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


Scientology: SCOTUS ruling says judge can’t rule on duress in trafficking lawsuit

[Justice Antonin Scalia (1936-2016) and Judge Thomas Barber]

Tampa federal Judge Thomas Barber asked both sides in a labor trafficking lawsuit to file 10-page answers to his question about contracts signed under duress, and they came in yesterday on deadline.

Scientology’s attorneys (representing several church subsidiaries) argue that a 2006 US Supreme Court ruling written by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Buckeye Check Cashing, Inc. v. Cardegna, should prevent Judge Barber from ruling on the issue of whether three former Sea Org workers agreed to arbitration rules under pressure.

The three former workers — Valeska Paris, and Gawain and Laura Baxter — are all residents of Australia, but they served aboard Scientology’s cruise ship the Freewinds in the Caribbean. They filed their lawsuit in April last year, alleging that they had been subjected to horrific abuse as children and adults, and that their years on the ship amounted to labor trafficking.

Scientology countered that they had signed employment contracts as adults which contained arbitration clauses, obliging them not to sue in court but to seek redress through Scientology’s own “religious arbitration.” (These agreements are not related to the Sea Org’s notorious “billion-year contract.”)

Valeska and the Baxters argued that they had been forced to sign the contracts and that they had not been allowed to read them. The agreements were signed under duress, in other words, and should not be considered valid.


Judge Barber pointed to the 2006 Scalia ruling in Buckeye which seems to suggest that if the contracts as a whole are being questioned, it should be a matter for arbitrators, not the court.

Scientology seized on this in its 10-page memo, pointing out that in their affidavits, Valeska and the Baxters were complaining about the contracts in general, and not the arbitration clauses specifically.

Defendants dispute all allegations of duress as pure fabrication. But none of the contracts at issue are freestanding arbitration agreements; all are general contracts covering Plaintiffs’ relations to Defendants that contain within them arbitration provisions. The Departure Agreements for the Baxters contain eight sections, of which only one relates to arbitration. Valeska Paris’ Departure Agreements contain 20 and 19 sections respectively, of which only part of one concerns arbitration. The Departure Agreements concern issues of confidentiality, non-disparagement, compensation, and release of claims. Yet Plaintiffs do not allege that Defendants employed duress in connection with any arbitration provision in particular, but with respect to the Departure Agreements as a whole and irrespective of their content… In fact, Plaintiffs’ declarations regarding their execution of the Departure Agreements make no mention of duress exercised as to the arbitration provision in particular. For instance, Gawain Baxter declares, “I understood that if I did not sign the documents [identified as the Departure Agreements], we would have been prevented from leaving the ship….” Laura Baxter and Valeska Paris made similar statements about signing their Departure Agreements: they claim they signed the Agreements as a whole under duress, without alleging any duress in connection with obtaining consent to the arbitration provision in particular.

Scientology repeatedly makes this argument, apparently confident that if they can convince Judge Barber that Valeska and the Baxters did not single out the arbitration clauses as the thing they were under duress to sign, then the Scalia ruling will apply and Judge Barber won’t be able to rule on the duress issue. He will have no choice, Scientology says, but to grant the arbitration motions and let the arbitrators (all Scientologists in good standing) decide whether the contracts were signed under duress.

The plaintiffs argue, in their own 10-page memo, that it’s not as simple as Scientology is making it out to be, and that the Scalia ruling only applies once other conditions are met, and in this case, those conditions are not met at all.

Here, because duress “involves ‘unfair dealing at the contract formation stage,’” it is an issue of contract formation that the Court must decide….In short, the Court must decide the duress issue to determine whether the parties ever formed an agreement to arbitrate.

And even if the contracts are valid, the plaintiffs are actually only questioning the validity of the arbitration clauses, their attorneys argue.

Plaintiffs’ sole reason for raising duress is to defeat the motion to compel, so they seek only a ruling that the arbitration provisions were the product of duress; they do not ask the Court to opine on the validity of the rest of the contract. Plaintiffs’ duress challenge is thus still specific to arbitration even though it requires examining the circumstances under which the entire contract was formed.

Look, this is complex, difficult stuff, and we do not envy Judge Barber having to go through these arguments. Each side will now be asked to write short replies in response to these memos, and then Judge Barber will have to make his decision: Does he have the right to rule that these contracts were signed under duress, or will he have to let the arbitrators judge that?

It seems insane, of course, that a federal court would give up its ability to judge whether workers were treated as slaves in favor of a panel of Scientologists in good standing which will never find against the church.

But that’s what Judge Barber will be asked to consider.


Technology Cocktail


“I found out that vision increased only when you diminutivized the subjects you were looking at. In other words, the more powerful the glasses become, the smaller they make the objects you look at appear. Think that over for a moment in terms of confrontingness and it will amuse you. Of course, the world isn’t quite as formidable if it gets that small.” — L. Ron Hubbard, 1957



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 as Danny faces a potential sentence of 45 years to life in prison. NOW WITH TRIAL INDEX.


THE PODCAST: How many have you heard?

[1] Marc Headley [2] Claire Headley [3] Jeffrey Augustine [4] Bruce Hines [5] Sunny Pereira [6] Pete Griffiths [7] Geoff Levin [8] Patty Moher [9] Marc Headley [10] Jefferson Hawkins [11] Michelle ‘Emma’ Ryan [12] Paulette Cooper [13] Jesse Prince [14] Mark Bunker [15] Jon Atack [16] Mirriam Francis [17] Bruce Hines on MSH

— SPECIAL: The best TV show on Scientology you never got to see

[1] Phil Jones [2] Derek Bloch [3] Carol Nyburg [4] Katrina Reyes [5] Jamie DeWolf

— The first Danny Masterson trial and beyond

[18] Trial special with Chris Shelton [19] Trial week one [20] Marc Headley on the spy in the hallway [21] Trial week two [22] Trial week three [23] Trial week four [24] Leah Remini on LAPD Corruption [25] Mike Rinder 2022 Thanksgiving Special [26] Jane Doe 4 (Tricia Vessey), Part One [27] Jane Doe 4 (Tricia Vessey), Part Two [28] Claire Headley on the trial [29] Tory Christman [30] Bruce Hines on spying [31] Karen de la Carriere [32] Ron Miscavige on Shelly Miscavige [33] Karen de la Carriere on the L’s [34] Mark Bunker on Miscavige hiding [35] Mark Plummer [36] Mark Ebner [37] Karen Pressley



Source Code

“A man decides to smoke. He therefore becomes an identity known as a smoker. You’ve seen them in the ads. They look very placid. If they smoke cigarettes, they chase pretty girls. And if they smoke pipes they chase fireplaces. You know? And we’ve seen this. Whatever this identity was, he’s assumed this identity and then he gets married and his wife objects to his being a smoker; so now he has an opposition known as a wife. So he assumes a new identity which is ‘a dominating husband’ in order to handle the identity ‘wife.’ But now we have a new identity show up. We have something called the Ladies’ Aide Society, and his wife has joined that. And their combined forces are going to cause him to stop smoking. So now he has to become a wealthy self-determined individual. You see that? And the Ladies’ Aide Societies then get a bunch of quacks — members of the AMA — together and they say that if you smoke it produces cancer. They don’t know what produces cancer but they say that smoking does. They, you see that’s the ghost-shirt messianic thing. They have no solution to it, they can’t cure it so they pick on something and they say, ‘Well, everybody spits in the water so that’s what causes typhoid fever.’ They don’t know. You see? So now he has a counter-identity called the American Medical Association. You see? And that’s an identity. So, this fellow now in desperation to handle this situation becomes a political genius, you see. Because you have to be a political genius these days to handle the AMA. That’s the only place where they operate effectively. Don’t operate effectively in the operating room anymore, only in Congress. So here he is now a genius, you see, a political genius. Now, the political genius runs into an opposition party. So, you have an opposition party — the Democrats. You see, that’s the next oppterm. And that’s about the high tide of the whole thing.” — L. Ron Hubbard, February 28, 1963


Avast, Ye Mateys

“The Sea Org flotilla is close to a fleet now with six vessels all (except Flag) in excellent operating condition. Only Apollo is slightly unready, needing completions on safety work and Lloyds Survey, and a bit below standard in appearance and training. Her divisional officers all say they need more men but as other vessels improved on less crew than over. I think the opinion should be revised.” — The Commodore, February 28, 1969


Overheard in the FreeZone

“Personally speaking I have no doubt whatsoever on the validity and precision of Original LRH Precepts and the practical reality of such states as Clear, Theta Clear, Cleared Theta Clear, Native State and OT per definition, having seen them demonstrated in session and practical life by people I have known and worked with.”



Past is Prologue

1996: Internet World ran another article about a.r.s, it was reported this week. “Once again, I-world is covering the ‘Scientology vs. the Net’ debate, in this issue with a 3-page article entitled ‘Church and Statutes.’ The article examines the legal weapons the Scns have used against critics, including copyright infringement and ‘trade secret’ laws. It then proceeds to explain why they have lost, and will continue to lose in court. The article is by Mike Godwin of the EFF.”


Random Howdy

“Who would have thunk back in the 90s that Tom Cruise and ‘batshit crazy’ would become synonymous thanks to a bunch of juvenile delinquents calling themselves ‘Anonymous.’ Thank Xenu I lived long enough to see it.”


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

Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Mistrial declared November 30. Retrial scheduled, jury selection begins March 29. Next pretrial hearing: Feb 16.
‘Lafayette Ronald Hubbard’ (a/k/a Justin Craig), aggravated assault, plus drug charges: Grand jury indictments include charges from an assault while in custody. Next pretrial hearing Feb 13.
Rizza Islam, Medi-Cal fraud: Trial scheduled for March 1 in Los Angeles
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud: Next status conference Feb 13.

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. Hearing November 17 to argue the arbitration motions, awaiting ruling.
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’ Selection of arbitrators underway. Next court hearing: March 15, 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 at least through February 7.
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.



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] And now a word from Scientology’s very own church ladies — Valley chapter
[TWO years ago] Scientology social media: Things really couldn’t be better in Miscavigeland
[THREE years ago] What do billion-year-contracted Scientology Sea Org workers do all day?
[FOUR years ago] Scientology’s founder L. Ron Hubbard on the ‘God trick,’ Christ implants, and Muslims
[FIVE years ago] Scientologist ‘Dapper CEO’ Vick Tipnes wins victory against discrimination lawsuit in Tampa
[SIX years ago] The most Scientology-involved movie ever made? Here comes Nancy’s baby!
[SEVEN years ago] Erika Christensen goes psychbuster as we launch Rod Keller’s Scientology Social Media Review!
[EIGHT years ago] LEAK: Scientology celebrities are stepping up their involvement behind the scenes
[NINE years ago] AOLA’s grand re-opening — a look at the last time Scientology cut the ribbon at Big Blue!
[TEN years ago] Blogging Dianetics, Part 9: Hubbard and Perversion!
[ELEVEN years ago] How Scientology Drives Your Local Librarian Nuts


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 2,954 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,459 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 3,009 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,999 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,890 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 5,194 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 3,065 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 2,170 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,647 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,959 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,525 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,444 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,612 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 4,193 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,454 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,491 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 3,206 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,770 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 1,085 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 2,260 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,811 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,942 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 4,280 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 9,135 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 4,254 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,610 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,913 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 3,019 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,417 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 3,293 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,876 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 3,371 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,625 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,734 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on February 28, 2023 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


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email