Judge out in Scientology suit over forced marriage; plaintiff lawyer calls timing ‘highly suspicious’

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LOS ANGELES (CN) — A lawsuit filed by an unnamed woman against the church of Scientology and some of its officials over the alleged sexual abuse of a minor and the arrangement of a forced marriage between the minor and abuser hit a temporary snag on Tuesday after church leader David Miscavage filed a motion to remove the judge from the case.

The court was scheduled to hear arguments on the church’s motion to force the case into Scientology’s own internal arbitration process. On Monday night, Superior Court Judge Robert Broadbelt issued a tentative ruling denying that motion. He found that the contract the plaintiff was pressured into signing in 2002 was “so one-sided as to shock the conscience.”

Miscavage, who has yet to make a formal appearance in the case and who for a time was dodging a summons, filed his motion for a new judge on Tuesday morning.

“The timing is highly suspicious,” said Carmen Scott, the plaintiff’s attorney, during a short hearing on Tuesday. “The tentative was issued last evening. We have not been served with Mr. Miscavage’s motion.”

Nevertheless, Judge Broadbelt said he believed he was required by law to grant the motion. The case will be reassigned to a new judge, who will hear Scientology’s motion to compel arbitration.

In her 2022 complaint the unnamed plaintiff described “a culture and atmosphere in which the sexual assault of minors within Church of Scientology International was tolerated, and even facilitated.”

“It is common knowledge to members of Scientology that older members engage in illicit sexual activities with minors,” the woman wrote in her complaint. “The practice is both endorsed and facilitated by the Scientology doctrine.”

The plaintiff, known in the complaint as Jane Doe, said she was groomed by a recruiter for Sea Org, an elite unit within the church, named Gavin Potter, who sexually abused her in a car when she was 16 years old. (Potter was at least 26, according to the complaint.)

When she told a coworker about the incident, she and Potter were given a choice: be assigned to a work camp for misbehaving Sea Org members called Rehabilitation Project Force or get married.

“That same day, Jane Doe’s ‘Port Captain’ arranged for Jane Doe, Gavin Potter, and Jane Doe’s mother to travel to Las Vegas,
Nevada to complete the marriage,” the plaintiff wrote in the complaint. “After the brief ceremony, the group immediately returned to Los Angeles, and Jane Doe went back to work.”

Later that night, she wrote, “Gavin Potter had sexual intercourse with Jane Doe. Jane Doe did not want to have sex with him but felt coerced and compelled because of the forced marriage. Jane Doe described the intercourse as ritualistic and painful.”

In 2002, when she was 27 years old, Jane Doe signed a contract with the church of Scientology and agreed that “any dispute, claim or controversy” between her and the church or a church official would be resolved “solely and exclusively through Scientology’s internal ethics, justice and binding religious arbitration procedures.”

Content retrieved from: https://www.courthousenews.com/judge-out-in-scientology-suit-over-forced-marriage-plaintiff-lawyer-calls-timing-highly-suspicious/.

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