Daily Notifications
Sign up for free emails to receive the feature story every morning in your inbox at


Judge calls for February mini-trial in Garcia case, and we have text of the Lemberger lawsuit

Judge James D. Whittemore

Judge James D. Whittemore

Here’s a little bit of a surprise. We had expected that Tampa federal District Judge James D. Whittemore would be nearing a decision on the Church of Scientology’s motion to compel Luis and Rocio Garcia to submit to internal church arbitration and dismiss their fraud lawsuit.

Instead, he’s called for an evidentiary hearing on February 18.

It will be a sort of mini-trial, which will not be the first in this lawsuit since it was filed by the Garcias in January 2013. We were present for the first one, a courtroom battle over a Scientology motion to have the attorneys for the Garcias disqualified. Whittemore denied that motion.

The lawsuit was then derailed for several months over a question about jurisdiction. After the Garcias jettisoned a couple of Scientology entities from the list of defendants, Whittemore allowed the Garcias to amend their complaint and continue on.

The Garcias are suing Scientology because they say the church used fraudulent means to get hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from them before they decided to leave the organization. Scientology has characterized the dispute as an internal church matter, and has argued that the church’s First Amendment religious rights would be infringed if the lawsuit were allowed to continue. The Garcias deny that their grievances are religious in nature and have argued that Scientology’s arbitration scheme is a sham.

In September, Judge Whittemore presided over oral arguments about the arbitration question, and we were told that Scientology lawyer Wally Pope seemed to have had a rough time of it.


Since then, we’ve watched the two sides fight over whether Scientology’s arbitration rules are legitimate or not. The latest moves in that battle had included a declaration by former church executive Mike Rinder who said Scientology’s arbitration rules were never intended to be used. Scientology asked that Rinder’s declaration be struck from the record, but Judge Whittemore denied that request. After many moves on each side, it seemed that Whittemore had what he needed to make a decision.

And now Whittemore has called for an evidentiary hearing, allowing both sides to gather evidence through discovery, including depositions.

And in what may be a sign that Whittemore has lost patience for Scientology’s usual dilatory tactics, he finishes his order with these words: “Obstructive discovery tactics may result in sanctions.”

Oh my.

The order…

Garcia v. Scientology: Order for Evidentiary Hearing

So mark your calendars. February 18 should be a rollicking good time at the federal courthouse in Tampa.


Scientology sued in Israel — the Lemberger complaint

We told you recently that Dani and Tami Lemberger, who in 2012 led an entire mission in Haifa to break away from the Church of Scientology, have filed a lawsuit against the church for libel and fraud.

Now we have a translation of their legal complaint, thanks to the Forum for Justice in Israel. (We also have a copy of the original in Hebrew, and we checked to make sure the translation by the Forum was correct.)

When the mission in Haifa, the Dror Center, broke away, we wrote a lengthy piece about the Lembergers and their history in Scientology, some of which is recounted in the lawsuit.

The Lembergers allege that after the church “declared” them “suppressive persons” (Scientology’s version of excommunication), the church then “embarked on a mission to destroy the social and economic status of the plaintiffs, vilifying them to anyone who would listen.”

According to the complaint, the church operatives set out to spread slander about the Lembergers to dozens of people who knew the couple. That slander even included unfounded accusations of pedophilia, the stereotypical smear.

They also allege that Scientology was behind an attempt to pressure two of their friends to help in an attempt to cause problems between the Lembergers and city planners. They say that the notion of causing problems with the city could only have come from private information Dani Lemberger divulged in supposedly confidential confessional sessions at Scientology’s Florida headquarters.

As a result of the libel campaign, the Lembergers say the Dror Center’s revenue has been negatively affected. The Lembergers also say they paid $15,000 lifetime memberships for the International Association of Scientologists which they cannot get refunds for.

The Lembergers also allege fraud in a very separate set of facts, concerning Dani’s experiences doing the high level Scientology course “OT 7” in Clearwater, Florida. The complaint lays out a complex tale about Dani’s progress being sabotaged, at great expense.

In total, the Lembergers say their damages total 3 million shekels, about $800,000.


Lemberger v. Scientology: Complaint

In the US, Scientology would immediately react to such a lawsuit by asking that it be thrown out for infringing its religious rights as a church. But in Israel, the situation is trickier. Scientology calls itself a self-help organization in Israel, not a church. And Lemberger can include allegations about the way he was treated as a Scientology parishioner, something that a litigant would have a harder time doing in this country. Just how the organization does react, we’ll be very interested to see.


AcuntoTrophy$10 Million Scientology trophy on eBay

Just a note to say we enjoyed all the hubbub on Facebook yesterday as Scientology watchers marveled at a set of Scientology donation trophies coming on sale on eBay.

In 2011 at his blog, Marty Rathbun wrote about the tumbling fortunes of Scientologist Richie Acunto, a high-flying insurance mogul who gave away millions to the church. Now it appears that Acunto’s artifacts of his past as a wealthy church member have been picked up in a storage unit sale, and were then listed at eBay.

We’re looking further into Acunto’s saga, and we’ve already obtained some fascinating and personal videos and first-person accounts, and we’ll have more to say about this in an upcoming story.


Marianne Williamson gives Scientology a boost

We don’t have much use for Marianne Williamson, the New Age guru who has a large following and recently got a drubbing in her first political campaign, running for Congress in Malibu.

But whatever you think of her “miracles” juju, it’s really a shame that she gave Scientology a big boost on Facebook yesterday. She shared an alarmist story about antidepressants that was written by the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, the cartoonishly rabid anti-psychiatry Scientology front group. The article selectively chooses details about the death of Robin Williams to advance CCHR’s agenda, which is how the organization operates.

If Williamson wanted to raise questions about antidepressants, she could have done it in a more responsible way than by providing help to Scientology’s stealth campaigns. Some of her commenters complained that she had made an unwise choice — so many did, in fact, that she felt compelled to address it. “There are more comments here about whether I am being responsible, than about whether or not pharmaceutical companies are being responsible,” she wrote.

Well, Marianne, your readers in this case might be more knowledgeable than you. It’s like a miracle, we know.


Posted by Tony Ortega on November 15, 2014 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

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, 48

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, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email