Content warning at the top: I’m going to be speaking frankly about sexual abuse in this video, so some viewers might want to give this one a miss.
When I talk about sexual abuse and religion, I think these days most people would think of the Catholic Church. They’ve really cornered the market on mainstream normalization of grooming and raping children and then moving the offending priests to different areas where they can do it again, so it’s understandable that you think that. But that doesn’t mean that Catholicism is the only religion that protects abusers, which is why today I’d like to talk about Scientology. That’s right, remember Scientology? It has honestly been a solid decade since I’ve discussed them but they’re still out there being fucking evil.
Danny Masterson is an actor who is probably best known as “Hyde” from That ‘70s Show, the same TV show that gave us Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis. His brother is Chrisopher Masterson, who is probably best known as the oldest brother in Malcolm in the Middle; his half-sister is Alanna Masterson who was on The Walking Dead; and his half-brother is Jordan Masterson on the Tim Allen show Last Man Standing. All of them are Scientologists, because they were born and raised by Scientologists. In fact, their (step-)father, Joe Reaiche, says that he gave the organization nearly half a million dollars throughout his lifetime but was ejected in 2005 and declared a “Suppressive Person,” which caused his wife and children to cut him off completely and never speak to him again.
That’s pretty messed up but the content warning at the top of this video should indicate that that’s not actually the most screwed up thing you’ll hear in this story. Danny Masterson first came to the attention of the police in 2017 when three different women reported that he had sexually assaulted them in separate instances.
In 2019, FOUR women filed a lawsuit against Masterson and the Church of Scientology, claiming that the Church was stalking and harassing them because they accused him of rape. One of those women was former Scientologist Chrissie Carnell Bixler, an actor and current wife of former Scientologist Cedric Bixler-Zavala, the lead singer of The Mars Volta. Carnell Bixler claimed that Masterson would regularly rape her when they dated and lived together in the 1990s, and that once she heard about his other victims she finally made her own experience public. She and her husband say that after she went public, Scientologists have chased them in their car, hacked their home security, posted Craigslist ads in her name soliciting anal sex, and possibly even killed two of their dogs by wrapping rat poison in raw meat and throwing it in their yard.
With any other organization that would seem completely unbelievable, but this is the same Church that prevented member Lisa McPherson from accessing mental healthcare and instead locked her away for several weeks, drugged her, and eventually delivered her to a hospital, dead. These are also the people who pulled off “Operation Snow White,” in which about 5,000 Scientologists infiltrated “136 government agencies, foreign embassies and consulates, as well as private organizations critical of Scientology…in more than 30 countries,” which led to the conviction of eleven high-level Church officials (including L. Ron Hubbard’s wife) for “obstructing justice, burglary of government offices, and theft of documents and government property.”
That federal case also revealed the existence of another scheme known as “Operation Freakout,” in which Scientologists tried to get a prominent critic put in a mental hospital or prison by impersonating her and threatening to kill the President and then reporting that to the FBI. Like, I’m just summarizing all of this, it’s all so much worse than I’m even saying. Seriously if you’ve never heard of any of this, click through to read the transcript of this video and find links to everything. I had a really hard time figuring out just a few things I could mention in a minute to make it clear to you that I absolutely believe that these people would kill a dog or two.
In 2020, Masterson was finally charged with rape from those reports in 2017. He pleaded not guilty and the trial ended with the jury deadlocked. It was later discovered that the jury foreman has a son who was convicted of a sex crime against a child, something that he apparently did not disclose when explicitly asked in the jury questionnaire, according to ex-Scientologist Chris Shelton, who interviewed him.
The second trial started last month and went to the jury last week. As of this recording, the jury is still out, now on their 5th day of deliberations.
Now, I’m not there, I haven’t seen the evidence, I cannot tell you whether Danny Masterson is definitely a rapist. I’ll just say that three or four women independently reporting very similar experiences of being drugged and raped? That’s pretty compelling. It’s not a fun time, being a person who is accusing someone of rape, and especially when the person in question is rich, famous, and backed up by an incredibly unhinged organization known for bullying critics to the extreme. So the fact that several women decided to move forward anyway means that I’m going to place some extra trust in their stories.
That said, my hopes aren’t high. It’s incredibly difficult to secure a rape conviction, even when the jury foreman isn’t secretly the father of a sex offender. That foreman told the press that the women’s stories couldn’t be trusted because, for instance, one of them said Masterson threatened her with a gun but the police report didn’t mention it at the time. The woman said she DID tell the police about the gun, but they failed to write it down. The foreman thinks she just changed her story for giggles.
That’s the kind of thing women are up against, and that’s just at the trial. It seems that the Church has all hands on deck to get this case dismissed. Former Scientologist and current fearless critic Leah Remini has been at the trial, and reported that the District Attorney just learned that the Church has secretly obtained “a significant amount of criminal discovery materials” that they shouldn’t have access to. She also reported that the prosecution showed a letter that one of the rape victims’ mothers sent to Scientology leader David Miscavige, telling about Danny Masterson raping her daughter and begging him to do something. The mother, who has allegedly given millions of dollars to Scientology, didn’t testify, which Remini says is because if she did, she would be exiled from the organization.
Religion in general, and Scientology in particular, are central to this trial. It’s not a coincidence that we regularly learn about religious organizations covering up sexual abuse: whether it’s an accepted cult like Scientology or Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, or a mainstream religion like Catholicism, these institutions are set up to give men a vast amount of power over subservient women and children.
In 2020, researchers at University of Alberta detailed the unique characteristics of religions that allow predators to thrive: “theodicies of legitimation; power, patriarchy, obedience, protection, and reverence towards authority figures; victims’ fears about spiritual punishments; and scriptural uses to justify adult-child sex.”
Completely independent of what you believe about the universe–whether you think there’s a God, or a bunch of Gods, whether you think they answer your prayers, whether you think they will have a paradise waiting for you when you die, no matter WHAT you personally believe about the greater questions of the universe–I am begging you have to accept that religious institutions are set up and controlled by men. Men. Humans. And inevitably they will operate those institutions for their own benefit, whether that’s about money, sex, power, or, let’s be honest, all three.