Fraud Portion of Suit Against Scientology Dismissed
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The Church of Scientology didn’t defraud a former member, a judge has ruled, but the member will be allowed to pursue a lawsuit claiming that church practices caused him emotional harm.
Superior Court Judge Ronald Swearinger on Monday dismissed part of a lawsuit against the church by Larry Wollersheim, ruling that Wollersheim couldn’t claim that Scientologists intentionally defrauded him. The balance of the suit will be decided by a jury, Swearinger ruled.
Wollersheim’s attorney, Leta Schlosser, said the judge agreed with the church’s argument that there was no proof the people named in the lawsuit believed the practices they used on Wollersheim were fraudulent.
The Los Angeles-based church claims Wollersheim’s lawsuit is an attack on the fundamental beliefs of Scientology and thus an assault on freedom of religion.
Wollersheim, a member of the church for 11 years, contends he was left financially and emotionally destroyed by church practices.
The church, founded in the 1950s by L. Ron Hubbard, is based on the idea that the tensions of modern life need to be released. It charges members thousands of dollars to go through a program that includes exercises, counseling and such practices as ″auditing″ on a lie-detector-type device called an E-Meter.
Former members and detractors have called the church a brainwashing cult, and the church has been in a continuous battle with federal authorities over taxes.
The judge said a jury would have to decide the claim of inflicting emotional distress.
The trial attracted attention last week when movie star John Travolta showed up in court to show support for the religion. Travolta, a longtime Scientologist, credited his faith with allowing him to ″survive in Hollywood.″