Ex-Scientologist sues Church of Scientology for forced labor and abortion at age 17

A former Church of Scientology member has filed a case alleging the church had forced her to work long hours when she was younger and have an abortion at 17.

(Reuters/Mario Anzuoni)People walk past the Church of Scientology of Los Angeles building in Los Angeles, California, July 3, 2012.

On Wednesday, Superior Court Judge John Doyle ruled that former Scientologist Laura Ann DeCrescenzo's lawsuit can proceed to trial. The lawyers of the Church of Scientology International and its Religious Technology Center had earlier filed a motion to have the case dismissed, My News LA reports.

DeCrescenzo filed the lawsuit against the Church of Scientology in April 2009. She accused the church of unfair business practices, wage-and-hour violations, intentionally causing her emotional distress, false imprisonment, and forced abortion.

Based on a sworn declaration, DeCrescenzo said she started volunteering for the church when she was about six or seven years old in Orange County. At age 12, she was recruited for the elite Sea Org, which reportedly handled the delivery of Church of Scientology worldwide. At first, she worked from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. every day, but her work shift was later extended by two hours, OC Weekly details.

In February 1996, DeCrescenzo became pregnant and the church forced her to have abortion to prove her allegiance.

DeCrescenzo says she worked with Sea Org until she was 25 years old. She was told that she could not leave the group, but she was released after she pretended she had attempted suicide by ingesting bleach in 2004. She was able to completely leave the church in June 2008.

The Church of Scientology's legal representative Atty. Bert Deixler said the lawsuit wrongly involves the courts in religious affairs. He said the civil courts cannot investigate religious practices because it is a question of faith, and DeCrescenzo made her choices without coercion.

Atty. John Blumberg, who represents DeCrescenzo in the case, said the church had brainwashed his client because she was not allowed to entertain outside opinions about their religious methods.

A status conference has been scheduled on June 3 to discuss effects of an appellate court ruling and to set a trial date for the case against the Church of Scientology.