Actor Danny Masterson's sexual harassment lawsuit has a new, major update following an appeal from the women suing the former That '70s Show star. In December 2020, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Steven J. Kleifield ruled that the four women suing Masterson would have to partake in a Church of Scientology-led arbitration, as Masterson is a member of the organization. Now, Deadline reports, a court of appeals has ruled that this is not necessary.
"Individuals have a First Amendment right to leave a religion," the court of appeals wrote in its ruling. "We hold that once petitioners had terminated their affiliation with the Church, they were not bound to its dispute resolution procedures to resolve the claims at issue here, which are based on alleged tortious conduct occurring after their separation from the Church and so not implicate resolution of ecclesiastical issues. We issue a writ directing the trial court to vacate its order compelling arbitration and instead to deny the motion." Deadline notes that a Church of Scientology lawyer was quoted as saying that the organization disagrees with "this unprecedented decision."
Masterson is best known for playing high school slacker Steven Hyde on That '70s Show for the show's eight-season run on Fox. Years later, he and Ashton Kutcher, another star of That '70s Show, re-teamed for The Ranch, on Netflix. However, in 2017, multiple women filed sexual assault reports against Masterson, prompting Netflix to fire him. Following his firing, the actor spoke out, saying, "I am obviously very disappointed in Netflix's decision to write my character off of The Ranch. From Day 1, I have denied the outrageous allegations against me.
He continued, "Law enforcement investigated these claims more than 15 years ago and determined them to be without merit. I have never been charged with a crime, let alone convicted of one. In this country, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, in the current climate, it seems as if you are presumed guilty the moment you are accused. I understand and look forward to clearing my name once and for all."
Masterson concluded, "In the meantime, I want to express my gratitude to the cast and crew that I've worked so closely with over the past three seasons. I wish them nothing but success. I am also so thankful to the fans that have supported me and continue to do so."