Scientology's Crushing Defeat

A previously unpublished saga of an $8 million check

Such lavish amounts for religious instruction, Scientology’s critics say, is what allows it to spend so much fighting its foes. Or offering to buy them.

Years ago, Wollersheim was offered $8 million to walk away from his judgment. “They hinted they would go as high as $12 million,” he says. But he refused the money. He says he had seen too many other former members accept settlements and the confidentiality agreements that came with them.

Wollersheim is glad that he turned down those offers. His judgment is the first Scientology has ever paid outright, attorneys familiar with Scientology litigation say. And now, Wollersheim hopes, his victory will encourage others to leave Miscavige’s fold and expose it for what it is.

“I blazed the trail,” he says. “Now others are going to come and turn it into a four-lane highway.”

[Six years later, Wollersheim is still fighting over the money Scientology finally paid. A woman who worked as a paralegal on his case, Leta Schlosser, sued Wollersheim (in a lawsuit named Wollersheim 6) for $5.3 million of the Scientology cash. In a trial presided over by Judge Hess, a jury awarded her $313,000, which Wollersheim says he immediately paid. But Schlosser appealed, saying she was owed more, and is asking for yet another trial. Exhausted, Wollersheim has retired from the day-to-day operation of factnet.org, an Internet clearinghouse for information about Scientology. “I have a good life in the sense that I’m a minister. I have satisfying work. And I know that the work I’ve done [fighting Scientology] will help others,” he says. As for getting his ‘one thin dime,’ he says: “A lot of it has gone to lawyers, it’s going to litigation, it’s going to taxes. I’m working a 40-hour job. It was never about the money. “I never thought I’d get paid. It took 30 years,” he adds. But despite his own experience, Wollersheim encourages others who feel they’ve been harmed by Scientology to pursue litigation: in almost all other cases, he says, Scientology settles. “Victims of Scientology should take advantage of it and get their lives back,” he says. Scientology, meanwhile, has much bigger headaches than Larry Wollersheim these days, now that Cruise’s antics have helped bring a new level of media and Internet scrutiny. Scientology continues, however, to maintain its tax-exempt status.]

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