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Scientology’s arbitration contracts are ‘unconscionable,’ say trafficking victims

The three former Sea Org members suing Scientology for labor trafficking in Tampa — Australia residents Valeska Paris and Gawain and Laura Baxter — have answered Scientology’s attempts to derail their suit with a powerful collection of legal briefs and declarations, and we have them for you to read..

The lawsuit was first filed on April 28 and alleges that Valeska and the Baxters were forced into the Sea Org as children, suffered neglect and harsh punishments as children and adults, and served as virtual prisoners aboard the ship. Valeska also alleged that she had been sexually assaulted by other Sea Org workers, and then had been punished for speaking up about it.

Scientology responded by filing motions to compel arbitration, a strategy that has largely been a successful one for the church in recent years. The church says that Valeska and the Baxters signed contracts between 2003 and 2015 that obliged them not to sue but to take their grievances to Scientology’s internal form of arbitration. The church’s filings ignored the allegations of neglect and abuse that the lawsuit made, and argued that a contract was a contract and these former Sea Org workers can’t sue. Also, Scientology is pointing out that a 2013 lawsuit filed by two former Scientologists, Luis and Rocio Garcia, was forced into arbitration in the same Tampa courtroom, and it was upheld on appeal by the federal Eleventh Circuit. The same fate should apply to the trafficking lawsuit, Scientology asserts.

Now, the plaintiffs have responded, saying that there was no valid arbitration agreement because the documents Scientology has presented are conflicting and were signed under duress; because they would unlawfully require the plaintiffs to give up their rights; because the plaintiffs would be forced into an “ecclesiastical” proceeding in a church they are no longer members of; and because the agreements are unconscionable.


And while the Garcias in their lawsuit did object on the grounds of unconscionability, they didn’t raise the other objections, so the Garcia ruling should not matter here.

As to no longer being Scientologists, the plaintiffs cite the recent Bixler decision, and acknowledge the California appeals court that found the Bixler plaintiffs had a right to leave Scientology were only looking at allegations of harm that occurred after they had left the church. But the plaintiffs assert that the ruling still should still apply here.

“The court’s reasoning applies with equal force here because Plaintiffs no longer believe in Scientology and seek to bring claims under federal statutory law that have nothing to do with their religious beliefs, ecclesiastical doctrine, or internal Scientology matters. Compelling them to participate in a Scientology proceeding now would violate their rights in the same way it did for the plaintiffs in Bixler.”

As for Scientology’s usual attempt to assert that its subsidiaries are all independent and should not be included in the lawsuit, the plaintiffs make the case that they are all subservient to David Miscavige.

Supporting the numerous responses (there are five separate Scientology institutional defendants, and they each filed motions to compel arbitration or motions to dismiss) are declarations from Valeska, the Baxters, and Mike Rinder.

These are powerful declarations about what it is like to be a Scientology slave, working around the clock for little or no pay, with your passport locked up, and with no obvious way to escape. In their motions to compel arbitration, Scientology had produced numerous agreements that the plaintiffs had signed while they were in the Sea Org, but in their declarations, Valeska and the Baxters want the court to understand what the circumstances were when they were asked to sign those documents. They were not given time to read them, or they were told not to look through them, or they didn’t understand them, and they were being abused or disciplined when they were asked to sign. It’s compelling stuff. Here are some excerpts from each.

Exhibit 1, Laura Baxter: Eventually, despite feeling that leaving the ship would be dangerous and nearly impossible, I knew that I could no longer take the life on the ship of forced hard labor and arbitrary punishment. I discussed it with Gawain, who was by that time my husband, and we came up with a plan. Sea Org members were not allowed to have children, and normally women who became pregnant were forced to have abortions. But Gawain had learned that this forced abortion policy was drawing negative attention to Scientology that the organization hoped to avoid. We decided that if I became pregnant in advance of David Miscavige’s next visit to the Freewinds, senior officers would want us to leave the ship rather than forcing me to have an abortion against my will. Despite being afraid of the very real possibilities that I would be forced to have an abortion against my will or kicked off the ship and left with no money to support me or my baby, I decided to get pregnant. As we expected, when I became pregnant, senior officers began pressuring us to terminate the pregnancy. We refused and were forced to undergo long interrogations and psychological punishment in the form of “security checks” and “ethics handlings.” During these interrogations, I was berated over and over for getting pregnant and was pressured to have an abortion. In addition to these interrogations, we were isolated from other staff on the ship and put under full-time surveillance by ship security.

Exhibit 2, Gawain Baxter: After weeks of punishments and isolation, officers informed us that we would have to leave the ship. After we were told that we would be leaving, we continued to be under full-time surveillance by ship security, who escorted us everywhere we went. We were given directions by security about what we had to complete before we could leave, including more interrogations. Eventually, they told us that we needed to go to a room to sign documents before we could leave the ship. We had to do this before we were allowed to pack our belongings and prepare for our departure and before security would return our passports, immigration documents, and identification and allow us to leave the ship. Not only did I feel we physically had no choice to do what we were told because of our security escort, I also feared that if we did not sign the documents we could be forced to stay on the ship. And I feared that they would separate us or subject us to more interrogations as punishment. In the room with the two of us was a security guard and Krister Nillsen, the officer working under the direction of Port Captain Ludwig Alpers, who gave a very rough explanation of the documents in front of us. I remember him explaining that we were agreeing to keep things confidential and that we were signing of our own accord. That was not true, but I knew that if I disagreed or argued with him, I would be sent back for more punishment, so I went along. He did not mention anything about arbitration. Even if he had used the word arbitration, I would not have known what that meant. I was not familiar with any laws or know that I potentially had legal claims for what had been done to me.

Exhibit 3, Valeska Paris: Around 2007, I was confined in the extreme heat of the engine room for about forty-eight hours. I suffered a panic attack, went numb, and was unable to move or call for help. When an engineer discovered me, he carried me to the control room where I was denied medical treatment. I was berated for overreacting and sent back to the engine room. About two weeks later, when I was again confined to the engine room as punishment and lost consciousness due to the heat and enclosed conditions, I did not seek medical care because I was afraid of being punished. I tried again to leave the ship. Upon learning that I wanted to leave, the senior officer in charge of discipline informed me that I was going to be declared a Suppressive for being “uncooperative,” and she removed me from my dorm and escorted me to a cabin monitored by a camera, where I was placed under around the clock surveillance. I was then forced to go back to work in the hot confines of the engine room and be interrogated daily for the next three months. At that point, I was so desperate to get off the ship that I contemplated suicide. Unfortunately, I was sent somewhere worse. I was sent to an RPF site in Australia to be “rehabilitated.” I was prohibited from bringing most of my belongings, and they made me pack a bag in the hallway in front of a camera to make sure I did not take more than they permitted. While packing, I was approached by a security officer and an FSSO official, who told me that I needed to come with them. I was also instructed to put on makeup. We went to a room where there was a video camera and a total of four people, including Security, an Ethics Officer, and FSSO representatives. They told me that I had to sign the documents in front of me. I was not given sufficient time to read through the documents, nor was I permitted to take the documents to review or have someone like an attorney help me understand them. And I was afraid that asking questions about the documents would lead to further punishment.

Exhibit 4, Mike Rinder: Sea Org members and scientology staff are required to sign various documents designed to protect the organization from liability. OSA has the job of ensuring every Sea Org member has signed these releases and copies are kept on file. This is considered an important function of OSA. Sea Org members and scientology staff are conditioned to sign documents presented to them without questioning or even reading them. It is understood that to question or refuse to sign will result in disciplinary action, including any or all of the following: being confined to the premises as a “security threat,” having a “guard” watch you 24 hours a day, being assigned to manual labor (“MEST work” in scientology jargon), interrogation on an E-Meter, “lower conditions” and separation from one’s spouse. There is a specific procedure for anyone seeking to leave the Sea Org, and it is particularly intensive for anyone who had access to the activities of David Miscavige. I oversaw these protocols as the head of OSA. Often the signing of these documents is recorded on video. These are carefully staged to make it appear the person has had an opportunity to change the document, is freely signing and is even happy to do so. But the threat of not being able to leave and being punished results in many of these people signing whatever is presented to them (even provably untrue statements of self-incrimination) and claiming to be happy doing so.

Here are the documents in full. First, the responses to the individual Scientology defendants.

Opposition to Flag Ship Service Organization (FSSO, which runs the Freewinds)
Opposition to Flag Service Organization (FSO, which runs the Flag Land Base)
Opposition to IASA, which runs International Association of Scientologists

Opposition to Church of Scientology International (CSI)
Opposition to Religious Technology Center (RTC, Scientology’s nominally controlling organization)

And the exhibits…

Declaration of Laura Baxter
Declaration of Gawain Baxter
Declaration of Valeska Paris
Declaration of Mike Rinder


Technology Cocktail

“What if, in the science of physics, a book by Professor Glumph came out, omitting the three laws of motion and gravity. It is assumed then that Newton’s laws are no longer valid. Because they are old. (Newton lived between 1642 and 1727.) So some young student engineer is baffled because bridges have weight and can’t work out gravity or motion! And he and his fellows begin to build without knowing these laws and there goes the whole of engineering and the culture itself! This is no fantasy. As a college student in upper math I was utterly baffled by ‘calculus.’ I couldn’t find out what it was for. Then I discovered it had been developed by Sir Isaac Newton, examined the basics and got the idea. My college text omitted all the basic explanations and even the authorship of the subject! Calculus today is really not enough used because it isn’t understood.” — L. Ron Hubbard, 1970


Now available: Bonus for our supporters


Episode 12 of the Underground Bunker podcast has been sent out to paid subscribers: You may have read our book about Scientology’s insane attempts to try and destroy journalist Paulette Cooper, but we had a delightful conversation with her about her own memoir. Meanwhile, we’ve made episodes 1 through 11 available to everyone, with such guests as Michelle ‘Emma’ Ryan, Jefferson Hawkins, Patty Moher, Geoff Levin, Pete Griffiths, Sunny Pereira, Bruce Hines, Jeffrey Augustine, and Claire Headley. Go here to get the episodes!


Source Code

“Now, you’ve got the Havingness Process established. And you say, ‘Where isn’t that wall’ or whatever it is, see, whatever the Havingness Process is. ‘Thank you. Where isn’t that wall? Thank you. Where isn’t the ceiling? Thank you. Where isn’t the floor? Thank you. What have you withheld from a home?’ And the guy goes figure, figure, figure, think, think, think, clank, clank, clank, figure, figure, figure, figure, figure, figure, figure, figure, figure, figure. ‘Well, in a past life I used to take all my money down to the pub and I never gave any to the wife. I withheld money from the home.’ And you say, ‘Thank you. Where isn’t the wall? Thank you. Where isn’t that ceiling? Thank you. Where isn’t that floor? Thank you.’ Got the idea?” — L. Ron Hubbard, September 16, 1961


Avast, Ye Mateys

“More Enormous Events never before seen or held are scheduled for the GRAND WORD CLEARING FESTIVAL! The night of the 22nd, at Sea, at 8PM the Great Radio Show WAR OF THE WORLDS will be played in HCI by LRH Personal PRO. The WORDS that caused riots in the US. These words pouring out of US Radios caused whole towns to empty! Unbelievable bone chilling realism brought direct to this upstat crew. Fantastic, never since heard! Imported at VAST expense solely for this yacht with the express permission of ORSON WELLES himself. Watch this billboard for even further stellar events!” — The Commodore, September 16, 1971


Overheard in the FreeZone

“Well, if there are a bunch of out of touch retards like yourself who are divorced from the society that you live in, aren’t able to get a large group of people together, and aren’t able to get good results visible to other people, then criticism of Scientology technology is merited. Scientology advanced tech doesn’t matter, and is out-gradient. Get 20 million people to do early processes from 1953 or 1956. Force Scientology to be the state religion. Impose it on the land like Islam. Make there be Cohesion and Unity. Then handle other case factors if you want. A group of 5,000 people (the Sea Org) isn’t saving anyone. A group of 10 million would be far better but still would be too low. Apply the Confusion Formula and figure out how to help people at lower levels.”



Past is Prologue

1998: Judge Fogel this week imposed a settlement agreement on Grady Ward, based on his agreement in a settlement conference. “Judgment shall be entered in favor of plaintiff, Religious Technology Center, in the amount of Three Million Dollars ($3,000,000.00). Pursuant to plaintiff’s complaint for nondischargeability filed December 9, 1997 and defendant’s consent thereto, said judgment shall not be dischargeable in bankruptcy and will not be affected by any bankruptcy now or in the future. Plaintiff’s motion to withdraw the reference of said complaint for nondischargeability as well as defendant’s counterclaim thereto from the Bankruptcy Court shall be granted and defendant’s counterclaim shall be dismissed with prejudice. Plaintiff shall not take any steps to execute or collect upon said judgment except as follows: Defendant shall pay to plaintiff the sum of Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000.00) forthwith upon receipt of, or if subsequent to May 12, 1998 he has received, an advance from Robert Minton with respect to a book about Scientology authored by defendant. Defendant shall pay to plaintiff the sum of Two Hundred Dollars ($200.00) per month commencing on the first day of the month following entry of said judgment and on the first day of each month thereafter. Said obligation shall continue for so long as defendant shall live but shall not survive defendant’s death or be a charge against defendant’s estate or heirs.”


Random Howdy

“Their only real motivation is to eliminate the competition. All the humanitarian shit is window dressing.”


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: Grand jury indictments include charges from an assault while in custody. Arraigned on August 29.
Jay and Jeff Spina, Medicare fraud: Jay sentenced to 9 years in prison. Jeff’s sentencing to be scheduled.

Rizza Islam, Medi-Cal fraud: Trial scheduled for October 24 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. Plaintiffs filed amended complaint on August 2.
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. Scientology petitioning US Supreme Court over appellate ruling.
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] New witness spills tea on Danny Masterson, ‘The Ranch,’ and attorney Andrew Brettler
[TWO years ago] The Top 25 People Enabling Scientology, No. 14: The Los Angeles Times
[THREE years ago] Charles Barkley becomes a slam dunk photo opportunity for Scientology
[FOUR years ago] Scientology’s surprisingly weak attempt to turn Hurricane Florence into PR gold
[FIVE years ago] Disconnected at birth — another infuriating Scientology saga
[SIX years ago] VIDEO: City council candidate exposed as Scientology spy in live public hearing
[SEVEN years ago] ‘Fundamentalist’ Scientology means chasing the ideal of Neo while turning your back on family
[EIGHT years ago] Scientology says it’s received $5.7 million from Google in advertising grants
[NINE years ago] TOM CRUISE IN CLEARWATER: Scientology Gathering Big Names For Product Launch
[ELEVEN years ago] Scientology Dodges a Bullet in Australia: Church Told to Pay Workers, Says ‘We’ll Get Right On That’


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 2,789 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,294 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 2,844 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,834 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,725 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 5,030 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,900 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 2,005 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,478 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,794 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,360 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,279 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,447 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 4,027 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,289 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,325 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 3,040 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,605 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 920 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 2,095 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,646 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,777 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 4,115 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,970 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 4,089 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,445 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,748 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,854 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,252 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 3,128 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,711 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 3,206 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,460 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,569 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on September 16, 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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