Alt.religion.scientology Week in Review
Volume 3, Issue 38
by Rod Keller
Alt.religion.scientology Week in Review summarizes the most significant postings from the Usenet group Alt.religion.scientology for the preceding week for the benefit of those who can't follow the group as closely as they'd like. Out of thousands of postings, I attempt to include news of significant events, new affidavits, court rulings, new contributors, whatever. I hope you find it useful. Like many readers of a.r.s, I have a kill file. So please take into consideration that I may not have seen some of the most significant postings.
The articles in A.r.s Week in Review are brief summaries of articles posted to the newsgroup. They include message IDs for the original articles, and many have a URL to get more information. You may be able to find the original article, depending on how long your site stores articles in the newsgroup before expiring them.
Free A.r.s Week in Review subscriptions are available, just email me at
The Miami Herald published an article this week on the status of
Scientology in Clearwater, Florida.
"The city buses chugging past downtown crowds three weeks ago bore strange and startling messages on the sides: 'Think for Yourself. Quit Scientology,' said one. 'Doubt is Not a Crime,' said another. 'Run, don't walk -- Quit Scientology.' In almost any other town in America, the advertisements would have been puzzling and meaningless. But in Clearwater, where the population of 110,000 includes perhaps as many as 10,000 adherents to the Church of Scientology, they were fighting words. 'That's like saying, 'Blacks, get out of town,'' says Scientology spokeswoman Pat Jones, who also is African American. Scientologists deluged the homes of City Council and Transit Authority members with complaints. Within a day, the ads were gone.
"Tampa attorney Kennan Dandar is representing Lisa McPherson's family in a wrongful death lawsuit against the Church of Scientology. He claims McPherson was trying to leave the church after 19 years, and they wanted to stop her. 'In her final days, she was virtually begging for help,' Dandar said. 'What happened to Lisa was disgusting.' Scientologists say McPherson was happy in the church, and wasn't planning to leave. If the church is found guilty of the charges -- abuse or neglect of a disabled adult, a second-degree felony, and unauthorized practice of medicine, a third-degree felony -- it will face a fine of no more than $15,000. No individual would face a jail sentence.
"The downtown demonstrations by anti-Scientologists every year on the anniversary of McPherson's death, the bus ads earlier this month and the publicity given to the criminal charges have put the church under scrutiny again. There's no good reason for it, Scientologists say. 'If it were any other church, this would have been damped out within weeks,' spokesman Anderson said. 'The story would have died.'"
The St. Petersburg Times printed a letter from Scientology's head of investigations and public relations, Mike Rinder, in response to last week's editorial is support of the right for critics to run bus ads.
"Blumner cites the First Amendment to the Constitution for the proposition that anonymous anti-Scientologists have the right to post religious hate slogans on county-sponsored buses. She conveniently ignores that the first provision of the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion. That amendment prohibits governmental agencies from taking an action that could in any fashion establish or disestablish a particular religion.
"It is ironic that it appeared in the editorial column of the St. Petersburg Times, as if expressing the Times' views. The Times, as a matter of policy, will accept no advertising of any kind from the Church of Scientology. For years, the church has attempted to purchase advertising space for book advertisements, statements on social issues, and even equal space to respond to Times articles. In every instance, the Times has refused to accept advertisements."
The Times also reported that Scientology has purchased the Red Cross building in downtown Clearwater.
"Property records show that Scientology recently spent $1.1-million to buy the longtime Clearwater offices of the American National Red Cross at 624 Court St. The purchase brings the church closer to controlling an entire city block along Court Street. The only properties remaining in that block are three small publicly owned parking lots and an alley that runs the length of the block. City and county officials say the church has approached them about trading land to get the remaining lots. The church wants to develop most of the block into parking spaces for a massive new Scientology building planned on S Fort Harrison Avenue, across from the church's Fort Harrison Hotel.
"The property appraiser's office has said it will not know until later in the expansion project how much of the newly acquired property will be tax-exempt. Scientology has been paying steep prices for the land, on average about 75 percent higher than the property appraiser's assessment for taxing purposes. The Red Cross building was no exception. It sold for 65 percent more than the assessed value. The $1.1-million transaction took place Dec. 1, according to the deed, but it was not recorded with the county until last week.
"Scientology recently broke ground for what it says will be a $45-million 'Ministerial Training and Pastoral Counseling Center.' The six-story building will feature a 150-foot tower topped by a large eight-point Scientology cross. At 370,000 square feet, the structure will be one of the largest office buildings in Pinellas County."
The Miami Herald reported this week that the Lisa McPherson criminal case
has been delayed by Scientology's request for special treatment of the
"A pre-trial hearing scheduled for today in the criminal case against the Church of Scientology has been postponed indefinitely -- the church says the case needs to be specially assigned because it's so unusual. Pinellas County Chief Circuit Judge Susan Schaeffer now has the case.
"'Oftentimes, if it's a case that may require significant judicial time and resources, it will be specially docketed,' Scientology attorney Laura Vaughan said. 'There are issues here that don't come up every day in your average criminal case. You have issues of religious freedom, First Amendment issues. It's an unusual case.'"
A summary of the career of Judge Schaeffer was posted to a.r.s this week.
"SUSAN F. SCHAEFFER, Chief Judge, Sixth Judicial Circuit. B.S., Florida State University; J.D. (cum laude), Stetson University College of Law (lst in class). Assistant Professor, Stetson University College of Law (1971-1973); Private Practice, (1973 1975; 1978-82); Assistant Public Defender (1975-78); Chief Assistant Public Defender (1977-78); Circuit Judge, Sixth Judicial Circuit (1982 - present). Recipient: Florida Bar Award as Outstanding Graduate, Stetson University College of Law; Outstanding Trial Advocate, Stetson Society of Trial Advocacy (1980); Judicial Appreciation Award, St. Petersburg Bar Association (1989). Faculty member: Handling Capital Cases Course, Florida's Advanced Judicial College (1990 - present) and National Judicial College, Reno, Nevada (1989 - present); Florida Judicial College, New Judges Trial Skills (1993 - present). Judge Schaeffer has published various articles and book chapters, especially in the area of handling capital cases."
German news wire dpa reported this week that Gottfried Helnwein had mixed
success in his court case. He advanced in his efforts to no longer be
described as a minister of Scientology, but negligence charges have been
"The Austrian painter and graphic artist, Gottfried Helnwein, after a decision by the highest German court, may no longer be described as 'minister of Scientology.' In a decision published on Tuesday in Karlsruhe, the First Senate found for the constitutional complaint of the artist, and reversed a differing judgment from a court in Frankfurt am Main on June 20, 1996. Helnwein had filed the complaint of violation on general personality rights.
"The court in Frankfurt had dismissed a negligence charge by Helnwein which concerned the statements by unconcerned parties about his alleged connection to Scientology. Two associations who had made the fight of sects their mission stated in an open letter, 'A patron of a criminal association, who recruits for Scientology in innumerable publications and is himself designated as a clergyman, is courted by media and politics.' To that, Helnwein had repeatedly stated that he was not a Scientologist, had not had training to be a clergyman, and had not assumed any of those type of functions."
Tilman Hausherr posted to describe the ruling.
"The case has been sent back to the superior court. It will now have to evaluate Helnwein's allegation that he is no longer a scientologist. Considering that according to Alex Jones, he complained in the US about the discrimination against 'himself, a scientologist' in 1997, he will have a hard time. And there is now a whole book of evidence against him.
"What he says is that he is not a 'minister of scientology', not a 'class 4 auditor', and that he 'has no post in scientology'. He does say that he 'did a few courses in the 70s' and tries to play that down. He also claims that when scientology mentions him, that they did it 'without permission'."
>From Die Welt:
"The subject of the decision was the grievance by Austrian artist Gottfried Helnwein, which was directed against an 'open letter.' The letter said that Helnwein was a member of 'Scientology' and that he was an 'auditor,' which is Scientology's usual designation for its 'clergy.' The occasion for the open letter was that Helnwein was being considered for participation in the establishment of a memorial on the grounds of the former 'Neue Bremm' concentration camp in Saarbruecken. After the publication of the open letter, Helnwein did not receive the commission.
"As a result of Helnwein's civil complaint the Saarbruecken State Court prohibited the authors of the open letter from saying that Helnwein was an 'auditor' with 'Scientology.' The BVerfG overturned the decision by the OLG and gave the matter back to be decided anew - with allowances for the artist's 'personality rights'. The OLG had incorrectly concluded that this was covered by freedom of opinion.
"The BVerfG said that it could be defamation of character if someone alleged a connection to an organization which could be generally rated as critical. That is all the more valid if it is an organization which one associated with on his own determination. Especially in the statements given by Helnwein that he had nothing more to do with 'Scientology,' the OLG had not taken the 'personality right' into consideration to a given degree: 'even true statements could, by way of exception, make character interests predominant and force freedom of opinion into the background.'"
Keith Henson filed suit against the IRS this week over the formerly secret
closing agreement they have with Scientology and the tax exemption of all
"Plaintiff brings to this court evidence that defendant Internal Revenue Service engaged in a conspiracy with Scientology corporations (or was coerced by them) to illegally overrule the Supreme Court and defraud the United States of in excess of one billion dollars. Plaintiff believes IRS acted in violation of the Establishment clause of the Constitution of the United States and of Section 170 of the Internal Revenue Code as interpreted by the Supreme Court in Hernandez (1989).
"According to Scientology's head David Miscavige the amount in controversy exceeds One Billion Dollars, exclusive of penalties, interest, and costs. Plaintiff is seeking the standard 10% award or such award as is deemed just and proper by the courts in the spirit of que tam.
"Plaintiff claims a special standing to bring this action due to 'injury in fact.' Scientology corporations have paid large sums of money collected as 'charitable donations' to harass plaintiff, up to and including physical attack on four occasions, and for other purposes which are clearly outside of the legislatively sanctioned uses of 'charitable donations.' In addition, plaintiff has standing as a federal taxpayer if the court decides the above descriptions of injury is not adequate to confer standing.
"Plaintiff believes that a court examining the closing agreement between Scientology and the IRS would find that Revenue Ruling 93-73 facially differentiates among religions. This ruling provides that payments made to the Church of Scientology for auditing, processing, and other religious education courses are deductible under Section 170 of the Code, thus gives preferential treatment to members of the Church of Scientology by allowing them deductions for quid pro quo transactions that are denied to other religious organizations.
"Plaintiff has more than a little sympathy for the IRS, having been subjected--like the IRS but at a much less extensive level--to scientology's policies of using litigation to 'overwhelm,' 'harass' and wear down perceived enemies and would-be commercial competitors or whistleblowers. According to Scientology dogma and religious scripture, 'the purpose of a lawsuit is to harass, not win on the merits.' Another Scientology directive is to 'always attack, never defend.' Such litigation is intended to eliminate, harass and intimidate witnesses, and to obstruct justice, and is funded now by tax exempt money often illegally and fraudulently obtained from members such as Pattinson."
Scientology this week sent a letter to all the residents of Sandown, New
Hampshire. Scientology critic Bob Minton is a resident of the town, and
the subject of the attacking letter.
"My name is Maureen O'Keefe and I am a parishioner of the Church of
Scientology. About a year ago, I first became aware of Robert Minton when,
seemingly out of nowhere, he began verbally attacking my Church and
spreading vicious lies via the media and the Internet about Scientology
and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. Since that time, Mr. Minton has become
increasingly vocal and violent in his attacks on my Church and
parishioners, myself included. He has poured millions of dollars into
funding what is nothing less than a massive anti-religious hate campaign.
"On August 13, 1998, however, Robert Minton crossed the line as far as I was concerned. On that day, while professing to be a Scientologist, Mr. Minton tried to force his way into my Church on Beacon Street in Boston. After I refused to allow him to enter, Mr. Minton emphatically stated, 'I am going to destroy Scientology!' At that moment I decided that I was not going to allow him to impede my Constitutional Right to freely practice the religion of my choice.
"Religious freedom is not contingent upon whether or not Robert Minton happens to agree with my religious beliefs. It is my right as an American just as it is every American's right, including yours. All I have asked of Mr. Minton is that he respect the religious beliefs of others. Our message to him is quite simple: 'You leave us alone. We'll leave you alone.' It is simply a matter of defending one's Constitutional Rights.
"I'd like to thank you for listening and wish you and your family a very happy holiday season and a prosperous 1999."
"Sponsored by the Parishioners of the Church of Scientology of Boston, 448 Beacon Street - Boston, MA - 02115"
On December 3rd, MSNBC reported on the lawsuit against Scientology by
"Former Scientologist Michael Pattinson is claiming that he paid the church $500,000 to 'cure' him of his homosexuality. It didn't work, he says. Among the eye-popping allegations in the suit: that Travolta's plane was used to 'kidnap' a member of Scientology, that Pattinson and others were forced to work in 'a robotic slave-like work force' to service Scientology celebrities like Travolta, Tom Cruise and Kirstie Alley, and that Pattinson 'reasonably relied upon' Travolta's marriage to fellow Scientologist Kelly Preston as proof that 'Scientology processing and courses would 'handle' my own homosexuality.'
"Not long after the item was posted, Scoop heard from Scientology officials who insisted that the lawsuit had been dismissed. Well, it turns out that's not quite true. Actually, the church asked the court to dismiss the case and bring sanctions against the plaintiffs. The judge, Christina A. Snyder, denied that request but called the 277-page suit a 'rambling tale of irrelevancy' and told Pattinson and his attorney, Graham Berry, to file an amended complaint. They did.
"Scientology spokesman Kurt Weiland says the suit is 'the sort of legal monstrosity that gives lawyers a bad name' and still insists that the case will be thrown out. Weiland says. 'Mr. Pattinson has no personal knowledge about most of what is alleged in the complaint.'
"'Mr. Pattinson doesn't have to be an eyewitness to all the facts alleged in order to recover for the wrongs that were done him,' counters Berry. 'It's far from being thrown out and it's highly unlikely that it will be thrown out,' Berry says. 'Mr. Pattinson has a very strong case.'"
Protest / Revenge Summary
Jeff Jacobsen reported on a revenge picket by Scientology at his
"Last night about 12 Scientologists with one-sided signs picketed the hotel where I was DJing for about an hour. I went out to take pictures of them but once again they would hide their faces behind their picket signs so I couldn't photograph them. I told them that I they were obviously ashamed of what they were doing and that I *never* hid my face when I picketed. This is 3rd hand picketing on their part. They are not picketing me, nor my employer, but a hotel that my employer has contracted."
Protest report by David Alexander in Dallas:
"I arrived at 11:45, picketed until 1:30, to get the lunch ambulation. I used my new signs today: 'SCIENTOLOGY CALLS JESUS A PEDOPHILE'
"One Scientologist returning from lunch walked straight up to me and said, 'It's not true'. I asked him if he had read OT VIII. He repeated, 'It's not true'. I told him I had read it myself on the internet, 'This is the 'Truth Revealed', as claimed in OT VIII'. I think he'll have something to contemplate when/if he reaches the OT levels."
>From Kristi Wachter on pickets in San Jose and Mountain View, California.
"I had a bit of sprinkler tech, which was a first for me. They weren't watering the whole sidewalk, but the few feet closest to the driveway were pretty wet, and the Now Hiring sign was dripping. A pleasant gentleman came out to snap photos and we obliged, posing and flipping our signs on request; he let me get a couple of shots of him, too
"I was anxious to get over to Mountain View to meet my lunchmates, so I excused myself and split. The rest of us took up signs and strolled the sidewalk. The heavy fog had cleared, and it was a lovely day. Robin came out to take pictures. She was extremely nice, as before. We picketed and chatted and waved like heck at the cars driving by. We got LOTS of honks and supportive waves. A pedestrian came by and said he agreed that it was a scam, especially the religion angle, and a motorist pulled over and asked whether we'd been taken by Scientology. I explained that I was out there protesting the other people they've hurt, not anything they've done to me. He said his cousin had lost $20,000 on Scientology."
Kristi also reported on a revenge picket at her home.
"On Friday, Tall Black Guy came to my home to revenge-picket me after my pickets in San Jose and Mountain View on Thursday. We had a bit more pedestrian traffic than is usual in my neighborhood, and a fair amount of drive-by traffic. The last pedestrian we spoke with asked TBG his name, and he said it was Craig (I think - could have been Greg), so that's what I'll call him from now on. Two of the three who stopped to talk repeatedly expressed their disapproval of his picketing my home."
>From Bruce Pettycrew in Mesa, Arizona:
"It was just Kathy and me picketing from 10:00 to 11:00 AM today, but after about 15 minutes we were joined by Jim and Kathy Bennett, Staff at the Org - Jim, at least, is an OT8. Their signs were perfect complements to ours: Jim's read 'Why are we wasting our time?' and Kathy B.'s sign was 'Scientology: Think for yourself'. Since our signs were explicitly anti-Co$, drivers would naturally get the impression that _four_ people were picketing against the cult."
Die Welt published an article this week on Scientology and Hollywood.
"There is no better place than Hollywood for sect Founder L. Ron Hubbard's combined creed of self-improvement and 'make money, make more money.' Scientology operates a center for personality tests, where stars such as Tom Cruise or Al Jarreau unhesitantly lay $5,000 down on the table for an E-meter. Catercornered to this is the museum of the deceased L. Ron Hubbard. The California headquarters of the self-named church lies a few blocks down the road in a concrete building. The 'Celebrity Center,' where well-known Scientologists including Nicole Kidman and Chick Corea (often) like to be seen as guests, is also in the north of Los Angeles. Conservative estimates put the number of staff employed by the organization in Hollywood at about 2,000 - many more not on the pay roll are standing by the large studios such as Paramount or Universal.
"Now Scientology is finally moving into the movie business. John Travolta announced on Thursday that he wants to film 'Battleship Earth,' a science fiction novel by Hubbard. He wants to produce the film financed by MGM, and play an extraterrestrial. It would be the first novel by Hubbard to make it to the silver screen. The film is supposed to have a budget of $80 million. Filming could begin any time, as the next film planned with Travolta, 'The Shipping News,' based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Annie Proulx, slipped into a production hole because of budget disputes between producer Fred Schepisi and Columbia Tristar. The script for 'Battleship Earth' was written two years ago, and now moves to number one on Travolta's priority list.
"Opponents of the Scientologists have criticized Travolta films 'Primary Colors' and 'Phenomenon.' Two disk jockeys from Michigan, Mitch Gill and Tommy Walker, have asserted that the music from 'Phenomenon' played backwards sounds like 'Do you miss Ron?' While this sounds like the MacCartney death theory, the setting of the film shows similarities to the Scientology teaching of enlightenment through mental exercises."
Escape from Scientology
U.K. tabloid The Mirror this week published a story of Gary Fry's escape
"I was easy prey for the Scientologists because they seemed to make a prophecy about my life come true. In 1992, a clairvoyant told me I was going to join a group who would show me the truth. True enough, a month later, I was approached in the street by a Scientologist with a questionnaire. So, a few days later, I visited their headquarters in Poole to ask some questions. I was shown into a plush suite where I answered 200 personal questions. My answers were fed into a computer which supposedly analysed my IQ, my energy levels and my confidence. To my dismay, I was below average in everything, but the Scientologists promised to show me how to become far above average - by joining them.
"I paid for two courses of 'personal auditing' and spent 12 hours analysing myself to discover whether I was social or anti-social. Scientologists believe everyone fits into one of these categories. They explain it with lots of scientific terminology but, simply put, social people are good and anti-social people are bad. And anti-social people are those who disagree with Scientology.
"Scientologists teach you to ignore criticism. I was taught to change the subject if Mum or Dad asked me to do something that interfered with my 'studies', and then carry on as if they had never asked. My family were worried about my strange behaviour, but I refused to listen. I had spent more than 21,000 pounds - all the money I'd saved to buy a house - in only three months on expensive Scientology courses. I spent three evenings a week and every weekend at the Scientologists HQ, studying or taking part in 'counseling' where I was encouraged to confess my innermost fears and darkest secrets. These sessions made me feel that I was a bad person who needed to spend even more money on courses to become perfect. I became introverted, self-critical and suspicious of all non-Scientologists. If my parents hadn't decided to act I would never have left.
"One evening Mum and Dad showed me a video about Scientology. It showed the founder, L Ron Hubbard - who I'd been taught to see as a saint - as a liar and a bigamist. It also claimed that many ex-members had taken their own lives or ended up in mental institutions. I refused to believe any of it at first. My Dad screamed and shouted and told me what an idiot I was being. That simply confirmed to me that outsiders were 'reactives' trying to undermine my beliefs. My Mum stayed calm, however, and kept asking me questions which played on my own buried doubts about the amount of money I was spending on the cult.
"I promised to leave Scientology. I talked to her all day, confessing everything and admitting I'd spent pounds 21,000, not the 190 pounds I'd originally told her. That evening I rang the Scientologists and told them I was leaving. They promised to refund my money, but insisted I come to the HQ for an 'auditing' session to explain why I was leaving. Mum begged me not to go but I felt it was my only chance of getting my money back.
"I was treated like a leper. No one would look at me or talk to me. It was very intimidating to be ignored by people who had acted like my best friends the day before. I felt my resolve starting to crumble and it was only by picturing my Mum crying that I hung on to my determination to leave. My auditing session was with a senior Scientologist who specialises in convincing would-be leavers to stay. He spent hours trying to change my mind. Only my promise to Mum stopped me cracking. When I stood up to go, he said, 'Your reactive mind will get bigger and finally take you over, Gary. And remember... Scientologists always tell the truth.' This was a subtle threat. He knew my most intimate secrets because they had been written down during my auditing sessions. I understood that he was planning to use that information against me if I caused any problems.
"I got the money back by threatening legal action. They finally paid up in full a few days before the scheduled court appearance. At one point, an American private investigator confronted my parents. He was scary and was obviously chosen to frighten us into dropping the case and keeping quiet. He failed.
"It was much harder to break my brain-washing. For a month or so, I threw myself into my fence contracting business but my emotions were all over the place. I became badly depressed and was convinced that people were following me. I developed a hair-trigger temper and feared I'd never trust anyone again. I considered suicide. The Scientologists had told me that reincarnation was real and, as I still believed a lot of their teachings, I thought it might be better to kill myself and come back in a new life with a clean sheet. I was at my lowest when I met an ex-Scientologist called Bonnie Woods who introduced me to Christianity. Her Pastor led me in a prayer session and I was flooded with a feeling of peace.
"Scientology almost wrecked my life. If anyone else is tempted to try it I'd say don't, if you value your sanity."