Woman Drops Lawsuit Against Scientology

     AUSTIN (CN) — A Texas woman embroiled in a years-long legal battle with the Church of Scientology and its leader David Miscavige filed a motion Tuesday to voluntarily dismiss her harassment lawsuit against the church and some of its top officials.
     The legal move came as the Texas Supreme Court was poised to review arguments in the case, and months after Monique Rathbun, the wife of a former high-ranking Scientologist, fired her attorneys without explanation.
     Rathbun claimed in a 2013 lawsuit that the church mounted a three-year campaign of dirty tricks, including surveillance, harassment and “ruthlessly aggressive misconduct” that drove her from her South Texas home and into seclusion in the Hill Country, where she was found again by Scientology operatives.
     The lawsuit wound its way from the Comal County Courthouse to Texas Third Court of Appeals in Austin, which rejected the church’s attempt to throw out the lawsuit on the basis of free speech. The church was appealing that ruling to the Texas Supreme Court.
     But after more than 32 months of litigation with the church’s contingent of attorneys, Rathbun, no longer represented by counsel, filed a pro se motion with the Texas Supreme Court on April 27 that effectively put an end to the case.
     Rathbun wrote that her former attorneys made it “abundantly clear” that continued litigation “is not worth it financially.”
     “My husband and I have effectively achieved the primary purpose that the lawsuit was originally intended to serve by our own independent efforts,” Rathbun wrote in her motion to lift the stay of proceedings in the lower court, pending appeal.
     “It is a travesty that the statute designed to prevent suppression of the rights to speech, association and petition has been used to delay remedy for violations of those very rights in this case for two and one-half years,” Rathbun wrote.
     The state Supreme Court granted the motion on May 6 and on Tuesday Rathbun filed for dismissal in Comal County Judge Dib Waldrip’s courtroom, where she made identical arguments to nonsuit.
     Rathbun filed the motion without prejudice, which, if granted, leaves open the possibility that the lawsuit could resurface.
     Rathbun’s former attorneys declined to comment, citing a policy against speaking about former clients.
     Before Rathbun fired her legal team in late January, they had all but assured that the case would go to trial.
     The trial court judge in Comal County, just north of San Antonio, refused to dismiss the lawsuit in 2014, and the Austin-based appellate court’s November 2015 ruling found that the church’s monitoring of Rathbun was not protected by free speech
     The church acknowledged in court documents that it conducted surveillance of Rathbun as part of a “pre-litigation or pre-petition investigation” to try to protect the integrity of the church.
     But the church denied that it had harassed the couple, and said its activities were legally protected.
     Rathbun’s married a once-prominent Scientology official Marty Rathbun six years ago, who fled the church in 2005 after 27 years on the inside.
     Formerly known as Scientology’s number two executive behind Miscavige, Marty Rathbun now is an outspoken critic of the church and in 2009 accused Miscavige of “criminal mistreatment of Scientology clergy.” He was featured in HBO’s 2015 documentary “Going Clear,” which explores the church and claims made by Rathbun’s husband and other former members.
     Monique Rathbun said she has never been a member of the church, and did not join her husband in speaking out about Scientology issues.
     But she claimed in court that she was identified as an attacker of Scientology and became a target of Miscavige’s through the church’s Office of Special Affairs.
     Among other things, she said that Scientology operatives in golf carts openly followed her day and night hurling insults, that a sex toy was sent to her at her workplace, and that Scientologists twice leased nearby homes where they installed high-powered surveillance cameras directed at the Rathbun property.
     Rathbun says the abuse drove her and her husband from their home in Ingleside on the Bay, a tiny gulf community along the Texas coast, to a wooded lot in Comal County, where she filed the harassment complaint in August 2013.
     In what turned out to be their last legal maneuver, church attorneys in February filed a 92-page petition for review to the state supreme court, asking it to take up the First Amendment arguments that had been rejected by the lower court.
     Rathbun waived the filing of a response, but when the justices requested that she produce one, she filed a motion to end the legal battle instead.
     “I do not have the resources, the time, nor the motivation to litigate in the Supreme Court of Texas against Scientology’s army of lawyers,” she said in the motion.
     Rathbun also blamed her former attorneys for “defects” in her lawsuit that she says Scientology attorneys used to create further delays.

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