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


Scientology’s answer to Garcias’ appeal sets a new record in cynicism and legal depravity

[Eric Lieberman, Scientology’s legal wrangler]

Every single person who ever worked in the inner circle of Scientology’s highest elevations — the former Sea Organization executives who ran the worldwide movement from one of several secretive locations — every single one of those people will tell you that despite Scientology’s alphabet soup of many entities, it is all ruled by a micro-managing David Miscavige, who assumes his power as maximum leader through his position as captain of the Sea Org.

But as soon as Scientology is in trouble, particularly in court, one of its favorite strategies is to pretend that its many individual companies and initiatives are all unconnected and independent, and gosh, it’s just a sort of weird coincidence that they all have “Scientology” in the name, or that they’re all run by Sea Org members who have signed billion-year contracts, promising to dedicate their lives to the arcane ideas of founder L. Ron Hubbard.

We are reminded of this cynical, dishonest strategy as we looked through a new appeal brief filed by two companies that have the audacity to tell a federal appeals court that they have “no parent company or subsidiaries.” Those two entities are…

Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization (FSO), and Church of Scientology Flag Ship Service Organization (FSSO).

Is there something in those names that might suggest to you that they do, in fact, answer to a higher authority? Hm.


In the lawsuit they filed in 2013, Luis and Rocio Garcia alleged that after 28 years in the church, they realized they had been defrauded by FSO, FSSO, and three other alphabetically inclined Scientology enterprises. These various arms of fundraising under David Miscavige, the Garcias claimed, had lied to them about what the money they were giving would be used for, and the Garcias wanted hundreds of thousands of dollars returned to them.

The Garcias live in Orange County, California, but they filed their lawsuit in federal court in Florida because that’s where Scientology’s Flag Land Base (run by FSO) is, and where the Garcias had given so much money to help build the “Super Power” project, ultimately named the Flag Building, that was opened in Clearwater in 2013.

If you were following along with us in the early years of that lawsuit, you may remember that one of Scientology’s classic legal attacks — besides the usual vicious attempt to get the attorney for the Garcias disqualified, a Scientology favorite — was to claim that the lawsuit should not be in a Florida federal court because three of the five defendant entities were actually based in part or in whole in California.

You see, if you live in California and you believe that a California company harmed you, you can’t file a lawsuit against them in federal court. Federal courts, when they hear state-based claims, are reserved for conflicts that involve the crossing of state borders. Although the Garcias were alleging that all five of the companies they were suing were actually working together in a multi-state scam, Scientology’s sudden revelation about a number of previously unknown California trustees put the Garcias in a tough spot. (Part of the problem was that Scientology entities tend to be completely opaque, and it wasn’t like you could look up a board of trustees on a website somewhere. But that secrecy on the part of Scientology is, of course, entirely purposeful.)

In order to get past that issue, the Garcias dropped the other three entities and focused on FSO and FSSO, which were based in Florida and the Caribbean, where the Flag Ship, the Freewinds, sails. District Court Judge James D. Whittemore allowed the Garcias to submit an amended complaint that reflected this change, and the case moved on to its next headache.

Scientology then argued that because the Garcias had signed contracts promising to bring any disputes to internal “religious arbitration,” there should be no lawsuit and the court should not be involved. The Garcias countered that the contracts were ludicrous: They even brought in two former top Sea Org officials, Mike Rinder and Marty Rathbun, who each testified that the contracts were not only complete shams, but that they had been designed specifically with the goal of keeping members from getting refunds, and that there was no such thing as “internal religious arbitration.” And in fact, the church itself admitted that in the 60-plus years of its existence, it had never held an internal religious arbitration in its history. Not even once!

Despite all that, Whittemore ruled that a contract is a contract, and he stayed the lawsuit, telling the Garcias their only avenue was to submit to Scientology’s internal arbitration. Whittemore’s reasoning was partly based on the idea that in order for him to delve into Scientology’s contracts and whether or not their rules about arbitration were a sham, he would be crossing a line courts are not supposed to go near — namely, that it would require violating Scientology’s First Amendment religious rights as a “church” to operate how it sees fit.

After years of additional rigmarole, the Garcias finally did submit to a Los Angeles arbitration that they described as a kangaroo court. The arbitration panel — which Scientology required be composed of three members in good standing — ruled that the Garcias should get about $18,000 back. The Garcias turned it down.

The Garcias went back to Judge Whittemore, complained about how the arbitration was handled, and asked him to vacate it and reactivate their lawsuit. But Whittemore ruled against that, and so now the Garcias are appealing that decision to a federal appeals court.

Not surprisingly, as we reported previously, the Garcias are focusing their appeal on Whittemore’s decision that examining Scientology’s sham contracts would be a violation of religious rights. Those rights end, the Garcias contend, when an organization harms people by defrauding them. (That argument was echoed in a new lawsuit that was filed against the Church of Scientology and David Miscavige by a woman who worked personally for Miscavige. One of the attorneys, in a press release, made the same point, that a church can’t hide behind religious rights to harm people. We assume they are watching the Garcia case closely.)

You probably would not be surprised to hear that in their response, written by top Scientology lawyer Eric Lieberman, the Scientology entities are patting Whittemore on the back for his ruling, and they are laying on the “yes, we’re a bona fide religion!” stuff to the hilt. They also, unsurprisingly, describe the Los Angeles arbitration not as a kangaroo court but as a model of judicial righteousness.

But that’s not what makes this appeal truly astounding. You see, Scientology is using the opportunity to make their own appeal, and have gone all the way back to the issue about whether or not the Garcias had standing as Californians to sue in a Florida federal court to begin with.

Whittemore screwed up, Scientology is saying, when he allowed the Garcias to file an amended complaint against FSO and FSSO after dropping the other three entities. Scientology wants the lawsuit dismissed and the appeal not to be heard.

This stuff gets way into the weeds and we are simplifying it as best we can for a short article, but you can read it in all its glory if you care to. Just have some headache medicine handy as you descend into this madness.


The Garcias, of course, had it right from the beginning. The many alphabet soup entities under David Miscavige do operate as a massive joint venture designed to fleece, extort, and then punish lowly Scientologists who are under crushing pressure to turn over increasingly large amounts of money, year after year. But our court system is simply not set up to deal with such a bad actor that will come into court behind highly-paid attorneys and pretend that it is a “religion” made up of independent entities operating by sane and transparent rules.

What puts the Garcias at such a disadvantage is that they were never given the chance to prove in court that they were defrauded, a fact Scientology takes advantage of by pretending that no such evidence exists. It’s a legal depravity that makes us tear our hair out.

It’s so tiresome to see these games, and to see courts get snowed by them. We are not optimistic that this appellate court will see through the subterfuge.

Here’s the document. We look forward to your own assessment of it, if you can manage to wade through it.


Garcia v FSO/FSSO: Cross-Ap… by on Scribd


Another New York politician duped by the Fialkoffs

We first pointed out that Scientology’s sneaky front group Foundation for a Drug-Free World had infiltrated New York City schools six years ago, and we’ve kept a pretty steady eye on Scientologist Queens dentist Ben Fialkoff and his daughter Meghan ever since.

We even pointed out last year that New York politicians in particular seemed susceptible to the Fialkoffs and their gladhanding. Year after year, the Fialkoffs get access to New York’s schoolchildren so they can hand out literature about L. Ron Hubbard’s quack ideas about drug abuse, and they do it by handing out awards to pols, police, and others who never seem to get a clue about what’s really going on.

Now, Filter magazine has a piece about how one New York politician who fell for the ruse and sent a letter congratulating the Fialkoffs is current presidential hopeful Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Oops.

Fun piece. (And great illustration.)


Our new venture, The Cult Awareness Podcast!

We’ve teamed up with ex-JW (and ex-SNL and ex-Arrested Development regular) Jerry Minor for a podcast about Scientology news and lots more. Our first episode was taped at HowdyCon in Los Angeles, and featured these Bunker regulars…

[Graham Berry, Karen de la Carriere, Derek Bloch, Erin Hodges Plumb, Jefferson Hawkins, Tory Christman]


Bonus items from our tipsters

Making sense only for Scientologists: Hungarians as Greek gods, to raise money for an Athens Ideal Org…

Meanwhile, in Boston…



Scientology’s celebrities, ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and more!

[Elisabeth Moss, Michael Peña, and Laura Prepon]

We’ve been building landing pages about David Miscavige’s favorite playthings, including celebrities and ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and we’re hoping you’ll join in and help us gather as much information as we can about them. Head on over and help us with links and photos and comments.

Scientology’s celebrities, from A to Z! Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Scientology’s ‘Ideal Orgs,’ from one end of the planet to the other! Help us build up pages about each these worldwide locations!

Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society!

Scientology Lit: Books reviewed or excerpted in our weekly series. How many have you read?



[ONE year ago] When Scientology’s toxic policy of disconnection is forever: Saying goodbye to Angela Paris
[TWO years ago] Five years ago: Scientology’s ‘disconnection’ and the death of Alexander Jentzsch
[THREE years ago] Scientology has a plan to rescue the U.S. military, and it involves ‘Battlefield Earth’
[FOUR years ago] Scientology’s billion-dollar slush fund, its slick operators, and how it gets around regulation
[FIVE years ago] German media: Scientology is essentially dead in Berlin
[SIX years ago] Will Smith-Backed School That Used Scientology Materials Closes Its Doors
[SEVEN years ago] Tom Cruise is 50: It’s Time To Grow Up
[EIGHT years ago] Scientology’s Cover Story for Harassment: “We’re Making a Documentary!”


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,496 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,625 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,129 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,649 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 669 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 560 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 3,867 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,735 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,509 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,283 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,629 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,195 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,114 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,282 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,863 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,124 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,163 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,875 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,401 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,490 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,630 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,950 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,806 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,925 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,280 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,583 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,689 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,091 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,963 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,546 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,041 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,295 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,404 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on July 3, 2019 at 07:00

E-mail tips to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We also post 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 new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. Our book about Paulette, 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 can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2018 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2018), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Other links: BLOGGING DIANETICS: Reading Scientology’s founding text cover to cover | 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 | 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 | 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

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates, or join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news | Battling Babe-Hounds: Ross Jeffries v. R. Don Steele


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email