A former Scientologist filed a lawsuit alleging child abuse, kidnapping, false imprisonment, human trafficking, forced child labor, and retaliation against the Church of Scientology. The lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court is a likely the first of many to be filed against the church by former Scientologists.
According to the lawsuit, Jane Doe was born into Scientology in 1979. From her time of birth until her escape from the church, the complaint alleges that Doe was abused, forced to work, kidnapped, locked in a “hole,” and paid little to no money for work.
As a child, Doe attended “Cadet Org,” which is a subdivision of the church for the most dedicated members. According to the complaint, children live in “military-like” conditions with strict routines. From 8 am-midnight children cleaned, worked, and attended school.
Additionally, the children had limited to no access to their parents. School for the children amounted to learning about Scientology practices rather than required education by law. By the time Doe entered public school at age 8, she had alleged that she was two years behind her peers.
When Doe turned 15 years old, the lawsuit alleges that the church lured her to Los Angeles, California with the promise of employment and a better life. When she arrived in California, Doe says she was forced to work from morning until late at night and given no days off. The church lured her into the Sea Org and forced her to sign a “billion-year” contract and agree to work for little to no pay.
During her time in the Sea Org, Doe became the personal assistant of David Miscavige, the leader of the church. Through her position, she learned intimate details about his marriage with Shelly Miscavige. Doe and Shelly developed a friendship which ultimately led to some of the most disturbing allegations in the lawsuit.
According to Doe, David Miscavige became hostile and verbally abusive toward his wife in 2005. Because of Doe’s connection to Shelly, the church placed her into a “Hole.” The hole is a set of trailers at the Gold Base headquarters of Scientology.
While in the “Hole,” the church restricted her access to the internet, cell phones, and confiscated her passport. Doe could not come and go as she pleased. Guards at the front gates prevented her from leaving the property.
After three months in the hole, the church sent her to work on filming promotional videos. During her work, she met actors that not affiliated with the church. Through these relationships, she was able to flee the church in 2016.
Before she escaped the church, she requested to leave the organization multiple times. All requests made to leave were denied, and Doe says the church told her that leaving would cause her to get cancer and die.
Eventually, she escaped by climbing into the trunk of a car of an actor she met through her job. When she left the church, she shared her story with Leah Remini and the A&E network.After her episode aired on “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath,” Doe says the church began stalking and harassing her. Evidence provided in the complaint referenced multiple websites owned by the church that contained harmful and untrue articles about Doe.
The suit requests punitive damages for trauma, emotional distress, and fear associated with her time in the church. Additionally, the lawsuit seeks payment of wages, and over time, the church failed to pay her.
NBC, the first to report the lawsuit, reached out to the Church of Scientology for comment. The church responded by saying,
“The lawsuit comprises nothing more than unfounded allegations as to all defendants,” Rebecca N. Kaufman, an attorney for the Church of Scientology, told NBC News on Wednesday night, saying it was “littered with anti-religious slurs culled from the tabloids and accusations that have been disproven in courts decades ago.”
“We are confident the lawsuit will fail,” Kaufman said. “Federal courts have already determined that service in the Church of Scientology’s religious order is voluntary and protected by the First Amendment. Moreover, the evidence will establish that while serving the church, plaintiff came and went freely, traveled the world, and lived in comfortable surroundings. The church will vigorously defend itself against these unfounded allegations.”
An attorney for Jane Doe, Brian Kent, told NBC that for decades the Church of Scientology has worked to squash and cover-up its long history of physical, mental, and emotional abuse of their members. Kent promised that they would not stop fighting the church to end human trafficking, child abuse, and neglect of church members.
*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.
She co-hosts the YouTube show, “The Smoking Nun,” with Kyle Curtis on The Non-Sequitur Channel. The show airs weekly and tackles pseudoscience, current events, and crime stories.
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