A former Orange County member of the Church of Scientology can proceed to trial in her lawsuit alleging that as a teen she was forced to work long hours and coerced to have an abortion, a judge has ruled.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Doyle on Wednesday denied a motion by lawyers for the Church of Scientology International and its Religious Technology Center to dismiss Laura Ann DeCrescenzo’s case, reports City News Service’s Bill Hetherman.
Doyle did toss one cause of action: whether DeCrescenzo was deprived of a constitutional right of liberty.
She is suing for alleged forced abortion, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, unfair business practices and wage-and-hour violations.
DeCrescenzo began doing volunteer work for the Church of Scientology in Orange County when she was age 6 or 7. Ironically, at age 7, she says she joined other Scientologists picketing the Los Angeles Superior Court civil courthouse to prove the institution would “go to every length to bring down people who filed lawsuits” against the Church of Scientology.
At age 12 she was recruited to join Scientology’s elite Sea Org, for which she claims to have been initially required to work for daily from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Two more hours a day were later tacked on, she adds.
In February 1996, at age 17, DeCrescenzo says she became pregnant, alleging the church persuaded her to abort her fetus to show her allegiance to Sea Org and the long hours. It’s an allegation other women have made dating back to Sea Org’s operations at sea during the mid-1970s through the opening of the Scientology and Sea Org land base in Hemet.
Claiming to have been told she could never leave Sea Org, DeCrescenzo alleges she only managed to do so in 2004 when, by then 25, she pretended to attempt suicide by swallowing bleach. She left the church for good four years later.
Attorney Bert Deixler, on behalf of the Church of Scientology, argues DeCrescenzo’s lawsuit wrongly involves the courts in the affairs of a religious organization.
“We do not have the civil courts investigate religious practices,” said Deixler, adding the DeCrescenzo case is “a question of faith, and not force” and that the plaintiff and her family made their own choices without intimidation. He denies church members forced her to have an abortion, saying she made that choice.
DeCrescenzo’s attorney, John Blumberg, claims his client was effectively “brainwashed” by the church because she was not allowed to hear outside opinions about the religion’s practices.
Doyle scheduled a June 3 status conference to discuss the outcome of any appellate court ruling and the setting of a trial date.