Luis and Rocio Garcia have tried again to convince Tampa Federal Judge James Whittemore that Scientology is making it impossible to resolve their allegations of fraud, and they’ve filed a new motion asking Judge Whittemore to reopen their lawsuit against the church.
What’s different this time is that Luis Garcia has detailed in a new affidavit his Kafkaesque attempts to work within Scientology’s rules of internal arbitration, which he says is an impossible task. We don’t know if this new material will sway Whittemore (he’s disregarded similar requests in the past), but as a document, Luis’s affidavit describing what it’s like to be caught inside Scientology’s bizarre “ethics” rules is a useful addition to the historic record.
The Garcias sued the Church of Scientology in 2013, alleging that they’d been defrauded and lied to when they were pressured to donate hundreds of thousands to various church causes. In one memorable example, the California couple say they were convinced to donate $65,000 to pay for a giant Scientology cross that would go on the top of the new “Super Power Building” in Clearwater, Florida. But the church eventually admitted that it had hit up other wealthy members for the same thing.
Scientology attacked the lawsuit by pointing out that the Garcias had signed many contracts over their careers in the church which required them to take all disputes to Scientology’s internal arbitration. (The New York Times last year published a powerful series on how arbitration is being used by corporations in ways that prevent people from getting access to justice in a courtroom.)
But the Garcias produced experts such as Mike Rinder who said that he had helped write those contracts, which were intended to deceive members. And the internal arbitration system? A sham, Rinder said.
Remarkably, Scientology admitted that it had never actually used its internal arbitration rules because they don’t exist. Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard had never got around to writing any, and so the church’s “International Justice Chief” (IJC) Mike Ellis admitted that he’d have to adapt rules from a different procedure, a “committee of evidence.”
Despite Scientology’s admitting that it didn’t actually have arbitration procedures, and the testimony of Mike Rinder and others that Scientology’s contracts were purposely intended to defraud members, Judge Whittemore ruled that he simply couldn’t get into questions about Scientology’s internal procedures, which were protected by the organization’s First Amendment rights to religious expression. He ordered that the Garcias submit themselves to Scientology arbitration, and put the lawsuit on hold.
Since then, the Garcias claim that they’ve been caught in an Orwellian tangle as they try to select an arbitrator who might actually hear their grievances and rule fairly on them. Each side is to choose an arbitrator, and the two sides are to pick a third, and all three must be Scientologists in good standing.
The Garcias refuse to accept an arbitrator that Scientology selects for them. But each time they submit the name of a person for their own choice, Ellis tells them the person is not a Scientologist in good standing.
And then it occurred to Luis: If Scientology’s IJC says someone is not in good standing, then there’s nothing preventing Luis from contacting them, even though Luis has been “declared” an enemy of the church — a “suppressive person” that all other Scientologists must avoid.
In August, Luis sent Ellis the name Marcus Ettinger as a possible arbitrator. But Ellis wrote back, saying that Ettinger was not a Scientologist in good standing.
That was news to Ettinger, Luis learned when he contacted him.
Luis then proposed another name, Brandon Orlando. Again, Ellis rejected the proposal, saying that Orlando was not a Scientologist in good standing.
And again, that came as a surprise to Orlando himself.
“I’ve never heard that I wasn’t in good standing. As far as I know I am. Nobody from the church had told me I’m not,” Orlando said in a Facebook message to Luis.
But Ellis insisted in a letter to Luis that Orlando was “affiliated with Suppressive Persons” and had “continued to ally himself with individuals who are hostile to the Church.”
Two more times, the Garcias have suggested names of Scientologists that Ellis has rejected as members not in good standing. And by now, the game is quite clear — Scientology will do whatever it takes to force on the Garcias three arbitrators who have been hand-selected by the church and who will never find against the church after hearing evidence.
“Defendants should not be permitted to continue to demand arbitration and then make sure that the process is rigged so that only they can win…The Defendants have waived their right to arbitrate,” writes attorney Ted Babbitt in the motion that he submitted to court with Luis’s affidavit.
As we said, Judge Whittemore has not been amenable to previous attempts by the Garcias to reverse his earlier ruling that keeps the lawsuit on hold.
But even if that’s still the case, this new document gives us a new look at the strange world of Scientology and its notion of being “in good standing,” which seems pretty arbitrary.
Our Scientology year-in-review: October
We’re continuing our look back at the year of 2016 here in the Underground Bunker, and today we’re looking at the stories we published in October
Our unprecedented access to Scientology’s secret compounds continued in October as we posted footage from our anonymous drone pilot who sent us views of the spaceship-looking vault site on the Northern California coast, as well as the famous New Mexico site with giant rings bulldozed into the earth to guide L. Ron Hubbard’s return to earth, or something.
On October 7, we updated you on the nightmare that had become of Karla Taylor’s lawsuit against Scientology over a trademark dispute. Taylor had ended up in a federal court that was so hostile to her, a judge magistrate ordered the entire contents of her laptop hard drive turned over to Scientology’s attorneys, proving once again that suing the litigious organization can turn into a hellish experience.
Rod Keller brought us a stunning story about staff deaths at Scientology drug rehab centers that were going unnoticed. Now we’re not sure who faces a greater risk at Narconon clinics: The people who work there, or the clients they serve.
News in Russia is always a little bizarre, and October saw one of the stranger ones: A journalist who posts glamour shots of herself on her website claimed to have infiltrated Russian Scientology and brought out some interesting stories about the church’s obsession with money. But was she really who she claimed to be?
Less than two weeks after we’d given you a glimpse into what a hell Karla Taylor’s life had become, we suddenly received word that her trademark lawsuit against the church had been settled. Or, at least, the court considered it withdrawn, even as both sides were still working out the details of how to come to an agreement. We’re hoping that after the dust settles, Karla will give us an interview about what she’s been through.
On October 21, we revealed the month’s big scoop. We’d learned that a wealthy Mexican Scientologist developer, Moises Agami, was turning a bank building in Clearwater into a condo complex — but that he’d submitted new plans turning the top two floors into a multimillion-dollar double penthouse, connected to a private garage with a car elevator. It was a place of super luxury, and our source in local developer circles told us a Church of Scientology official had admitted it was being built for a buyer who was none other than Tom Cruise. We managed to get Agami’s plans for Tom’s ultimate bachelor pad, which will be smack in the middle of Scientology’s “Flag Land Base.” Check out the plans, which include a space for Tom to have a flight simulator!
Also in October, we reported that Kathy Slevin, the sister who had attacked Paul Haggis for leaving Scientology, had died at 60. Kathy had been a television producer in her own right, but it was painful to see how she’d been used by the church to attack her own brother.
On October 26, we had maybe our most 2016 story of the year, about a Donald Trump supporter arrested for threatening to kill the people who worked at a Los Angeles Islamic center, and who also turned out to be a Scientologist. What a racist tool.
The next day, we explained to readers why they shouldn’t have been surprised when Tom Cruise described Scientology as a “beautiful religion” when he was actually, for once, asked about Scientology by a reporter during a London red-carpet event.
And finally, we wrapped up October with a story about Leah Remini’s visit to Denver while filming her A&E series this summer. She was stalked by private investigators, and her crew managed to snap a photo of one of them. He turned out to be a disgraced former Denver cop named Daril Cinquanta, and we managed to get him on the phone.
A LOOK BACK AT OCTOBER 2015: The month began with a lot of Cat White and Jim Carrey and Mark Burton coverage, including the young Hollywood Scientologists she hung out with, and the family in Ireland that had first pointed her toward the church. We went to the London premiere of Louis Theroux’s My Scientology Movie. And thanks to Bryan Seymour and Steve Cannane, our trip to Australia’s cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth was a great success. And our big bombshell: The “Knowledge Reports” about Leah Remini that informed her book.
A LOOK BACK AT OCTOBER 2014: Scientology’s private threat letter to the S.F. Chronicle. A perplexing tale about Bob Duggan, the richest Scientologist in the world. Tom Cruise and his medal in London. Marty Rathbun ambushed at LAX by raving Jenny Linson. L. Ron Hubbard’s amazing 1949 letter to Forrest Ackerman. Mark Ebner finds Gay Ribisi’s plaques.
A LOOK BACK AT OCTOBER 2013: Live-blogging the Garcia mini-trial in Tampa, Scientology denied by the US Supreme Court, interpreting Leah Remini’s epic dance, and live-blogging a dramatic hearing in Laura DeCrescenzo’s lawsuit in Los Angeles.
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E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.
Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.
Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts
Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ
Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield