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In Texas lawsuit, judge orders Scientology and its leader to stop harassment

Scientology leader David Miscavige has been sued by Monique Rathbun.

Reuters/Corbis (2006)

Scientology leader David Miscavige has been sued by Monique Rathbun.

A Texas judge has issued a temporary restraining order against Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige, two church entities and two men alleged to be church operatives — part of a lawsuit that contends they have waged a campaign of surveillance, dirty tricks, intimidation and harassment against the wife of a church critic.

Monique Rathbun, 41, filed the lawsuit last week in Comal County, Texas, near San Antonio. She is married to Marty Rathbun, a former church executive who once worked at Miscavige's side but since 2009 has been a high-profile critic of the leader.

Her complaint says she is not a Scientologist, has never attacked the church and her only involvement is being married to a once-prominent church member.

In the lawsuit and a four-page affidavit, Monique Rathbun describes "three years of ruthlessly aggressive misconduct" by the church, allegedly supervised by Miscavige.

Church spokeswoman Karin Pouw said Wednesday that the church had not been served with the suit. But she added: "Based on your questions, the complaint filed in Texas is nothing more than a pathetic get-rich scheme cooked up by unemployed blogger Marty Rathbun, a self-admitted suborner of perjury who is now resorting to using his wife in an attempt to extort money from the church."

Monique Rathbun says Scientologists or church representatives have:

• Showed up at her home to question her while her husband is away.

• Set up hidden surveillance cameras on the couple's homes.

• Sent a sex toy to her at work and flowers to a female co-worker with a romantic note purportedly from Rathbun.

• Followed and videotaped the couple as they ran errands, went out to eat or took evening walks.

• Questioned her parents, co-workers and friends.

• And posted "vile allegations" on websites tied to the church.

According to the lawsuit, the Rathbuns, who married in 2010, tried to escape those tactics by moving from a tiny coastal town near Corpus Christi, Texas, to a rural home near San Antonio. However, church representatives have continued to surveil them, Monique Rathbun says.

She says she and her husband recently spotted surveillance cameras directed at their new home from the undeveloped property next door.

"We can't get away from them," Monique Rathbun said in an interview Wednesday. "I can't spend the rest of my life running away from cameras. I have to have a life."

District Judge Bruce Boyer signed the restraining order Friday, legally preventing Miscavige and the other defendants from surveilling Monique Rathbun, threatening her, following her or contacting people she knows.

A hearing is scheduled for September. The suit also seeks damages of more than $1 million.

Besides Miscavige, the suit names as a defendant Monty Drake, listed in the Texas Department of Public Safety as a long-time private investigator.

Monique Rathbun's affidavit says Drake leased a house across the street from her home near Corpus Christi. She says he set up surveillance cameras that were visible behind the house's blinds.

Reached by phone Wednesday, Drake said he didn't know anything about the suit and hung up.

Rathbun says the surveillance by Drake followed 199 days during which a handful of Scientologists leased another nearby home and followed the couple everywhere, taking video, hurling insults and peppering them with questions.

The Rathbuns decided to leave Corpus Christi for a more protected location: a rural area near San Antonio. There they found a rental home on a 3.5-acre wooded lot.

After recently finding two cameras trained on this home from an adjacent property, Marty Rathbun says he confronted a man named Steven G. Sloat who said he had rented the property. Sloat is the other defendant.

His website says he has experience as a former police officer, deputy U.S. marshal, corporate turnaround specialist and writer. Sloat did not return a call to his business Wednesday.

Marty Rathbun, 56, was a primary figure in The Truth Rundown, a 2009 investigative report on Scientology in the St. Petersburg Times, now the Tampa Bay Times.

He and others, including former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder, said Miscavige physically attacked church staff and encouraged a culture of violence and intimidation in the church's upper ranks. The leader has denied those accusations.

Rathbun and Rinder also told how they orchestrated some of the same behavior against church critics that is alleged in Monique Rathbun's lawsuit. The two have expressed regret for those actions.

Pouw, the church spokeswoman, said Rathbun has "shopped made-up tales and myths to virtually every media outlet" since he left the church in 2004. She said he is frustrated the church is flourishing, having opened 37 new churches worldwide in recent years.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

Documents online

To read the lawsuit, affidavit and restraining order, go to Links in today's Times at tampabay.com.

In Texas lawsuit, judge orders Scientology and its leader to stop harassment 08/21/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 10:57pm]

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