Alt.religion.scientology Week in Review
Volume 4, Issue 27
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
Officials in Belgium raided Scientology locations, seizing documents
related to fraud and abuse. From Agence France Presse:
"The controversial Church of Scientology was again under the gun in western Europe Friday after simultaneous raids and seizures of its documents in Belgium and France, the Brussels prosecutor said Friday. Jos Colpin, spokesman for the prosecutor's office, told AFP Belgian police with warrants swooped on 25 locations Thursday, searching premises, seizing bookkeeping documents and temporarily detaining people for questioning. He said two such searches were also carried out in Paris at the request of Belgian authorities, but added that no charges were yet pending against the church in either country, and that all those questioned had been released. The seizures resulted from a fraud and abuse complaint filed in Brussels in 1997 by a former member of the church seeking recovery of money she had paid.
"Among the Belgian premises searched Thursday, in Brussels, Malines, Louvain, and Heidonck, were the current and former headquarters of the church, and a variety of groups and businesses called Citizens Commission on Human Rights, U-Man Belgium, Valgo International Consult, PR Consult, Impact Consulting, Delta, and Advance Consulting. 'These commercial concerns are offering so-called management training to established companies in order to gain their sympathy,' said the prosecutor's spokesman."
>From the Associated Press:
"Jos Colpin, the spokesman for investigating magistrate Jean-Claude Van Espen, said investigators were trying to determine how far the church went in recruiting converts and at what price. The Church of Scientology has long been the target of complaints that its members pay excessive fees."
"The Church of Scientology on Friday condemned Belgian police raids on more than a score of church-related sites, calling them 'a modern-day witch-hunt.' Belgian police on Thursday seized what were described as 'truck loads' of documents during raids throughout Belgium of 25 offices and homes of Scientology members, Josef Colpin, a spokesman for the Public Prosecutor's Office, told Reuters. Colpin said the raids were part of an investigation into alleged racketeering and fraud. But Scientology officials said at a news conference in Brussels on Friday the raids constituted 'a gross violation of basic human rights.' 'The current climate is nothing more than a modern-day witch hunt and intolerance against decent citizens,' the church said in a statement.
"Martin Weightman, director of the European Human Rights Office of the Church of Scientology, said members were being targeted for their religious beliefs. The church claims 8,000 members in Belgium. 'This current action is nothing more than retaliation for my outspoken criticism of human rights abuses in the OSCE, the Council of Europe and other international forums.' he added. The OSCE is the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a grouping of more than 50 countries which monitors democracy and disarmament.
"Colpin said Thursday's raids were part of a probe into the financial activities and structure of the Church of Scientology of Belgium started in early 1997 after a member alleged he had been swindled. He said several members were questioned on Thursday but there were no arrests. More international raids -- including in Luxembourg, where Scientology deposits the funds for its Belgian activities -- could be requested, depending on evidence found in the documents seized, Colpin said."
Despite the loss of court records, French prosecutors announced plans to
proceed with the case against 16 Scientologists for fraud. From Reuters on
"The Paris court rejected the church's demand that the probe, which is separate from a Scientology fraud trial held earlier this month, be dropped on a technicality. The church's lawyer had asked the court to drop it under a statute of limitations saying a probe must be closed if it has been dormant for more than three years. But the court ruled on Wednesday that the provision could not apply because documents had disappeared. They went missing a year ago. The court also ignored a state prosecutor's request to remove Moracchini from the case for her failure to have saved an extra copy of the missing documents as is usually done. An administrative investigation is underway to determine how the documents were lost. Opponents of the church have accused it of tampering with the files. The church has denied any responsibility."
>From the Associated Press on September 29th:
"The court will leave the inquiry in the hands of Judge Marie-Paule Morrachini despite the loss of hundreds of legal documents, the judicial sources said. The 16 members of the Church of Scientology are being investigated for fraud and illegal practice of medicine. The investigation stems from a complaint by a former Scientologist, Juan Esteban Cordero. He accused the Church of Scientology of 'progressive mental conditioning' that led him to spend more than $177,000 on various Scientology-related courses."
"The future of the preliminary investigation had been in limbo. The subject party had made an application to the state court for the case to be dropped on account of 'inactivity' by the judge. Meanwhile important documents in the case had disappeared a year ago. The investigation has been going on, with occasional interruptions, since 1989. On November 15, Judgment will be pronounced in a trial being conducted in Marseille against seven members of the Scientology Organization for fraud."
M. L. Shannon reported to a.r.s this week that a complaint has been filed
against Copy Station, with four locations in the San Francisco area.
"A few months ago, a formal complaint was filed with the State of California, Fair Employment and Housing Department, against Copy Station, Inc. a corporation that operates four photocopying shops. Three are in San Francisco and one is in Oakland. This complaint was preceded by a similar action filed several months earlier. In both of these complaints, allegations were made by the complainants, who stated that they are former employees of Copy Station, that they were subjected to racist remarks and insults, sexual harassment, age harassment, threats of physical violence, and pressure to attend various meetings and 'rallies' at the church of scientology. Within these complaints are allegations that certain employees or officers of the Copy Station corporation were heard to use terms such as 'downstat', 'PTS', 'misduplicated', 'Org', 'stats', and entheta'. It has been further alleged that Copy Station was and is being used as a recruiting center for the scientologists."
Scientology faces defamation lawsuits from Danish journalists in response
to an issue of Freedom magazine which linked the journalists to the East
German Stasi. From Journalisten magazine, translated by Catarina Pamnell:
"The journalists behind a theme saturday about Scientology on Danish Radio 2 in June, were subsequently put in direct connection with Stasi in the membership magazine of the movement. Scientology now faces at least three different suits for defamation and damages. Under the headline 'The Stasi connection', the editor of 'Frihed' used a graphic diagram to show a connection between the journalists and the foreign department of Stasi, HVA. 'I think it's interesting to see what kind of connections these journalists have. It says something about what journalistic standards they have,' says Anette Refstrup, chief editor of 'Frihed'.
"'That diagram is pure fiction. It's a sick conspiracy theory, born from a Scientologist mind. I don't know whether to laugh or cry,' says Jorgen Pedersen, chief editor of the theme saturday on Scientology. He has decided to sue for defamation and damages. The claimed connecting link between the journalists and Stasi is East German film maker Walter Heynowski. In 1989, he visited the educational center of Danmark's Radio. Heynowski had made several documentaries during the time of the DDR-regime, and was invited to talk about his work and his methods. 'I have my life's work to protect. I have 100 percent proof that I've never been a Stasi agent' says Heynowski. Another journalist involved is the freelancer Tom Heinemann, who was behind two of the parts of the theme saturday. He is supposedly connected to Stasi through Ruth Sperling, who according to Anette Refstrup, was the director of Danish Radio's educational center at the time when Heynowski visited. She now work's for P1 Orienteering, where Tom Heinemann has produced several broadcasts. 'We had hundreds of guests every year, I don't remember Heynowski,' says Sperling. 'I have never heard of him,' says Heinemann. 'I cannot tolerate to be put in connection with a regime that held a whole population in an iron grip.' He has now sued for defamation and damages."
Letters to the editor from Scientology and other readers were printed in
Los Angeles' New Times this week, in response to an article on the demise
of the Cult Awareness Network.
"Having seen deep-seated hatred of man against man through a long life of extensive world travel and years of service during WWII, I recognize hatespeak (words like fringe, assault, vanquish, enemy, conspiracy) when I see it ('Scientology's Revenge,' cover story, by Ron Russell, Sept. 9-15). Your reporter didn't talk to anyone whose family was destroyed by hiring a deprogrammer the old Cult Awareness Network had recommended. Nor did he talk to any families who have been salvaged through the new CAN's convincing them not to hire a deprogrammer but, instead, to work out their differences with dialogue. The new CAN's daily fight to get people to overcome labels, generalities, and misconceptions, and treat each other with compassion and respect for their differences was hardly mentioned.
"Andy Bagley Executive Director Cult Awareness Network Los Angeles
"Ron Russell's piece on $cientology was great. I'm for any outing of those freaky bastards. Thanks for tackling it. Most of the media will shy away from dealing with them. Good job.
"Monte McConnell via the Internet
"Your coverage of Scientology's takeover of the old Cult Awareness Network didn't fully cover the horror of the thousands of parents who now have to face the fact that the very organization that took their son's and daughter's minds and money now possess the letters they wrote to CAN specifically asking for help with Scientology. Every parent who asked the old CAN to help get a child out of Scientology is now a 'suppressive person' in the jargon of the cult and, as such, fair game for anything an 'Operating Thetan' wishes to do to them. Imagine the stupidity of the judge who allowed these people to purchase the frantic and desperate pleas of parents and loved ones begging the old CAN to help get their children out of the very cult that victimized them or their loved ones. The judge should have been removed from the bench and held liable for what Scientology does with the information he sold them.
"Frederic L. Rice via the Internet
"The unexamined presumption underlying Russell's article is historically common in antireligious activism: the certainty that the target religion, not being the attackers' own, must not be a 'real' religion. When lawyers or reporters attack Scientology, their ever-present presupposition is that this new religion cannot contain valid viewpoints of humans' relationships to each other and to divinity. Unlike Russell's words, my firsthand experiences derive from results my eyes have seen as I tested Scientology counseling in the trenches of life. I have turned several young people from drug addiction, saved two lives (one from suicide, one after a bloody motorcycle accident), patched up splintered families, even relieved chronic pain all while raising two children into ethical, drug-free, and industrious young men.
"The Cult Awareness Network's operating assumption was similarly arrogant to that of medieval Christians; its methods were violent and dismissive of religious diversity. But CAN also had expedient financial motives. For all of these it was repeatedly slapped down by courts. In contrast, the Church of Scientology and all its antidrug, anticrime, and pro-literacy programs have uniformly won tax exemptions when years of rigorous IRS audits found its policies and practices blameless.
"Jon von Gunten Tujunga"
>From the obituary section of the Washington Post:
"Louie F. Bellucci, 74, who as a drummer performed with bands in Washington nightclubs such as the Blue Mirror and the Gaslight Club in the late 1950s and 1960s, died of diabetes Sept. 23 at Manor Care Nursing Home in Silver Spring. Mr. Bellucci, a Washington native and longtime District resident, graduated from Eastern High School. After retiring from music in the 1970s, he owned and operated a bumper sticker design and printing business for about 10 years. He was a member of Church of Scientology in Washington."
Bruce Pettycrew reported a protest at the Mesa, Arizona org this week.
"My wife and I picketed from 9:00 to 9:45 AM this morning. There were about 9 cars at the Org for Sunday AM 'services'. Several of these arrived during the start of the picket. No one came out to talk to us. Traffic was light, and a number of drivers honked or gave us a thumbs-up/raised fist sign.
"Meklar" protested at the Sacramento, California org this week, and received a revenge picket from Scientology.
"The Sacramento Org was picketed today from about 4:45pm to about 5:45 pm. The picketers were Elvis and myself. I had my trusty 'Scientology is Scam', '$370,000 for Religious Salvation is a Scam' sign. Elvis had no picket sign, but he was armed with a 5 foot high inflatable purple Xenu. It was the perfect prop for Elvis's street theater, 'OT4 in 6 Seconds'.
"We made a couple of laps in front of the Org before there was a response from the Org which was to drop the window blinds and then send out handlers. Video Boy of San Francisco fame was out trying to handle Elvis with a number of other members when Elvis broke into his street theater bit. The handlers vanished promptly when they realized they were dealing with OT material. The Org sent out an OT8 to deal with Elvis while I was left alone from the most part. Her first line to us was 'You guys are being paid by Bob Minton aren't you?' We both burst out laughing and I replied 'That's almost as stupid as 'What's you crime?'
"We did speak to a number of people who were walking by the Org and as they went by an Org member approached people to whom we had spoken to to give them the 'Church' PR spin or to say that we were insane.
"My study group broke about about 7:30 pm and I was dropping off one the group when I noticed 2 counter picketers outside of the apartment complex gate. So I grabbed my camera and went off to take some photos of them. They both recognized me and called out my name as I approached them. I smiled and said smile for the Internet as I snapped a few pics of them. The asian woman was in full bullbaiting mode while her partner just stood by and watched. I got the usual bit of 'Why are you attacking us' and so forth. I point out that I though Scientology was a scam and that by picketing the Org I was educating the public about the dangers of Scientology. She followed with the standard attack never defend routine. I pointed out that the counter picketing was harassment of people who were critical of Scientology. She replied more attack never defend mode."
A document from the California Department of Insurance was posted to a.r.s
this week, alleging fraud on the part of Scientology-affiliated Survival
"Respondent, RICHARD JOSEPH ACUNTO dba GUARDIAN GENERAL INSURANCE SERVICES, now is and since March 30, 1989, has been licensed by the Insurance Commissioner to act as a Fire & Casualty Broker-Agent. Pursuant to an Order of the California Insurance Commissioner dated November 15, 1996, Respondent ACUNTO was ordered to pay to the Commissioner a total sum of $65,000 ($10,000 monetary penalty and $55,000 reimbursement of expenses) to settle an Accusation issued by the Commissioner alleging surplus line violations.
"Respondents attract most of their insurance clients by use of radio and television advertisements which stress not only that Respondents can obtain automobile insurance for their customers, but that Respondents can also provide the 'lowest rates guaranteed' for any driver and any car. Respondents fail to disclose in their advertisements that they transact insurance only in the substandard 'non-preferred' automobile insurance market and that the 'lowest rates guaranteed' do not apply to a customer who would qualify for coverage in the preferred market. Respondents, by causing such false, deceptive and misleading advertisements to be disseminated to lure customers to their offices.
"Respondents, as a general business practice, give premium quotations when first contacted by a potential customer which include a broker fee in the total amount quoted, without disclosing to the potential customer the amount of the broker fee. As a result, the customer falsely believes that the actual premium for the policy is the amount quoted by Respondents.
"Numerous customers who purchased automobile insurance policies through Respondents canceled their policies between one hour and one month after purchase because the customer found the same or better coverage at a cost lower than charged by Respondents. Although Respondents failed in these instances to provide the 'lowest rates guaranteed' to the customer, Respondents fail and refuse, as a general business practice, to refund any of the broker fee paid by the customer for the policy or policies.
"The matters hereinabove set forth show that Respondents have previously engaged in a fraudulent practice or act or have conducted their insurance business in a dishonest manner, and constitute grounds for the Insurance Commissioner to suspend or revoke the licenses and licensing rights of Respondents."
Neue Zuercher Zeitung reported this week that Scientology has moved into
its new location in Albisrieden, Switzerland.
"Their present headquarters on 141 Badener Street will finally be given up. The Scientologists had already tried, in the beginning of this year, to find a place in Albisrieden, but their plans shattered due to vehement resistance by the surrounding neighborhood and the local business association. Scientology has now done it on the second try and is moving into two buildings located at numbers 11 and 27 Freilager Street. Communication courses, seminars and counseling are to be held on the one premises; the other is to hold the administrative offices and the printing presses.
"A total of about 150 people will work in the new Scientology center. The organization again caused a stir last June when they set up an information and test center at the Stauffacher streetcar stop near 41 Badener Street. The local district association and some of the neighbors vehemently protested the presence of Scientology in the middle of the district, not least of all because they were concerned that the shops and property along Stauffacher would drop in value. It had been hoped that the location would not be occupied for long, but it can be gathered from the press release that Scientology will continue to maintain the info center on Stauffacher despite protests."
Tages-Anzeiger reported on October 1st that a Scientology school in Littau has had its permit revoked.
"The Littau Non-denominational Private School in Lucerne began operations after the summer vacation. Community leader (Gemeindeammann) Josef Schaerli was happy that the empty school house would again be in use. It soon became apparent that the teacher, Sandra Planzer, and other representatives of the school were Scientologists. The Lucerne Canton administrative council reacted quickly and withdrew the teacher's permit it had granted. The administrative council gave its reason as a lack of trust in the school's supporters.
"Sandra Planzer is outraged. However, she admits that she is a Scientologist and that she uses sect founder Ron Hubbard's study methods, yet she asserts that the school has nothing to do with Scientology. She wrote her opinion, 'This affair is scandalous, counter to human rights and I feel it to be inquisitional. Fortunately, they don't burn people at the stake anymore, otherwise that's probably what they'd do to me.'
"Scientologists have already made two failed attempts to obtain a permit to run a school. In Zurich Canton, the ZIEL ('Zentrum fur individuelles und effektives Lernen' or ABLE) school, a division of Scientology, tried to get approval in the early 1990s. After the school board turned them down, other Scientologists tried it in Aargau Canton.
"Since the school board did not know who was behind the ZIEL school, it had granted its blessings. When the connections became known and public outcry was raised, the administrative council directed the school board to review the permit again. This led to revocation, on which account the Scientologists have appealed to the Federal Court, in vain. The judge based his decision on that of the Administrative Court, which had stated that Scientology support was not at all trustworthy. The Federal Court in Lausanne decided that high requirements must be placed upon the supporters of a private school in regards to integrity."
>From Neue Luzerner Zeitung on October 1st:
"Teacher Planzer belongs to the Scientology sect and has been teaching school for a good year, first in Rain, and since the beginning of the new school year in Littau. That is where seven students have been under instruction since August. They are supposed to go back to the public schools. Sandra Planzer believes that her membership in Scientology has nothing to do with her school. Planzer also intends to fight for its continued operation.
"'The district supervisor is charged with assigning the children involved to the public schools according to their current residence,' read the state chancellery release. Withdrawal of approval to run Sandra Planzer's Non-denominational Primary School was founded on 'lack of trustworthiness in the supporters of the school.' She says she is not a criminal, does not take drugs and always pays her taxes on time. Yes, she says she belongs to Scientology, but she says that is her own private affair and has nothing to do with school instruction. 'I am nobody's puppet,' she says, and intends to 'fight' for her school.
"She will certainly receive support from the parents of her children. Konrad Meile, Scientology member and father of three of Sandra Planzer's school children: 'As a free Swiss man, this process gives me a lot to think about. We have the intention of exhausting all legal means so that the school will continue to exist.' And Erika Thomi, non-Scientologist: 'My daughter, who has been going to school here for six weeks, is happy for the first time in her school courses. She used to be categorized as disruptive and was reviled - and now she has to go back there?' Erika is not disturbed by Scientology membership: 'So what? That is a private matter.'"
Cinescape published an article on Scientology celebrity Kelly Preston,
wife of John Travolta, on her part in the movie Battlefield Earth.
"Kelly Preston is talking up what she's seen on the set of her husband John Travolta's big screen version of L. Ron Hubbard's book, Battlefield Earth. 'I've seen some of the footage and John looks so weird. He's the leader of the alien force and he has this prosthetic face and nobody would recognize him.' Preston also has a cameo role in the film as another alien which she describes, 'I have a huge head and I walk on these stilt-like legs.'"
>From Us magazine:
"After a 17-year career filled with less than Oscar-quality movies like SpaceCamp and Amazon Women on the Moon, she's finally following a professional track that could one day rival that of husband John Travolta. Did Preston suddenly start leaning on Hollywood folks who wanted to get in good with her powerful mate? No, she insists - though marrying Travolta had something to do with the change. 'I was just unhappy with the quality of work that I was doing,' Preston says, sitting in the lobby of the Sandcastle Hotel, a center for Scientologists in Clearwater, Fla., where she's vacationing with Travolta and their 7-year-old son, Jett. Both Travolta, 45, and Preston, 36 have belonged to the Church of Scientology, which advocates that members practice 'positivity,' for more than 15 years. 'So I made big changes - said I'd stop taking all those offers to be in films I didn't really care for because I had to eat. And I would wait until I got great quality parts in quality films and I didn't care how big the parts were.'
"Preston's husband was actor Kevin Gage, whom she had met on SpaceCamp. Life with him wasn't easy 'Any time I would go away to work on a movie, something would happen, like a DUI, and I'd have to bail him out of jail,' she says. It was Travolta and their mutual practice of Scientology that helped pull her through. 'Johnny would do some Scientology body calms and touch assists [soothing, massage-style therapies], and I would go from devastated and crying to feeling happy,' she says. 'It was just such a contrast of what life could be like.'"
Brighton's Evening Argus published an article on the tour offered by
Scientology of the Saint Hill compound.
"Visitors are invited to drop in on the 200-year-old stately home, set in nearly 60 acres of grounds, and embark on one of the hourly tours. The huge sandstone building with its winter garden, mural painting and oak paneling should be the perfect day out for visitors. But the advertisement does not tell you the tour of Saint Hill Manor could be seen as a PR exercise for the Church of Scientology.
"By the time my visit was over I had been told what Scientology stands for, how it works and even shown the room where people can join. Posing as a sightseer, I arrived at the manor near East Grinstead and was greeted by Nichola, who showed me and two other daytrippers around the building. First stop was the library. The mansion was once the residence of an Indian maharaja but the bookcases were not filled with any of the books he collected. Instead, they were packed with hundreds of titles by L Ron Hubbard, the science-fiction writer who founded the church in the Fifties. Having given us a very brief rundown of the room's history, Nichola introduced herself as a Scientologist and told us how the religion works. 'The emphasis is on self-help and Scientology is a method which allows people to realise their goals,' she explained.
"Nichola told us how church members often stop off at Gatwick Airport to visit the mansion on their way to the USA. The visitors' book testified to this, with entries from New Zealand, Spain and Denmark. Said Nichola: 'In the Sixties, this used to be the headquarters of the world but it has grown up since then. But it's still a very important place for Scientologists to visit.' Then it was on to Hubbard's study, where he wrote his books, and time for another titbit on the world of Dianetics - 'In a higher organisation like Saint Hill you have dedicated staff who live in and they are Seaorg members.' The unusual English refers to the church's hierarchy, with Seaorgs top of the pile.
"The refectory was full of church members in their Navy-style uniforms while a poster invited people to become life members of the International Association of Scientologists. A book on one of the tables explains how to counsel, or 'audit' members. The practice is aimed at encouraging people, or 'Thetans' as they are called, to become 'clear'. Illustrations show how the bizarre system works, with sketches of Scientologists explaining how to answer questions and being told off for giving the wrong answers.
"Alexander explained that a big part of the church's teachings involved practical work and pointed to a woman sitting at the back of the room who was making little men out of brightly-coloured clay to assist her studies. In another room, church members sat discussing the religion or practised on their e-meters. Another contained members wearing headphones to listen to taped Hubbard lectures. Before the tour ended I was shown the room where new recruits are signed up. Alexander looked at me expectantly and there was an awkward pause. Then we went to the refectory and we parted company."