Friday, January 9, 2009

More Scientology Woes: Marc Headley Sues Church of Scientology For Slave Labor


In the wake of public requests for re-examination of Scientology's relationship to medicine following the tragic death of 16 year old Jett Travolta, Scientology now faces a potentially devastating lawsuit against it for massive labor exploitation of its staff.

On January 5, 2009 attorney Barry Van Sickle filed a complaint on behalf of former Scientology Sea Org staff member Marc Headley in the Superior Court of the State of California in Los Angeles. In his excellent analysis on his blog reality based community, internet law attorney and Scientology Critic Scott Pilutik sums up the suit this way:

A potentially devastating lawsuit [PDF][downloadable version here ] was filed by Marc Headley in Los Angeles County Court on January 5 against the Church of Scientology International (CSI), alleging that CSI violated California labor law by failing to pay Headley, and others similarly situated, minimum wage or for the overtime he routinely worked as an employee of Golden Era Productions, an unincorporated entity which is chiefly responsible for producing and selling Scientology's promotional videos and materials. Headley estimates that he was paid approximately 39 cents an hour for the time he worked at Golden Era between 1989 to 2005, during which time he sometimes worked 100+ hour, 7 day weeks uncompensated for his overtime.

Headley also alleges that he was forced by Scientology to sign various documents, under duress, acknowledging that he had no rights as an employee, and that he was not given copies of these documents.

Since this is a test case, as was the famous Scopes Trial Evolution case in 1925, it could set powerful precedent and cause chaos for organized Scientology. Scientology claims that its staff members are members of a religious order and therefore exempt from the provision of state and federal labor laws. This is its main defense, and the outcome of the case could significantly alter the discussion about tax exemptions for religious organizations. Scott Pilutik's analysis cites relevant case law. Though this is a California labor law case filed under California's Business & Professional Code (sec. 17203), important First Amendment issues are involved.

Former Scientology executive Lawrence Brennan has detailed in his important affidavit how organized Scientology engaged in a program of religious cloaking precisely to gain exemption not only for both itself as an organization and its members/"parishioners"/customers, but also exemption from minimum wage and working condition laws for its workers.

After having lost its tax exempt status in 1967, it regained it under dubious circumstances in 1993 after all out warfare by the Church. He also alleges perjury on the part of Church head David Miscavige, about which we have written, in representations made to the IRS on which the Church's tax exemption was granted.

The middle and upper management of the Church of Scientology are all members of the Sea Org, including the head of the Church, David Miscavige. This is a para-military organization organized on a strict, hierarchical, command and control model replete with Naval ranks and uniforms. Members sign a billion year contract and in exchange receive food, clothing, shelter, and pitiful "wages" of 39 cents an hour. Most important to the indoctrinated member inducted into Scientology's elite management, however, is free auditing, Scientology's intrusive indoctrination counseling and therapy. Since it costs upwards of $350,000 to complete all the courses and levels alleged to lead to "Total Spiritual Freedom", this is a considerable allure to the, mostly young, people who join the Sea Org.

Part of the religions cloaking program was to call the Sea Org a religious order. The model here is the Catholic church with its extensive network of varied and ancient religious communities. In basic terms, men and women enter into religious life under vows to live in community, observe simplicity of life, and dedicate their lives to prayer, liturgy, and service. Many, if not most, take an explicit vow of poverty. They rely on the community for their material needs, working for free and turning over to the community any money they make outside it.

This suit should set off alarms among the churches because it threatens their privileges by calling into question exemptions for religious orders and religious workers. The vast number of churches are law-abiding and scrupulous in their obligations, but the loss of this case represents a potential threat to their current status through reinterpretation or revision of existing legislation. Most assuredly the Church of Scientology will use all the inter-faith connections it has built up over the years to gain support for their cause. Will the churches in California support Marc Headley or CSI, given situations like this in Sacramento?

This would be a second major religious case concerning Scientology in the last few years, the other being that of the Michael and Maria Sklar, a Jewish couple who sought to deduct part of their children's Jewish religiouis school tuition on their income tax claiming Scientologists get favored tax-exempt treatment since they are allowed to deduct cost of Scientology courses and auditing. Though the Sklars lost, the issue of Scientology's tax-exempt status is still alive and is now being raised again by Headley vs CSI.

Regarding the financial impact of a successful lawsuit, Headley, who posts pseudonymously as Blownforgood on the Scientology-critical site Operation Clambake (OCMB), writes:

The truth is, right now the Scientology enterprise pays out around $250,000 per week in wages. If (when) they lose this lawsuit, they will be paying 4 million per week to existing staff alone, not to mention past staff members that are owed unpaid wages.

The Headley case goes right to the heart of a major item on organized Scientology's Statement of Revenues and Expenses: Labor costs of $200+ million a year. Scientology's response is predictable. First, they will intimidate Headley and others into withdrawing the lawsuit through agents from OSA, (Office of Special Affairs), the Church's intelligence agency. Then they will begin a huge smear campaign against everyone supporting him, including Anonymous. There will be protracted lawfare to grind down his resolve according to Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard's dictum: The purpose of the suit is to harass and discourage rather than win. There will be unending attempts to get Headley to settle and shut up.

Assuming the suit goes forward, it represents a new challenge to Scientology. It will be the first high-profile case to be prosecuted in the Web 2.0 era. There was massive fair gaming against a generation of former Scientologists and critics who were sued to a fare-thee-well in the 1990s when few people got their news from the internet and much of the Church's ugly thuggery could be hidden. Indeed, it was successful in silencing the media as a whole until very recently after it sued and fair gamed Richard Behar, writer of Time's 1991 cover story Scientology: The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power. Organized Scientology can no longer pick off its critic's one by one.

This is the era of social networking, and above all, Anonymous. The Church of Scientology now has thousands of net-savvy activist eyes focused on its every move. A year ago this coming January 21, Anonymous declared war in their famed video Message to Scientology. That video galvanized thousands of young people, who have since been joined by thousands of older people, to form the first ever social protest movement created solely on the internet.

Anons are relentless on the internet and in the streets. Raids, or demonstrations, occur regularly all over the world. In a remarkable activity summary for 2008,, Anonymous San Francisco reported carrying out 42 demonstrations in 12 months. More importantly, they, along with Anonymous cells in over a hundred cities around the world have created self-sustaining online and IRL (in real life) communities of enormous creativity, inventiveness, and hilarity lulz. Anonymous Germany was formally and officially invited along with United States and other consular officials to the important Hamburg Conference on September 4, 2008, convened by the Hamburg Ministry of Interior's Scientology Working Group. (Negotiations were involved - Anon: Oh hai. Can we come with masks? Ministry: Lol, yes. )

Battle-hardened by a year of combat, unrelenting Anonymous has become the activist vanguard of a world-wide anti-Scientology human rights and free speech protest movement.

The Anonymous website Why We Protest has become a significant center of information for the world. Thousands of new readers flocked to the Jett Travolta Situation Room and some have stayed to join the ranks. If you want to know what is happening with Anonymous and Scientology, WWP is the place to be. (Update: Why We Protest has now established a Marc Headley vs Church of Scientology International Situation Room )

The key to the entire case is Marc Headley's resolve. If Scientology believes they can break this man, they are deluded. Headley left quite recently in March 2005 and has plenty of knowledge of CSI's inner workings. From 1990 - 2005, he worked at Gold Base, the West Coast Kremlin of Scientology, where the executive offices of CSI and Scientology front organizations are located. Over the last few years he has regularly leaked reports about routine human rights abuses in the Sea Org happening right under the nose of Tom Cruise and Kathie Holmes. He has a book deal for his experiences, and is not about to be shut up.

Another new challenge is that there is a class-action character to the suit since Headley has invited other former Scientology staffers to join him in the lawsuit:

If anyone reading this from the sidelines thinks that they too might have had some rights that were violated, you are probably right. You may have rights you did not even know about. Any people seriously interested in this can write to . You must provide your full name and details regarding your employment history. If it appears that your rights might have been violated, you will be given additional information on what you might do about it.

Headley is opening up a huge can of worms. The suit is focused on wages, but the real horrors in the Sea Org are its human rights violations: its policy of coerced abortions, its labor re-education camps, its medical malpractice, and its deaths and suicides. Headley has astutely left all that out. Anonymous will be sure everything reaches public attention, "for great justice", as anons say.

In a remarkable coincidence of timing, the suit was filed three days after the death of Jett Travolta when public interest in Scientology was, and continues to be, wide-spread. It is now impossible for a Scientology celebrity to do anything without it becoming an occasion for Anonymous to further educate the public about the true harms of Scientology.

A Scientology official has recently stated that dealing with Anonymous is like swatting flies. After a year of relentless Anon internet and IRL raiding, however,
Tom Cruise has vowed not to speak publicly about Scientology, and has built a $10 million bunker to defend himself against invasion by space aliens and perhaps hordes of 18-year anons who love raiding and rickrolling the local org. Above all Anonymous loves trolling pranks like the one Headley designed into his law suit:

As Larry Brennan mentioned in a post somewhere, there were a few others that were also part of the initial complaints that were filed. These names were intentionally listed to test what would happen with these people. Within hours of the complaints being filed, these people's families were contacted and eventually some of these people would drop out of the case. The intimidation was swift and effective. This was expected and predicted. It was also illegal. So be it. It just made the case that much stronger. Additional evidence that backs up the case is created by the Scientology enterprise daily. [Emphasis added]

Nearly a year ago Good Lieutenant at the Jawa Report and Mein Blogo Vault wrote of Anonymous "I think we may have finally found the antidote to the idiocy that is Scientology." He also wrote:

There's going to be a lot of collateral damage in this war, but the levels of lulz are going to be well over 9,000. And -

If you don't know what Anonymous is, all you need to know is that Scientology should be afraid. Very afraid.

Scientology should be very afraid of Marc Headley and his Legion of supporters in Anonymous. I will let Headley speak for himself:

Some would say that I have the upper hand. I have spent nearly 20 years studying Scientology and how they operate. They have only just begun to study Blownforgood.

So OSA, while you have been watching my house, following me to the grocery store, bugging my friends, digging through my trash and taking pictures outside my company, I have been doing my homework for the upcoming work at hand.


The Hamburg Conference on September 4, 2008.

Photo: LadyNonymous, Anonymous Hamburg

Unmasked among the anons, from left to right, Lawrence Brennan; conference organizer Ursula Caberta of the State of Hamburg Ministry of Interior Scientology Working Group; Marc Headley; attorney Graham Berry; and actor Jason Beghe.



California Employment Law said...

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Anonymous said...

I came buckets. Best of luck Headley.