Molko v. Holy Spirit Assn.

Decision Date17 October 1988
Docket NumberS.F. 25038
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
Parties, 762 P.2d 46, 57 USLW 2276 David MOLKO, Plaintiff, Cross-defendant and Appellant; Tracy Leal, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. HOLY SPIRIT ASSOCIATION FOR THE UNIFICATION OF WORLD CHRISTIANITY et al., Defendants, Cross-complainants, and Appellants; Neil Maxwell, Cross-defendant and Respondent.

Ford Greene, Shapiro & Shapiro, Carl Shapiro, Aylsworth C. Greene, III, San Anselmo, Lynn M. Rennert, Stanley F. Leal, Kelly, Leal & Davilla, Sunnyvale, for plaintiff, cross-defendant and appellant, plaintiff and appellant and cross-defendant and respondent.

No appearance for respondent.

Jeffrey S. Ross, James A. Dorskind, Friedman, Sloan & Ross and Lawrence A. Gibbs, San Francisco, for defendants, cross-complainants and appellants.

Harold J. Kwalwasser, Robin D. Wiener, Tuttle & Taylor, Paul Morantz, Robert H. Philibosian, Morton B. Jackson, MacDonald, Halsted & Laybourne, Los Angeles, Baker & McKenzie, Bruce J. Ennis, Donald N. Bersoff, Washington, D.C., Kit Adelman-Pierson, Arlington, Va., Ennis, Friedman & Bersoff, Washington, D.C., Michael J. Woodruff, Santa Barbara, Samuel E. Ericsson, Springfield, Va., Michael A. Paulsen, Arlington, Va., Heidi S. Hagerman, Earl W. Trent, Jr., Valley Forge, Pa., and Remcho, Johansen & Purcell, San Francisco, as amici curiae.

MOSK, Justice.

This case raises three issues: (1) whether, consistently with the free exercise clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and of article I, section 4, of the California Constitution, former members of a religious organization may sue that organization on various causes of action arising out of its allegedly deceptive recruitment practices; (2) whether the organization may cross-complain against a former member and others for allegedly violating its civil rights under federal and state statutes; and (3) whether California's equitable indemnity doctrine permits an intentional tortfeasor to obtain indemnity from concurrent intentional tortfeasors on a comparative fault basis.

Appellants David Molko and Tracy Leal are former members of the Unification Church. 1 While members of the Church, they were on separate occasions forcibly abducted from a public street by third parties and "deprogrammed"--i.e., persuaded to relinquish their belief in and association with the Church. Thereafter Molko and Leal filed the present action against the Church, alleging they had been fraudulently induced to join the Church through a variety of deceptive tactics on the part of some of its members. Molko and Leal each asserted causes of action for fraud and deceit, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and false imprisonment. Molko also sought restitution of a $6,000 gift he alleged the Church obtained from him by undue influence.

The Church filed a first amended cross-complaint against Molko and Neil Maxwell, 2 alleging their deprogramming activities violated the Church's federal and state civil rights. 3 (42 U.S.C. § 1985, subd. (3); Civ. Code, §§ 51.7, 52.) The Church also sued Maxwell for full or partial indemnity, on the theory that Maxwell, by kidnapping and deprogramming Molko, had wholly or partially caused any damages for which the Church might be found liable to Molko.

The court granted summary judgment for the Church in the action brought by Molko and Leal, and entered a judgment of dismissal for Molko after sustaining his demurrer without leave to amend as to the Church's amended cross-complaint against him. Similarly, the court entered a judgment of dismissal for Maxwell after sustaining his demurrer without leave to amend as to the Church's amended cross-complaint against him.

Molko and Leal appealed from the summary judgment for the Church. The Church cross-appealed from the judgment of dismissal for Molko, and appealed from the judgment of dismissal for Maxwell and Alexander. The Court of Appeal consolidated all the appeals; it affirmed the summary judgment for the Church, but reversed the judgments of dismissal for Molko, Maxwell, and Alexander. We granted petitions by Molko and Leal to review the affirmance of summary judgment for the Church, and by Maxwell to review the reversal of his judgment of dismissal. 4

As will appear, we conclude that (1) the summary judgment for the Church should be affirmed as to the cause of action for false imprisonment but reversed as to the causes of action for fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and restitution, and (2) the reversal of the judgment of dismissal for Maxwell should be affirmed.

A. Facts as to David Molko 5

In June 1978 27-year-old David Molko graduated from Temple University School of Law. A month later he took and passed the Pennsylvania bar examination. In spite of these educational successes, he was unsure about his future. He considered moving to California, and decided to visit San Francisco, perhaps to find a job or take the California bar examination. He arrived in San Francisco in early January 1979.

On Sunday, January 21, Mark Bush and Ernest Patton approached Molko as he waited at a bus stop in San Francisco. Bush and Patton told Molko they lived in an "international community" of socially conscious people from different occupations who met in the evenings to discuss important issues. They invited Molko to come to dinner that evening. Molko asked the two their occupations and was told they did social work and worked with environmental programs. He asked if Bush and Patton had a "religious connection." They said "no." Bush and Patton did not reveal to Molko that they were members of the Unification Church, or that their purpose in approaching him and inviting him to dinner was to recruit him into the Church.

Molko attended the dinner, at which there appeared to be a number of other invited guests. He was kept apart from the other guests, and during dinner was held in constant conversation with group members. After dinner there was a lecture on general social problems, followed by a slide show on "Boonville"--a "farm" a few hours to the north, owned by the group at the house. The slide show depicted Boonville as a rural getaway where people from the house went for relaxation and pleasure. When the presentation was concluded, all the dinner guests were invited to visit the farm. Bush, Patton, and another group member, David Hager, strongly urged Molko to accept the invitation, and told him a van would be leaving for Boonville in a few minutes. Molko said he had no personal belongings with him, and he preferred to think about it. The group members assured him they would provide for all his needs, and again urged him to go. Impressed by this hospitality and enthusiasm, Molko finally agreed to go. At their request he then filled out and signed a form declaring his name, address, and telephone number, 6 and 15 minutes later was in a van on his way to Boonville. He did not know and was not told Boonville was an indoctrination facility for the Unification Church.

The van arrived at Boonville several hours later. Molko was given a sleeping bag and shown to a shelter where others were already sleeping. He quickly fell asleep, and awoke the next morning to discover that many more people than just the 12 from the van were sleeping in the large room. When he arose and walked to the bathroom, a group member arose and walked with him. Wherever he went, a group member accompanied him.

Molko expected to spend some relaxed time in the country, but soon learned the day's schedule was tightly planned and left him no time to himself. First came group calisthenics, then breakfast, then a lecture on moral and ethical issues, followed by small group discussions of the lecture. Next came lunch, more exercise, another lecture and discussion, then a break to take a shower. Finally came dinner, "testimonials" by individuals about their lives and their impressions of the day at Boonville, and group singing followed by yet another small group discussion. At the end of the day Molko was exhausted and quickly fell asleep.

Tuesday was a repeat of Monday, except that Molko became acquainted with group member Bethie Rubenstein. He asked her the name of the group, and she told him it was the "Creative Community Project." He asked if the group was associated with any religious organization, and she told him "no." By the end of Tuesday, Molko was tired, uncomfortable and concerned about the direction his life was taking. He informed Patton and Bush he desired to return to San Francisco. They told him he was free to leave and that a bus would depart at three o'clock in the morning, but they strongly urged him to stay and hear the important information that would be discussed in the days to come. Molko agreed to stay on a little longer.

Wednesday and Thursday were exactly like Monday and Tuesday--even the two-day cycle of lectures was repeated verbatim. The lecturers spoke of brotherly love and social problems, and included references to God and some amount of prayer. On Wednesday, Rubenstein informed Molko the group's teachings derived from many philosophical sources, including Aristotle, Jefferson, and Reverend Sun Myung Moon. She did not disclose that Reverend Moon was the group's spiritual leader.

On Friday night, Molko was told the group was about to leave Boonville for "Camp K"--another group-owned retreat used on weekends. Molko said he wanted to return to San Francisco, but again was urged to give the group a few more days. He agreed and made the trip to Camp K, still oblivious of his involvement with the Unification Church.

The exercise-lecture-discussion regimen continued throughout both the weekend at Camp K and the following week back at Boonville, during which Molko became increasingly disoriented and despairing of his future. On...

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