May 9, 2002 9:00 AM.
It was a crushing and humiliating legal defeat for the cult that is infamous
around the world for its outrageous litigation tactics. Over the past 22
years Scientology spent an estimated 140 million in and out of the court in
its efforts to crush a former member, Lawrence Wollersheim, and his legal
The Wollersheim v. Church of Scientology of California (CSC) litigation
wound its way though the LA Superior Court, the California Appellate and
Supreme courts as well as the US Supreme court almost a half a dozen times.
In the first landmark Wollersheim decision, Scientology's counseling
practices were found to be dangerous in the first jury decision of the LA
Superior Court. These dangerous counseling practices were also found to be
the cause of Lawrence Wollersheim being driven to the brink of insanity.
Thereafter, Scientology filed numerous malicious and tangential legal
actions designed to inhibit Wollersheim right of due legal process and to
exhaust his financial resources so that he could not carry on his case. The
California court saw this new abuse and fined Scientology separately
$500,000 in what is known as a SLAPP lawsuit (Strategic Lawsuits Against
Public Participation.) This SLAPP fine was the highest fine ever paid for
such a suit in California.
In another ill-conceived effort to avoid paying the judgment Scientology
stripped an estimated 500 million dollars from the Church of Scientology of
California and transferred its assets to other corporations in the
Scientology corporate umbrella. To collect this judgment from the new
Scientology corporations that had received the money, Wollersheim and his
legal team filed a new collection lawsuit naming the Church of Scientology
International (CSI) and religious Technology Corporation (RTC) as
responsible for paying the Wollersheim judgment because of their receipt of
the CSC assets.
On 9th May 2002, just before minutes before CSI and RTC were to appear in
court Scientology hurriedly delivered an $8,674,643 cashiers check to the LA
superior court clerk. This stopped having any additional evidence presented
in court that could have exposed Scientology's lack of corporate integrity,
and could have exposed Scientology's controversial IRS charitable tax
exemption to review and potential repeal as well as stopped the very real
risk that Scientology's top executives could soon being put in jail for
corporate and asset fraud.
During the original 5-month jury trial in the LA Superior court in 1986
Scientology had almost 25,000 members picketing the courthouse carrying
signs saying "Not one thin dime for Wollersheim" and "We will NEVER pay."
David Miscavige, the cult's current leader and former executive in CSI and
RTC at the time of the (CSC) transfers, as well as other top Scientology
cult leaders repeatedly vowed to members that nothing could ever force them
to pay the Wollersheim judgment and they would fight the judgment forever no
matter how much it costs or what the sacrifice.
After today's last minute payment it would appear that what David Miscavige
and Scientology's other senior executives were actually saying was that they
would only stonewall on the payment up to that point at which they were in
danger of exposing themselves personally for potential felonies. And that
they wanted, at all costs, to avoid Scientology's controversial IRS
tax-exempt status grant being exposed in a court of law to evidence that
could cause its repeal.
Scientology leaders are now faced with having to concoct a story for their
current members explaining the painfully obvious incongruity of their
actions. They also have to now contend with the floodgates being thrown wide
open for thousands of new lawsuits being filed by emboldened former members
who lost hundreds of thousands of dollars Scientology and/or were also
harmed by Scientology's outrageous counseling tactics.
In an exclusive for interview for FACTNet Lawrence Wollersheim said the
following about this long overdue and hard won victory:
"It is my opinion that there are hundreds of thousands of people all over
the US, Europe and South America who have been destroyed by this cult and
then intimidated into silence. But, I now do not think that these people
will remain silent any longer.
I believe that they see this abusive cult has been beaten by the power of
the law and patience. I hope that they will begin immediately calling their
lawyers to use the full power of the law get their lives back and seek
restitution as well. I also believe that after this court victory, former
members who were intimidated into silence about criminal acts they were
coerced to commit while in Scientology will come forward and speak with the
proper government officials.
It took me 22 years of using the slow but steady power of law to enforce
justice upon this dangerous, cult. There were times when I thought I could
not go on any longer. But then I would remember the many people who have
lost their lives in Scientology such as Lisa McPherson (a current
Scientology wrongful death case in Florida.). These people would have no
voice if someone did not win a Scientology case.
I remembered Medger Evers wife who fought for 32 years and finally got the
killers of her husband (the civil right worker) to trial. I thought of the
families for the four African American teens in Atlanta who, after 39 years
of persistence using the force of the law, finally got the fourth Ku Klux
Klan member suspected in their deaths to trial.
When I saw the courage, persistence and dedication these individuals
displayed in using the law to effect justice I told myself to stop being
such a wimp and that I was only at 12, 18, 20, and 22 year mark. These
numbers were nothing compared to the 32 years that Medger's wife fought.
What also sustained me in fighting for justice, no matter the level of
threat or intimidation, was my faith in a higher, infinite and benevolent
The most important thing I have learned in this ordeal is that true justice
is not the law. Nor is it the judges or courts. True justice is that sense
of fairness that we all have in our hearts. It is that which gives us the
power to ensure justice for others and the strength to demand justice for
ourselves against all odds.
The most important thing I could say to others or to social advocacy groups
that are facing or considering cult - litigation, or bringing lawsuits
against wealthy corporations like cigarette companies or fighting the
governments that are polluting our environment or committing financial or
other criminal acts is that they should use the legal system and be patient.
Do not be intimidated into silence. Do not let the wealth or the size of
your opponent dissuade you. At the end of the day, the power of justice
sought through law and patience dwarfs any opposing force or party.
The rewards for enforcing justice are many. If you are a victim, justice is
the miracle healer that accelerates the process far beyond just therapy.
When a victim turns the tables on its former oppressor using the legal
system they no longer remain a victim. The process transforms them
psychologically and empowers them emotionally. There are also new laws like
the SLAPP laws that protect the weaker or poorer parties from wealthy
adversaries that are trying to punish them for speaking out or working for a
better world. This is the good news.
Lastly, I want thank all of the lawyers and former members and all the
family friends and other people who, as a team, forced this ruthless cult to
comply with the law. It could not have been done other than as a team.
I promise that everything that Scientology sought to hide from public
scrutiny in my case (by stopping the hearings with their $8,760,000 payment
to the court) will go to the proper government authorities. Everything in my
case that can be made available to other new cases suing Scientology will be
made available as soon as possible.
It is quite a paradox that the cult that vowed it would never pay me one
this dime has now paid over 86 million thin dimes not even including the
$500,000 they paid earlier."
(Scientology has paid 10 of millions of dollars in past secret settlements
but because of gag order and confidentially settlement terms none of the
current or former members ever hear about this.)
The FACTNet Staff & Lawrence Wollersheim
(A photo of Lawrence Wollersheim, for press purposes, can be found at
This article is also at
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