Scientology’s Religious Arbitration Agreement to Keep Alleged Rapist from Civil Trial
Danny Masterson is one of Scientology’s biggest celebrities who is best known for his role as Steven Hyde in That 70’s Show. He is currently facing both criminal and civil cases for rape accusations from multiple women. The Church of Scientology has vociferously marshalled their resources to protect Masterson from these accusations and the suits.
Judge Steven Kleifield ruled in Los Angeles County Superior Court this past Wednesday that the civil complaints must be resolved through “religious arbitration” due to an existing arbitration agreement among the involved parties.~ Vanity Fair
If you are not familiar with Masterson’s case, here is a quick recap of the criminal and civil cases lodged against him.
Masterson is charged with three counts of rape by force or fear. He is accused of raping a 23-year-old woman at his Hollywood Hills home between January and December 2001, according to prosecutors. He is also accused of raping a 28-year-old woman in April 2003, as well as a 23-year-old woman he had invited to his home sometime between October and December of 2003. ~ USA Today
In 2019, Chrissie Carnell Bixler; her husband, Cedric Bixler-Zavala; Marie Bobette Riales; and two Jane Does filed a civil case against Masterson.
Carnell Bixler claims in the lawsuit that Masterson sexually assaulted her multiple times while they were dating in 2001 and 2002. After she reported the assault to the police, her husband alleges in the suit, “agents of the defendants” poisoned their dogs, assaulted them with cars, and made harassing phone calls. Jane Doe #1 also said she experienced retribution for reporting her alleged rape to the police in the form of property damage, violent threats, assaults, and sexual harassment. Jane Doe #2 additionally claimed the defendants inflicted emotional distress, stalking, and invasion of privacy. ~ Vanity Fair
Note: Because Bobette Riales is not a Scientologist who signed their agreements, she will not be subjected to their arbitration.
I’m not an attorney, but this recent ruling to utilize Scientology’s own arbitration when the Church is allegedly responsible for the very efforts to silence victims from coming forward is quite concerning.
The use of NDA’s and internal arbitration within religious NGO’s and churches has been on the rise. This may sound obvious, but these religious institutions would not be utilizing such methods if they didn’t have things to hide, often criminal activities by their institution or members of their institution. The Church of Scientology is infamous for many such criminal activities such as physically detaining members who want to leave the church, physical and sexual abuse of adults and minors, using child labor in the Sea Org and in their rehabilitation schools for teenagers, and much more. To learn more, watch Leah Remini’s A & E program, Scientology and the Aftermath. Former senior executive, Mike Rinder, co-hosts the show. Mike oversaw and was involved in countless illegal activities and he and Leah cover a wide variety of crimes and teachings within Scientology, interviewing many who literally had to plan physical escapes to leave the organization. Once gone, these individuals share about the extensive harassment they experienced, being followed, videoed, photographed, having their trash stolen to find leverage on them, being threatened and much more.
It is within this well -publicized context that a judge has decided to force Masterson’s accusers to utilize the Church of Scientology’s arbitration. There’s no doubt these victims will receive no justice from their abusers.
It is important to consider why and how people sign such agreements. Often these are pushed on people at the time of hiring with a new job, or in joining a faith group. While one is wholly convinced of the goodness of the religious entity, they cannot foresee the circumstances that would necessitate seeking legal help or even that of law enforcement.
Having done so myself, I can provide a little insight as to how this happens. I was hired by a large Christian, international NGO just after graduating from college. With my minimal experience in the “real world,” and absolute faith in the good intentions of this organization, I did not question signing on to using an arbiter instead of having legal recourse. I could not imagine the outright harassment, discrimination, and everything else that would follow while working for this NGO. After 8 ½ years of employment, I signed an NDA to get 4 months of severance because I had post-partum, and my husband at the time was yet again unemployed. I signed so I could pay the bills to take care of my 1- & 3-year-old children. I seriously considered taking legal action. But what I and countless others before me figured out is that a large religious institution or NGO can afford to go to court, but rarely can an individual gather the resources to attain quality legal representation and all the associated costs of a prolonged legal battle.
Knowing the challenges of these circumstances, I applaud those who filed a civil suit against Masterson and grieve that they have been robbed of their opportunity for legal recourse. If Masterson is indeed innocent, why won’t the Church of Scientology allow the civil case to go forward in court? It is a reminder that most religious institutions prioritize self-protection above truth or care for those they supposedly serve. They are willing to sacrifice the abuse victims to maintain the “innocence” of their star Scientologist.