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Suit accuses Scientology church, leader of abuse, trafficking

By
Nicholas Sakelaris

June 20 (UPI) -- A California lawsuit has accused the controversial Church of Scientology International and its leader of engaging in child abuse, human trafficking and retaliatory activities against former members.

The suit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court and seeks compensatory damages and unpaid wages from the church, its Religious Technology Center and ecclesiastical leader David Miscavige. The complaint was filed on behalf of an unnamed female plaintiff, and attorneys say there will be more lawsuits.

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The 40-year-old woman said she was raised in the church and became a steward to Misavige at the Religious Technology Center when she was 15. The suit says she joined the Sea Organization, a group for the church's most dedicated members, and worked 100 hours a week for very little pay. She says she was held against her will, and later placed in an isolation program called "the Hole." In 2016, the suit says, she escaped the church in the trunk of a car.

"We've seen what can happen when there is truth exposed in terms of child abuse within organizations," plaintiffs attorney Brian Kent told the Tampa Bay Times. "You've seen it with the Catholic Church. ... We're hoping for meaningful change."

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An attorney for the church said it will "vigorously defend" itself.

"The lawsuit comprises nothing more than unfounded allegations as to all defendants," Scientology attorney Rebecca Kaufman told NBC News. She added it's "littered with anti-religious slurs culled from the tabloids" and said the accusations were proven false in courts "decades ago."

A number of celebrities -- including actors John Travolta and Tom Cruise -- are members of the Church of Scientology.

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