Scientology was invented by Science Fiction author L. Ron Hubbard and was incorporated as a church in 1953.
In 2007, it claimed 3.5 million members in the United States but according to a 2001 study by the City University of New York, roughly 55,000 people would self-identify as Scientologists.
Lawyers for three former Scientologists who say they were trafficked into the church as children and forced to work for little or no pay say they cannot find Scientologist leader David Miscavige.
Process servers say they have gone to ten Scientology properties in Florida and California but have yet to serve the Miscavige papers, summoning him to court for the lawsuit.
Part of the problem is that Miscavige has worked for the Church since he was 16 years old, and his only recorded addresses are buildings owned by the Church of Scientology. Five other defendants connected with the Scientology group have already been served papers. A motion was filed in July to push the lawsuit into internal arbitration, which would take the case out of the US court system and put it in front of a panel of church members.
While that issue is pending, lawyers say they have been unable to reach Miscavige, and that security guards at Scientology buildings have refused to accept paperwork or answer questions.
“Miscavige cannot be permitted to continue his gamesmanship,” Neil Glazer, an attorney for the plaintiffs, wrote in a December 13 motion asking the court to declare Miscavige served and in default because of his “intentional concealment of his location and evasion of service.”
In September, a US magistrate judge issued a summons for Miscavige through the Florida secretary of state. The attorneys for the plaintiffs then sent notice of service through certified mail to ten Scientology-owned buildings, but they all returned unsigned, were refused, or lost in the mail.
Attorneys for Miscavige responded to the December motion, stating he should not be served at all because the plaintiffs have not proven he does business in Florida, or that their claims arise from his business in Florida.
Mike Rinder, a former Scientologist executive who served under Miscavige until he defected in 2007, said the church attempts “to shield Miscavige from legal liability or being served with summonses and subpoenas,” including by training security guards not to accept legal documents.
A hearing is scheduled for January 20 in a Tampa, Florida, federal court to decide on whether Miscavige will be declared served and in default.