Scientology Defeats Human Trafficking Suit Filed by Former Members

The Church of Scientology has defeated a human trafficking case pushed by former high ranking members accusing the organization of forced labor. A federal court in California on Tuesday ruled that the claimants had every chance to escape.

Several Scientology defectors had apparently planned to sue the organization for alleged forced labor, Reuters reported. Two of the claims concerned former ministers who said that the human trafficking violations were committed when they were forced to work 100 hours a week for low pay, and threatened with disciplinary action if they refused.

One of the former ministers, Marc Headley, even revealed that he had been counseled by movie star actor Tom Cruise, who recently made headline news with his divorce from Katie Holmes. Headley, whose age was not given, apparently worked for years in the church's upper echelon with his wife, Claire, comitting long hours for a weekly stipend of $50, although their living expenses were also covered.

Headley eventually left the Church of Scientology in 2005 and he and his wife sued for human trafficking violations in 2009, saying that they were both threatened to continue working or suffer physical or psychological harm.

"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," Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel in Pasadena, Calif. However, explaining that despite the church's strict rules, O'Scannlian insisted that people still choose the lifestyle they get themselves into.

Lawyers for the Church of Scientology further argued that ministers are never prevented from leaving, and that the Headleys remained at their position for as long as they did by their own free will.

"The court recognizes the alleged strict lifestyle constraints of the religious order had nothing to do with their repeated choice to remain," said Scientology lawyer Eric Lieberman after the decision.

Headley shared with the Village Voice that he finds the decision disappointing, but he and his wife would now focus on their family life.

"Well, we did what we could do," he said. "We have our third kid on the way."