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Former Scientologist sues ex-employer
Post Falls man claims he was booted from church, then asked to leave his job because of it
Shawn Jacobson - The Spokesman-Review
Michael McClaughry is suing his former employer, claiming he was fired from his job because of his religious beliefs. Rob McDonald - Staff writer
Spokane _ Scientology was good to Michael R. McClaughry.
His wife once met high-profile church member John Travolta. McClaughry worked in the "church intelligence unit." They both climbed to high ranks within the church.
But now the good times are over.
The Post Falls man claims he was ousted from the Church of Scientology because he talked about changes he discovered in the religion's scripture. Then he was asked to leave his job at a Spokane office managed by Scientologists, he said.
McClaughry is suing a Spokane company in U.S. District Court for alleged violations of the Civil Rights Act, claiming he was fired for his religious beliefs.
The office manager said McClaughry resigned.
In the suit, McClaughry claims that his former employer, an insurance adjustment firm called David Morse & Associates, is managed by members of the Church of Scientology. The office manager said some Scientologists work at the company, but religion does not affect the office.
Scientology is an applied religious philosophy developed by L. Ron Hubbard. Church members pay up to thousands of dollars to undergo "auditing," counseling sessions designed to clear away bad memories that are believed to hamper their successes in life.
The church claims more than 8 million members, 3,000 churches, missions and related groups in 100 countries in 30 languages. In Spokane, membership is a few dozen, McClaughry said. [WWW Editor's note: there are about 75,000 Scientologists world-wide, not 8,000,000]
McClaughry said he was excommunicated when he told other members that sacred texts had been altered.
McClaughry said Scientologists are not allowed to associate with former members.
"The supervisor basically said, `You realize once you're expelled (from the church), I can't deal with you. You have to go find another job,"' said McClaughry's lawyer, Steven Crumb.
"I guess that's as good as someone saying you're fired," Crumb said. Pat Dougherty, Spokane and Seattle office manager for David Morse & Associates, said the charges are unfounded.
"He thinks that we fired him because of his problems with the church. We didn't. He resigned. I didn't fire him, period," said Dougherty, a Scientologist. "There are Scientology members who work at David Morse. We are not a Scientology company. There are non-Scientologists that work for us also."
He added there is no connection "whatsoever" between the church and the business.
McClaughry filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Seattle, which dismissed his charges April 26 for lack of supporting evidence.
McClaughry challenged the EEOC dismissal and received a letter from the Seattle District Office director, Jeanette Leino, that said, "it is unlikely that continued investigation would show that your theological differences with the Church of Scientology led to a discriminatory discharge from Dave Morse and Associates."
His lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court on July 25. McClaughry had been part of the church for 32 years. He was at the level called "OT III." His wife had reached the highest level, an "OT VII."
To maintain the highest level members must submit to "sec checks" every six months, a security screening that costs $800 an hour with off-and- on sessions that can last for weeks, McClaughry said.
"The people who are in charge of the church took it upon themselves to begin rewriting the scripture," McClaughry said.
Phone calls seeking comment were not returned by Spokane's Dianetics Center Mission, which is affiliated with the church. Messages left with the church headquarters in Los Angeles also were not returned.
During an interview, McClaughry shared a copy of a 12-page document detailing the rules for conducting an audit, a mental health procedure devised by Hubbard, the church founder. A more recent set of rules, rewritten after Hubbard's death in 1986, is only five pages, McClaughry said.
Under the rewritten rules, Scientologists who reach the upper levels of the church must continue to be "sec checked," whereas they could be exempted under the original document, McClaughry said.
Changing church guidelines is a "cardinal sin," and there are more, he said.
He is still researching further alterations to church doctrine.
McClaughry still has the church document that officially expelled him in January, a "suppressive person declare," as it's called. It spells out 10 of his violations, including "engaging in malicious rumormongering to destroy the authority or repute of higher officers" and "mutiny."
McClaughry said he still believes in the "tools" of Scientology, he just can't support the current leadership.
The Church of Scientology was founded in Los Angeles in 1954 by Hubbard. The church is an extension of Dianetics, described by Hubbard as the science leading to the source of all psychosomatic ills and human aberrations.
In 1950, Hubbard presented Dianetics as a mental health discipline to a group of psychiatrists and educators. Shortly afterward, the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association called upon psychologists not to use Dianetics therapy.
Hubbard continued to set up Dianetic Research Foundations in Los Angeles and Wichita, Kan.
In 1953, the Institute of Scientology announced plans to build a school and library building in Spokane at 10th and Jefferson.
In 1954, the movement became a 'church.'
The church has attracted celebrity members over the past two decades, such as Travolta, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Kirstie Alley and Jenna Elfman.
The religion has been the target of attacks and controversy, not unlike other new religious movements, according to the Encyclopedia of American Religions.
The Church of Scientology has developed a reputation of attacking critics through lawsuits. Time magazine fought a $416 million lawsuit filed by the church for a 1991 cover story called, "The Cult of Greed." The suit was dismissed in 1996.
The Church of Scientology offers Web pages explaining the religion, but many other sites are critical of the religion.
Lawyers representing the church have been using copyright laws to remove protected church documents from the Internet.
McClaughry doesn't agree with the church's aggressive stance against critics or any of the changes.
"We're taking them to task on all kinds of things," he said, especially the changes to the religion's scripture.
"It's like a science," McClaughry said. "If you have a recipe for baking a cake, you can't change the recipe. You're not going to get a cake."
Rob McDonald can be reached at (509) 459-5533 or by e-mail at [email protected]
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Former Scientologist sues ex-employer
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