September 18, 2020

STATEMENT – Law Center Files Amicus Supporting Trafficking Survivor’s Right To Have Her Claims Heard In A Court Of Law Rather Than An “Religious Arbitration” Controlled By Her Alleged Abusers

Washington, DC (September 18, 2020) – The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) Law Center filed an Amicus Curiae Letter in support of the plaintiff in Valerie Haney v. Superior Court for the State of California, County of Los Angeles. The amicus letter urges an appellate court to reverse a trial judge’s order compelling that all of Ms. Haney’s claims be tried before a panel made up of members of the Church of Scientology—the very institution she alleges has abused her.

Ms. Haney filed a civil lawsuit against the Church of Scientology (“Scientology”) alleging a deeply disturbing chain of abusive acts by Scientology and its representatives throughout the course of her life, including human trafficking and false imprisonment. Scientology sought to compel the entire legal case to a religious arbitration, solely within its own control, and the trial court agreed. The NCOSE amicus submission argues that any agreements to arbitrate should be considered null and void because they were products of coercion.

“It is hard to conceive of a more comprehensive array of coercion, duress, undue influence, and trauma than the circumstances leading to the arbitration agreements the trial court is enforcing against the Plaintiff, Valerie Haney. From the time she was a little girl, the Plaintiff was subjected to an unrelenting succession of physical, psychological, and emotional abuse. The abuse continued over the course of the first three and half decades of her life,” wrote Peter Gentala, senior legal counsel for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation Law Center, in the brief.

“The foundation of arbitration is consent—not coercion. The trial court’s order compelling arbitration inverts this principal and closes courts of justice to the Plaintiff by enforcing unconscionable agreements that were utterly founded on coercion, duress, and undue influence.”

“Plaintiff’s [“Ms. Haney”] allegations raise significant claims of physical and psychological coercion by the Defendants [Church of Scientology] in this case – including shocking allegations of sexually-threatening child abuse. Indeed, [Ms. Haney’s] claims closely resemble the thought and behavior-controlling tactics used by human traffickers. Additionally, much of the abuse in this case occurred in an institutional setting, which makes the arbitration order by the trial court particularly unfair and harmful to Ms. Haney. NCOSE is concerned that the wholesale delegation of [Ms. Haney’s] claims to a panel of arbitrators composed exclusively of the institutional Defendants’ agents effectively closes the courthouse doors to her.”

NCOSE’s letter brief can be found here. A decision by the appellate court is expected later this fall.

About National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE)
Founded in 1962, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) is the leading national non-partisan organization exposing the links between all forms of sexual exploitation such as child sexual abuse, prostitution, sex trafficking and the public health harms of pornography.

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