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Scientology hopes to benefit from Michael Jackson estate’s arbitration win against HBO

[DON’T MISS yesterday’s evening exclusive: Leah Remini responds to Tom Cruise’s Covid rant and puts it in its Scientology context.]

If you waded through that long court transcript we posted yesterday, you know that one of the challenges Scientology is facing in Los Angeles Superior Court is that Judge Steven Kleifield has some doubts about Scientology’s arbitration agreements lasting into eternity.

Scientology is trying to force into “religious arbitration” some former members who are suing Scientology and one of its celebrity members, actor Danny Masterson, over allegations of harassment, stalking, and slander that took place years after the plaintiffs were members of the church. In a November 6 hearing Judge Kleifield repeatedly raised the question about whether agreements that members of a church signed for religious services would still be valid years later, after those members had left the organization.


Scientology is saying that contracts Chrissie Carnell Bixler, her husband rocker Cedric Bixler-Zavala and two women going by Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2 signed when they were members of the church obligate them to take their claims to arbitration before a panel of Scientologists in good standing, and that they have no right to a trial. The women, who claim that Masterson raped them in incidents between 2001 and 2004, say that they were harassed by Scientology and the That ’70s Show actor when they came forward to the LAPD in 2016. They have argued that they should not be held to the contracts they signed as Scientologists because now that they have left the church forcing them into what they call a religious ritual would be a violation of their First Amendment rights.

Since that Nov 6 hearing, Judge Kleifield upended the lawsuit by taking matters into his own hands, asking both sides to discuss how Scientology’s arbitration claims fit with the concept of “interstate commerce” that is called for in the Federal Arbitration Act. We’ve been following how both sides have reacted to that, and tomorrow a hearing is scheduled when Kleifield will reveal his ruling on the matter.

At the last minute, however, Scientology made an interesting supplemental filing: This week, an appellate court upheld a ruling for arbitration in the Michael Jackson estate’s dispute with HBO over last year’s devastating documentary, Leaving Neverland.

Central to that dispute was the question of whether an agreement to arbitrate signed by HBO in a 1992 contract was still valid years later.

Scientology is apparently hoping that a court’s ruling that HBO will have to go to arbitration over producing a documentary portraying Michael Jackson as a pedophile decades after promising not to disparage the singer in a 1992 concert film will lend support to their contention that they can surveil, harass, and slander former members years after those members signed away their rights as Scientologists.

American justice. There’s nothing like it.

According to Monday’s ruling by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, HBO does not dispute that its 1992 contract to film a Michael Jackson concert in Bucharest included an arbitration clause for resolving any disputes, and that its terms included prohibitions against anything in the film disparaging Jackson.

The Jackson estate tried to prevent HBO from airing Leaving Neverland last year, saying that HBO had violated that 1992 contract by using footage from the concert in its documentary about Jackson’s relationship with two boys, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who claimed that they were sexually molested by the singer for years. HBO aired the documentary in March 2019 despite the lawsuit filed by Jackson’s estate, and it has called the claims in the lawsuit frivolous.

But here’s the part we figure that Scientology is most interested in and that motivated the church to make the last-minute filing and risk some blowback from the court: While the 9th Circuit recognized that HBO may have a point that the 1992 contract is not still in effect in regards to the 2019 documentary, it found that it was for the arbitrator to decide, and not the court.

That’s one of the arguments that Scientology has been making about its arbitration agreements in this and other lawsuits, that courts should not be deciding whether the claims of former members fall under the arbitration agreements, that it’s for the arbitrators to decide. This is something that came up in the November 6 hearing between Judge Kleifield and Scientology’s attorneys…

Judge Kleifield: Well, let me just stop you for a moment. So what you read, is that an express delegation to the arbitrator to determine issues of arbitrability? Is that expressed in the agreement?

William Forman: What I read is that all issues are to be delegated to the arbitrators. And when — and when a broad agreement expressly commits all disputes to arbitration that also necessarily includes disputes as to arbitrability.

We can see why Scientology believes the Michael Jackson estate ruling is on point, and you can see their filing here.

However, while that last-minute filing appears to be directed at concerns Judge Kleifield raised in the November 6 hearing, we’ve explained that Judge Kleifield vacated that hearing when he changed the subject and asked Scientology to justify its arbitration claims about former members as “commerce.”


Scientology responded by doubling down, and admitting that yes, subjecting former Scientologists to the policies of L. Ron Hubbard, including how to deal with people who turn away from the church, is Scientology’s version of interstate commerce. It was a pugnacious document and truly one of the most remarkable we’ve seen in Scientology litigation.

The plaintiffs came back with what struck us as a strong argument: That Scientology’s illegal behavior directed at its former members should not be considered legitimate “commerce.”

And this week Scientology replied in a mostly technical document, but we found one footnote particularly entertaining.

At one point in their response, attorneys for Chrissie Carnell Bixler and the other plaintiffs had raised the point that a religious services contract was a local matter anyway, and not an “interstate” transaction.

Scientology’s response is so beautiful, we feel like having it framed.

Even accepting Plaintiffs’ unfounded legal proposition, the claims implicate interstate commerce. The First Amended Complaint describes “Fair Game” as a harassment operation run by a “network [of] representatives from [Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs] . . . employed at every Scientology organization across the world.” Plaintiffs allege Defendants used the instrumentalities of interstate commerce to harass them: stealing mail, hacking e-mail, hacking Instagram account, harassing posts on Facebook, credit card fraud, harassment through Craigslist, harassment by telephone and texts, social media threats, “prescription fraud”, & interference with cellular devices.

Yes, we know that in legal terms, this is not Scientology admitting to these acts, but still, it is eye-opening to see Scientology say, “But judge, how could we be only an intrastate operation when they’re accusing us of harassing them with an international network of ratfuckers?”

Whew. This hearing tomorrow is going to be lit.


Source Code

“By the way, professional football is nowhere near as successful as college football; that is to say, people go to see college games. Well, actually I won’t go see a college game because I know most of those players are on the payroll. I was, by the way, the first boy in America to bust that story to the print, to the newspapers: professional paid football players on college teams. I didn’t get expelled for it, my fellow editor got expelled. But he didn’t really get expelled, he just simply got disgusted. And he is now one of the top sports editors of America. But the two of us found that college, the college — our own college — was paying considerable salary under the name of scholarships and bonuses and things like that, to good football players in order to make a good football team. And they were getting in more money at the stadium for every game than they were getting in through the tuition window. And this was an interesting story, we thought. So we broke it in the college paper and broke it over the Scripps-Howard newschain, which I was associate editor of the paper and my pal was also a sports reporter, as well as a student, on the paper.” — L. Ron Hubbard, December 17, 1954



Avast, Ye Mateys

“B. BEREZ: Goodbye Mr. Berez. You who used ethics most wrongly were found with a huge tin of marijuana to be the most out-ethics person aboard. B. Berez, you were the longest aboard in all the out ethics days of the old RSM. We can blow some charge on that. So goodbye Mr. Berez. I trust you will soon go up in smoke.” — The Commodore, December 17, 1968


Overheard in the FreeZone

“A thought occurred to me a long time ago while in session after reading the Factors and the Axioms of Scientology. And ever since that moment I have never felt at all ‘insignificant’ while contemplating the vastness of the physical universe. And that thought is: We are not actually ‘in’ the physical universe (unless we pretend to be so). We created it, the whole thing, from scratch. If anything, the physical universe is within US! A corollary to this idea was that one needn’t change location in the physical universe in order to visit or be in comm with another thetan. Just open a theta window and say ‘Hi’.”


Past is Prologue

2001: The St. Petersburg Times reported that Scientology has purchased an empty apartment building in Clearwater. “The Church of Scientology has purchased a vacant 13-story high-rise downtown that will house more than 600 new staff members in another step in Scientology’s unprecedented expansion in the city. The church last week closed the deal to buy the nearly 2-acre property for $5-million from a nonprofit corporation, BEF Inc., which does business as the Oaks of Clearwater.”


Random Howdy

“After Waco the political will to do anything about cults vanished. The main reason they finally did something about Warren Jeffs and the FLDS was because it was a pedo factory. America is a very religious country and it’s also a celebrity-obsessed country. When you have names like Cruise and Travolta running interference for you, you can run a long way.”



Full Court Press: What we’re watching at the Underground Bunker

Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Masterson’s demurrer denied Oct 19, arraignment delayed to Jan 6.
Jay and Jeff Spina, Medicare fraud: Jay’s sentencing delayed for ‘Fatico’ hearing on Jan 19.
Hanan and Rizza Islam and other family members, Medi-Cal fraud: Next pretrial conference set for Jan 12 in Los Angeles

Civil litigation:
Luis and Rocio Garcia v. Scientology: Oral arguments were heard on July 30 at the Eleventh Circuit
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’ Petition for writ of mandate denied Oct 22 by Cal 2nd Appellate District. Petition for review by state supreme court denied Dec 11.
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: Dec 18, re-hearing on motions to compel arbitration; Jan 29, Masterson’s request to stay discovery pending the criminal case
Matt and Kathy Feschbach tax debt: Eleventh Circuit ruled on Sept 9 that Feshbachs can’t discharge IRS debt in bankruptcy. Nov 18: Feshbachs indicated they will enter into consent judgment to pay the debt.
Brian Statler Sr v. City of Inglewood: Second amended complaint filed, trial set for Nov 9, 2021.

Concluded litigation:
Author Steve Cannane defamation trial: Trial concluded, Cannane victorious, awarded court costs.
Dennis Nobbe, Medicare fraud, PPP loan fraud: Charged July 29. Bond revoked Sep 14. Nobbe dead, Sep 14.
Jane Doe v. Scientology (in Miami): Jane Doe dismissed the lawsuit on May 15 after the Clearwater Police dropped their criminal investigation of her allegations.


SCIENTOLOGY BLACK OPS: Tom Cruise and dirty tricks

The Australian Seven News network cancelled a 10-part investigation of Scientology and its history of dirty tricks. Read the transcripts of the episodes and judge for yourself why Tom Cruise and Tommy Davis might not have wanted viewers to see this hard-hitting series by journalist Bryan Seymour.


After the success of their double-Emmy-winning, three-season A&E series ‘Scientology and the Aftermath,’ Leah Remini and Mike Rinder continue the conversation on their podcast, ‘Scientology: Fair Game.’ We’ve created a landing page where you can hear all of the episodes so far.


An episode-by-episode guide to Leah Remini’s three-season, double-Emmy winning series that changed everything for Scientology watching. Originally aired from 2016 to 2019 on the A&E network, and now on Netflix.


Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Other links: Scientology’s Ideal Orgs, from one end of the planet to the other. 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 a weekly series. How many have you read?



[ONE year ago] The Scientology spy who wants desperately to come in from the cold
[TWO years ago] Finally, Scientology spells out its crazy ideas in a video you weren’t supposed to see
[THREE years ago] Mexico officially recognizes Scientology as a religion, Miscavige claims at New Year’s event
[FOUR years ago] Scientology is totally reading your comments here — and you’re scaring them senseless
[SIX years ago] Scientology’s Clark Carr: Those letters after my name were no good and I didn’t know it
[SEVEN years ago] At OT 3, you learn you have space cooties — how do you get rid of them? Scientology exorcism!
[EIGHT years ago] Did Scientology Kill Joel Sappell’s Dog?
[NINE years ago] Scientology Infusion: Commenters of the Week!


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley (1952-2019) did not see his daughter Stephanie in his final 5,667 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 2,153 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,657 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 2,177 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,197 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,088 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,395 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,263 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 3,037 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,841 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,157 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,723 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,642 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,810 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,391 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,652 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,690 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,403 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,928 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 283 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,458 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,009 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,158 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,478 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,333 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,452 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,808 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,111 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,217 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,619 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,491 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,074 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,569 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,823 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,932 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on December 17, 2020 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, 1995-2019 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2019), 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, 15 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


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