With the alleged rape trial date for former That 70s Show actor, Danny Masterson, just weeks away, the Supreme Court has denied a request to block his alleged accusers from taking their claims of harassment against the Church of Scientology to court, according to Deadline. The petition was issued by the Church of Scientology this past July.
According to Deadline, the four defendants have a suit alleging the church administered tactics of harassment in retaliation for the women coming forward with their accusations of rape against Masterson. The defendants claim the church, led by David Miscavige, allegedly orchestrated a campaign that included the women being allegedly surveilled and the alleged killings of pets. The suit was originally filed in 2019.
The Church’s stance, presented by Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP and Winston & Strawn LLP, surmised because of the women’s previous affiliations with the Chruch of Scientology that this legal proceeding should take place under their jurisdiction as “religious arbitration,” according to Deadline. A lower appellate court previously supported the motion but it was overturned by California’s Second Appellate Court earlier this year.
“We hold that once petitioners had terminated their affiliation with the Church, they were not bound to its dispute resolution procedures to resolve the claims at issue here, which are based on alleged tortious conduct occurring after their separation from the Church and do not implicate resolution of ecclesiastical issues,” the court stated in their decision via Deadline.
According to Deadline, the Church of Scientology argued that the California court was ignoring their religious freedom and sought to “weaponize the First Amendment against religious freedom, holding that the First Amendment requires limitations applicable only to religious — and not to secular — arbitration agreements.” They attempted to support this claim by outlining the courts’ history of allowing religious organizations to resolve internal disuptes according to their belief systems and policies.
Unfortunately, SCOTUS believed differently as the case did not appear on their publically-announced docket today. According to Deadline, the harassment case against the Church will be handled after Masterson’s case.
Masterson faces three counts of forcible rape that allegedly occurred between 2001 and 2003. Masterson, who has been free on a 3.3 million dollar bond, has maintained his innocence stating that nonconsensual sex with the alleged victims never occurred, via Deadline. If convicted, Masterson faces up to 45 years in prison.