On 24 July 2012 Marc and Claire Headley (whoismarcheadley.com) lost their appeal in a "forced labor" case against the Church of Scientology.
The Headleys had left the Sea Organization in 2005 and went their way until running out of money. So in 2009 they re-defined their so far fond memories about their time in the Sea Org for the purpose to get some money from the Church. The first instance already took them apart in 2010 and on 24 July 2012 Ninth Cicruit Court of Appeal decided again on it. Key quotes from the judgement:
- The Sea Organization is a religious order, participation in it is voluntary and those who want to leave can do so easily.
"The Sea Org is an elite religious order of the Church and acts as Scientology's evangelical wing. The Sea Org demands much of its members, renders strict discipline, imposes stringent ethical and lifestyle constraints, and goes to great efforts to retain clergy and to preserve the integrity of the ministry." (page 8398)
- Nothing and nobody forced the Headley's to join, participate and stay in the Sea Organization. To the contrary, the Headley's testified under oath that they enjoyed it and wanted to be there.
" Rather, the record overwhelmingly shows that the Headleys joined and voluntarily worked for the Sea Org because they believed that it was the right thing to do, because they enjoyed it, and because they thought that by working they were honoring the commitment that they each made and to which they adhered." (page 8408)
- The Headleys could have left whenever they wanted to but did not.
"We emphasize that the Headleys had innumerable opportunities to leave the defendants. They lived outside of the Base and had access to vehicles, phones, and the Internet. They traveled away from the Base often. The security that they decry afforded them a multitude of opportunities to leave, as hundreds of other Sea Org members had done-whatever their commitments and whatever they may have been told regarding the permissibility of leaving. ... They did not take any of their many opportunities to leave until 2005 and chose instead to stay with the defendants and to continue providing their ministerial services. They have not established a genuine issue of fact regarding whether they were victims of forced-labor violations." (page 8410)
But they first chose to stay and then - as the last of numerous violations of agreed-upon moral codes - took a hike instead of leaving like anyone else would.
"Sea Org members learn that strict discipline is central to preserving the integrity of Scientology's ministry. If a member fails to meet Scientology's ethical standards, he may be disciplined with verbal warnings or rebukes, loss of privileges, removal from a post, diminution of responsibilities, manual labor, or expulsion. Sea Org members also participate in religious training and practices, including "confessionals." In a confessional, a member confesses transgressions and may then be absolved or disciplined.
This demanding, ascetic life is not for everyone-and is not even for many of those who go through the Sea Org's extensive training and preparation. A member may formally withdraw his vows and leave the ministry through a process called "routing out." Routing out allows a member to remain a Scientologist in good standing. The process involves filling out a form and normally includes participating in Scientology ethics programs. Routing out can take weeks or months. During that time members are excused from their posts but are expected to continue serving the Church by performing chores." (page 8399)
What, no Suppressive Person declare for those leaving the Sea Org? Exactly. Luckily the court cleared that up too. And what about the people that "blow"?
"Some Scientologists leave the Sea Org without routing out - a practice known as "blowing" - but the Sea Org discourages members from doing so. When a member leaves without routing out, other members may band together to try to locate that member and attempt to persuade him to return to the Sea Org. Scientologists believe that such an effort-known as a "blow drill" - is integral to their efforts to clear the planet and to help their members (even departed ones) achieve salvation. So important is this to the Church that a blown member may be disciplined if he returns or may be declared a "suppressive person." Being so declared is akin to being excommunicated or shunned, and can cause blown members to lose contact with Scientologist family or friends." (page 8400)
Obviously. If a friend of yours goes missing you would go looking for her too, right?
And in the end this turned out to be one of those sad "apostate" stories: The Headley's enjoyed their stay and work in the Sea Organization and only after they had repeatedly betrayed and lied to their former friends, and secretly left them, they "suddenly" (years later!) found something "wrong" about it.
- The full decision for download
- More about Claire and Marc Headley from whoismarcheadley.com