The Church of Scientology has declared that "only Scientology law applies" in a Pinellas County, Florida court case in which two former practitioners are suing the Church for a $35,000 refund.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that Bert Schippers and Lynne Hoverson were members of the controversial religious group until 2009. Schippers had donated $35,000 to the Church for future spiritual counseling, but once he left the organization, he wanted it back.
Schippers and Hoverson decided to sue the Church in order to get the money back, but a Florida law states that once a gift has been given, the donor cannot get it back. However, the Church of Scientology has a process that allows donors to regain their gifts.
F. Wallace Pope, Jr., the Church's lawyer, states that the contract Schippers signed clearly stated that in order to get his money back, Schippers would have to go through "binding religious arbitration" with three Scientologists in good standing making a decision on whether or not Schippers gets his money back. Pope declared that "only Scientology law applies" to this case.
Schipper's lawyer, Brian Leung, countered with an argument stating that since leaving the Church, Schippers and Hoverson are considered heretics, and would not get a fair hearing from Church members.
The Church of Scientology has stirred up Clearwater, FL in recent years. The Church's real estate purchases in downtown Clearwater in 2011 have been both a blessing and a curse, according to Clearwater's mayor, Frank Hibbard. While the city unloaded nearly $7 million in county owned real estate, the property taxes on the prime land will not be collected by the city, as property used for religious buildings is not taxed.
The Church of Scientology was founded by author L. Ron Hubbard, a sci-fi novelist, in 1953 in Camden, NJ. Scientology is a set of beliefs invented by Hubbard as a follow up to his self-help book, Dianetics. According to the Church's official website:
Scientology addresses the spirit—not the body or mind—and believes that Man is far more than a product of his environment, or his genes. Scientology comprises a body of knowledge which extends from certain fundamental truths. Prime among these are:
Man is an immortal spiritual being.
His experience extends well beyond a single lifetime.
His capabilities are unlimited, even if not presently realized.
Scientology further holds Man to be basically good, and that his spiritual salvation depends upon himself, his fellows and his attainment of brotherhood with the universe. Scientology is not a dogmatic religion in which one is asked to accept anything on faith alone. On the contrary, one discovers for oneself that the principles of Scientology are true by applying its principles and observing or experiencing the results. The ultimate goal of Scientology is true spiritual enlightenment and freedom for all.