David Miscavige and his Scientology Inc. have of late taken to waving the flags of the American Nazi Party and the Westboro Baptist Church. They are spending huge sums in order to convince some that their own activity belongs in the same category as those august institutions. They don’t even try to argue that their conduct is not outrageous or unconscionable in a civilized society. Instead, they claim it is their Constitutional right to practice retribution, terrorism and ruination upon those who refuse to relinquish their own First Amendment rights to speak and worship as they choose.
Regardless of their individual failures or successes in this expensive positioning endeavor, there is legal precedent that protects you should you ever be targeted by the Scientology Inquisition. It is the decision of the California Court of Appeals in the original Wollersheim vs. Church of Scientology of California case.
The following is a reprint of the particular section of that decision that deals with Scientology heretics and their treatment at the hands of the Scientology Inquisition:
B. Even Assuming the Retributive Conduct Sometimes Called “Fair Game” Is a Core Practice of Scientology It Does Not Qualify for Constitutional Protection
As we have seen, not every religious expression is worthy of constitutional protection. To illustrate, centuries ago the inquisition was one of the core religious practices of the Christian religion in Europe. This religious practice involved torture and execution of heretics and miscreants. (See generally Peters, Inquisition (1988); Lea, The Inquisition of the Middle Ages (1961).) Yet should any church seek to resurrect the inquisition in this country under a claim of free religious expression, can anyone doubt the constitutional authority of an American government to halt the torture and executions? And can anyone seriously question the right of the victims of our hypothetical modern day inquisition to sue their tormentors for any injuries – physical or psychological – they sustained?
We do not mean to suggest Scientology’s retributive program as described in the evidence of this case represented a full-scale modern day “inquisition.” Nevertheless, there are some parallels in purpose and effect. “Fair game” like the “inquisition” targeted “heretics” who threatened the dogma and institutional integrity of the mother church. Once “proven” to be a “heretic,” an individual was to be neutralized. In medieval times neutralization often meant incarceration, torture, and death. (Peters, Inquisition, supra, pp. 57, 65-67, 87, 92-94, 98, 117-118, 133-134; Lea, The Inquisition of the Middle Ages, supra, pp. 181, 193-202, 232-236, 250-264, 828-829.) As described in the evidence at this trial the “fair game” policy neutralized the “heretic” by stripping this person of his or her economic, political and psychological power. (See, e.g., *889 Allard v. Church of Scientology (1976) 58 Cal.App.3d 439, 444 [129 Cal.Rptr. 797] [former church member falsely accused by Church of grand theft as part of “fair game” policy, subjecting member to arrest and imprisonment].)
In the instant case, at least, the prime focus of the “fair game” campaign was against the “heretic” Wollersheim’s economic interests. Substantial evidence supports the inference Scientology set out to ruin Wollersheim’s photography enterprise. Scientologists who worked in the business were instructed to resign immediately. Scientologists who were customers were told to stop placing orders with the business. Most significantly, those who owed money for previous orders were instructed to renege on their payments. Although these payments actually were going to a factor not Wollersheim, the effect was to deprive Wollersheim of the line of credit he needed to continue in business.
Appellant argues these “fair game” practices are protected religious expression. They cite to a recent Ninth Circuit case upholding the constitutional right of the Jehovah’s Witness Church and its members to “shun” heretics from that religion even though the heretics suffer emotional injury as a result. ( Paul v. Watchtower Bible & Tract Soc. of New York, supra, 819 F.2d 875.) In this case a former Jehovah’s Witness sued the church and certain church leaders for injuries she claimed to have suffered when the church ordered all other church members to “shun” her. In the Jehovah Witness religion, “shunning” means church members are prohibited from having any contact whatsoever with the former member. They are not to greet them or conduct any business with them or socialize with them in any manner. Thus, there was a clear connection between the religious practice of “shunning” and Ms. Paul’s emotional injuries. Nonetheless, the trial court dismissed her case. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in an opinion which expressly held “shunning” is a constitutionally protected religious practice. “[T]he defendants, … possess an affirmative defense of privilege – a defense that permits them to engage in the practice of shunning pursuant to their religious beliefs without incurring tort liability.” ( Id. at p. 879.)
We first note another appellate court has taken the opposite view on the constitutionality of “shunning.” ( Bear v. Reformed Mennonite Church (1975) 462 Pa. 330 [341 A.2d 105].) In this case the Pennsylvania Supreme Court confronted a situation similar to Paul v. Watchtower Bible & Tract Soc. of New York. The plaintiff was a former member of the Mennonite Church. He was excommunicated for criticizing the church. Church leaders ordered that all members must “shun” the plaintiff. As a result, both his business and family collapsed. The appellate court reversed the trial court’s dismissal of the action, holding: “In our opinion, the complaint, … raises issues that the ‘shunning’ practice of appellee church and the conduct of the *890 individuals may be an excessive interference within areas of ‘paramount state concern,’ i.e., the maintenance of marriage and family relationship, alienation of affection, and the tortious interference with a business relationship, which the courts of this Commonwealth may have authority to regulate, even in light of the ‘Establishment’ and ‘Free Exercise’ clauses of the First Amendment.” ( Bear v. Reformed Mennonite Church, supra, 341 A.2d at p. 107, italics in original.)
We observe the California Supreme Court has cited with apparent approval the viewpoint on “shunning” expressed in Bear v. Mennonite Church, supra, rather than the one adopted in Paul v. Watchtower Bible & Tract Soc. of New York, supra. (See Molko v. Holy Spirit Assn., supra, 46 Cal.3d 1092, 1114.) But even were Paul v. Watchtower Bible & Tract Soc. of New York the law of this jurisdiction it would not support a constitutional shield for Scientology’s retribution program. In the instant case Scientology went far beyond the social “shunning” of its heretic, Wollersheim. Substantial evidence supports the conclusion Scientology leaders made the deliberate decision to ruin Wollersheim economically and possibly psychologically. Unlike the plaintiff in Paul v. Watchtower Bible & Tract Soc. of New York, Wollersheim did not suffer his economic harm as an unintended byproduct of his former religionists’ practice of refusing to socialize with him any more. Instead he was bankrupted by a campaign his former religionists carefully designed with the specific intent it bankrupt him. Nor was this campaign limited to means which are arguably legal such as refusing to continue working at Wollersheim’s business or to purchase his services or products. Instead the campaign featured a concerted practice of refusing to honor legal obligations Scientologists owed Wollersheim for services and products they already had purchased.
If the Biblical commandment to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to render unto God what is God’s has any meaning in the modern day it is here. Nothing in Paul v. Watchtower Bible & Tract Soc. of New York or any other case we have been able to locate even implies a religion is entitled to constitutional protection for a campaign deliberately designed to financially ruin anyone – whether a member or nonmember of that religion. Nor have we found any cases suggesting the free exercise clause can justify a refusal to honor financial obligations the state considers binding and legally enforceable. One can only imagine the utter chaos that could overtake our economy if people who owed money to others were entitled to assert a freedom of religion defense to repayment of those debts. It is not unlikely the courts would soon be flooded with debtors who claimed their religion prohibited them from paying money they owed to others.
We are not certain a deliberate campaign to financially ruin a former member or the dishonoring of debts owed that member qualify as “religious *891 practices” of Scientology. But if they do, we have no problem concluding the state has a compelling secular interest in discouraging these practices. (See pp. 884-886, supra.) Accordingly, we hold the freedom of religion guaranties of the United States and California Constitutions do not immunize these practices from civil liability for any injuries they cause to “targets” such as Wollersheim.
For further parallels between Miscavige’s Scientology Inc. and the perpetrators of the original Grand Inquisition, see The Scientology Reformation.