Wollersheim Wins Case With Scientology
Scientology cult pays $8,674,643 to ex-member to end 22-year legal battle.
May 9th, 2002
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 has spent an estimated 140 million in and out of the court in its efforts to crush a former member, Lawrence Wollersheim, and his legal teams.
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. The first landmark Wollersheim jury decision found Scientology’s counseling practices to be dangerous. 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's right of due legal process and 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 these 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 the 9th of May 2002, just 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 any additional evidence from being presented in court that could have exposed Scientology’s lack of corporate integrity, as well as leave their controversial IRS charitable tax exemption open to review and potential repeal. The sudden settlement also stopped the very real risk of Scientology’s top executives 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 with 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 that 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 until 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 floodtide of new lawsuits being filed by emboldened former members who lost hundreds of thousands of dollars to Scientology and/or were also harmed by Scientology’s outrageous counseling tactics.
In an exclusive interview with 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 did (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 rights 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 the 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 power.
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 and 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, former members, 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 thin dime has now paid over 86 million thin dimes not even including the $500,000 they paid earlier.”
(Scientology has paid tens of millions of dollars in past secret settlements but because of gag orders and confidentially settlement terms none of the current or former members ever hear about this.)
The FACTNet Staff & Lawrence Wollersheim
Spiritual News Room