Larry "86-million-dimes" Wollersheim
Lawrence Wollersheim, a former member of the Church of Scientology was finally, on Wednesday, May 7, paid his judgement of $8,674,843 by CoS, after over 22 years of battle. Wollersheim filed suit against CoS in 1980 for the mental abuse he underwent in years of CoS membership, charging that Scientology's practices in the Sea Organization and in its courses had pushed him to the brink of suicide. Wollersheim's suit against CoS included the exposure of the now-infamous Xenu story; he had spent over $150,000 in Scientology by the time he left.
Wollersheim was granted an award of $30 million by the jury that heard his case; this award was reduced, on appeal, to $2.5 million. Nevertheless, Scientology not only repeatedly refused to pay, continually appealing the case; it also filed suits against Wollersheim, in attempts to either force him to a settlement or drop his case against CoS entirely. In one of these cases, the Church of Scientology was fined $500,000, at the time, the largest fine in history levied against a group or corporation under California's anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) act. After the judgement was upheld numerous times in the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, the Church of Scientology retreated into its corporate structure, transferring all assets from its former "mother church," the Church of Scientology of California, to a new body, the Church of Scientology International, in an attempt to evade the judgement against CSC. Despite this and similar tactics, judges in the Wollersheim case refused to recognize Scientology's corporate shell game. Indeed, the present hearing in the case was to have been specifically directed toward proving that not only CSI, but also Scientology's highest authority, the Religious Technology Center, were one and the same entity as CSC, and had always been and still were liable for the Wollersheim case and the judgement against it. Scientology, notoriously protective of the corporate structure that has won it not only protection against legal claims, but also its 1993 tax exemption from the Internal Revenue Service, deposited Larry Wollersheim's money, with the standard ten-percent interest accrual rate, at 8:17 AM on May 7 rather than face the hearing on its corporate structure to follow.
Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Scientology's rallying cry was "Not one thin dime for Wollersheim!" Indeed, the Church of Scientology brought members to protest his lawsuit, decrying it as an "attack on religious freedom," and swearing that Wollersheim would receive nothing. Wollersheim and his dedicated attorneys, including Dan Leipold, refused to concede to Scientology's continual countersuits or settle with a "gag agreement" preventing Wollersheim from speaking against Scientology. After 22 years, Lawrence Wollersheim has received its judgement--and proved not only that Scientology is indeed an abusive cult, but that its corporate shell game is founded on lies and evasion.
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