Could Danny Masterson end up in jail thanks to his beliefs in Scientology?
You may remember Danny Masterson as Hyde from That 70s Show, but now, he’s back in the limelight for a more nefarious reason, In January 2020, Masterson was arrested on sexual assault charges and could be facing jail.
The allegations are based on three women’s testimony. According to The Los Angeles Times and Page Six, the women claimed they would have gone to the police earlier, but were discouraged from reporting Danny Masterson to law enforcement by their religious leaders. What religion would allegedly keep its members from reporting serious crimes like rape, you may ask?
According to a preliminary hearing, Danny Masterson and the women he’s accused of raping were members of the Church of Scientology. In a preliminary hearing, one woman who came forward said she went to her church leadership about holding Masterson accountable and was told to read a chapter of “Introduction to Scientology Ethics”, instructing members not to go to the police to report fellow members.
Now, Scientology is seemingly being scrutinized to see if it’s evidence that can land Danny Masterson in jail, which the Church is claiming is a violation of the First Amendment. Let’s take a look at the hearing and see whether Masterson’s Scientology involvement will translate to jail time.
According to court documents obtained by The Los Angeles Times, the woman coming forward who went to her church authorities about Danny Masterson, said she was “required to take an ‘ethics course’ because church officials allegedly told her she had done ‘something to . . . deserve what [Masterson] did to me’”. Page Six reported another woman had to write that she would “take responsibility” for what Masterson did.
According to The Times and Page Six, a third woman who had been born & raised in Scientology was visited by a church representative and told to keep quiet. “We’re going to work out how you can not lose your daughter”, the rep reportedly told the woman’s father.
Indeed, according to The Times, about a quarter of all the pages in the prosecution’s eight-eight page deposition against Danny Masterson refer to the teachings of Scientology and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard.
From an ex-Scientologist
Mike Rinder, an ex-Scientologist said of the case to The Los Angeles Times: “The activities of Scientology have been so much a part of the evidence that’s being put forth as to why these women were not immediately going to law enforcement . . . that it’s sort of brought the dirty laundry out into public view, which is exactly what Scientology does not want to have happen.”
Rinder is working with fellow ex-Scientologist Leah Remini on a documentary for E! He further detailed that Scientology considers worldly laws, courts, and jail to be “invalid”, and encourages members to report violations of the law internally rather than going to police.
Rinder further elaborated that cases like Danny Masterson’s usually go to civil, not criminal court, where jail is off the table. “Scientology had managed to persuade courts . . . that you can’t inquire into our religious practices and beliefs and have managed to dissuade much discussion about Scientology”, he told The Times.
“Church policy explicitly demands Scientologists abide by all laws of the land, including the reporting of crimes. This is blatantly clear in the documents we understand were put before the Court — and many others”, wrote Karin Pouw, a Church of Scientology spokesperson, who called the allegations “a money shakedown”.
Pouw further noted that the Church of Scientology isn’t a party on Danny Masterson’s case due to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing freedom from religious persecution in the eyes of the law.
“The Court either did not read them in full or ignored them. It should have done neither. Interpretation of Church doctrine by the courts is prohibited and the ruling is evidence of why”, she concluded.
Avoiding the death penalty
Danny Masterson’s case isn’t the first one where a member tried to avoid jail or other legal punishments. Kenneth Wayne Thompson bludgeoned his brother and sister-in-law to death because he was concerned for the spiritual well-being of their nephew. According to AZ Central, his defense was that Scientology compelled him to kill his family to “save” his nephew.
The spiritual danger? Receiving psychiatric treatment, which Scientology doctrine condemns and prominent Scientologists like Tom Cruise have spoken about in the past.
The prosecution sought the death penalty, and despite his religious defense, Thompson was convicted and sentenced to death on both counts of first-degree murder. However, some sources claimed Thompson appealed and his death sentence was overturned. If these claims are true, he’s currently in jail awaiting a new penalty phase trial. Either way, he is still housed on Death Row in Arizona per our sources.
Danny Masterson has pleaded “not guilty” to all three charges dating back to the early 2000s. If found guilty, he could face up to forty-five years in jail.