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Danny Masterson accusers seek court trial, instead of Scientology arbitration
LOS ANGELES, California - The four women who accused actor, Danny Masterson of rape are trying to avoid having their case judged by a religious tribunal made up of members of the Church of Scientology, instead of in a secular court.
The 45-year-old actor was widely known for playing the roles of Steven Hyde in 'That '70s Show' and Jameson "Rooster" Bennett in 'The Ranch.'
But in 2017, Masterson was fired from 'The Ranch' and his reputation shifted when multiple women accused him of rape.
According to Variety, Masterson, who is a longtime member of the church of Scientology, is currently awaiting trial on the rape charges and he faces a sentence of 45 years to life.
The women also sued the church, saying it sent people to stalk and harass them after they reported Masterson to the Los Angeles Police Department.
The women are now fighting the December 2020 decision of a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to uphold an agreement the women had signed when they joined the Church of Scientology, thus granting the church the right to refer the lawsuit to religious arbitration.
Should the women lose this legal battle, their case would likely be presented before the Church of Scientology's tribunal, who would make a judgement, or ruling. After this, an attempt would be made to enforce the tribunal's decision in secular court.
An attorney representing the women, Marci Hamilton, appealed the December ruling, and the case was heard on Tuesday before a three-judge panel of California’s Second District Court of Appeal.
Hamilton argued that her clients have severed ties with the church and as a result, should not be coerced into participating in its arbitration proceeding.
“This would be traumatizing for my clients,” Hamilton told the judges. “It would violate their First Amendment, absolute right to believe and practice whatever religion they choose and to escape the religion they do not want to be a part of.”
William Forman, an attorney for the church, argued that the arbitration agreement is a critical condition of joining the church and should be upheld.
Hamilton countered that the church's stance on the matter implied that members are not allowed to ever really leave the religious organization.
Masterson’s attorney, Andrew Brettler, was at the hearing but did not address the court.
Variety says the justices are expected to issue a ruling in the coming months.
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