Church of Scientology is trying to stop four women who accused actor and member Danny Masterson of rape from suing the church, alleging it harassed and stalked them.
Through a The petition is 144 pages long filed Tuesday, the church asked the U.S. Supreme Court to help enforce their religious arbitration clause in their membership contracts by overturning a The California Court of Appeals ruled that the accusers no longer bound by contract because they have left the church.
The arbitration clause in church contracts prohibits members from taking legal action against the organization and instead forces members to go through a church-directed conflict resolution process.
“Individuals have the right to renounce a religion in the First Amendment. We assume that once petitioners have terminated their association with the Church, they are not bound to the Church’s dispute resolution procedures to resolve the claims in question herein, based on the alleged conduct occurred after their separation from the Church and was unrelated to the resolution of ecclesiastical matters,” the ruling read.
The church is arguing religious discrimination, saying the ruling violates their First Amendment rights.
“The opinion weaponized the First Amendment against religious freedom, arguing that the First Amendment requires limitations that apply only to arbitration agreements – not to arbitration agreements. secular arbitration agreement,” the petition reads.
The The original harassment complaint was filed in August 2019 by four women who accused Masterson of raping them, according to a document published in March 2017 by a journalist.
The women argued that the defendants – Masterson, Church of Scientology and church leader David Miscavige – tracked and harassed them to threaten them not to press charges of rape against Masterson. The claims include that church members hacked their emails and security systems, killed their pets and threatened to kill them, all of which the church denies.
Masterson himself has repeatedly denied the rape allegations and he will appear in court next month for allegedly sexually assaulting three women, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. The District Attorney’s Office also said it did not file charges in two other cases because of a lack of evidence in one case and the statute of limitations in the other.
Masterson is famous for playing Steven Hyde in That’s 70 performances before reuniting with former co-star Ashton Kutcher on Farmfor which he was fired amid allegations of sexual abuse.
In the appellate ruling, the court held that “the Constitution prohibits” attempted to force women to comply with a church contract after they were no longer considered members.
“In fact, Scientology suggests that one of the costs of joining one’s religion (or obtaining a single religious service) is perpetual submission to a religious forum — a tacit denial of the petitioners’ constitutional right to expel them from the faith. The Constitution prohibits such a high price,” the ruling read.
Although the church first asked the appeals court for reconsideration and then the state supreme court, their request was denied, Diversity report. Instead, they claimed the appellate ruling, which has not been made public and therefore is not considered law in other California court cases, threatens religious arbitration against any church.
The attorney for the accusers in the court of appeals, Marci Hamilton, told Diversity in an email that the petition had no effect because of the appellate ruling’s unpublished status.
“The Church is seeking to overturn a decision from the state Supreme Court that has not been made public and therefore has no precedent,” Hamilton said. “This is a formal pose that [the] The court will never take. They have nothing to review.”