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EDMONTON (CP) — The Church of Scientology has been ruled in contempt of court for failing to present financial records to seven Albertans it is suing.
Mr. Justice L. D. MacLean of the Court of Queen's Bench also ordered the church to proceed with its defamation action against the defendants after labelling the 1/2-year court delay "absolutely ridiculous." He said the Church of Scientology must appear ready for a two-week trial on Oct. 6 or its action, launched in 1976, will be dismissed.
The church was fined $200 for contempt of court after Judge MacLean ruled on Wednesday that the plaintiffs had ignored a 1/2-year-old court judgment ordering them to produce financial records.
In approving the defendants' application for the contempt decision, the judge said if the $200 is not paid within two weeks the Scientology defamation action will be struck out.
The defendants in the case include Lorna Levett, a former Scientology official in Calgary. When she left the group in 1974 she released documents outlining its hard-sell tactics.
Although church lawyer John Jenkins presented court with an affifavit outlining some of the items requested by the defendants, Judge MacLean questioned why it took so long and why it did not contain all the information requested.
Under a court decision in December, 1978, and an appeal that upheld that decision, the plaintiffs were to produce all financial records and assets to the seven people it is suing.
The new affidavit did not include records for 1978.
Hal Joffe, lawyer for the defendants, said the church had called a news conference earlier this year and presented unaudited financial records to the news media but not to his clients.
In asking that a court date be set for October, pre-emptory on the plaintiffs to appear, he described the Scientology defamation action as "frivolous and vexatious." Mr. Joffe said the church has initiated 51 actions in Canada during the past eight years, none of which have gone to trial. "It shows the plaintiffs engage their critics in litigation for an extended period of time to quiet those critics and cost them a great deal of money."