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‘Arbitration,’ again: Here’s Scientology motion to derail new labor trafficking lawsuit

Last week, we reported that Scientology had tipped its hand that, once again, it would be trying to derail a lawsuit filed by former Scientologists with its “religious arbitration” strategy.

And now, we have the filings that the church put into the court record yesterday, multiple motions to compel arbitration and lengthy declarations intended to stop a new labor trafficking lawsuit before it really gets going.

Valeska Paris and two other Australian former Sea Org workers, Gawain and Laura Baxter, filed their lawsuit on April 28, alleging that they had been taken into Scientology’s paramilitary Sea Org as children, and then had endured neglect and abuse as they served on Scientology’s private cruise ship, the Freewinds.

Valeska also alleged that she was sexually abused by other Sea Org employees, and was punished when she dared to come forward. The lawsuit alleges that Valeska and the Baxters were victimized by a conspiracy of labor trafficking by the church.


Predictably, Scientology avoids any of the specific allegations of abuse, or of the plaintiffs working as children, and instead focuses on one issue over any other: All three plaintiffs had signed binding contracts as adult Sea Org workers that obliged them to take any grievance to Scientology’s own internal justice system, and not to a court of law.

The Flag Ship Service Organization (FSSO), the Scientology entity that operates the Freewinds and one of six defendants named in the lawsuit, says it found contracts signed by Gawain Baxter (2003), his wife Laura Baxter (2004), and Valeska Paris (2003) that all contained the binding arbitration language.

And almost right away, the motion points to the 2013 lawsuit filed by Luis and Rocio Garcia in the very same Tampa courtroom, which was forced into arbitration. But in this case, FSSO says, the reason for forcing the plaintiffs into arbitration is even more compelling than in the Garcia lawsuit.

The Garcias, they point out, were public parishioners, not employees, who had sued over what they claimed were fraudulent methods of convincing them to make large donations. But Valeska and the Baxters, FSSO says, were members of Scientology’s highest ecclesiastical order, the Sea Org, and so they were even more dedicated to Scientology’s internal justice rules (emphasis in the original)…

While Garcia is sufficient to enforce the agreements to arbitrate, additional facts discussed herein require the conclusion that this case must be arbitrated. In Garcia, the plaintiffs were lay parishioners and brought claims for refunds of donations. Here, however, Plaintiffs were members of Scientology’s religious order and their claims concern the circumstances of their service to the Church.

In 2003 and 2004, FSSO says, the Baxters signed copies of a “Religious Services Enrollment Application, Agreement and General Release” that contained the following language…

My freely given consent to be bound exclusively by the discipline, faith, internal organization, and ecclesiastical rule, custom, and law of the Scientology religion in all matters relating to Scientology Religious Services, in all my dealings of any nature with the Church, and in all my dealings of any nature with any other Scientology church or organization which espouses, presents, propagates or practices the Scientology religion means that I am forever abandoning, surrendering, waiving, and relinquishing my right to sue, or otherwise seek legal recourse with respect to any dispute, claim or controversy against the Church…

The agreement also has them promising to take disputes to Scientology’s own internal justice…

…will pursue resolution of that dispute, claim or controversy solely and exclusively through Scientology’s internal Ethics, Justice and binding religious arbitration procedures…

The Baxters signed similar agreements, FSSO says, when they left the Sea Org. And even after leaving the Sea Org, the Baxters also signed similar contracts for services as public Scientologists in 2015.

FSSO claims that Valeska signed the contracts with the arbitration clause in 2003 and again when she left the Sea Org in 2007, and then again as a public Scientologist in 2009, when she was 30. (This mention of her age, we assume, is to counter her allegations about being mistreated as a child in the complaint. If she was so abused as a child, why would she be signing agreements with the church as a 30 year old, the church appears to be implying.)

The ensuing legal argument, citing the Federal Arbitration Act, is very familiar to us from the other lawsuits by former Scientologists that we’ve seen derailed by this legal strategy.

And the church anticipates that the plaintiffs will argue that Scientology’s arbitration rules — which require, for example, that the proceeding includes a panel of three arbitrators who must be members of the church in good standing — are inherently unfair. Or, in legal terms, “procedurally and substantively unconscionable.”

Not only was that found not to be the case by a previous judge in this very courtroom in the Garcia lawsuit, but that decision was upheld by the Eleventh Circuit, which was not swayed by arguments of unconscionability.


In Garcia, former Church parishioners sought refunds of donations and payments they had made to FSO and FSSO. The Eleventh Circuit held that the same arbitration agreements at issue are not unconscionable and affirmed the Middle District of Florida’s orders (1) compelling Scientology religious arbitration and (2) denying a motion to vacate the resulting arbitration award….The Court rejected the argument that the arbitration agreements were procedurally unconscionable and held that the Garcia agreements — identical to the arbitration provisions in Plaintiffs’ Enrollment Agreements in this case — were “sufficiently definite,” to give the plaintiffs “some idea of the matters to be arbitrated and to provide some procedure to effect arbitration.”

Garcia also rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that having “Scientologists in good standing” serve as arbitrators was substantively unconscionable. The Eleventh Circuit held that “the district court correctly ruled that the First Amendment prevented it from entertaining the argument that Scientology doctrine rendered the arbitration agreements substantively unconscionable.” To do so would have required the district court to decide whether the Garcias or the Church “more correctly perceived the commands of the [Scientology religion],” which is an exercise the First Amendment prohibits courts from engaging in.

In other words, even if Scientology’s arbitration setup is wildly unfair, the court is not in a position to make that judgment because doing so would violate Scientology’s “religious rights.”

And for good measure, Scientology wants it known that the Freewinds should not be called a “cruise ship.” We have called it that, but we’ve also referred to is as a “floating cathedral,” and apparently Scientology prefers something more along those lines…

Finally, the Freewinds is not a “cruise ship,” as Plaintiffs allege, open to believers and non-believers; it is a floating church and only members in the Sea Org may serve as its crew. Parishioners come from all over the world to participate in Scientology services on the Freewinds. The Freewinds also carries out a charitable and humanitarian mission throughout the Caribbean. Plaintiffs’ service in operating the Freewinds directly assisted and advanced the Scientology ministry to parishioners and the proselytization of Scientology.

In a separate motion to compel arbitration filed by the Flag Service Organization (FSO) the entity that runs Scientology’s “Flag Land Base” in Clearwater, Florida, Scientology’s attorneys also allege that the statute the plaintiffs are suing under, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), was revised by Congress in 2003, and it precludes the plaintiffs from seeking damages for any allegations dated before 2003. (In other words, none of the allegations that occurred when the plaintiffs were children.) But all of the post-2003 claims should also be tossed out, FSO says, because all of these allegations took place on the Freewinds when it was not in US waters and therefore is not subject to the TVPRA.

The FSO also says that the trafficking statute is inappropriate because the plaintiffs all left the Sea Org voluntarily and their labor was never forced, and the motion also claims that Valeska’s claims are all too old because she has been out of Scientology and speaking publicly of her abuses for more than ten years, which is beyond the statute of limitations.

For good measure, FSO submitted copies of articles featuring Valeska speaking out about her horrific treatment on the ship, including the piece we wrote for the Village Voice in 2011.

As of this morning, there was still no word about how David Miscavige was going to respond to the lawsuit. We assume that he’s going to have an attorney file a “special appearance” and object to being named a defendant. He’s the only one of the six defendants who has not yet been served the lawsuit, according to court records. Besides FSO and FSSO, the other three defendants are the Religious Technology Center (RTC), Church of Scientology International (CSI), and the IAS Administration (IASA).

CSI filed its own motion to dismiss yesterday, saying that it is a California corporation and does not operate the Freewinds, where the allegations took place. IASA similarly filed a motion to dismiss saying that it is a Delaware corporation and should not be included in the Florida lawsuit. And RTC also claims that it is a California corporation and should not be included. (Scientology always pulls this alphabet soup defense when it suits them.)

Valeska and the Baxters have a small army of skilled lawyers on their side, and we are very much looking forward to seeing how they respond to this salvo from Scientology.

Here are the motions from FSO and FSSO:

FSSO Motion to Compel Arbitration

FSO Motion to Compel Arbitration



Mike Rinder’s memoir coming in September

One of the best reporting experiences we had at the Village Voice was flying down to Florida in 2012 to interview Mike Rinder. He had participated in the 2009 project “The Truth Rundown” at the Tampa Bay Times, but he hadn’t really given a lengthy interview about his own past and experience in Scientology. So we made sure to bring along a small camera and interviewed him and produced some short videos for the Voice.

We knew we were only scratching the surface though. Now, Mike has written his own memoir, and it’s coming out from a major publisher in September. We are especially interested in learning more about his years running Scientology’s secret police, the Office of Special Affairs.

David Miscavige cannot be happy about this.



Now available: Bonus for our supporters

Episode 3 of the Underground Bunker podcast has been sent out to paid subscribers, and it’s a conversation about the Scientology litigation we’re keeping a close eye on. Our LA correspondent Jeffrey Augustine helps us keep track of what’s going on in court right now. Meanwhile, we’ve made episodes 1 and 2 available to everyone, with Claire Headley exposing Tom Cruise, and Marc Headley on what it must be like for David Miscavige living in Clearwater, Florida. Go here to get the episodes!



Source Code

“Faith is a very fascinating subject. Faith can be artificially installed. You can take a person as a clinical experiment, hypnotize him and install the Great God Motaw. You tell him that the Great God Motaw is now taking care of his life, safeguarding him, looking after his concerns, will see that the future is all arranged for him, will see that all goes well and that everybody loves him, and will, beyond everything else, give him absolutely correct data every time he asks for it. The Great God Motaw, installed in such a circuit, more or less takes the whole computer, moves it over, and now he has the Great God Motaw sitting there. You can even install it so that the Great God Motaw has sonic, which is strictly hallucination.” — L. Ron Hubbard, July 13, 1950


Avast, Ye Mateys

“The Supreme Test of a thetan is to make things go right. I want every divisional officer to spot those on the ship who pass this test.” — The Commodore, July 13, 1969


Overheard in the FreeZone

“You don’t turn someone who is seeking to rehabilitate himself to the authorities. Otherwise, there is no point in being a church, don’t you think? Involving HCO, OSA, etc, that’s perfectly OK and, in fact, expected for the protection of the group and to really get to the bottom of the situation. But the whole idea besides protecting the group first is to rehabilitate. I don’t see how the ‘authorities’ are going to rehabilitate anybody. Throwing somebody in jail and locking the door hasn’t rehabilitated anybody as far as I know. Do you know of anybody who did? There are ways to deal with any situation with the correct Ethics tools and to take full responsibility for scene (with every dynamic involved) without playing the cop. We are ministers, not police officers. We are a Church, not a police enforcement agency.”


Past is Prologue

1996: In the wake of Time Magazine’s court victory over Scientology, Richard Behar, author of the article that sparked the lawsuit, was invited to the CNN studios to discuss the case. “I stated that the loss of the Time suit was a resounding defeat for Scientology, and that we told the truth about them in 1991 and we suffered the consequences. We published the story even though we knew that it might lead to years of expensive litigation and harassment. I stated that we are living in an age where media giants run like cowards at the first sight of a group like the Church of Scientology or a tobacco company. But not Time inc., and every journalist can be thankful for that. I went on to mention that Scientology s own doctrine states that the purpose of a suit is to harass and not to win, and that in this way they chilled the media from covering them closely. I mentioned that I have filed a counterclaim against the Church which is still pending, in which I charge that I was tailed and harassed by private eyes and my credit report was illegally obtained, and that even that my office telephone records were nefariously secured. I mentioned that I was deposed for roughly 30 days. Through an agent, I made inquiries to a number of major book houses to see if anyone would be interested in a book on Scientology. Not one house wanted to touch it. The interview was at 5:30 and three hours later CNN contacted our attorney, Floyd Abrams, the country’s premier first amendment expert. They were panicked because the Church had pressured them and they were worried about what I had said in my interview, and they discussed the details of the interview with Floyd. He explained to them that they had nothing to worry about: that the information that I had given them was either in the article itself which had just been exonerated by the judge or in my counterclaim, which was part of the public record. Floyd suggested that they run my comments along with Scientology s denial but they cowardly chose to spike my interview entirely.”



Random Howdy

“Scientologists believe that the Narconon treatment can cure you of alcoholism and once completed you can drink in safety again. In fact from what I’ve read they sometimes make you drink before you leave to prove this.”


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

Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Trial scheduled for October 11.
‘Lafayette Ronald Hubbard’ (a/k/a Justin Craig), aggravated assault, plus drug charges: Last hearing was on January 18, referred to grand jury. Additional charges also referred to grand jury after January 5 assault while in jail.
Jay and Jeff Spina, Medicare fraud: Jay sentenced to 9 years in prison. Jeff’s sentencing to be scheduled.
Rizza Islam and other family members, Medi-Cal fraud: Readiness hearing scheduled for August 22 in Los Angeles
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud: Next pretrial conference set for September 19.
Yanti Mike Greene, Scientology private eye accused of contempt of court: Found guilty of criminal and civil contempt.

Civil litigation:
Baxter, Baxter, and Paris v. Scientology, alleging labor trafficking: Complaint filed April 28 in Tampa federal court, Scientology moving to compel arbitration.
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’ Selection of arbitrators underway. Next court hearing: February 2, 2023.
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: Appellate court removes requirement of arbitration on January 19, case remanded back to Superior Court. Stay in place, next status hearing October 25.
Brian Statler Sr v. City of Inglewood: Third amended complaint filed, trial set for December 6.
Author Steve Cannane defamation trial: New trial ordered after appeals court overturned prior ruling.
Chiropractors Steve Peyroux and Brent Detelich, stem cell fraud: Lawsuit filed by the FTC and state of Georgia in August, now in discovery phase.



We first broke the news of the LAPD’s investigation of Scientology celebrity Danny Masterson on rape allegations in 2017, and we’ve been covering the story every step of the way since then. At this page we’ve collected our most important links, including our four days in Los Angeles covering the preliminary hearing and its ruling, which has Danny facing trial and the potential sentence of 45 years to life in prison.


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 BLACK OPS: Tom Cruise and dirty tricks. 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] Scientology’s response in Danny Masterson case appeal: ‘I changed my mind’ is not a defense
[TWO years ago] Kelly Preston dies; Lisa Marie Presley loses son to suicide; Scientology remains useless
[THREE years ago] Scientology’s targeting of children is only getting more blatant as the church struggles
[FOUR years ago] Scientology scrambles to keep Miscavige out of forced-abortion trial
[FIVE years ago] Almost 12 years ago, Shelly Miscavige vanished. Here’s why we keep asking about her.
[SIX years ago] Hey, thetan: Scientology has a few questions for you
[SEVEN years ago] Hey, Star magazine, why is Tom Cruise afraid of Aussie journo Bryan Seymour?
[EIGHT years ago] Sunday Funnies: Scientology lets slip the reason it still produces L. Ron Hubbard’s bad fiction
[NINE years ago] Leaving Scientology: Jon Atack Navigates the Labyrinth of Paranoia
[TEN years ago] Scientology Gets a Smooch from the L.A. Times
[ELEVEN years ago] Scientology’s Spy Program: Anatomy of a Covert Operation


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 2,724 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,229 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 2,779 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,769 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,660 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,965 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,835 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 3,609 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 1,940 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,413 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,729 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,295 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,214 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,382 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,962 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,224 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,260 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,975 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,500 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 855 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 2,030 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,581 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,730 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 4,050 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,905 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 4,024 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,380 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,683 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,789 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,187 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 3,063 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,646 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 3,141 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,395 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,504 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on July 13, 2022 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, 1995-2021 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2021), 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


Tony Ortega at The Daily Beast


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