TOM CRUISE has been named in a $250 million (#125 million) lawsuit filed against the Church of Scientology by a former member.
The action accuses the controversial faith’s leaders of harassment.
The Hollywood star is an outspoken member of the Church, and is alleged to be second in line to Scientology head David Miscavage.
But his close connections have landed him in the middle of a new legal battle with ex-Scientologist Peter Letterese, who filed papers in Florida’s Southern District Court on 15 July (08).
Letterese, who also names Miscavage and others in the lawsuit, wants the religious organization to be investigated under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization law, which is used to break up Mafia families and drug rings.
He claims he was constantly harassed by members of the Church after he denounced the faith – with one Scientologist even phoning the home of Letterese’s lawyer. When the attorney’s wife answered, the unnamed member claimed he was her husband’s gay lover, according to the court papers.
Branding the Church of Scientology a “crime syndicate”, Letterese goes on to allege that Miscavage is “aided and abetted by the actions of Tom Cruise, his right-hand man for foreign and domestic promotion, as well as for foreign and domestic lobbying. He has assisted the syndicate in acquiring funds and (made) his own donations of money believed to be in the multiple tens of millions of dollars”.
Letterese is also complaining against the Scientologists’ use of business book Effective Sales Closing Techniques, which he owns the rights to. He claims the use of the tome in their teachings violates his intellectual property rights, after he bought the book rights from late author Leslie Dane’s widow.
But the lawsuit has been dismissed by Church of Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw, telling the New York Daily News: “This is a frivolous suit based on falsehoods.”
Pouw also addressed Letterese’s concerns over his book rights: “Earlier this month, the federal Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit already rejected similar claims and affirmed that the church’s use of the book in question was fair use. Mr. Letterese was penalised $266,000 by a California court for refusing to provide evidence to support many of the same allegations.”
Cruise’s lawyer Bert Fields has yet to respond to the lawsuit.