Scientology being sued for $1m in US test case

Posted Apr 10, 2010 by Andrew John
A married couple bringing a lawsuit against the controversial Church of Scientology in the United States – which numbers Tom Cruise and John Travolta among its ranks – have alleged they were treated like slaves.
Scientology s New York City building  acquired in 1980
Scientology's New York City building, acquired in 1980
Wikimedia Commons
The two former members – 36-year-old Marc Headley and his wife Claire – have brought a test case against the organization, telling how they were “forced to work 20-hour days almost continually through the year,” according to the UK’s Telegraph newspaper.
“Mrs Headley claims she was coerced into having an abortion, while Mr Headley has spoken about how he was subjected to a strange mind-control practise [sic] by the actor Tom Cruise,” says the paper.
The Headleys were members of a “religious order” within Scientology known as Sea Org, which is a supposedly elite vanguard made up of its most dedicated recruits. The couple had signed up to the religion while they were teenagers.
Members sign a billion-year pledge of loyalty. In addition, they promise not to have children and to live and work communally.
Marc Headley says he devoted half his life to the cult, but started to question it while earning just 39 cents an hour mass-producing cassettes that, he claims, the organization paid $1 to make but sold for $75. He says that, in 15 years, he earned just $29,000.
The Headleys now want back payments and overtime pay amounting to $1 million (about £660,000) each. Their lawyer, Barry Van Sickle, said: “This is a test case. We didn’t do this to make a big bunch of money for the Headleys. The idea was that if we could make [the Scientologists] comply with the labour laws, people could get some sleep at night, have some money in their pocket and be harder to control.”
“The Scientology organisation has denied all the allegations and says the plaintiffs are liars motivated by greed,” says the Telegraph.
Marc Headley has described how, in 1990, he was reassigned so that Tom Cruise could practise what the organization calls “auditing” – a counselling technique – on him. Headley says Cruise spent three weeks performing so-called “upper indoctrination training routines.” During these periods Cruise would instruct Headley, for hours on end, he says, to speak to a book, bottle, and ashtray, even giving the objects orders.
Many Sea Org members are based in a large gated compound outside Los Angeles. Headley said he lived with 24-hour surveillance. There was a roll call three times a day and mail was censored. At one point he was pursued by security guards as he tried to escape the compound.
Sea Org, short for Sea Organization, was set up by Scientology’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, to accompany him on his proselytizing sea journeys. The church says Sea Org’s members number 6,000. Some still often wear pseudo-naval uniforms, it is said.
The trial itself is due to start in January next year.