Head of Scientology Disputes CC Court’s Jurisdiction in Lawsuit

On August 16, Comal County resident Monique Rathbun filed a lawsuit and a temporary restraining order against various entities of the Church of Scientology and two men she accuses of harassment, intimidation and surveillance.

Late last week, David Miscavige and the Religious Technology Center, of which Miscavige is chairman, filed a Special Appearance, in which they insist a Texas court has no jurisdiction over them. In their filings, submitted by attorney Lamont Jefferson of the Haynes and Boone law firm in San Antonio, both Miscavige and RTC declare that since they are not Texas residents, do any business in Texas nor "have any employees, servants or agents in Texas," they are outside Texas courts' jurisdiction. Both also insist they have not contracted, either "directly or through an intermediary," with any resident in Texas for employment.

The last contention refers to Stephen Gregory Sloat, a former U.S. Marshal, and private detective Monty Drake, both of whom Rathbun accuses of harassment, intimidation and surveillance.

At issue, then, is if Miscavige, RTC and Church of Scientology International (also named in the suit and restraining order) either directed or are responsible for Sloat's and Drake's alleged actions. As of this writing, it is unknown if Sloat or Drake have retained council.

On August 27, Rathbun 's attorney, Ray Jeffrey, requested a hearing to turn the temporary restraining order into a temporary injunction. During this brief hearing, only the Church of Scientology International had representation present. Since the other four entities were not present, Jeffrey asked for a default judgment against them. Judge Dib Waldrip instead extended the temporary restraining order until Sept. 13, and slated a hearing, with witnesses, on the request for a temporary injunction for Sept. 12-13.

Monique Rathbun is the wife of Mark Rathbun, who at one time was second in command of the Church under Miscavige. Rathbun left the Church in 2005 and began blogging in 2009 against what he contends are abuses by the Church and Miscavige. The couple married in 2010 and lived in Ingleside. Due to the accused harassment, the couple moved to Comal County where, according to Monique Rathbun 's affidavit, the harassment continued.

In her August 16 affidavit, Monique Rathbun accuses Sloat and Drake of harassment, intimidation and surveillance. She states in the affidavit that she was sent a sex toy at her place of employment, and that flowers accompanied with a love letter were sent to a female coworker under her name. She also says that "Scientology websites have published bizarre and sometimes vile allegations against me, including false claims that I am a sexual pervert. They have even alleged that I am not even a woman, but a man who has had a secret sex-change operation."

What makes the Monique Rathbun case unique is that she has never been a member of the Church, nor has she spoken publicly against Scientology or the Church. The Church has faced several accusations of harassing former members but, according to Jeffrey, the organization often claims First Amendment religious protection, since the former members of the Church chose to follow the church's rules. Monique Rathbun, however, is not a former member, which would invalidate such claims, according to Jeffrey.

The Church's various arms are each an incorporated entity. The RTC, according to its website, "protects the Scientology religion and acts as the final arbiter of orthodoxy." The RTC also controls use of all the trademarks and texts of Scientology. Mark Rathbun was once president of this organization. The daily functions of the church are controlled by CSI.

Monique Rathbun 's suit and temporary restraining order infers that they are not, in fact, separate groups. During the brief appearance before Judge Waldrip, Jeffrey said that the official offices of the CSI and RTC "share the same building in Los Angeles," and that it is misleading to presume one entity doesn't know what the other is doing.

Miscavige's Declaration, affirming his filing for Special Appearance, refers to himself as "the ecclesiastical leader of the Scientology religion." Thus, Rathbun 's filing appears to say that Miscavige and RTC are at least partly responsible for the harassment. This runs counter to claims by Miscavige and RTC that neither has contracted people in Texas, nor do they know Sloat and Drake.

Nick Rogers covers courts and crime for the TX Citizen.

Comments