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Judge James D. Whittemore

Judge James D. Whittemore

Federal Judge James D. Whittemore ended the Luis and Rocio Garcia fraud lawsuit against the Church of Scientology today by finding that Scientology can enforce contracts signed by the Garcias which require them to take their disputes to the church’s internal arbitration.

Whittemore made that decision while acknowledging that never, in the more than 60-year history of Scientology, had there ever been an arbitration, and that testimony indicated that there were no actual procedures set up for handling such a procedure.

Once again, Scientology’s powerful First Amendment protections as a “church” came into play as Whittemore said his hands were tied as far as considering the Garcias’ contention that they could never get a fair arbitration from Scientology, which requires that such a dispute be heard by a three-person panel made up of Scientologists in good standing.

By Scientology policy and longstanding culture, such panelists could never fairly arbitrate a matter brought by two “Suppressive Persons” as the Garcias are — Scientology jargon for anyone who has left or been expelled.

“As compelling as Plaintiffs’ argument might otherwise be, the First Amendment prohibits consideration of this contention, since it necessarily would require an analysis and interpretation of Scientology doctrine. That would constitute a prohibited intrusion into religious doctrine, discipline, faith, and ecclesiastical rule, custom, or law by the court.”

So, even though Scientology’s arbitration rules are probably a sham (as former top executives had testified), and are unlikely to be fair for two former “SP’s,” Scientology’s protections of the First Amendment once again prove too much for the US civil courts or law enforcement — a key concept in the movie Going Clear, which happens to be opening in theaters today.

Luis and Rocio Garcia are residents of Irvine, California who had been loyal, longtime Scientologists and had donated large amounts to Scientology leader David Miscavige’s various initiatives. They filed suit in January 2013 over the way they had been pressured to give hundreds of thousands of dollars to the “Super Power” building fund, for example, and say they were lied to about how the money would be spent. From the beginning, they said the lawsuit was about fraud, not a religious dispute. But Scientology produced dozens of “enrollment agreements” that the Garcias had signed over their career as Scientologists which contained clauses about taking disputes to the church’s internal arbitration. Scientology filed a motion saying that the Garcias should be compelled to honor those contracts and end the civil lawsuit. The Garcias had argued that the arbitration clause was a sham, and that they should not be held to the language of the contracts. Whittemore found for Scientology.

We are looking forward to attorneys letting us know their thoughts on Whittemore’s order, and we’ll be calling around for reactions from various quarters. But for now, here’s the order…

Garcia v. Scientology: Order to compel Arbitration by Tony Ortega


Posted by Tony Ortega on March 13, 2015 at 16:30

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Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

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GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

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