Scientology Wins Appeal on Members’ Arbitration

     (CN) – A Florida couple failed to convince the Florida Supreme Court to overturn a decision allowing the Church of Scientology to arbitrate a dispute with them over how their donations were spent.
     Maria Del Rocio Burgos Garcia and Luis A. Garcia Saz sued the church in January 2013, claiming it tricked them into giving the organization hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund a building project known as the “Super Power Project.”
     The Garcias claimed their donations were misspent. The Garcias also alleged that the church took money from them for counseling sessions, training, and accommodations which they were never provided. The church refused to issue refunds to the Garcias, according to the original complaint.
     The couple signed a contract, called an “enrollment agreement,” with the church, and in doing so agreed that any disagreements that should arise would be handled with a panel of Scientology members rather than in court.
     The Garcias contend that in spite of including that provision in its enrollment agreement, the Church of Scientology has never established independent arbitration procedures, rendering it impossible for them to get a fair hearing for their concerns.
     But U.S. District Judge James Whittemore said the Garcias’ request for reconsideration failed to meet any of the criteria that would allow him to overturn the prior decision.
     “Plaintiffs’ contention supporting their request for reconsideration do not demonstrate a change in law, offer new evidence, nor demonstrate clear error or manifest injustice,” Whittemore wrote on May 15. “With respect to the Plaintiffs’ third and fourth reasons, they simply rehash their original arguments which were previously considered and rejected.”
     “Lastly, Plaintiffs’ contention that Defendants ‘[sprung] their seminal defense of First Amendment privilege’ on the eve of the evidentiary hearing is borderline disingenuous, considering the record,” the judge continued. “Indeed, in their original motion to compel arbitration, Defendants invoked First Amendment protection against judicial interpretations of Scientology doctrine … Moreover, Plaintiffs; own briefing acknowledged Defendants’ First Amendment contentions, although they dismissed them as ‘irrelevant distractions.'”
     “Considering this record, Plaintiffs’ contention warrants no further discussion,” Whittemore concluded.
     Representatives of the parties could not immediately be reached for comment.

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