members without violating the US Constitution. Scientology's attorneys might want to word clear "estoppel."[..]

So true.  The right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing...

estoppeln. a bar or impediment (obstruction) which precludes a person from asserting a fact or a right or prevents one from denying a fact. Such a hindrance is due to a person's actions, conduct, statements, admissions, failure to act or judgment against the person in an identical legal case. Estoppel includes being barred by false representation or concealment (equitable estoppel), failure to take legal action until the other party is prejudiced by the delay (estoppel by laches), and a court ruling against the party on the same matter in a different case (collateral estoppel).

What idiots, LOL. This should make for an interesting case. Definately to the Cook's advantage.  Can it also help Bert Schippers and Lynne Hoverson in some way?

SP 'Onage
SP 'Onage

Nice. Thanks for explaining what estoppel means.

HighHeels
HighHeels

Theamount of legal cases Miscavige has the Church of $ engaged in at thesame time is bad "strategerie" in my opinion.The word""strategerie" is from former president Bush's ownmouth and the media's good job on emphasizing it. 

Ithink we can look to history for examples of bad "strategerie"like Hitler and Napoleon who gambled heavily by starting one too manywars in their lust and greed for power.

Couldthis be the case here also with Church of $ ?

AsI see it Miscavige, Hitler and Napoleon were dictators of similarlack of height with smelly cow-chips on their shoulders and no doubtwore high heeled shoes to offset their appearance.

Notto be overly negative on Miscavige as I will have to say he is doinga great job of destroying the Church of $'s image and could verypossibly suceed in have their IRS tax exemption status andqualifications reviewed.

Whenthat happens I think we can the change the name Church of $ toRefunds Unincorporated!

Iclick my heels and shout my salute to Miscavige "high heels "

Schockenawd
Schockenawd

"Church lawyer F. Wallace Pope Jr. of Clearwater said...'Only Scientology law applies.'"

"Scientology law" is an oxymoron.  

Tye Solaris
Tye Solaris

Scientology is far more hazardous to your health than smoking cigarettes..

So... it would only be fair to the tobacco companies that all Scientology Ads be required to exhibit large viscerally impactful imagery and nomenclature on all of it's advertisements that you should be aware that the use of this product will likelykill you.

Lliira
Lliira

Freedom of religion also means freedom *from* religion. The courts sometimes "forget" this fact. If someone doesn't want to be a Scientologist any longer, they shouldn't be subjected to the rules of Scientology.

Jgg
Jgg

  What next?  "We are not humans, but Thetans from another galaxy, so laws regarding humans do not apply."  "Anyone who joins Scientology waives all rights."  "Anyone who criticizes us is insane; and an insane person cannot negotiate a contract."  "Promise?  What promise?"  "LRH never said anything about judicial estoppel!"

Dean Fox
Dean Fox

The beauty about these cases is that they serve as a warning to others of the dangers of the church of scientology.

I hope justice is served but even if the church of scientology gets off the exposure and having the cases on record to demonstrate to people just how bad they are is still worth it in the long run, undoubtedly costing the church of scientology more in the long run.

The Internet doesn't forget and the spot light is on them. The more they do, the more they prove our point.

Dean Fox
Dean Fox

From the point of view of demonstrating the evils of the church of scientology, the worst thing the church of scientology could have done was pay the refund and ignore the email. Too late David Miscavige.

Ivy Mapother
Ivy Mapother

This is a good example of wanting it both ways. Scientologists declare these people as suppressive, they order all associated with them to disconnect but yet they keep their money. I would think that apostate money would be tainted. There's foul $35,000.00 co-mingled with over a billion pure dollars. Why would ethical Scientologists keep anything associated with these people in their possession? Unless of course they are not a religion but money making fraud. How do you say that in French?

grundoon
grundoon

 Tainted money? Scientology can help you with that!

bobx
bobx

Ewww!  This money has alien space cooties all over it!  Anyone know an exorcism ritual?

Guest
Guest

It's getting to the point that only lawyers, bankers and undertakers qualify for membership in scientology. 

Jgg
Jgg

"Scientology lawyers are arguing that the court cannot interpret the Schippers/Hoverson contracts"

Wait, don't those contracts (like Cook's) say Florida law applies?  Isn't Florida one of the 50 states?  And, if it is, doesn't it apply secular, common law to interpret contracts?  Isn't it prohibited from imposing church law on outsiders?  Isn't interpreting contracts what a court does?

SP 'Onage
SP 'Onage

Corporate scientology and it's army of lawyers are nothing but terrorists, they are destructive and dangerous to mankind and it's laws.

The court's should have zero tolerance when dealing with scientology's corrupt lawyers.

This is America not sci-merica, they are not above the law of the land, they are not a law unto themselves.

So, NO!!! THEY CAN'T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS.

Jgg
Jgg

 Judicial estoppel (also known as estoppel by inconsistent positions) is an estoppel which precludes a party from taking a position in a case which is contrary to a position they have taken in earlier legal proceedings.

E.g. a bankrupt person, by omitting to schedule and withhold from his trustee all knowledge of certain property, cannot, after his estate in bankruptcy has been finally closed up, immediately thereafter assert title to the property...

  A contract is a legally binding agreement in which one promise induces the other.  Scientology cannot say Cook is bound by secular law, but they are not because they have their own ecclesiastical law.  Cook promise induced their promise, and vice versa. 

Chuck Beatty
Chuck Beatty

I was on the project to write the "Refund Repayment Routing Form", which is the checklist the disgruntled patient/parishioner/clients use.   In researching every scrap of Hubbard writing on refunds and repayments, I thought he himself must have in the early days doubted that his operation was even a religion, since otherwise he'd have made the rule that NO refunds, NO repayments, ever, once the parishioner made the donation.   As a religion, that was the common practice, so was Ron in doubt about his practice being a religion or not?   Was he hedging his bets, just in case all the court cases were lost when Scientology's claims for being a religion were lost in the US and around the world, and that way had he just said early on "no refunds/no repayments" he was wisely NOT setting up the "churches" for big future losses of money that would bankrupt the whole network of them?  

Anyways, studying Ron's policies, for years, even now, I see him as a crafty sort of hedge betting religion business man, MORE business man than religion man.

But his exorcism of his final years, that was really in his mind, the icing on all his "serious" work, he just swoons over his exorcism "tech" of the "upper levels" in his final public writings to his followers, in particularly "From Clear to Eternity" which is probably one of the most under stressed final Hubbard writings, which really shows anyone what he thought of his whole creation.  

He gives his exorcism levels (OT levels 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7) the biggest praise.  

So he is that crafty sci fi religion creating man from outer space!   Him and his Loyal Officers!Giving earth the tech, so everyone can do the high volume exorcism of all the dead space alien souls that infest all of us!      He was always selling those exorcism "upper levels" for people to get up to!  OT 3 is the "Wall of Fire" level, and OT 5 is the "Second Wall of Fire" level!

Onward Xenu!

Tye Solaris
Tye Solaris

That was a 'Seriously Good' write up on Hubbard and his craft.

Thanks.

sizzle8
sizzle8

 Are computerized routing forms still used? I remember the ones with little boxes where you had to fill in the letters perfectly.  Have they been updated?

Larry Brennan
Larry Brennan

IMO organized scientology is guilty of fraud and gross, intentional deception when it comes to matters involving refunds. Back in April 2007 I wrote my opinion on that and I think it still applies now. Let's see if this paste job works: http://tinyurl.kom/7a3ftvd

Note that the "kom" should be changed to com"

Tye Solaris
Tye Solaris

Larry... I was just thinking of you...

I recall when the IAS really came into being ... and it was the solution for moving all seriously large funds off shore and the senior leadership as well... it was incorporated somewhere off the coast of the Netherlands or some such...

And the S.O. Execs were just glowing because they incorporated in a way that it had no location in time or space so there was no way for any goverment to seize it's assets.

Can you Clarify any of this.... many, many years have since passed by.

Larry Brennan
Larry Brennan

IMO organized scientology is guilty of fraud and deception when it comes to matters involing refunds. Back in April 2007 I wrote my opinion on that and I think it still applies now. Let's see if this paste job works:

http://tinyurl.com/7a3ftvd

Chuck Beatty
Chuck Beatty

If Scientology switched to anonymous tithing donations, where only the parishioner knows the amount being donated, Scientology's refund/repayment problematic policy could be cancelled altogether.

Dean Fox
Dean Fox

What makes you think Anonymous would tithe to the church of scientoogy?

OK sorry for the pun but it presents a great opportunity to tell of the stunned silence when someone at a church of scientology bash (crush reg-hardcore donation drive) said they'd just had a sizable donation from "anonymous".

Anon A
Anon A

Scientology has been the poster-child for wanting to have your cake and eat it too ever since loony (but crafty) old Hubbard decided to go with the "religion angle", due to the FDA and AMA  giving him so much grief over the pseudoscience quackery of Dianetics.Scientologists throw out the cry of "applied religious technology" over and over, just as they've been trained.  They know they must perpetuate the dichotomy of Scientology being supposedly 'scientific' to appeal to the less-religious recruits out there, while constantly being falling back on "It's a religion!" as an excuse to avoid taxes, scientific scrutiny, and to label critics as anti-religious bigots.

Of course, Scientology is neither science nor religion, but merely a corporate entity perpetuating an outdated new-age self-help scam.

Ron
Ron

Scientology is the king of morphing for situational convenience. Their front groups continually slide between religious (freedom from scrutiny) and secular (to bypass religious restrictions in schools and government funding). Their peons flip between religious volunteers and employees.

They know that they can overwhelm any local objection that tries to catch them at this. If only there was some way of organizing information and allow people around the world to keep tabs on them and freeze their claimed state.

Oh right, the Internet!

billy bob
billy bob

You mean like L Ron Hubbard Academy in L.A. which claims to be a secular business college (unaccredited of course!) Quoting a Church Spokesperson:   “L. Ron Hubbard’s administrative writings are not ‘faith based.’ While they were derived from more than three decades of working in and around Dianetics and Scientology organizations, they are equally applicable to any secular organization.”

Yet, in the "The Daily" article by Benjamin Carlson:"Some courses appear to use variations on the Church of Scientology’s lie-detector-like device, the “E-meter.” In one of the college’s certificate programs, students are required to master the use of a “learning accelerator” — a device that retails for $930 on the World Institute of Scientology Enterprises website. The learning accelerator features two metal cans attached to a central gauge, much like the “E-meter,” which is used in Scientology’s form of therapeutic counseling called “auditing.”"

Aren't E-meters required by the FDA to be only be used for religious practice?So, what do they do - rename the f'ing meter!  Typical Hubbard fashion,  mess with language, change the name of something to something else, and keep the rubes in a state of confusion!

It's a religion- No it's a Science - oh, no it's an Applied Philosophy.I think it's Bullshit.  To be clear.  lol

John P.
John P.

Holy crap!  A junior e-meter for business...  I can just imagine some new non-Scientologist employee called in to his boss's office, asked to hold the "cans" when reading aloud the corporate expense account policy just to make sure they've "word cleared" it right.  If that happened to me, I'd be out the door in an instant and the lawyers would be circling within hours.  Oh, and I'd make sure to send a friendly e-mail to my local Anons.  

Has anybody ever heard of a company trying to use a "learning accelerator" on its employees?  Even in a company that's 100% composed of Scientologists?  

Ron
Ron

In the incorporation papers of the World Institute of Scientology Enterprises, it states:

"It is organized under the Nonprofit Religious Corporation Law primarily for religious purposes. Its purposes are to promote and foster the religious teachings of L. Ron Hubbard in society"

Secular? I think not!

Guest
Guest

Scientology:  Still Schizoid After All These Years

Skydog
Skydog

I don't think the church's legal strategy as to the forums of each lawsuit has anything to do with conflicting legal theories in each. The choice has to do with obtaining jurisdiction over Cook and Baumgarten who are residents of Texas and have insufficient contacts with Florida for a court to exercise jurisdiction over them. 

Dean Fox
Dean Fox

Admittedly I am not up on USA laws and state to state relationships, I know they extradite people between states for criminal prosecution, but surely a case can be brought against someone in a state relavent to the case, as in contracts signed in Florida being tried in Florida; don't USA contracts stipulate the applicable state laws that apply, I know mine did when I worked there?

t1kk
t1kk

Except that they signed contracts in Florida and agreed to be bound by Florida law and the alleged conduct, Scientology would argue, was directed at Florida. With those minimum contacts there was likely a decent enough chance to get a default judgment which they could then attempt to domesticate in Texas.

Gerard Plourde
Gerard Plourde

Frolix8's question about jurisdiction (since deleted) does an interesting question with regard to Tony's wondering about filing the action against the Cooks in Florida. I wonder why Scientology didn't file in Federal Court in Florida. Although the outcome would probably have been dismissal and and a refiling in Texas state courts the sheer aggravation that the Cooks would have been put through in having to obtain local counsel and argue for dismissal in Florida would have had the desired (for Scientology) chilling effect.

bobx
bobx

To start the case in Florida, they would have to serve her in Florida.  She's not there.

grundoon
grundoon

David Miscavige thought Debbie Cook would cave at once and they could keep the whole thing quiet.  He didn't expect her to fight back.  The suit was filed in her hometown to make it easy for her to settle quietly.  If Scientology filed in Clearwater against Debbie Cook, Flag public and staff would hear about it and they would all want to read her letter.

Ron
Ron

Federal courts in Florida? I can just imagine...

Judge Merryday: "Oh no! Not YOU people again!"

Jgg
Jgg

  Just try the California courts...

Jgg
Jgg

  Tony, this is what I was talking about.  Scientology wants to have it both ways.  Cook interprets her religion to ban Miscavige's abuses: they say "you signed a contract".  Schippers says "you signed a contract" and they say "its a religious interpretation."  We have contract rights, you don't.  Contracts don't work like that.

  Sun Yung Moon had a gimmick whereby he had a company sell flowers, did not pay sales tax, and his company donated the proceeds to the church.  Guess what?  He went to jail for this--twice!  (once in NY, once in his native South Korea). 

  What is most galling, as Hugh Urban pointed out, is that Scientology has so little regard for the 1st Amendment Rights of its critics.  I can say that may anti-Scientology views are MY religion; my religion cannot be questioned. 

  By the way, the 1st Amendment does NOT say "everyone has a right to my opinion."

Love
Love

Debbie also signed a contract for billion years - the church going to sue her for that too?

Frolix8
Frolix8

Deleted. Below, a concise answer to my looong query about why the case didn't go to a federal court. Thanks for the explanation.

bobx
bobx

The reason CoS didn't file in federal court based on diversity of citizenship is because they don't want it in federal court.  Federal judges are generally more savvy and state judges generally more buried in case-backload.  CoS would prefer the judge not to probe too deeply.  The reason Cook doesn't remove from state to federal court based on diversity is because she can't:  she is the party who lives in Texas; it is the party from out-of-state who has the right to say, I want federal court.

t1kk
t1kk

I wish you hadn't deleted the comment, it was quite interesting; and as I mentioned below, I think a good argument for diversity exists given Scientology's corporate structure. And I think there's still a chance of it winding up in federal court given the anticipated constitutional defense.

Ron
Ron

This case isn't so much about winning, as making an example of Debbie Cook to discourage others from speaking out. I expect that they'll drag the case out as long as possible to cost her the maximum amount of money, time and stress. They can do that in state or federal court.

On the other hand, if they go federal and lose, they open the door for other ex-execs to speak out. That suggests that they're really not certain that they'll win.

I agree that their lawyers must have carefully weighed the alternatives, regardless of the angry orders from the highchair.

Gerard Plourde
Gerard Plourde

Since there is no Federal question at issue (contract law is governed by state law mostly) and because Scientology has a presence in Texas there is no diversity of the parties, there are no grounds that would allow for filing in Federal Court. The Cooks would probably have sought to have the matter dismissed in Federal Court and Scientology would have been forced to refile in state court.

t1kk
t1kk

 I disagree that there's no diversity here. FLAG, the plaintiff, is a Florida corporation. The Scientology corporate structure doesn't extend from FLAG to any Scientology entity within Texas except in extremely byzantine ways. Every Scientology entity is not a service of process agent for every other Scientology entity.

t1kk
t1kk

Diversity questions where one party is a corporation looks to the state of incorporation, and/or its principal place of business, if different, and/or the state in which its subsidiary is incorporated, per most everywhere including the Fifth Circuit. Texas Scientology orgs are not subsidiaries of Flag in any sense. Flag and the various Texas-based Scientology orgs are all controlled to varying degrees by California corporations (mostly CSI and RTC), none of whom are named in the suit.

I don't see why you suggest the defendants would want to defeat diversity, they're already in state court and only because that's where the plaintiff brought suit; you only attempt to defeat diversity to prevent federal jurisdiction. If the defense wants to remove to federal court they could raise a constitutional defense. So they could very well end up in fed court still.

Gerard Plourde
Gerard Plourde

The plaintiff is identified as "Church of Scientology Flag Organization, Inc."You identified that as a separate Florida-only entity. The non-disclosure agreement cites both California law and as previously mentioned requires interpretation using Florida law.It also makes reference to applicability to California corporations. There may be more interrelatedness than you think as the appended general release seeks to protect most of the corporate entities as well as individual churches. Could Debbie Cook have additional documents that if admitted could tie the structures together perhaps allowing her to use civil RICO as well as to defeat diversity? At the very least the document as drafted contains legal pitfalls in terms of enforceability

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