Lawsuit Accuses Church of Scientology and Its Leader David Miscavige of Child Abuse, Human Trafficking, and Forced Labor

The 380,000 square-foot Flag building is Scientology’s international spiritual headquarters in downtown Clearwater. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2011)]
A team of eight victims’ rights attorneys on Tuesday filed the first of what they promise will be a series of lawsuits against the Church of Scientology and its leader, David Miscavige, on behalf of defectors who say they suffered a range of exploitation from child abuse, human trafficking and forced labor to revenge tactics related to the church’s Fair Game policy.

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of an unnamed Jane Doe born in 1979, outlines her lifetime of alleged suffering in Scientology where she was subjected as a child at the Clearwater headquarters to abuse inherent to auditing, Scientology’s spiritual counseling that can more resemble interrogation. It states she joined the church’s clergy-like Sea Org in California at 15, where people worked 100 hours a week for $46. She was at times held against her will. When she officially left Scientology in 2017, Doe was followed by private investigators and terrorized by the church as it published “a hate website” falsely stating she was an alcoholic dismissed from the sect for promiscuity, according to the complaint.

“This isn’t going to be the last of the lawsuits being filed,” Philadelphia-based attorney Brian Kent told the Tampa Bay Times, declining to say how many more are forthcoming. “We’ve seen what can happen when there is truth exposed in terms of child abuse within organizations. You’ve seen it with the Catholic Church, you’re seeing it with the Southern Baptist Convention now. We’re hoping for meaningful change.”

The legal team is made up of lawyers from Laffey, Bucci & Kent LLP and Soloff & Zervanos PC of Philadelphia; Thompson Law Offices in California; and Child USA, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit dedicated to preventing child abuse. Scientology spokespeople Ben Shaw and Karin Pouw did not respond to an email or phone calls for comment.

Kent said Doe’s name was withheld “to protect her from additional public harassment” by the church.

The lawsuit mirrors abuse defectors have alleged over the decades since science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard founded the church in 1953. Miscavige took over as leader following Hubbard’s death in 1986.

“The Church of Scientology presents a façade to the outside world to disguise what in reality is nothing more than a cult built on mind control and destruction of the independence and self-control of those drawn into its sphere,” the lawsuit states. “Members are isolated from the outside world, their access to information is heavily monitored and controlled, and they are subject to physical, verbal, psychological, emotional and/or sexual abuse and/or assault.”

The FBI investigated Scientology for human trafficking in 2009 and 2010 but did not file charges.

Doe was born into a Scientology family and lived at the church’s international spiritual headquarters in Clearwater from ages 6 to 12 as a member of the Cadet Org, the organization’s clergy for children. There she endured “military like conditions” where she worked and cleaned from 8 a.m. to midnight without proper schooling, according to the complaint.

At the age of 10, the complaint states Doe was subjected to Bullbaiting, a practice used to teach people how to not react to any insult, threat or inappropriate comment. The technique is taught to members learning how to conduct auditing, Scientology’s spiritual counseling where subjects are interrogated in order to clear their reactive mind, which the church says holds trauma and pain from past lives.

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SOURCE: Tampa Bay Times, Tracey McManus