Vance Woodward's appeal fails as Scientology has the L.A. attorney on the hook for $90,000 - 2016-08-31
Vance Woodward is one of our favorites here at the Underground Bunker. We greatly enjoyed the book he wrote about his time in Scientology (now no longer for sale), and he helped us write one of our favorite series, as we blogged L. Ron Hubbard's 1950 classic Dianetics from cover to cover.
In 2014, Vance filed suit against the Church of Scientology, seeking a refund on about $200,000 that he still had on account for courses that he never took in the church, and also for other damages he'd suffered as a Scientologist. Vance first got into Scientology at 14 in 1989 in Winnipeg, and later became an active member of the San Francisco org, where he estimated that he paid more than $600,000 in just three years before leaving the church in 2010.
After Vance gave up Scientology, he decided to turn his skills as a lawyer to suing the church. But he ran into trouble when his complaint turned out to be about much more than the money he wanted back. He included a voluminous (and highly readable!) condemnation of how Scientology worked to draw people in and clean them out. In court, Scientology pounced on the scattershot approach of Vance's complaint. It filed an "anti-SLAPP" motion — a way for defendants to stop a lawsuit in its tracks by asking the judge to rule whether there's really a chance that it will prevail. California's anti-SLAPP law is particularly strong, and Judge Michael Johnson of the Los Angeles Superior Court ended up agreeing with the church, that Vance's complaint went after a lot of things that had nothing to do with a refund, and that got into territory that was probably covered by Scientology's First Amendment rights of religious expression.