contracts of adhesion

Mike Rinder: To Speak, or Not To Speak

Golden Lady Justice, Bruges, Belgium

(Note: Mike Rinder’s column of 12/17/2016 is so important that I am reposting here in its entirety.)  Mike Rinder:

THIS IS IMPORTANT

Leah Remini: Scientology and The Aftermath is reaching far and wide. As a result, there are a lot of people coming forward with their own stories of abuse in the church. We set up an email for people to report things (knowledgereports@hushmail.com) and soon hope to have a website (if I can find the time to put it together).

But there is one thing that has come up repeatedly that I wanted to comment on publicly.  The supposed “confidentiality agreements” many have signed. Though this mostly applies to those signed by Sea Org members, most staff and many public have also signed such agreements.

I now come to find that Scientology Ethics Officers have apparently made a habit of lying to people that such agreements (laden with draconian financial penalties for “breaching” the agreement) prevent them from even reporting crimes. This is simply NOT true. NO agreement or contract may prevent you or anyone from reporting a crime to law enforcement or testifying truthfully about it. No matter what some MAA may have said to you, you are not only free to report any crime you witnessed, you have an obligation to testify truthfully about it if you are asked to do so by law enforcement.

But alarmingly, even this lie is apparently embellished even further.

Some people have been convinced by unscrupulous (or woefully ignorant) MAA’s that they must not even MENTION that they signed such an agreement because to do so would be a violation of the agreement. And thus they must not only NOT say anything about crimes they may have witnessed, and if asked, they must NOT say it is because they “signed an agreement.” They must act dumb. Literally. This is a terrible, false and probably illegal LIE designed to suppress evidence of wrongdoing and pervert the course of justice.

Generally, these “confidentiality” agreements that so many people have signed are not legally enforceable. But you might wonder: “So why does the church use them? They have expensive lawyers and surely if they are not valid the lawyers have told them so?” Well, the lawyers HAVE told them so.  But they are counting on the fact that people BELIEVE they have validity and because they have been led to believe scientology will come after them for millions of dollars in “damages” if they “violate the agreement” even though they are useless in a legal sense. The misinformation about these agreements keeps a lot of people quiet. So, from scientology’s perspective, for the cost of a few sheets of paper, they have convinced 98% of the people who have signed them that they may never disclose anything they saw or experienced in scientology. That’s a pretty good cost/benefit ratio.

If you have been the victim of a crime or a witness to it, and you believed you could not report it because you were told you had signed a legal document that prevented you from doing so, it is another scientology LIE.

REPORT WHAT YOU KNOW TO THE APPROPRIATE LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY. 

In addition to the fact that no contract can prevent anyone from reporting a crime, there are other reasons that make such agreements unenforceable.  What if you are not sure that what you witnessed or experienced is actually illegal, but you know it is wrong, and want to talk about it with someone? Can you?

Generally (and this is put in layman’s terms and is not the advice of a lawyer — but it is the opinion of someone VERY experienced in these matters) you cannot be bound by a contract:

  • You signed when you were a minor.
  • If you did not know what you were signing, did not understand the consequences and had no opportunity to consult with a lawyer
  • The contract is one-sided. You give up rights and scientology gives up nothing and doesn’t provide adequate consideration for what you give away
  • You felt you were coerced into signing the agreement — you had no choice and the consequences of not signing were so dire that you signed even though you had doubts

There are other reasons that make a contract unenforceable. But commonly, one or more of the above is true for ANY contract you signed when you were in scientology and almost certainly if you were in the Sea Org.

Scientology is not suing anyone for violating these agreements. They never have and they never will. In recent memory, scientology filed ONE lawsuit over breach of an agreement. They sued Debbie Cook. And her agreement had been drafted specifically for her (it was not a generic “confidentiality agreement” that everyone signs), it was signed on video in the presence of a lawyer who asked if she was doing it of her own free will, and she was handed a check for $50,000 in exchange for signing the agreement. But after one day of testimony about the circumstances under which she signed it and why, the church backed out of court like they had been hit between the legs with as stun gun. That attempted suit went nowhere other than into a disastrous tailspin of horrifying negative media for scientology.

Scientology has not sued me, and I signed these agreements too. They have not sued Marty Rathbun. Or Amy Scobee. Or Marc and Claire Headley. Or Jeff Hawkins. Or anyone. And they all signed them too.

I urge you now: If you have witnessed physical assault, sexual assault, child abuse, been brought into the country by the church under false pretenses, or on a church arranged visa and had your passport confiscated, if you were asked to lie to law enforcement on behalf of scientology or asked to cover up or not report a crime, if you were asked to perjure yourself in a legal case or anything else you believe may be a crime, please step forward, speak up and help put this criminality to an end.

If you do not know where to go or who to talk to, write to us at knowledgereports@hushmail.com.  We will try to respond as quickly as possible. But please don’t send us anything if you are not willing to come forward, we need to devote our energies to those who are in a position to make statements publicly.

As the curtain is drawn back on the truth about scientology, the insidious layers of deception and control are being revealed. And this has concealed a lot of ugly and even criminal behavior that has been ignored or deliberately hidden.

It is time to draw back the curtains for real.

DOX: How Scientology ensnares the unsuspecting in a series of binding contracts

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(Note: This article was originally published on Tony Ortega’s Underground Bunker and is republished here for archival purposes)

How do good people get trapped in something like Scientology? One way is through the series of unconscionable legal contracts the Church of Scientology uses to strip its members of their civil and legal rights. As revealed in its own documents, Scientology is designed to ensnare its members legally, and as soon as practically possible. Contracts are the legal backbone of the “Prison of Belief.”

The public doesn’t know about this malicious series of Scientology contracts. New Scientologists are never informed, advised, or counseled in advance about the potential adverse legal consequences they could face as a result of signing these contracts. These contracts are one-sided and give the Church all of the power while taking away power from individual members.

The first thing a new Scientologist must do is watch an introductory video. Simply entitled “Orientation,” the film serves as the legal basis for the first contract all new Scientologists must sign. The essence of this contract is that a new member agrees that he or she considers Scientology to be a religion. This contract is called “Attestation of Religious Belief Regarding the Scientology Religious Film called Orientation.” Excerpt:

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We have seen recently in the Luis and Rocio Garcia fraud lawsuit against the Church of Scientology how useful such a declaration can be. In that case, the Garcias never got a chance to have their claims of fraud heard before a jury because the judge felt it would infringe on Scientology’s religious rights. When the Garcias objected that they never granted that Scientology was a religion, Whittemore pointed to statements made by Luis in deposition which showed that he had, at one time, considered Scientology a religion. Statements like that matter, and Scientology knows it. So it wants a new member on the record — this is church, not self-help.

The second contract the new Scientologist must sign is called the “Religious Services Enrollment Application, Agreement, and General Release.” In this contract, one gives up the legal right to sue the Church of Scientology or to have a lawyer represent them in any dispute with Scientology. One also surrenders the right to a refund of any donations they have made to the organization.

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The third contract a new Scientologist signs is called Agreement Regarding Confidential Religious Files. In this particular contract a Scientologist forever signs away all their rights to ever read, inspect, review, or own their preclear folders. Excerpt:

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Although Scientologists pay the Church of Scientology hundreds of thousands dollars to go up the Bridge, no Scientologist may ever read, inspect, review, or own their preclear folders. The Church owns these folders forever. When a member leaves the Church and speaks out, OSA typically breaks the contract by culling a person’s preclear folders to look for dirt on that person in an attempt to shudder them into silence. Failing this, OSA uses materials from folders in its hate websites.

The fourth standard contract a Scientologist signs is called “Agreement and General Assistance Regarding Spiritual Assistance.” Shockingly, this is Scientology’s infamous “Kidnap Contract” which allows the Church to take any of its members and lock them up for an indefinite duration of time — and this without the kidnapped member having the benefit of any legal representation, legal hearing, medical evaluation, or medical intervention. All a Scientology “case supervisor” has to say is that a member has gone Type III. After this pronouncement, the member is bodily seized, locked up, and held against their will. This is exactly what happened to Lisa McPherson.

Lisa McPherson died while being held captive in Scientology’s Introspection Rundown. In the contract excerpt below, the Scientologist agrees to not sue the Church for any injuries or damage — and this release contemplates death — that might or could occur when one is being held as a religious prisoner in the Introspection Rundown. Excerpt:

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Scientologists must sign onerous contracts all the way up the Bridge to Total Freedom. For example, Scientology OT’s sign a contract wherein they agree to pay a $100,000 fine — falsely called a reimbursement — if they ever publicly disclose anything from the secret OT levels.

10. Parishioner acknowledges and agrees that the continuing harm to FSO, to all other churches of Scientology and affiliated organizations that would result from his/her breach of any of the provisions of this Agreement, including but not limited to Parishioner’s unauthorized use or disclosure, of all or in any part, of the Advanced Technology or the information, materials or works comprising it, would not be readily compensable monetarily and would hence constitute irreparable harm. Therefore, Parishioner hereby consents to the entry of temporary, preliminary and permanent injunctive relief against Parishioner should Parishioner breach or threaten to breach any of the terms of this Agreement, without requiring the enforcing party to post a bond or make any undertaking as a condition of such relief except to the extent an undertaking may, under applicable law, be required, in which event Parishioner recognizes that an undertaking of $10,000 shall be adequate to cover any economic interest (including Parishioner’s attorneys’ fees). In addition, Parishioner acknowledges and agrees that not only would it be extremely difficult to determine or calculate the actual monetary damages resulting from his/her breach of any of the provisions of this Agreement, but that FSO and/or its licensor will be required to incur significant legal fees and costs to protect and preserve the Advanced Technology, as it is scripturally and contractually bound to do. As such, Parishioner agrees to reimburse FSO and/or its licensor, for FSO’s or its licensor’s legal fees for each such breach by Parishioner. Further, Parishioner agrees to pay FSO and its licensor the total amount of $100,000 for each such breach by Parishioner.

As covered previously by Tony Ortega at the Underground Bunker, all Sea Org and Scientology staff members have been made to sign a new non-disparagement agreement that prevents them from speaking out if they ever leave. The contract screams this in caps that could have been written by David Miscavige himself:

3. I therefore agree that in exchange for the opportunity to serve on the Church’s staff and to receive the benefits available to all staff members, including the right to receive Scientology religious auditing and training to forward my own spiritual growth, I swear to forever use the full extent of my ability to uphold my obligations under this Religious Covenant of Non-Disparagement (“Non-Disparagement Covenant”). I will never do less. Accordingly, I PROMISE AND SWEAR NEVER TO SAY OR ENCOURAGE OR INDUCE OTHERS TO SAY OR WRITE ANYTHING NEGATIVE OR DISPARAGING ABOUT L. RON HUBBARD (“LRH”), THE CHURCH, CSI, RTC OR ANY OTHER CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY OR THEIR STAFF, OFFICERS, DIRECTORS OR TRUSTEES, IN WHATEVER CAPACITY, OR ABOUT THE RELIGIOUS PRACTICES, MATERIALS, TECHNOLOGY AND SERVICES OF THE SCIENTOLOGY RELIGION. I UNDERSTAND AND AGREE THAT THIS NON-DISPARAGEMENT COVENANT APPLIES NOT JUST WHILE I AM SERVING ON THE CHURCH’S STAFF BUT ALSO IN PERPETUITY, SHOULD I EVER LEAVE STAFF.

The Scientology non-disparagement contract calls for an offending Sea Org or Staff member to pay the Church $25,000 in liquidated damages per breach:

B. In addition to anything else a court may require me to do for violating this Non-Disparagement Covenant, that I shall pay the Church $25,000 as liquidated damages (and not as a penalty) for each individual violation of this Non-Disparagement Covenant and/or for each individual instance of causing, participating in, cooperating with or encouraging the publication or broadcast of information that results in a violation of this Non-Disparagement Covenant. I understand that it is difficult to ascertain the exact extent of damage and harm a violation would cause the Church, but I acknowledge that $25,000 is fair and reasonable.

The Church of Scientology’s contracts serve to make “donations” nonrefundable, subject all disputes to internal binding arbitration, and act to protect the Church’s legal interests while obliterating the legal rights and protections of Scientologists. None of this is surprising coming as it does from a “Church” that was legally designed by lawyers to fend off lawsuits, discovery, and trials to the greatest degree possible.