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Laura DeCrescenzo answers Scientology ‘religion’ gambit on eve of key hearing

Laura_DeCrescenzoLess than seven weeks away from a trial she’s been awaiting more than six years, Laura DeCrescenzo has to get over yet another hurdle this week placed in her way by the Church of Scientology.

Laura sued Scientology in 2009 claiming that she’d been abused in the church’s Sea Organization, and that she’d been forced to have an abortion while she was still 17 years old. Her case has been through a very complex history — including a failed petition by Scientology to the US Supreme Court, which resulted in the release of thousands of crucial documents. In 2013, Laura’s lawsuit survived a major step when Scientology’s motion for summary judgment was denied by Judge Ronald Sohigian. We were present for those fireworks as Sohigian found that Laura’s accusations were credible, and deserved to be heard by a jury. Sohigian then retired, and eventually the new Judge, Rolf M. Treu, set a trial date of December 7, 2015.

With that date just weeks away, Laura has yet another obstacle to get past. Scientology filed yet another motion for summary judgment, this time saying that how it treats its “ministers” is its own business, and is protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom.

Now, we have the response filed by Laura’s attorneys, and we’re looking forward to your analysis of it. But we don’t have a lot of time to consider her arguments: Judge Treu scheduled the hearing for the motion for summary judgment for tomorrow morning.

[Update: The hearing has been pushed back to November 5, and we’ll have coverage of it then.]

Fortunately for us, while we’re in Australia talking about our book, our frequent contributor Jeffrey Augustine will be on the scene, and we hope to get live updates from him.

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Now, as for the response from Laura’s team, it starts right off with a sizzling indictment of Scientology’s last-minute try to convince the court that Laura should have known what she was getting into when she joined the Sea Org…

What Defendants forget, or more likely intentionally ignore, is that [Laura] was fraudulently induced to join the Sea Organization and move away from her family at the incredibly young age of twelve, and thereafter was subjected to years of coercive persuasion at the hands of Defendants, such that she lost her ability to freely make choices about whether she should remain in the Sea Organization, whether she whould submit to Defendants’ disciplinary procedures, and whether she should have a child, among other important decisions. The bottom line is that churches who fraudulently induce children to join their organization and engage in coercive persuasion are not entitled to claim judicial immunity from claims made by such individuals.

The facts of this case are then listed, and while familiar to our readers, they still seem as shocking as the first time we heard them.

“As a direct result of [Scientology’s] coercive practices, [Laura] went for as long as 2-3 years without returning home or seeing her parents primarily because she was not given ‘authorization’ by [Scientology] to see her own family.”

As a member of the Sea Org, Laura was required to fill out Life Histories that asked her questions like…

“Have you ever been connected to anyone who has threatened or attacked Scientology?”

“Note any instances of homosexual activity from earliest time up to P[resent] T[ime]. Give whom? What done? And how often?”

Laura knew that anything she said in these questionnaires would be used against her if she decided to leave.

As a twelve year old, Laura was on a schedule that had her working 98 hours week. When she turned 13, it was moved up to 112 hours. During that time, she took home between $10 and $50 a week. And with a schedule like that, she had no time for schooling that wasn’t about Scientology.

At 16, Laura got married and was pregnant by 17. But having children is against the rules in Scientology, and Laura said she came under intense pressure to have an abortion. Her commanding officer…

…continued to pressure [Laura] into having an abortion, telling her to “chill,” there is “no Thetan there yet,” and the “baby is just tissue.”

Eventually, under continued pressure by officials and her Sea Org husband, she relented and had the abortion, something she has always regretted.

Laura was also put for years on the Sea Org’s prison detail, the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF), and grew so despondent, she eventually, in 2004, decided to gulp down bleach, knowing that anyone who attempts suicide is quickly kicked out of the Sea Org.

Throughout her time in the Sea Org, Laura’s attorneys point out, her work was in no way “religious” in nature, and it’s “subterfuge” for Scientology to claim that just because Laura worked for the church, it made her a “minister” and so her work would fall under the “ministerial exception” to labor laws.

In 2013, we were present for a hearing on a previous motion for summary judgment filed by the church. In that case, Judge Sohigian found that there were matters of triable fact in the case, and denied Scientology’s motion. In other words, he found that Laura’s statements had merit and a jury should be allowed to determine which side had the stronger case.

Here too, Laura’s attorneys argue that there are triable issues of fact regarding the way Scientology treated Laura which a jury should hear, and which should not be simply dismissed by a motion for summary judgment.

Her attorneys cite numerous cases where a church was found to have harmed someone in ways that a court could consider. As we saw recently in the Garcia fraud lawsuit against Scientology, however, the church’s argument that examining its internal workings violates its First Amendment rights ended up persuading the federal judge in that case.

Will that strategy work this time and end Laura’s six-year pursuit of justice? We look forward to your thoughts on that. Take a look at the church’s motion, which we previously posted, and then today’s response by Laura’s team…

DeCrescenzo Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

 
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Devenir-clair_1‘Going Clear’ gets a French edition!

Another update from our man in Paris…

Paris publishing house Piranha Editions, which only set up shop last year, is busy promoting the French edition of Lawrence Wright’s book Going Clear. They brought it out on October 1, just in time to do some cross-promotion with Alex Gibney’s documentary of the same name.

Gibney’s Going Clear (version française) will be broadcast on November 11 on France’s Canal+ as we reported here last month. That probably means however that it will only be available to a limited audience, as most of their output is encrypted for subscribers. Undeterred, Piranha has been promoting links to the French-subtitled trailer.

Swiss newspaper Le Temps has already run a sympathetic review of the French edition of the book. Another review, in the French news weekly Le Point, looks positive too, but it’s behind a firewall. Put it this way: Piranha is using the quote from reviewer Thomas Mahler — “An implacable and captivating investigation” — as part of its campaign.

Piranha is also offering copies as prizes in a competition on its Facebook page: really easy questions for Bunker regulars. Even if you don’t need a French edition however, I’m sure they’d appreciate a few “likes.”

— Jonny Jacobsen

 
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BOOK NOTES
3D-Unbreakable

We didn’t get a chance to include photos in our book, so we’ve posted them at a dedicated page. Reader Sookie put together a complete index and we’re hosting it here on the website. Copies of the paperback version of ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ are on sale at Amazon. The Kindle edition is also available, and shipping instantly.

Tony Ortega’s upcoming appearances (and check out the interactive map to our ongoing tour)…

 
Oct 23: Sydney, Giant Dwarf Theatre (with Steve Cannane and Bryan Seymour)

Oct 25: Melbourne, The Wheeler Centre, 3 pm, free but reservations recommended (with Steve Cannane and Bryan Seymour)

Oct 28: Adelaide, Wheatsheaf Hotel, (with Sen. Nick Xenophon and Bryan Seymour)

Oct 30: Perth, Collins Street Centre, Collins St and Shaftesbury St, South Perth, 7 pm (with Bryan Seymour)

Past dates: Santa Barbara (5/16), Hollywood (5/17), Orange County (5/17), San Diego (5/20), San Francisco (5/22), New York (6/11), Chicago (6/20), Toronto (6/22), Clearwater (6/28), Washington DC (7/12), Hartford (7/14), Denver (7/17), Dallas (7/20), Houston (7/22), San Antonio (7/24), Austin (7/25), Paris (7/29), London (8/4), Boston (8/24), Phoenix (9/15), Cleveland (9/23), Minneapolis (9/24), Portland (9/27), Seattle (9/28), Vancouver BC (9/29)

 
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Posted by Tony Ortega on October 21, 2015 at 07:00

E-mail your 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. 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 cover to cover with the help of LA 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

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
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

 

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