A civil lawsuit against the Church of Scientology and actor Danny Masterson was revived on Wednesday when a California appeals court overturned a lower court’s decision to send the case to arbitration. Lawyers for the church and Masterson had argued that the plaintiffs, four former members of Scientology, had signed a contract obliging them to settle disputes in an internal, closed-door system of “religious arbitration” operated by the church. While those agreements may have applied when those plaintiffs were active members, the agreements are no longer binding, the court ruled. The three-judge panel wrote, “Individuals have a First Amendment right to leave a religion. We believe that once the petitioners terminated their membership in the Church, they were not bound by its dispute resolution procedures. The plaintiffs are Chrissie Carnell-Bixler, her husband, Cedric Bixler-Zavala, and Jane Doe 1 and 2. They accuse both the church and Masterson of a pattern of harassment that allegedly occurred after they left that included harassment, threats, being followed, and other unspecified “illegal and unethical conduct”. Masterson denied the allegations, calling them “ridiculous”. The actor is expected to stand trial for alleged rape in a separate criminal case in August.
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