Ex-Scientologist Speaks Out Amid Danny Masterson Trial About Why Alleged Victims Wouldn’t Have Gone To Law Enforcement

Danny Masterson on The Ranch
(Image credit: Netflix)

As we speak the rape trial involving That ‘70s Show alum Danny Masterson continues in Los Angeles. There have been a number of notable developments thus far, including a surprising witness testimony early on, but there’s one subject that's been casting a shadow over the case since it began. Scientology has been a major topic of discussion thus far, seeing as Masterson is a member of the church and the plaintiffs once were as well. When it comes to the latter group, a major point of contention within the case has reportedly been why they didn’t report Masterson’s alleged actions around the time that they occurred. Now, a former scientologist has provided some thoughts on that amid the proceedings.

Mike Rinder, who was a practicing scientologist for 50 years, sat down for a wide-ranging conversation involving Danny Masterson’s case, which he has no direct involvement with. Rinder, whose comments were rebuked by the church after his interview with Slate, addressed the controversial religion’s impact on the proceedings and whether it could truly be left out of the conversations. He also made claims regarding how the church can impact one’s life when one is a member of it: 

Obviously, the issue in this case is that the three alleged victims were, at the time of the incidents that he’s being prosecuted for, all Scientologists, and the circle of people around them were all Scientologists, and the world in which they lived and the way that they made decisions about what to do in any circumstance was influenced enormously by their participation in Scientology. It’s hard to keep that out when you have people that are talking about, This is what I believe happened to me, and this is what I did subsequent to that. When the issue becomes, Well, so why didn’t you go to law enforcement immediately?, the thinking of people in the world of Scientology is entirely based on, What does Scientology tell you that you should and shouldn’t do? That’s obviously part of just the facts of the case.

If one is reading Mike Rinder’s statements correctly, he seems to be suggesting that in order to understand why the alleged victims didn’t reach out to the police while members of the church, the public must look at the decision through the lens of Scientology. And with that in mind, it sounds like he believes it’s difficult to separate religion from the facts presented in the trial. There are some within the case who would probably disagree with the idea of heavily analyzing things from the religious entity’s perspective. 

Presiding Judge Charlaine Olmedo was displeased with opening statements, according to early reports. Olmedo apparently believed that both the prosecution and defense overstepped the boundaries by heavily mentioning the church and their purported practices. The judge reportedly understood that the “witnesses’ lives may have been completely inundated with Scientology.” Olmedo also declared that “this trial is not going to be inundated with Scientology.” Mike Rinder, for his part, went on to opine that the court official can’t truly separate the topic from the trial. In his viewpoint, it’s “inevitable” that the two will be intertwined throughout the legal proceedings: 

If you’re a Scientologist, Scientology dictates everything about your life, everything about how you make decisions, everything about what you think is right and wrong. It also impacts your relationships with your friends, with your family. The threat of losing your friends and losing your family through Scientology disconnection is a very, very real, visceral threat. It’s not a hypothetical. The organization has enormous influence on people’s decisions, so it’s not surprising to me that despite the judge saying that she doesn’t want this to be a trial on Scientology, it’s almost inevitable that the issue of Scientology and how Scientologists act is going to be a part of it because Scientology pervades people’s lives. It’s very difficult for those outside of Scientology to understand just how pervasive it is.

It was in 2017 that Danny Masterson was first investigated by police over allegations of sexual assault from three women. Masterson was charged with raping multiple women in 2020. The actor has denied the accusations on several occasions and, all the while, the Church of Scientology itself has been entangled in a case related to the rape trial. In 2019, Masterson and the church were sued by the accusers, who claimed that they were intimidated and stalked for coming forward with their alleged accounts. Rock star Cedric Zavala of Mars Volta also testified that he and his wife, one of the plaintiffs, were stalked by the church for six years.

Danny Masterson’s trial is set to conclude on November 19. As time goes on, the public will just have to see whether Mike Rinder is right in believing that the religious practice could be left out when discussing the witness’ actions and other relevant topics.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Covering superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. I eat more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.