Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Scientology Cannot Get Dismissal of Harassment Suit Under Texas Anti-SLAPP Statute

In Sloat v. Rathbun, (TX App., Nov. 6, 2015), a Texas appellate court held that the Church of Scientology and its officials cannot invoke the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA) to obtain dismissal of a lawsuit against them alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy and tortious interference with contract. TCPA is designed to allow rapid dismissal of unmeritorious lawsuits challenging individuals' exercise of their rights of speech, petition or association.  Here plaintiff, the wife of a former high ranking Scientology official who spoke out against Scientology, claims that the Scientology defendants subjected her to relentless abuse, harassment and surveillance.  The court held that defendants have not shown that the alleged activities relate to the exercise of free speech or the rights of association or petition:
[With one exception]  the Scientology Defendants do not directly address the specific conduct Rathbun complains of, which includes following her while she went to and from work, shopping, out to dinner with friends, and walking her dog. Nor do they explain how alleged visits to Rathbun’s family members, friends, and coworkers during which they allegedly gave warnings about Rathbun’s personal safety while married to Marty Rathbun, constitute conduct covered by the TCPA. Moreover, other than deny having done so, the Scientology Defendants do not address Rathbun’s allegations that they sent a sex toy to her at work and sent flowers with a “romantic” message purportedly from her to a female co-worker.
Courthouse News Service reports on the decision.