Los Angeles — A former member of the Church of Scientology can legally sue the religious sect for allegedly forcing her to have an abortion, a California judge has ruled.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge John P. Doyle concluded last week that Laura Ann DeCrescenzo's lawsuit against the organization can proceed.
"In his ruling, Judge Doyle rejected the Scientology organization's assertions that they merely exercised their free speech rights when they persuaded DeCrescenzo to have an abortion when she was 17 and already married," noted law360.com.
"The judge also found unresolved issues related to DeCrescenzo's claims that she was falsely imprisoned and subjected to harsh conditions and manual labor while in a program called 'Rehabilitation Project Force,' which the organization uses to punish members for purported wrongs."
In 2009, DeCrescenzo filed a complaint against the Church of Scientology, arguing that the controversial group had treated her horribly and forced her to have an abortion.
According to an amended complaint filed February 2010, DeCrescenzo accused the group of a "forced abortion," "false imprisonment," "intentional infliction of emotional distress," and "violation of labor code."
"[The Church of Scientology] forced [DeCrescenzo] to have an abortion by threatening her with losing her job, housing, and losing her husband if she did not have an abortion," read the 2010 complaint.
"Further, [The Church of Scientology] threatened that upon losing her job, [DeCrescenzo] would owe [the organization] a 'Freeloader Debt,' which is a supposed debt that [she] would owe for purported Scientology training and services."
The complaint also alleged that "[The Church of Scientology has] had an internal policy of coercing and forcing their female employees, including [DeCrescenzo], to have abortions, so as to maximize the workload from female employees and to avoid child care issues."
In a response filed in November of 2011, the Church of Scientology said it "denies each and every allegation" made by DeCrescenzo in her amended complaint.
The sect argued that all "acts and omissions alleged" as well as "any acts and omissions" that were "actually committed" by the Church of Scientology "are protected by the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, by Article I, Section 4 of the California Constitution, and by the 'Ministerial Exemption' arising under and from such federal and state constitutional provisions. ..."
If found guilty of forcing DeCrescenzo to have an abortion, the Church of Scientology would be shown as having gone against their own stated position on abortion and birth control.
In an entry on the Frequently Asked Questions section of their website, the Church of Scientology states that they do not hold a specific position on abortion and birth control and that the Scientology organization "never advocates abortion to staff or to parishioners."
"The Church of Scientology does not mandate a position on these subjects. They are an individual's personal choice and Scientology parishioners are totally free to decide for themselves," continued the entry.
"In Scientology, procreation and the rearing of children is one of the Eight Dynamics of existence. Couples are free to decide the size of their own family and Scientologists do so in accord with their determination as to the greatest good across their dynamics."