No Arbitration of Claims Against Scientology After Plaintiffs Had Left the Church

Start at Bixler v. Superior CourtThe California Court of Appeal (Justices Laurence Rubin and Carl Moor) ruled Wednesday in favor of the plaintiff.

Petitioners … are former members of the Church of Scientology who reported to the police that another Church member [Daniel Masterson]Their genitals were taken. According to them, Church members encouraged harassment of their victims as a retaliation. {[T]Masterson is not subject to any cause of action for sexual assault, according to hey. Instead they claim causes of action for all defendants in stalking, invasion of private property, and constructive invasion of personal privacy. [and] intentional infliction of emotional distress ….}

Petitioners filed suit against the Church and its related entities and people in superior courts. Some of the defendants sought to compel arbitration, basing their case on agreements which provided that all Church-related disputes would be settled according to the “Ethics, justice and binding religious arbitration” system. It was designed to determine matters according to Scientology principles for justice and fairness. …

It appears that the contract applied to any litigation brought against the Church.

My freely given consent to be bound exclusively by the discipline, faith, internal organization, and ecclesiastical rule, custom, and law of the Scientology religion … in all my dealings of any nature with the Church, and in all my dealings of any nature with any other Scientology church or organization which espouses, presents, propagates or practices the Scientology religion means that I am forever abandoning, surrendering, waiving, and relinquishing my right to sue, or otherwise seek legal recourse with respect to any dispute, claim or controversy against the Church, all other Scientology churches, all other organizations which espouse, present, propagate or practice the Scientology religion, and all persons employed by any such entity both in their personal and any official or representational capacities, regardless of the nature of the dispute, claim or controversy.

However, the Court ruled that because of California law, arbitration agreements cannot be enforced once the parties leave the Church.

A person has the First Amendment right of leaving a religious organization. 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….

Plaintiffs claim that Scientology prohibits Scientology members from reporting crimes committed by others to the police. This instructs members to report such instances as “high crimes” and subject the member to prosecution. Scientology utilizes so-called “Fair Game” tactics to “attack, harass, embarrass, humiliate, destroy, and/or injure individuals who Defendants declare to be an enemy of Scientology, known in Scientology as a ‘Suppressive Person’ ….” Masterson, a TV actor, was granted special treatment by Scientology when he attained “celebrity”. Scientology tried to stop plaintiffs reporting Masterson’s crimes, and once they did report them, it declared the plaintiffs Supressive Peoples. Scientology mobilized an aggressive Fair Game campaign to stop them.

Although the Fair Game campaigns against the plaintiffs were different, they allege that Scientology agents perpetrated the following actions against them. These actions were alleged to have been in accordance with Scientology policies and procedures.

The plaintiffs complain that Scientology directed them to suppress oppressive people by any means needed. Scientology members are instructed to “damage the individual’s professional reputation and file frivolous lawsuits. Scientology’s policies and procedures instruct their followers to “ruin.” [the individual] utterly.'” …

Each petitioner claimed that she was subject to an invading Fair Game campaign even though she was still Scientology members. Bixler claimed that she had ended her relationship with Scientology in October 2016 and then reported Masterson the police. After her reporting, she was identified as a Supressive Individual and was subject to Fair Game.

Jane Doe #1 found out in June 2005, that she had been made a Supressive Person. This meant that Jane Doe #1 could not participate in the Church’s religious services. After Jane Doe #1 asked the LAPD for a reopening of its Masterson investigation, the Church launched its Fair Game campaign against Masterson ten years later. Jane Doe #2 stopped practicing Scientology completely in 2004. In 2017, she reported Masterson’s assault to the LAPD, at which point the Fair Game harassment began….

Both petitioners have First Amendment rights to disown a religion and Scientology has the right to solve disputes among its members, without having to go to court. When applied to a dispute that arose after petitioners left the faith, and which can be resolved on neutral principles of tort law, we find petitioners’ right to leave the faith must control….

A person has a “inalienable First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion, which includes her right to change her religious beliefs ….” The Constitution’s freedom to question, doubt and change your convictions is very important, as it is protected by the Free Exercise & Establishment Clauses. Religious development for most people is an ongoing process, even if they remain faithful to the same faith, sect, or denomination.

California law advises against the enforcement of agreements that violate an individual’s freedom to alter their religions. This issue was raised in Re Marriage of Weiss (Cal. Ct. App. 1996). 1996 Following the separation of the husband and wife, the woman returned back to Christianity.  After divorce, the woman attended church regularly and had signed her son up for Sunday school. She also went to weekly church club meetings and attended summer camp. He “acknowledged.” [the mother]She had the right of exposing the minor to her faith, but she objected that the minor be indoctrinated into the Christian faith and enrolled in any activity “that would be against his Jewish faith.”

The court did not order the mother to stop her religious activities with the child. Father appealed to the trial court, saying that the court did not prohibit the mother’s participation in Christian religious activities with the child. Appeal Court affirmed the decision, acknowledging that California law does not allow parents to enjoin their child from engaging in religious activities unless there is a clear showing of harm.

According to the father, the antenuptial contract should not be made in writing and the mother must keep her word. … [T]He Weiss court disagreed. Court ruled that the agreement could not be legally enforced for the following reasons. Enforcement would lead to improper judicial involvement in religious matters, and it would also violate the First Amendment rights of the mother to alter her religion.

According to Presiding Justice Klein, “Further in view of…” [the mother’s] inalienableFirst Amendment rights to freedom of religion. This includes her right to modify her beliefs, to share them with her offspring and her commitment to raising her children. [the father’s]This is also why faith cannot be legally enforced.  Although a parent may be able to give up their religious freedom for other reasons, it is not legally binding. [Citation.]” …

Scientology’s written arbitration contracts are inapplicable against those who have left Scientology. They are similar to written antenuptial arrangements to rear children of a specific faith. To hold otherwise would bind members irrevocably to a faith they have the constitutional right to leave….

Scientology asserts that petitioners just agreed to follow Scientology dispute resolution processes regardless of the outcome. Scientology explains, “AnIt is irrevocableTo agree to the following:ForeverParticipation in Scientology requires that you’reject civil proceedings and comply with Scientology Ethics and Justice Codes in any dispute with Churches of Scientology. The agreement should be enforced as with any other.

This provision would apply regardless of petitioners’ First Amendment rights. It would mean that, if the Church or any Church member commits an intentional or negligent tort against another Church member, the former member will be subject to Scientology dispute resolution procedures, regardless of whether the member left Scientology years or decades before the tort. In effect, Scientology suggests that one of the prices of joining its religion (or obtaining a single religious service) is eternal submission to a religious forum—a sub silencio waiver of petitioners’ constitutional right to extricate themselves from the faith. The Constitution forbids a price that high….

This rule, according to the Church of Scientology, would make religious arbitration agreements less favorable than secular arbitration agreements. The court ruled that this rule was not applicable to religious arbitration agreements.

[The Church]The Supreme Court has not provided any authority to uphold an arbitration agreement ad infinitum. Scientology relies instead on the California case. In Buckhorn v. St. Jude Heritage Medical Group (Cal. Ct. App. 2004), … [t]The Fourth District Court of Appeal [upheld an arbitration agreement provision in a contract]On the ground that his tort claims were “stem”[med]They were included in the arbitration agreement because they “represent the contractual relationship between them”. These claims by petitioners against Scientology don’t stem from the contractual relation. Instead, they are rooted in the “Fair Game” campaign Scientology launched as revenge for reporting Masterson after leaving the Church. The harassment was allegedly the result of petitioners’ relationships with Masterson, and they reporting Masterson to police. It is not due to their previous affiliation with Scientology. Indeed, plaintiff Riales alleged a similar Fair Game campaign of harassment, and it is undisputed she was never a member….