A woman who claimed she was imprisoned and threatened by members of the Church of Scientology was ordered to undergo an internal arbitration with the organization before she could proceed with the civil lawsuit she filed against the Church, RadarOnline.com can exclusively reveal.
In a ruling released on Thursday, January 30, Judge Richard Burdge wrote Valerie Haney signed multiple agreements in 2010 and 2017 that said she agreed to arbitration with "senior ecclesiastical bodies" within the Church to solve any claims or disputes before deciding to file any lawsuits.
Haney filed a suit last year at Los Angeles Superior Court against Scientology and the church's leader, David Miscavige, for false imprisonment, kidnapping, stalking, libel, slander, emotional distress, human trafficking, failure to provide minimum wage and rest periods and negligence.
Haney said she was born into Scientology and claimed she was brainwashed to sign over her rights to the church. As a member of the Church's Sea Org, Haney claimed she was forced to work 100 hours per week and was paid less than $50 per week. She also alleges she was forced to sign the papers before she was admitted into the Sea Org, and other documents when she was going through the process of leaving the church in 2017.
Haney has previously appeared in the Leah Remini show Scientology and the Aftermath.
During Thursday's hearing, Haney's attorney, Robert Thompson, said his client was still a minor when she signed most of the agreements. He also asked the judge to order the Church to hand over other evidence.
"That shows how these defendants ran their affairs in forcing members of their church to sign agreements under duress," Thompson said to the judge. "They are only producing ones they are allowing you to see. That is why we should be allowed to dig into this a little bit before you force her to go into religious arbitration where her claims will be dead upon arrival. She's never going to get a fair shake before a panel of Scientologists when she is bringing claims against the Scientologists for harassing and ruining her life."
The judge, however, ruled in favor of the Church, and wrote in his ruling that, while the arbitration agreements Haney signed are broad, "They are intended to be so to protect the religious doctrines of the Defendants and for them to be able to address challenges to their practices within religious, rather than secular legal structures."
In a declaration, Haney also said she signed the documents under duress, and claimed that at one of the meetings, a man with a gun was inside the room when she signed the paperwork. She claims the Church still continues to threaten and harass her.
"During my routing out process, I was made to sign the departure documents in a room with only Scientology's general counsel and a man armed with a gun," Haney wrote in a Jan. 15, 2020 declaration. "I do not know the contents of any of the documents I signed. I was given copies of the documents. I signed any document that was given to me because I just wanted it to be over and to get out of there. It was under these conditions that I was coerced to sign agreements with the Church of Scientology, under the constant threat of imprisonment."
The judge, however, ruled Haney's argument that the documents she signed are invalid because she was coerced was "not sufficient" to invalidate the Church's motion to continue the arbitration process.
"Her declaration demonstrates that she contends generally that the agreements she signed prior to the Departure Agreement were signed only because she was forced to do so, as they were 'take-it-ot-leave-it' agreements," the judge wrote in his Jan. 30, 2020 ruling. "However, mere statements that a party to an agreement was 'coerced' to sign the agreement is insufficient to constitute proof that that party was in fact coerced to do so. While Plaintiff does specifically attest that a 'man with a gun' observed her sign the Departure Agreement, which, if true, may be circumstantial evidence that the Departure Agreement was entered into due to duress or coercion, but she does not explain what this man did to coerce her to sign."
According to one of the agreements Haney signed, the arbitration process would involve the International Justice of Chief of the Mother Church of the Scientology religion, Church of Scientology International or another designee.