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Former Members Sue Church of Scientology for Refund

Two former members of the Church of Scientology have filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Southern District of Indiana to reclaim $77,810, in prepayment processing funds held at a Chicago location.

John A. and Mary Lou Dettmer, an Illinois husband and wife who left Scientology, paid the organization more than $300,000 toward advance services to be provided by the church, the remainder of which was placed on deposit to be applied to future services.

Scientology has a long-standing refund policy that is surprisingly reasonable. The Dettmers' problem is the church's refusal to comply with its own policy.

Ron Hubbard's policy

The refund policy, sent from the church's Communications Office and disseminated on October 23, 1963, was created by the founder of the Church of Scientology, Ron Hubbard. The Dettmers attached as an exhibit to their complaint Hubbard's policy, in which he discusses his beliefs regarding business practices, stating,

“I have always promptly and immediately caused to be refunded every penny of the money paid by any person who was dissatisfied with his or her processing. This has been the consistent policy I myself have worked with . . . It is notable that all but one refund were made to persons with histories of insanity who had been accepted unwittingly for processing.”

According to Hubbard: (1) Anyone can have a complete refund, but (2) Anyone who requests a refund is likely going to be considered insane by the church. Hubbard goes on to explain the need for a workable refund policy, explaining, “It must be very mild indeed or it will stand in lieu of good service. The new policy then is:

  • Refund any fees when and as demanded, whether for training or for processing.
  • Refuse further and all future training or processing to anyone demanding a refund as the condition of refund.
  • If [the above] is not acceptable to the person demanding the refund, then do all possible to smooth out the case or training situation.”

Auditing "pre-clears"

But just what is this “processing” system for which the Dettmers prepaid in advance? Scientology refers to this activity as “auditing,” which consists of a series of questions asked by a trained auditor. The auditor listens to responses and gives commands to the person, who is referred to as a “pre-clear.” The purpose of this process is to cause dramatic changes in a pre-clear's psychological state. It is absolutely forbidden for an auditor to interpret a pre-clear's answer or discuss it further in any way, so that the pre-clear arrives at all self-realizations completely unaided.

The auditing process, which has been referred to multiple other non-scientologists as hypnosis, takes on the following systematic lines of questioning, each targeted at a specific area of potential difficulty:

  • Grade O – 'Recall a place from which you have communicated to another.”
  • Grade I - “Recall a problem you have had with another.”
  • Grade II - “Recall a secret.”
  • Grade III - “Can you recall a time of change?”
  • Grade IV - “What about a victim could you be responsible for?”

Chicago holdout

Two different organizations within the church have complied with the Dettmers' request, but the Chicago, Illinois, branch of the church is holding out. According to e-mails attached as exhibits to the complaint, the Dettmers attempted to contact the heads of the church for a month before finally receiving a response in February, 2013.

The Dettmers were clear in their e-mail communications with the church, and responses from the church regarding the refund were brief and vague. John Dettmer's final e-mail alluded to the current path he and is wife have chosen, stating,

“If I do not get a timely response . . . I will have no other alternative but to take the next justice steps to get repayment of my money.”

Now that those steps have been taken, it will be interesting to see what the court decides.

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