Hearing held... judge tells cult attorneys to "play nice"...How Much Evidence Will The Church Of Scientology Be Forced To Turn Over?
Today's hearing on a lawsuit, brought by the church of Scientology, was less fireworks and more legal building blocks. This was not the "Law and Order" of the last time the two parties went before a judge and allegations of abuse were lobbed about.
The judge delayed a March 23rd court date for 45 days. The attorneys for the church had filed a motion for summary judgement. Basically, they wanted the judge to rule quickly on claims former leader Debbie Cook and her husband violated a non-disclosure agreement by sending off an email, criticizing her former bosses. Cook's attorney argued that the church wasn't turning over evidence and this will give the parties time to work out. Maybe.
The judge also told the church's attorneys that, when it comes to discovery (read: evidence Cook is demanding), they should play nice. Cook's attorney, Ray Jeffery is asking for church leaders to testify about how his clients were viewed during their time at the church and after they had left.
Here's where it gets tricky.
At today's hearing, the church's attorneys seemed to mention that some of the discovery (read: evidence) that Cook was asking for was privileged information because they are a religious institution. The last time I ran across this argument was when I was covering the State of Texas's case against the Fundamentalist Sect of the Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). Texas raided their compound after claims of abuse. A lot has been written about this. During the subsequent trials, the church claimed the Department of Public Safety and State Prosecutors could not admit church records into trial because... well... they are a church.
In that case, ultimately, the records were allowed. It will be interesting to see how much the church will be able to legally withhold because that information is a "church record."
Jeffery is asking for videotapes. He told me after the hearing that the church property where his client was staying when she signed the non-disclosure was totally wired. That's reasonable. What high profile places doesn't have security cameras? He thinks it will go towards the harassment and intimidation. We don't know because, so far, the church has not turned over the tape.
Wayne Baungardner told me after the hearing that their case is a test case.
"If we win this case, they will be in a very bad position. Pretty everyone who signs has been under the same duress that we've been under. This will be a test case that will determine the degree of transparency of the church of Scientology."
Jeffery added it will also determine if people will come forward. "People are afraid," he said.
As for the $100k that the Cook's took? "I worked there for 29 years. We averaged less than $10k a year (salary). At my time of head of flag, I was responsible for $1.7 billion in revenue." Baumgardner said they didn't want the money. "I left check on table and left. I went out. They stopped us at the gate. They wouldn't let us leave."
But will that be on the video they want the church to turn over?http://radio.woai.com/pages/michaelboar ... le=9878106
Mike Board's interview with Ray Jeffrey after the hearing..http://radio.woai.com/player/?mid=21893554