A federal court threw out two court cases brought forward by an ex-Scientologist couple, the Headleys, against the Church of Scientology, accusing the organization of labor violations, forced abortions, and human trafficking. Dale S. Fischer, a judge on the U. S. District Court, Central District of California, argued that Scientology is protected by the First Amendment’s free exercise clause, putting the practices the organization is alleged to engage in beyond the scrutiny of the court. The ruling is seen as a major victory for Scientology, whose labor practices have repeatedly come under criticism in the recent past.

The St. Petersburg Times reports:

The judge ruled that the Headleys performed religious duties and that the Sea Org falls within the “ministerial exception” commonly granted to religious groups in employment cases. The exception prevents the court from prying into the church’s internal workings to get to the bottom of the Headleys’ allegations.

Continuing the case, the judge wrote, would require the court to analyze “the reasonableness of the methods” used to discipline Sea Org members and to prevent them from leaving. As for Claire Headley’s allegation that she was forced to have two abortions, Fischer said the court would have had to review Scientology’s doctrine prohibiting Sea Org members from raising children.

“Inquiry into these allegations would entangle the court in the religious doctrine of Scientology and the doctrinally motivated practices of the Sea Org,” wrote Fischer, a judge in the Central District of California.

Read the full article by award-winning investigative journalists Thomas Tobin and Joe Childs in the Church of Scientology’s hometown paper here.