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Danny Masterson Criminal Trial to Proceed: Appeal Panel Drops Religious Arbitration

An upper appeals panel has dropped the Church of Scientology's request for a religious arbitration panel.

In 2019, That 70s Show actor Danny Masterson was accused of rape by two separate women. Masterson, a member of the Church of Scientology, was charged after two former members of the congregation came forward, and is currently awaiting criminal trial.

Also under scrutiny for their role is the Church of Scientology, itself. The two women brought a lawsuit against the institution in 2019, where they alleged that the church viciously retaliated against them for reporting Masterson to law enforcement. They claim that Scientology has a strict policy against reporting other church members to police, and that those who do so are subjected to "Fair Game Tactics."

The women claim they have been stalked, their electronics have been hacked, their pets killed, and that they've even been run off the road for turning against the church. Even worse, in their case against Masterson, the church was going to force them to take their allegations to a "religious arbitration panel"---a hearing within the church where they would have examined the women's conduct on their own.

Thankfully, an appeals panel ruled that the accusers will not have to attend any such arbitration. The panel claims,

“Scientology’s written arbitration agreements are not enforceable against members who have left the faith, with respect to claims for subsequent non-religious, tortious acts. To hold otherwise would bind members irrevocably to a faith they have the constitutional right to leave.”

This is not the first harrowing story of someone trying to leave the Church of Scientology, as the institution has a reputation of darker, controlling tendencies. The panel also states,

“In effect, Scientology suggests that one of the prices of joining its religion (or obtaining a single religious service) is eternal submission to a religious forum – a sub silencio waiver of petitioners’ constitutional right to extricate themselves from the faith. The Constitution forbids a price that high.”

Masterson’s criminal trial is set to begin in August, though this is likely not the last delay from the church.

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