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Today in L.A.: Can Scientology kill a forced-abortion lawsuit in the name of religion?

Judge_Rolf_Treu

[Judge Rolf M. Treu]

 
UPDATE: …and the judge punts. Judge Treu has ordered a continuation “to permit amended papers.” Well, Laura has waited six years, what’s a little longer, eh Judge? Today’s hearing will just be about scheduling. Details below.

The Underground Bunker will have correspondents on hand today at a Los Angeles Superior Court hearing scheduled for 8:30 am (11:30 am Eastern) as Laura DeCrescenzo’s forced-abortion lawsuit against the Church of Scientology faces yet another motion for summary judgment ahead of trial — six years after she first filed her complaint in 2009.

We were on hand the last time Laura’s lawsuit survived a previous motion for summary judgment, and it was one of the most dramatic days we’ve ever experienced in a courtroom. With Allison Hope Weiner, Mark Bunker, and Tory Christman sitting nearby, we typed away at our laptop as Judge Ronald Sohigian stunned everyone with his verdict, denying Scientology’s motion, and then he spoke at length about why Laura’s case was so strong and deserved to go to trial. (One of the things that made it so surprising was that Sohigian had previously dismissed her lawsuit, ruling that it had been filed too late. An appeals court then overruled him and sent the case back to him.)

But Sohigian retired, Laura’s trial date was pushed back to December 7, 2015, and then, in August, Scientology filed another motion for summary judgment, this time claiming that its First Amendment religious rights allowed it to treat its workers however it wants.

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Check out the Orwellian logic in this passage, for example, in which Scientology argues that it wasn’t a “forced” abortion when, with the encouragement of the Sea Org, Laura was convinced to do the best thing for her cohorts by not having a child…

There is no evidence of a “forced abortion.” Rather, fellow members of plaintiff’s religious order, as well as her husband, spoke with and encouraged her to remain in the order to continue the religious work to which she had committed herself, which she only could do if she did not have responsibility of caring for young children. Under the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of religion, that is not actionable.

Religious work. Sure. Actually, like other Sea Org workers, Laura DeCrescenzo was nothing like a monk or nun. She worked in a quasi-naval organization that expects total dedication from its members, who sign billion-year contracts and work incredible hours for almost no pay. Their time is not taken up with prayers or religious contemplation. Because of their work schedules, in fact, Sea Org workers actually tend to do much less auditing and courses than public Scientologists do. Sea Org members simply work, and relentlessly so. Laura signed her contract and began working in the Sea Org at twelve, and was then working 98 hours a week. When she turned 13, she was put on an adult schedule of 112 hours a week, getting paid pennies an hour when she was paid at all. She spent years in the Sea Org’s prison program, the RPF, and was so desperate to get out of it, she gulped some bleach, knowing that suicide cases are swiftly kicked out of the Sea Org. She spent four more years in the church, hiding her doubts because she knew that people who turned against Scientology were subject to intense harassment. Only when she realized that her parents were also having doubts about Scientology and would back her up did she file her lawsuit.

Scientology fought all the way to the US Supreme Court to try to keep Laura’s interrogation and personnel files secret, claiming they were “religious” in nature, but they lost that fight, and we got to see that one of the things they were trying to keep under wraps was the fact that Laura was disciplined for daring to admit that she was homesick and missed her mother.

At 12 years of age.

You can understand why Scientology tried to keep that one out of the public eye. Anyway, Laura’s attorneys answered Scientology’s motion in October, arguing that this lawsuit is not about religion but about the mistreatment of a child…

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 would 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.

Scientology will be arguing today that Laura made a choice to join a strict religious order, and that it’s not the business of a US civil court to judge the practices of that religion. Laura’s team will counter that Laura’s mistreatment had nothing to do with religion, and that no organization should imprison a young person and force her to have an abortion, whatever the beliefs of her tormentors.

If Scientology’s motion wins, the lawsuit is over. If Laura wins, a new trial date will be scheduled in 2016.

As soon as we start to get reports from the courtroom, we’ll post them at the bottom of the page.

 
UPDATE: Judge Treu wants things spelled out more clearly, and has ordered a continuation and a paint-by-numbers kit to help him see the big picture.

From his order today:

The Court concludes that the parties’ separate statements and memoranda fail to serve the important functions of the respective documents to identify which material facts are disputed or undisputed. See Collins v. Hertz Corp. (2006) 144 Cal.App.4th 64, 74 (separate statement); Juge v. County of Sacramento (1993) 12 Cal.App.4th 59, 67 (memoranda).

Defendants’ separate statement failed to list sequentially all the material facts that warrant summary judgment (CRC 3.1354(h)); and instead, the separate statement is organized by summary adjudication issues, repeating several facts but sometimes excluding and including additional facts. Defendants’ memorandum cited to multiple material facts in support of factual assertions, but these multiple citations appear to be to the same identical fact. Plaintiff’s separate statement, in turn, consisted of detailed summaries of each piece of evidence offered in dispute of facts, rather than setting forth the nature of the dispute and describing the evidence supporting Plaintiff’s position (CRC 3.1350(f)). This results in an opposition separate statement that spans over 600 pages to respond to Defendants’ asserted material facts, some of which are repeated facts. Lastly, Plaintiff’s opposition memoranda only cites to Plaintiff’s additional material facts, which consist of the remaining 40-some pages of the opposition separate statement.

This has made it difficult for the Court to determine which material facts are in dispute and the nature thereof, and how they support or do not support summary judgment/adjudication as to the specific issues. It is not the trial court’s duty to search through the allegations of disputed material facts and identify the legal significance of each fact. Juge, 12 Cal.App.4th at 67-68. Therefore, the Court is inclined to exercise its discretion to continue the hearing on this motion to permit amended papers to be filed. See Parkview Villas Ass’n, Inc. v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. (2005) 133 Cal.App.4th 1197, 1212, 1214-15.

Defendants are to file a separate statement that lists sequentially all of their material facts in support of summary judgment, which are to be incorporated by reference (to only their original numbers) in the summary adjudication issues. Because this will renumber certain material facts, Defendants are to prepare an amended memorandum with citations to the amended separate statement. Plaintiff, in turn, is to prepare an amended opposition separate statement that responds to Defendants’ amended separate statement by setting forth the nature of the dispute and describing the evidence supporting Plaintiff’s position. Plaintiff is also to prepare an amended opposition memorandum that includes citations to which facts asserted by Defendants are in dispute, not simply to Plaintiff’s additional facts.

At the hearing, the Court will discuss a filing schedule and a continued hearing date.

 
UPDATE 2: Much thanks to Jeffrey Augustine and attorney Graham Berry for attending today’s scheduling hearing. Here are the new dates.

Scientology will file its amended brief on January 21, 2016
Laura’s team will file its amended brief on February 22
Scientology will then file a reply on February 29

The hearing on motion for summary judgment will then take place on March 7 at 8:30 am.

Hey, who’s in a hurry?

 
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Car turns Austin Scientology org into a drive-in

Someone drove into the Scientology org in Austin last night, hurting no one because of course the place was empty. Workers at the org told police the troubling detail that the driver was parked across the street for a half hour before driving through the window. We hope this is not a case of intentional damage. If you have a beef with Scientology, vandalism is not a viable option.

Anyway, anyone know where Larry Wright was last night?

We kid, we kid.

 
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Scientology pays a whopping $15 million for Boston building

Dan Adams of the Boston Globe is reporting that Scientology, after giving up on the Hotel Alexandra for its new “Ideal Org,” has purchased a building for $15 million, and will put its Ideal Org in a big, boxy office building in the neighborhood of Allston.

Although it’s a boxy nightmare far from downtown, it will give Scientology the opportunity to put up a sign that will be visible on the Massachusetts Turnpike, I-90. Here’s what cars will see…

 
BostonIdeal

 
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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.

Our book tour is concluded for now. (But you can re-experience it through this nifty interactive map!) We’ll let you know about future appearances. Previous events: 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), Sydney (10/23), Melbourne (10/25), Adelaide (10/28), Perth (10/30)

 
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Posted by Tony Ortega on December 15, 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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