One of the most senior figures in Australia’s Church of Scientology has been criminally charged in a case of sexual abuse. Jan Eastgate is accused of encouraging a young girl to lie and deny allegations of sexual abuse in the church. In the meantime, another leading Church figure, Tom Cruse, is being sued in an action unconnected to the cases in Australia by ex-Scientologist, Peter Letterese, for $250 million under a RICO claim that includes allegations of bribing a judge.
The involvement of Eastgate is notable because she is the head of the church’s “International Commission on Human Rights” and was given the Church of Scientology’s Freedom Medal for her work against psychology treatments.
The mother and young girl, 11-year-old Carmen Rainer, said that Eastgate told the girl to provide false statements about sexual abuse by her stepfather. Rainer also said that senior Scientology members told her that the abuse was punishment for being bad in a previous life.
Another leading Scientologist, Carly Crutchfield , who is a television personality as well as developer, is under fire for alleged shady dealings in Australia. Her business seminars were previously criticized as fronts for recruiting people into Scientology.
The allegations against Eastgate have been cited by critics of the Church as a byproduct of the Church’s elevation of its own laws over those of society. The Church has its own legal system and includes such legal personalities as Fox News’ Greta Van Susteran.
Eastgate denies the allegations, which could present some challenging questions if the prosecutors are going to pursue allegations of other church leaders encouraging false testimony or discouraging cooperation. There is obviously a close analogy to the allegations of such misconduct in the Catholic Church.
The lawsuit against Cruise has a troubled history. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit previously rejected Letterese’s claims that the Church of Scientology used a business book, “Effective Sales Closing Techniques,” as part of its teachings in violation of his copyright. The court found the use was fair use. One is always a bit leery of lawsuits that pull in celebrities in this fashion who appear a bit tangential to the original claims. Indeed, Cruise features prominently in the video below that celebrates the filing and promise to share the proceeds with other ex-scientologists. The chances of that lawsuit appear quite low given the prior legal history.