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Scientology to federal court: A judge calling our members directly? Are you nuts?

[Tampa attorney Wally Pope finds himself between two headstrong figures]

The last time we checked in on the Garcia fraud lawsuit, Tampa federal Judge James Whittemore sounded like he’d lost all patience with the Church of Scientology. He restated, in no uncertain terms, that he was fed up with the bickering on both sides and was taking over the process of selecting a panel of arbitrators from a list of 500 Los Angeles-area Scientologists submitted by the church under seal.

But once again, the church is risking the judge’s wrath. It filed a motion yesterday questioning the judge’s intentions, and we’re almost starting to feel sorry for church attorney Wally Pope, who no doubt must be submitting this stuff under the insistence of his diminutive client, Scientology leader David Miscavige.

If you remember, California couple Luis and Rocio Garcia filed their fraud lawsuit in 2013, claiming that the church had lied in order to get large donations from them. In 2015, however, Judge Whittemore sided with Scientology, saying that the Garcias were required by contracts they signed as church members to submit their grievances to internal Scientology arbitration, and he stayed the lawsuit. But in the two years since then, the two sides have been unable to seat a panel of arbitrators, who must be church members in good standing. So Whittemore stepped in and decided he would select the panel, and ordered the church to turn over the list of 500 names and phone numbers.

Scientology complied, but now it has filed a new motion asking the judge, essentially, to rethink what he’s already very forcefully indicated that he’s going to do.

Just as we had, Scientology is anticipating that things aren’t going to go very smoothly if Judge Whittemore (or his clerks) begin randomly calling Los Angeles Scientologists and asking them to serve as arbitrators — and at the same time, instructing them not to go running to the church, which is under strict orders not to contact any of the people on the list.


Can you imagine? You’re a paranoid, indoctrinated, and fully frightened Scientologist, already dreading the next visit or phone call from church vultures who want you to donate more, more, more, and out of the blue you get a phone call from Florida and it’s supposed to be some judge asking you to sit in judgment of the church and not tell anyone about it.

Does that have Xenuriffic disaster written all over it or what?

The church sure seems to think so.

Defendants have expressed to the Court their concerns that direct contact to Scientology parishioners from a civil court about Scientology justice proceedings may cause alarm of such individuals, who did not assume their identities and contact information would be disclosed to a court without notice, as well as about the practical problems that may arise from this process. It also raises ecclesiastical questions, because parishioners may raise questions about such contacts with appropriate Church officials. Indeed, it is possible parishioners may decline to discuss the matter until contacting such persons.

Ya think?

Of course compliant Scientologists, already scared witless by a lifetime of security interrogations and other Scientology scare tactics, are going to freak out in this situation.

In his last order, Whittemore had suggested that Scientology’s attorneys notify church officials of what’s going on so they aren’t caught blindsided. This assumes the quaint notion that David Miscavige isn’t already being kept informed of every minute detail of what’s been happening in this case. But Wally plays along and pretends that this isn’t the case…

Defendants are under an injunction not to discuss this matter or the Court’s directives, even with Church officials, some of whom are on the list presented to the Court. Defendants are uncertain what it is they should or even are permitted to say to “Church officials,” let alone what the Court requests that the defendants instruct such officials to say to a parishioner who is contacted by the Court and then seeks advice from such a Church official.

Did you catch that? Among the 500 names submitted to the court are church “officials,” which is interesting — you’d think with millions (*cough cough*) of Scientologists to choose from, they could have avoided submitting the name of executives, who clearly shouldn’t be on an arbitrating panel.

Wally (or rather, his client) goes on to bring up “religious” complications whenever possible because, you know, this is a church and it’s all churchy and stuff. Like, how can a church member go on an arbitrating panel if they’re deep into the really religious activity of running around a pole? (That’s what you do in the very religious Scientology course called the “Cause Resurgence Rundown,” for you beginners.)

A parishioner who is on a particular intense course of religious counseling or study may seek advice whether he may interrupt that activity to participate in religious arbitration. Such religious questions are far beyond the competence of this or any court to answer, and must be referred or left to the discretion of the religious authorities.

Four uses of the word “religious” in two sentences! That’s gotta be a record.

Even though the judge has already reacted angrily at the notion, Pope once again suggests that Judge Whittemore employ a prophylactic measure in order to protect the sanctity of Scientology from becoming infected. He’s written up a cute letter that the court could send out as if it were coming from Scientology’s International Justice Chief, Mike Ellis.

“I am writing to inquire whether you would be willing and able to participate in a religious arbitration concerning a dispute between two former Scientologists and several Scientology churches concerning claims made by the former for refunds of donations made to such churches,” begins the letter, which we have for you in full below.

Will the judge go for it? Well, he’s going to need to do something about nutty Scientologists freaking out when they get a call from a federal court. But it’s hard to see this judge submitting to Scientology’s suggestions after the heartburn he’s clearly already experienced in this case.

Please give the motion and the letter a good look, and let us know how you think the judge is going to react.





Bonus items from our tipsters

We got this great shot from our friend Kate Bornstein, who had this to say about the photo she snapped: “Today is a huge music festival. People are pouring out of the subway at 125th & Lexington. To get to the festival, they all (hundreds of them) have to walk by the org in East Harlem on 125th between 2nd & 3rd Aves. No body routers, no one handing out fliers, empty org.”


Kate certainly has a point. After all, this is the reason that you spend the big bucks to have a storefront on a major street — for the foot traffic! And then when it comes, no one is out there with tickets for a Dianetics movie or handing out personality tests? How out-tech.

Meanwhile, San Diego is getting cleared, two people at a time…


Actual caption: “Community Charity Coalition – Inspiring the Next Generation. On Wednesday, May 24th, over 100 guests gathered for the May Charity Coalition luncheon in the Church of Scientology’s Fort Harrison Crystal Ballroom. Guests were treated to a 5-star meal and an afternoon of inspiration on how greater coordination between like-minded charities help improve the community….Accomplished actress and humanitarian Kelly Preston addressed the guests on the importance of volunteering within the community. Ms. Preston gave an example of her own volunteer work with the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a non-profit watchdog organization that investigates psychiatric abuses in the field of mental health.”


In Florida, local muslims hold a vigil to honor the men in Portland who were killed trying to stop bullying of Islamic passengers on a train. But hey, the Scientologist sees an opportunity and takes it! Human rights, yay!


Actual caption from the Norwoods Mission in Johannesburg: “This young man, Corbyn Muller, joined staff today. When I asked why he decided to join today he said ‘Well I should join now instead of 5 years from now’ Corbyn has joined the ranks of the Norwood Mission staff!!! We are proud to have him as part of the team! Feel free to join him!”


Corbyn has no doubt made mum proud…


Oh look, the new “Ideal Org” building has been purchased for Santa Barbara in nearby Ventura at $6.25 million, and once again they go for the space-age office building look, and in a location with zero foot traffic.



Countdown to Denver!


HowdyCon 2017: Denver, June 23-25 at the Residence Inn Denver City Center. Go here to start making your plans.


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,770 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,527 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 1,873 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,367 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,407 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy in 1,119 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 645 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,734 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 1,874 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,194 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,169 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 525 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin in 4,827 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 934 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis for 1,336 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,209 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 790 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike in 1,295 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,539 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,648 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on June 3, 2017 at 07:00

E-mail 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. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. 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

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | 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 | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | 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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