Is Church of Scientology Best Judge Of Whether Church Of Scientology Forced Teen To Marry Her Rapist?

What could go wrong?

Wonkette/April 17, 2024

By Robyn Pennacchia

Content Note: Sexual assault

In 1991, the Church of Scientology was made aware of the fact that a 16-year-old girl was being regularly sexually abused by a 26-year-old Sea Org member. Naturally, instead of reporting this to police, the CoS told the girl that she could either marry her rapist or be punished by being sentenced to the Rehabilitation Project Force camp, where she would, for one to 10 years, be “subjected to isolation, food deprivation, long hours of hard manual labor, and other cruel and unusual punishments.”

She chose to marry him.

This girl, now a woman referred to only as Jane Doe, has since filed a lawsuit with eight separate causes of action against the Church of Scientology, The Religious Technology Center, Scientology church leader David Miscavige, Bridge Publications and her abuser/ex-husband, Gavin Potter, including sexual assault; sexual battery; negligence, related to the Church’s failure to do anything about the well-known issue of higher-ups in the Sea Org preying on minors in general and about Potter in particular, and their failure to inform Doe or other minors of this risk; along with intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud and being a public nuisance.

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It’s hard to imagine that she would not have a case. However, when Jane Doe was 27 and was just trying to get her divorce finalized (she initially left Potter and the Church at the age of 23), the Church of Scientology required her to sign a contract saying that she agreed to have “any dispute, claim or controversy” between her and anyone in the Church handled “solely and exclusively through Scientology’s internal ethics, justice and binding religious arbitration procedures.” The Church, in response to the lawsuit, filed a motion to force Jane Doe — who is no longer a Scientologist — to bring her case before the Church instead of a secular court. Gee, I wonder how that would turn out?

You may be thinking “Boy, that is fucked up, how can that possibly be a thing?” It definitely used to be a thing, but it might not be anymore, thanks to the the 2022 Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, which nullified pre-dispute arbitration clauses related to sexual assault or sexual harassment.

On Tuesday morning, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Broadbelt issued a tentative ruling in favor of Jane Doe, claiming that the agreement she was forced to sign was "so one-sided as to shock the conscience." His reasoning, mostly, was that there was not anything significantly binding on the Church of Scientology, only on Jane Doe, which rendered the agreement moot.

Alas, later that afternoon, before the judge could make his ruling final, good ol’ David Miscavige filed a motion demanding that Judge Broadbelt step down, for reasons. Though Jane Doe’s lawyers argued that “the timing was highly suspicious,” Judge Broadbelt complied, believing the law required him to do so. (EDIT — I do not have the slightest idea why this would be. This is not what happened on a rerun of Suits I watched recently!)

Is Miscavige just gonna keep judge-shopping until he finds one who thinks it is entirely reasonable for the Church of Scientology to be the arbiter of a case in which a woman accuses the Church of Scientology of knowingly facilitating child molestation and sexual assault?

The Jane Doe in this case, by the way, was actually one of the plaintiffs in the case against Danny Masterson, as well as in another case against Masterson and the Church of Scientology for sexual harassment, which the CoS also initially tried to have moved to religious arbitration. While a judge sided with them initially, it was eventually overturned on the grounds that Jane Doe had a First Amendment right to leave that religion.

I am perhaps prejudiced here in that I find it absolutely horrifying that religious arbitration would even be a thing to begin with, especially when one of the people it concerns is not even a member of the Church meant to do the arbitrating. What church on earth is going to rule against itself? What possible chance is there that the Church of Scientology is really going to find David Miscavige and the Church of Scientology responsible for forcing a 16-year-old girl to marry her rapist?

I’m going to say about zero to zero.

Let us hope that the Church of Scientology is unable to find a judge who will side with them on this, because I feel like it’s probably a bad precedent to say that churches can “handle” their own issues when it comes to forcing minors to marry the older authority figures who raped them.

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