A California judge ruled on Wednesday that a woman's lawsuit against the Church of Scientology can proceed to trial, denying the organisation's motion for summary judgment. In law, summary judgment is a judgment rendered by a court prior to a verdict because no material issue of fact exists and one party or the other is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.
Judge John Doyle of the Los Angeles Superior Court said former Scientologist Laura DeCrescenzo's allegations against the church that she was forced to have an abortion, worked long hours and stayed against her will, will be tried in court. She filed the lawsuit in 2009.
In 1991 when she was just 12 years old, DeCrescenzo signed a "billion year contract" with Scientology and moved into the church's "Pac Base" in Hollywood, ABC7 reports.
Her parents were also Scientology members and they encouraged her to join the church at a young age.
In her second amended complaint in 2010, DeCrescenzo said Scientology forced her to have an abortion in violation of her privacy; deprived her of liberty; imprisoned her; intentionally inflicted emotional distress; violated wage and hour laws; and conducted unfair business practices.
She said the church forced her to have an abortion when she got pregnant at 17, saying she was threatened that she would lose her position in the Sea Org, her housing and her husband if she did not comply.
"I was told by the commanding officer of my organisation that. She immediately started telling me that at this point the baby wasn't a baby, it was just tissue," she said in 2010.
She added, "I never agreed to have an abortion. Did I concede? Yes, I did. Does it kill me every day? Yes, it does."
Scientology admitted that church policy bars active members of the Sea Org from having young children.
"To be clear, defendants do not argue that a church may physically force a woman to have an abortion," according to Bert Deixler, attorney for the Church of Scientology International.
But he said the issue is that under the First Amendment, churches may urge a minister of a religious order to forego having a baby for religious life.
DeCrescenzo said she stayed in Scientology for more than a decade as she fell under a powerful sway of the church.
Judge Doyle ordered both sides to return to court in June to set a trial date.