The Garcias are responding to the church’s previous request that federal judge James Whittemore dismiss the lawsuit and compel the Garcias to participate in Scientology’s internal arbitration procedures. This has been a successful strategy for the church in the past when ex-members have sued for the return of money they put on account for services they never received.
Now, the Garcias are making the case that Scientology’s arbitration scheme is inherently unfair, and its refund policies are fraudulent. And they’re doing it through a series of declarations by longtime former church members and officials, including the man who was once the second-highest-ranking executive in the organization, Mark “Marty” Rathbun.
Rathbun says he was in a particularly good position to understand Scientology’s current policy about ex-members asking for donations. And that’s because he helped write it, he says — and on the instructions of Scientology leader David Miscavige intentionally designed a system that would make a refund all but impossible.
The arbitration clause contained in the Enrollment Agreement was specifically included by staff and counsel in compliance with David Miscavige’s orders that we make it as difficult as possible for people to obtain refunds while also acting as if we did not cancel or undermine Founder L. Ron Hubbard’s original refund policy….Anyone who requests a refund is by definition, “guilty” in the eyes of Scientologists in good standing, no matter what the issue, especially when that person is in conflict with any Scientologist, and even more so the church itself. So, when I worked with others in the church to require that all members of any “arbitration” panel be members in good standing with the church of Scientology, by definition, we obviated the entire “arbitration” process altogether: There is simply nothing for a Scientologist in good standing to arbitrate when dealing with someone requesting a refund.
Rathbun and the others repeatedly make the same point: If a Scientologist asks for a refund, he is automatically excommunicated and considered a “Suppressive Person.” All church members in good standing must then “disconnect” from that “SP” so that they are completely shunned by the organization. An SP then cannot go through the proper channels to get a refund, and any arbitration panel made up of current church members would never award an SP a refund. The church’s internal arbitration and refund policies, in other words, are a sham.
Here’s the briefing from the Garcia side. We’re looking forward to opinions about it from the numerous attorneys in our commenting community…
Garcia response to church motion to compel arbitration
We asked our attorney Scott Pilutik to give us his thoughts on the briefing…
This is an extremely well argued and written response to Scientology’s blathering, obfuscating motion, and methodically underscores the unfairness at the core of Scientology’s arbitration process, listing the myriad ways it fails as unconscionable. Namely… (a) the language purportedly obligating the Garcias to Scientology is so broad as to be meaningless (covering “any dispute, claim, or controversy”); (b) were non-negotiable prerequisites to receiving Scientology services (a contract of “adhesion”); (c) its governing rules and procedures of the arbitration are unpublished and mysterious; (d) the parties were at all times unequal bargainers given the nature of the relationship; and finally and most interestingly, (e) the arbitration procedure is an illusory sham because once a former parishioner is declared suppressive, fairness toward that person becomes both doctrinally and practically impossible. Impressively, a host of declarations are provided to bolster the point of just how illusory the process is in practice for anyone declared suppressive.
I won’t belabor how much better the above argument is than Scientology’s (seriously, read the whole thing because it’s awesome) but it’s worth recalling what Scientology is arguing, because it is instructive, I believe, as to how Scientology will Reply to the Garcias’ Response.
I concede in advance that this is not easy to wrap one’s head around, but Scientology’s argument was largely focused on the notion that a civil court cannot decide this dispute because, per the First Amendment, civil courts must abstain from deciding religious disputes. However, Scientology is submitting religious doctrine in support of that argument (e.g., policy letter 13 March 1996, “Return of Donations,” et al.) In other words, Scientology suggests, the court cannot decide religious disputes but it should adopt our religious doctrine to help it decide as much. See the problem?
In its endless quest to have its cake and eat it too, Scientology may have inadvertently opened a door it will now regret opening, because when it moves to strike the various declarations submitted in support of the Garcias’ Response (which I fully expect them to do) Scientology will simultaneously argue (among many arguments) that judicial consideration of those declarations is improper to the extent they necessitate that the court improperly interpret religious doctrine. Deeper down the religious dispute meta-rabbit hole we go. How can the court justify considering the religious doctrine submitted by Party A but setting aside that submitted by Party B? If confronted as to this incongruity, Scientology might argue, well, the policies we submitted are necessarily on point to the subject of donations, arbitration, etc. (And by the way the Garcias are cavorting with lying suppressives.)
But for the court, I imagine this is likely one too many hypocrisies to contend with. Far safer to just examine the arbitration process, or more accurately, dearth of process, and find it unconscionable.
And now the remarkable declarations…
Declaration of Mark “Marty” Rathbun
Declaration of Luis Garcia
Luis explains that according to the price lists he was using, as a longtime Scientologist, he expected that he could get a refund on money he put on account but then did not use for services.
Declaration of Randall Wise
The Church of Scientology declared me a Suppressive Person because I disagreed with some of the Church’s actions against their members…I can unequivocally state from my many years of experience with the Church and members of the Church that it would be impossible to get an impartial result from an arbitration that was being administered by the Church and adjudicated by members “in good standing.”
Declaration of Christie Collbran
The practice of a Scientologist being forced to end all communication with a suppressive person, or person suspected of being suppressive, is typically referred to as “disconnection.” Despite what representations may be made by Scientologists to non-Scientologists regarding the existence or non-existence of this practice, I am intimately aware that it is a belief and practice among Scientologists that is deeply rooted in church history and dogma, and which continues to this day. Having been declared a suppressive person, I have personal experience with the policy and practice of disconnection to wit…After leaving the Sea Organization, and being declared by the church a suppressive person, my father, mother, brother and sister have all severed all forms of communication with me….I now have a child, their grandchild, whom they have never met. I even travelled to their home in Los Angeles, on two occasions, unable to see them either time…
Declaration of Dan Koon
Based upon my intimate and extensive knowledge of church policies by virtue of being a studied parishioner and auditor for the church, as well as my personal experiences with family and friends who remain Scientologists, no declared suppressive person can ever receive a fair or unbiased arbitration before a board of Scientologists in good standing pursuant to church doctrine and practice.
Declaration of Haydn James
In all my years of working for the church, I have never witnessed or heard of an arbitration of this kind ever taking place anywhere in the world.
Declaration of Bert Schippers
My stepson, also a Scientologist, once departed the church and was declared a suppressive person in 2007. After his declaration, while in attendance at a church in Los Angeles, I was pulled into a meeting with a church ethics officer who showed me my stepson’s “declare” order. The officer also solicited my agreement to end all communication with my stepson, indicating that I would be ineligible for services at said church if I failed to do so.
Declaration of Karry Campbell
I know with certainty that the practice of disconnection does exist and its practice is enforced by Church of Scientology staff members on parishioners and other staff members. No member of the church of Scientology in good standing could be counted on to be impartial in any arbitration involving someone who has been declared a Suppressive Person.
Declaration of Scott Campbell
I have personally experienced disconnection from my in-laws. It is stressful for my wife and me, and particularly difficult for our children as their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins on my wife’s side of the family have cut off all communication with us…Based on my extensive experience, I believe members of the Church of Scientology in good standing cannot render fair and just arbitration for anyone who has been declared a suppressive person or disconnection from by any other member of the church in good standing.
Hey, a 2001 price list!
And what a bargain some of these courses are!
Posted by Tony Ortega on April 22, 2013 at 21:00
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