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APPEAL BRIEF: Scientology argues that our coverage of them legitimates their spying

Monique Rathbun

Monique Rathbun

Here’s a shocker: For the first time, Scientology, in its legal briefs, is referring positively to our coverage of the church’s activities, and get this, the church argues that the attention we paid to its notorious “Squirrel Busters” goon squad in 2011 is evidence that should harm Monique Rathbun’s harassment lawsuit.

That’s just one of the surprises in the 111-page brief filed by the Church of Scientology International yesterday to the Texas Third Court of Appeals. In March, Comal County Judge Dib Waldrip denied Scientology’s “anti-SLAPP” motion, which had tried to portray Monique as a bully for filing a lawsuit against the church, arguing that Scientology had merely exercised its free speech rights when it spent four years following Monique and her husband, former top Scientology official Marty Rathbun.

Judge Waldrip didn’t buy that argument, and denied the motion in a 25-page order in March. At the time, Monique’s attorney Ray Jeffrey said it was very unusual for a state court judge to produce such a thorough order — Waldrip must have known that the decision would be appealed.

At the beginning of Scientology’s brief, an oral hearing is requested, and one of our legal experts tells us she finds that very significant.

“The church is worried. Courts, in my experience, schedule oral arguments when the arguments are not mandatory because they believe they cannot make a ruling from just reading the briefs. The court apparently has not scheduled one. Oral argument cuts three ways: 1. It gives the church the ability to explain its argument. 2. It gives Monique the right to trash the church’s argument and support Judge Waldrip’s ruling, and 3. It gives the court the ability to grill each side.”

After that opening, Scientology then begins its appeal brief proper with typical exaggeration.


“Scientology is a widely-recognized, global religion ministering to millions through thousands of churches, missions, and affiliate groups in more than 150 countries,” it says, most of which is provably untrue.

Scientology then predictably portrays itself as a victim of Marty Rathbun’s criticisms after 2009. The Squirrel Busters caper, in 2011, was just a natural reaction to Rathbun, dreamed up by some parishioners on their own.

And here’s that new twist we mentioned — Scientology suggests that our Village Voice coverage of the Squirrel Busters siege of the Rathbun home is proof that Scientology’s goon squad was accomplishing its goal. Wow.

Rathbun was such a threat, Scientology suggests, the church pretty much had no choice but to hire some private investigators and some lawyers to consider possible litigation.

One of the most interesting results in Waldrip’s decision was that because Scientology kept insisting it was protecting its “trademarks” when it was surveilling the Rathbuns, then it was acting like a business protecting its turf. And a business protecting its turf cannot fall back on an anti-SLAPP motion. Naturally, Scientology is griping about that, and says “the court ignored the IRS’s contrary finding that the Church has an exlusively charitable and religious purpose.”

Scientology also says Waldrip erred because he didn’t consider this a free speech case. Scientology counters that it is a speech battle, and one that is “a matter of public concern.” Their evidence? Once again, it’s our press interest in their harassment of the Rathbuns. Fascinating.

The appeal also criticizes Monique for not providing specific examples where the church invaded her privacy, and that her complaints about headaches and nausea aren’t serious enough to be considered “bodily injury.” (Waldrip actually dealt with that in very specific detail in his order — and even quoted Wallace Jefferson, Scientology’s appeals lawyer, who was then on the Texas Supreme Court).

Once again, Scientology tries to convince a court that its spying, harassing, and other really ugly behavior is just a form of free speech that is being trampled by nefarious outsiders. What it doesn’t say, of course, is that its chief private investigator (supposedly a filmmaker) was visiting Monique Rathbun’s family members, trying to spook them about Monique’s husband. Or that e-mails showed that the people involved in the Squirrel Busters were quite clear that they were on a mission to disrupt the lives of the Rathbuns, not to educate the public.

It strikes us that Scientology spends a huge amount of its time in this brief arguing against Monique’s case, rather than pointing out how Judge Waldrip erred. It’s like they’re asking for a do-over, rather then spending as much time as they can showing how Waldrip might have screwed up.

We’re looking forward to some expert legal analysis later. For now, here’s the brief itself. We look forward to your thoughts.


Monique Rathbun v. Scientology: CSI Appeal Brief


Posted by Tony Ortega on June 12, 2014 at 15:30

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Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS (We read Scientology’s founding text) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25

UP THE BRIDGE (Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN (Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING (Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43

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