Couple sues over donations to Scientology

2013-01-24 13:02

(Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

  • Religion
    Be an eyewitness to various religions and learn about the wheel of existance, Christ's Crucifixion... Now R77.00
    buy now

West Palm Beach — Two former members of the Church of Scientology claimed in a lawsuit filed on Wednesday that the church and its affiliates deceived members into donating millions of dollars to misrepresented causes.

Luis and Maria Garcia of Irvine, California, filed the complaint in federal court in Tampa, near the church's national headquarters in Clearwater.

The couple claims they were duped into giving more than $420 000 for a building campaign, disaster relief efforts and other Scientology causes, only to find the bulk of the money went to inflate the church coffers and line the pockets of its leader, David Miscavige.

"The church, under the leadership of David Miscavige, has strayed from its founding principles," the lawsuit claims, "and morphed into a secular enterprise whose primary purpose is taking people's money".

In an e-mailed statement, Scientology spokesperson Pat Harney said the church had not yet been served with the lawsuit, but challenged any contention that money was misappropriated.

"We understand from media inquiries this has something to do with fundraising and we can unequivocally state all funds solicited are used for the charitable and religious purposes for which they were donated," Harney said.

Similar claims to follow

The Garcias were 28-year members of the church, rising to upper levels of Scientology. They left in November 2010 over their disenchantment with its direction under Miscavige, who has led the church since founder L Ron Hubbard's death in 1986.

The lawsuit names various trusts and nonprofits linked to Scientology as defendants and says they collectively engage in fraud, unfair and deceptive trade practices and breach of contract in their fundraising.

Attorney Theodore Babbitt of West Palm Beach, who is among those handling the suit, said it would be followed by other similar claims from former Scientologists. He said the Garcias still believe in the precepts of Scientology and that the litigation is not a commentary on whether it is a true religion, a question that has dogged it across the world since it was founded in the 1950s. Babbitt said, ultimately, that question is irrelevant when considering its members' donations.

"Whether you're a church or not a church, you can't defraud people," he said.

Harney called the lawsuit "frivolous".

Staging desperation

"The statements to the media made today about the church and its ecclesiastical leader by these bitter individuals are blatantly false," she said.

Among the accusations made in the lawsuit is that the Garcias and others were repeatedly approached with urgent requests for funding of Scientology work around the globe, such as disaster relief or campaigns for causes such as ending child pornography.

Babbitt said high-ranking former Scientologists would testify that the church knowingly rerouted such collections for other spending, including financing a "lavish lifestyle" for Miscavige, stifling inquiries into church activities and finances, and intimidating members and ex-members.

A common tactic, Babbitt said, when a disaster unfolded somewhere in the world, would be to send a small group of Scientologists with a camera crew that would pay locals in the affected area to appear on camera. A scene would essentially be staged, he claims, in which people would be begging or appear to be starving, even if it weren't the case.

A cornerstone of church practice is personal counselling sessions, known as auditing, in which members disclose many facets of their personal lives. Babbitt says members' own financial status and the accounts they hold would be known from those sessions and then be used in tandem with footage from disaster sites in desperate and urgent pleas for money.

"There's an emergency, we need your money right now, we know that you have X dollars in the bank in Los Angeles," Babbitt said, offering a paraphrase of how a member might be approached.

More than $1bn accumulated

In the end, little if any of the money collected for such causes reached its intended place, he said. Those contributions, the lawsuit claims, were collected by a Scientology-linked group called IAS Administrations, which Babbitt says former church members will testify accumulated more than $1bn in contributions.

The Garcias also claim to have prepaid for auditing and training services that were never provided and for which a refund has never been received, and to have given about $340 000 for the church's planned Super Power building for high-level coursework.

- AP

Read more on:    church of scientology  |  us  |  religion

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
7 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 

ANCYL: Not voting would be blasphemy

Not voting in the forthcoming elections would be blasphemy, the ANCYL says in a statement commemorating the 50th anniversary of struggle icon Nelson Mandela's Rivonia trial speech.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Apple iPad 2 White 16GB 9.7" Tablet With WiFi & 3G

Two cameras for FaceTime and HD video recording. The dual-core...

From R5727.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There may be a break through, either through quiet contemplative time to connect to your deep side or forced on you by...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.