The Primate Diaries

Earlier this week a classified Scientology contract was leaked (full pdf document here), revealing the paranoid nature of the Church. The document is entitled Application, Declaration and General Release Declaration of Religious Commitment and Application for Membership in a Scientology Religious Order and for Active Participation on Church Staff. This contract must be signed by anyone who wishes to engage in “active participation as a staff member within the Church of Scientology” as a Class V Org member.

Among the items they must agree to are:

8. I am not related to or connected with any intelligence agency, either by past history or immediate familial connection.
9. I do NOT have a parent or a guardian who is an antagonist of the Scientology religion, or of any organization devoted to Scientology applied religious philosophy.
10. I am not seeking a staff position to obtain material for dissemination to the public via press, radio, television, motion picture or other media. I do not seek to obtain data for any other organization or to disrupt the Church organization.
11. I do not have personal debts of a magnitude such that efforts to satisfy them would immediately disrupt or cause me to pull back from my commitment to the Church.

The document continues by insisting that the following points be individually signed, making clear that the Church is not obligated to follow state or federal labor practices:

I FURTHER UNDERSTAND THAT ALL CHURCH STAFF MEMBERS INCLUDING MYSELF, ARE MEMBERS OF A RELIGIOUS ORDER; THAT THEY SERVE PURSUANT TO THEIR RELIGIOUS OBLIGATIONS AND NOT IN CONTEMPLATION OF RECEIVING ANY COMPENSATION WHATSOEVER, AND IN DOING SO THAT THEY ARE FORSAKING ALL COMMERCIAL AND FINANCIAL MOTIVATION. PLEASE INITIAL __

EACH CONSIDERS HIMSELF/HERSELF A VOLUNTEER TO CREATE A BETTER WORLD, AND UNDERSTANDS THAT HE/SHE IS NOT AN EMPLOYEE, I.E. IS NOT ENTITLED TO RECEIVE SECULAR BENEFITS SUCH AS A MINIMUM WAGE OR OVERTIME COMPENSATION. PLEASE INITIAL __

As if that weren’t enough of an incentive to join, the document then goes on to warn the applicant of what will happen if they break their agreement:

7. BREACH OF COVENANT. If a staff member . . . breaks his agreement either by leaving staff before completing his commitment [either 2 1/2 or 5 years] or by violating his good standing as a Scientology staff member so that he is dismissed in accordance with policy, he or she shall remit forthwith to the Church a penance for violation of this covenant in accordance with the ecclesiastical policy of the Church if such person is declared a “freeloader”. […]

9. ENTIRETY OF COVENANT. The Church shall not be obligated to honor any verbal promises or any other terms or conditions not specifically covered in this Covenant. This Covenant forms the entirety of the Church’s agreement with the Church staff member, and promises no specific counselling, training, posts or other benefits to any Church staff member.

So the Scientologists make you honor your promise to shill for them and receive nothing in return (and then pay a “penance for violation” if they are in any way dissatisfied with you) but they don’t have to honor any of their promises to you. How nice of them. Then, in the event that you might be dissatisfied with how they exploited you and kicked you to the curb, they make clear that any legal action is off limits:

B. I HEREBY RELEASE AND DISCHARGE THE RELEASES from all actions, claims or demands I, my heirs, distributees, guardians, legal representatives or assigns ever had, now have or may hereafter have for injury or damage resulting from or any way connected with my membership in the Scientology Religious Order, active participation on Church staff or association with the Releasees. […]

I AM AWARE THAT THIS IS A RELEASE OF LIABILITY, COVENANT NOT TO SUE AND INDEMNITY AGREEMENT BETWEEN MYSELF AND THE CHURCH AND/OR ITS AFFILIATED ORGANIZATIONS AND/OR OTHER INDIVIDUALS, AND I UNDERSTAND AND AGREE THAT BY PLACING MY SIGNATURE AT THE END OF THIS DOCUMENT I SHALL BE BOUND BY ITS TERMS. PLEASE INITIAL __

So how about it? Want to be a Class V staff member in the Church of Scientology? Sign below in the comments to complete this legally binding agreement. May Supreme Galactic Overlord Xenu grant you a pleasant audit.

Comments

  1. #1 Moebius
    July 22, 2009

    Eric Michael Johnson

  2. #2 John Gathly
    July 22, 2009

    You are being glib and suppressive.

  3. #3 Bob O'H
    July 22, 2009

    IANAL, but it surprises me that it’s possible to sign away your legal rights like that: what’s the point in having them if it’s so easy to waive them?

  4. #4 Moebius
    July 23, 2009

    @Bob: Because Scientology is legally a religion they are exempt from federal or state wage requirements and labor laws. They also don’t pay taxes on their property or income. The gag rule at the end is more strongly worded than most I’ve ever seen: “ever had, now have or may hereafter have for injury or damage resulting from or any way connected with my membership.”

    It is bizarre that such a gag rule would ever be acceptable in a free country. If your rights are violated you should be able to have a redress of your grievances, regardless of anything you were manipulated into signing previously. But we’re trying something innovative and bold in the US: optional legal rights. It goes along with our optional policies on health care, good education, decent jobs, solid infrastructure, workplace protections, etc. So far it’s working out great.

    Say hi to the gang at Nature for me.

  5. #5 Nomen Nescio
    July 26, 2009

    it’s doubtful how many of those points would actually stand up in court, actually; they’re asking for things i’m not sure they’re legally allowed to get. in practice, however, it might well come down to which side has the more expensive lawyers — and the $cientologists have famously deep pockets.

  6. #6 Paul Gowder
    July 26, 2009

    There’s no way in hell this contract is enforceable. Churches aren’t exempt from all labor laws, and many of the terms approach indentured servitude (you’re not entitled to pay but you’re punished if you leave? Uh, no.) Plus, the absence of consideration dooms any contract.

  7. #7 Funky Chicken
    July 26, 2009

    @Mobius:

    Religious organizations are NOT exempt from wage requirements according to the FSLA. The only exemption is for TRUE volunteers. Since there is a contract to apply for a position, I don’t think one can call it volunteering, no matter how they word it.

    Just because you call someone a volunteer does not make them one. It reads like they expect the person to work for them exclusively, but that they should not expect pay. Um… Slavery is against the law but this contract reads like indentured servitude.

    Of course, I would not be allowed to even enter their buildings based on #8 & 9 of their non-desirable traits. :)

  8. #8 AndyC
    July 26, 2009

    The fact that anyone would sign this is proof that religion addles the brain.

  9. #9 Stagyar zil Doggo
    July 26, 2009

    Perhaps a signatory could get this contract voided on grounds that s/he was not of sound mind while signing it. Something along the lines of “Your Honor, that I signed this contract proves I wasn’t of sound mind when I signed it”.

  10. #10 Elyse
    July 26, 2009

    And how about that billion year contract to join the Sea Org?

  11. #11 Mara
    July 26, 2009

    Huh. I’d be excluded by #8, since my father and sister are top secret super spies, uh, I mean, work for intelligence agencies.

    Well, it’s good to know that if my brain ever gets amputated and I try to join up, they’d kick me out 😉

    (I agree with Groucho Marx anyway: I wouldn’t join any club that would have me as a member.)

  12. #12 ChrisO
    July 26, 2009

    Google for “freeloader debt” to find out more about this particular topic. The story in a nutshell is that if you quit Scientology, you’ll be landed with a bill for tens of thousands of dollars. It appears to be largely unenforceable, but it’s essentially a way for Scientology to create an disincentive for any members thinking of quitting.

  13. #13 Bevans
    July 26, 2009

    May Supreme Galactic Overlord Xenu grant you a pleasant audit.

    I’m pretty sure Xenu is the bad guy in all this, and he probably doesn’t (didn’t?) have any special powers.

    It’s too bad Hubbard had to start up a religion based on his writings. Scientology could potentially be made into a pretty cool sci-fi movie. Or a really bad-yet-strangely-entertaining one (like Battlefield Earth).

  14. #14 Andrew
    July 26, 2009

    This post is mostly spot-on, but as a lawyer I figured I’d chime in on two misconceptions so far:

    First, paragraph 9 (“Entirety of Covenant”) is a completely straightforward — if somewhat awkwardly-worded — bit of boilerplate that is standard in virtually all contracts. It has to do with how you can prove a breach-of-contract claim. The idea is that if someone signs a contract and later breaks it, you can sue on the terms of the contract itself. The breaching party can’t dispute the terms of the contract by testifying in court that you subsequently agreed to change the terms or let them out of it or whatever to try and create a disputed fact. The upshot is that you can prevail pretty easily on summary judgment without having to go all the way to trial.

    Second, I don’t disagree that parts of this contract might very well be declared void and unenforceable as either against public policy and/or as a contract of adhesion. But I don’t think Paul G. @6 is correct that there’s a lack of consideration, since it’s an employment contract.

  15. #15 Paul Gowder
    July 26, 2009

    Andrew, it’s an employment contract in which the employer completely disclaims the obligation to, you know, pay the employee… (although there is that stuff about living expenses, it appears to be at scientology’s discretion.)

  16. #16 Marc Abian
    July 26, 2009

    There are currently 3 legal cases challenging scientology labor contracts to my knowledge. Marc Headly, Claire Headly and Laura DeCrescenzo

    http://infinitecomplacency.blogspot.com/

  17. #17 Matt
    July 26, 2009

    More proof the cult of $cientology is nothing but a corporation.

    To become a Christian or Buddhist I wouldn’t need to sign away the rights to my first born child.

  18. #18 Lisa McPherson
    July 26, 2009

    On the flip side,
    as a new Christian or Buddhist convert,
    would you grant the Church or Temple
    permission to abort your firstborn fetus, at their discretion?

    I’m not aware of any other group that does

    http://www.scientology-lies.com/abortions.html

  19. #19 Azulene
    July 26, 2009

    Be careful. You’ve probably been added to their list of “suppressive persons” and are now subject to their policy of Fair Game. Oh, my mistake – the policy formerly known as Fair Game and now known as that “policy on the treatment or handling of an SP that has not been canceled”.

    Scientology scares me.

  20. #20 Tom
    July 26, 2009

    ChrisO has it right about the freeloader debt. I’ve never heard of it being enforced in secular society, i.e. trying to collect through the courts.

    The way a freeloader debt works is the ex-staff member can’t receive any more Scientology services until it’s paid off. As simple as that.

    You may scoff, but to someone in the throes of the organization, such a threat is very powerful.

  21. #21 Michael
    July 26, 2009

    Just out of curiosity, what happens if you don’t use your usual “official” initials and signature – the ones that would appear on your cheques, letters, bank statements, etc.? In the sense that if you were to go to court, you would argue that “that isn’t my signature or initials” and all other examples of your signature/initials would support your assertion.

    Of course this would be in legal battles outside of the church, not “disagreements” to be settled by church elders.

  22. #22 ChrisO
    July 27, 2009

    At least Scientology is (arguably) a bit more moderate now in its behavior than it used to be. During the 1970s it got up to some seriously nasty – and highly illegal – things. See the “List of Guardian’s Office operations” on Wikipedia. It’s a work in progress, so it’s not yet complete, but Primate Diaries readers may be interested in the “Humanist Humiliation” operation in particular…

  23. #23 CaptainKendrick
    July 27, 2009

    Scientology doesn’t bother me in the least.

    If you are that stupid and gullible to fall for and believe it, well, then I suppose you’re made for each other.

  24. #24 A Recovering Catholic
    July 27, 2009

    Sweet, where do I sign up? hahaha

  25. #25 Mac
    July 27, 2009

    “You are being glib and suppressive.”

    That’s the funniest thing I’ve read since I was informed that God created himself and therefore, the Cosmological Argument was a good ‘un. Thanks! However unintentionally, you brightened my day. :)

  26. #26 Paholaisen Asianajaja
    July 27, 2009

    CaptainKendrick, the problem is that scientologists have kids and those kids have, shall I say, a very limited future ahead of them.

    http://exscientologykids.com/

  27. #27 Jeff
    July 27, 2009

    That contract does not have consideration. “Consideration” is a legal concept requiring that a contract must exchange some value between parties. A contract where one party receives a benefit and the other party does not, is not a valid contract. It’s very doubtful that volunteers’ religious “rewards” count as a legal benefit.

    So, in short, I think the Scientology people would have a tough time enforcing that contract in court. Certainly, it is enough to scare people without legal training though.

    Naturally, this post is not legal advice, just an abstract opinion, blah blah blah.

  28. #28 TheTechIsDreck
    August 6, 2009

    Why doesn’t any of their prophets cough up the design details of the eternal everlasting battery that is said to be powering the force field keeping Xenu captive, wouldn’t that be worth more than all the graft they are extracting from their duped members???

  29. #29 Jonny Jacobsen
    November 29, 2009

    Further to Marc Abian’s point: there is now a fourth lawsuit relating to Sea Org abuses, lodged by John Lindstein in the California courts. The attorney for this suit, like the other three, is Barry Van Sickle.
    http://infinitecomplacency.blogspot.com/2009/11/16-john-lindsteins-lawsuit.html

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