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Scientology accused of financial sleight of hand to avoid paying in human slavery lawsuit

FreewindsOTIn April, we told you the story of how Scientology had found itself tangled up in one of the most remarkable human slavery lawsuits ever adjudicated in the United States.

In 2008, three Cuban men won an $80 million judgment against the Curaçao Drydock Company after they escaped years of what they said were harrowing conditions of 112-hour work weeks, pay of a few cents an hour, and the inability to leave. After they finally got away, they ended up in Florida, where they sued the drydock — whose major shareholder was Curaçao’s government. After winning the huge award, the attorneys for the men then set out trying to collect it, which hasn’t been easy.

One way they have pursued the damages award is by filing writs of garnishment against a couple of Scientology entities which operate the church’s private cruise ship, the Freewinds. Since 1988, Scientology has used the ship as a place for its wealthier members to receive the highest level of spiritual training, “OT 8.” Church members can also stay on the ship for a variety of other seminars and training sessions, and it typically cruises between several different destinations in the Caribbean, including Curaçao. The church has used the drydock there for repairs on the ship as recently as last September.

With the writs of garnishment, the Cubans and their attorneys were attempting to use the power of the courts to force Scientology to pay what it owed the drydock to the Cuban men instead.

In June, Scientology filed an answer, saying that the Flag Ship Service Organization (FSSO), the Scientology entity that operates the ship, didn’t, in fact, owe the drydock anything, and so the church should be let out of the lawsuit. Scientology argued that the Freewinds may be operated by FSSO, but it’s actually owned by a Panamanian company, the San Donato Properties Corporation.

“FSSO is aware that San Donato, as record owner of the Freewinds, was indebted to and has paid the entire amount it was obligated to pay [the drydock company], for recent drydock repairs to the Freewinds,” the church’s attorneys wrote.

In other words, Scientology was essentially saying, “We understand that substantial work was done on our ship at the drydock you want money from, but the corporation that owns the boat — not us — already paid that debt, and there’s nothing left that we owe the drydock that we can give to you instead.”

Still with us?

Well now, the attorneys for the Cuban plaintiffs have responded, accusing Scientology of financial sleight of hand in a scheme to avoid paying the victims of human slavery any money.

Here’s what Scientology did, according to lawyer John Thornton, in his filing on behalf of the three Cuban victims.

— On September 23, it was FSSO that entered into a contract with the Curaçao Drydock Company to make repairs to the Freewinds.

— On October 7, FSSO was served with the writ of garnishment by the court.

— Three days later, on October 10, records show that FSSO immediately ordered the repair work to halt. By then, however, the bill for work already done had reached $1,028,487.64.

— Five days after that, on October 15, San Donato Properties suddenly showed up and agreed to pay the bill of repairs, for a negotiated price of $770,290.

— Then, to complete the deception, a week later, on October 22, the Church of Scientology International (CSI) agreed to loan, interest-free, to San Donato the amount of $770,500 so it could pay off the negotiated price to the drydock.

What’s worse, Thornton writes, FSSO then pretended not to be aware of the deal when it answered the court and said it owed the drydock no money and therefore shouldn’t be subject to the writ of garnishment. Writes Thornton…

If one were to buy into this ruse, one would have to believe that a corporation that owns a cruise ship would send it in for repairs without a penny on hand to pay for them, and that corporation A has reason to lend money to corporation B because corporation C needs to use something that corporation B owns. There is no question that San Donato was never the real party in interest, but that the Church of Scientology International, FSSO’s alter ego, paid the Drydock for the Freewinds’ repair costs to benefit the FSSO and, more importantly, to avoid the effects of the Writ of Garnishment…

Further, Church of Scientology International clearly paid for the repairs and FSSO clearly knew this, yet answered misleadingly on this score, as well as others. FSSO and its alter egos conspired to defy this Court’s authority by substituting another party responsible under the repair contract, by having their alter ego parent entity pay for the repairs through a sham loan, and by filing false and misleading answers in these proceedings.

Um, wow. Longtime Scientology watchers are aware that one of founder L. Ron Hubbard’s legacies is that Scientologists feel no obligation to tell the truth to outsiders, who are known as “wogs.”

Scientologists are the only ones aware of the true nature of the universe, and are the only ones with the secrets necessary to “salvage the planet.” Because of that, they feel no allegiance to “wog law” or to wog customs of ethics and truth telling.

But to scam a federal court that has already demonstrated that it will cross international lines to award huge damages?

The audacity is stunning.

Thornton also knocks down Scientology’s other arguments for why it doesn’t deserve to be subject to the writ of garnishment. In one of them, naturally, Scientology asked for special treatment because it calls itself a religion. Writes Thornton…

The contention that a garnishment of a sum due for ship repairs is in any way prohibited by the First Amendment is pure hogwash. As far as Florida’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (the “FRFRA”), it prohibits government from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion. Aside from the fact that their actions in no way impeded the religious freedom, Judgment Creditors are clearly private individuals whose actions are not subject to the FRFRA because Plaintiffs are not government actors as defined by the statute.

Similarly, he knocks down Scientology’s other defenses. So, what are the consequences for the church?

We don’t know how the court will respond, but on paper, it looks like Scientology, in the form of FSSO, is on the hook for the $1 million it owed the drydock on October 10. But it may be worse: At the end of the filing, Thornton hints at what a nightmare this may become for Scientology if the court decides it should pay some larger part of the $80 million (plus interest) that the Cuban victims were awarded. In order to find out just how much Scientology should pay, the court may allow Thornton to “a reasonable opportunity to conduct discovery in aid of judgment and execution.”

Can you imagine? Court-ordered discovery, as well as a big, fat bill at the end?

Oh, Scientology, this could get very interesting for you. And all because you didn’t want to pay some money (which you already owed) to some human slavery victims instead of the place that victimized them.

The most ethical people on the planet, indeed.

Here’s the filing by Thornton…


Licea v. Curacao Drydock Company: Plaintiff Objection to FSSO Answer


Video Vault: The Philadelphia Doctorate Course!

Our video source has come through again, posting another “quote video” that you normally can only see inside a Scientology “org.” In this case, it’s a brief excerpt from a lecture that is part of the vaunted Philadelphia Doctorate Course.

Jon Atack has set the scene for us in past columns: It was December 1952, and Hubbard was beginning to make his gradual comeback with “Scientology” after the Dianetics craze of 1950 had died down and Hubbard’s own life had become a mess. Now, with just a few dozen loyal followers, he began to climb his way back.

Bridge Publications, Scientology’s publishing arm, wants $1,150 for the full set of lectures. Here’s how it describes the package…

“This renowned series stands as the largest single body of work on the anatomy, behavior and potentials of the spirit of Man ever assembled, providing the very fundamentals which underlie the route to Operating Thetan. Here it is in complete detail—the thetan’s relationship to the creation, maintenance and destruction of universes. In just those terms, here is the anatomy of matter, energy, space and time, and postulating universes into existence. Here, too, is the thetan’s fall from whole track abilities and the universal laws by which they are restored. In short, here is L. Ron Hubbard’s codification of the upper echelon of theta beingness and behavior. Lecture after lecture fully expands every concept of the course text, Scientology 8-8008, providing the total scope of you in native state.”

Well, that’s a big promise. Now listen to this excerpt, which sounds like pretty run-of-the-mill motivational pablum to us — “there is no such thing as failure.”

Failure? That’s just stinkin’ thinkin’.


Once again we turned to Marc Headley for his thoughts on the production of this film.

This video has a guy on a horse for most of the video. At some point he loses the horse for no explainable reason and continues on foot. Pretty much everybody else are Int Base staff dressed in period costumes and wholly unrecognizable until we see Kenny Seybold at the end right before we fly off into space and turn into a plastic CD binder.

Thank you, Marc!


Posted by Tony Ortega on July 12, 2014 at 07:00

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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

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer


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