Alt.religion.scientology Week in Review
Volume 4, Issue 40
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
Chud.com reported on the upcoming movie Battlefield Earth.
"So will "Battlefield Earth" be good or not? Is the church of scientology funding it? These are among the questions that you readers have been asking since my last two 'Battlefield Earth' articles a few days ago. Battlefield Earth is a crock. The only way you could possibly enjoy it is as a satire of the Golden Age, whose weaknesses it bloats to elephantiasis. Unfortunately, I doubt very much that Hubbard meant it that way. Judging by his introduction, he meant it quite seriously as the epitome of SF: what the stuff should be at its best.
"Scott Pilutik sent me some fun facts about scientology. Read on and learn or skip it, but you're missing a ton of fun: 'Irregardless of what the Post printed, _EVERYTHING_ written by L. Ron Hubbard is considered 'Scripture' to any member of the Church of Scientology. That is the church's position, not rumor. Every letter of every word that he ever wrote is considered infallible, unalterable, and absolute. So whether or not it has 'nothing' to do with scientology, it most certainly does. Two major backers (financial) of this film are John Travolta and ASI (Author Services Inc.). Travolta is neck deep in this cult and ASI is one of scientology's most profitable front companies (in a legion of many that all funnel money back into the 'church.') When a church has a vested financial interest in the finished product of a work of art, it most certainly has 'something to do with it.'
"'In case you still think, hey, this is still only a movie based on a stupid sci-fi pulp novel, realize this; A few years back, Scientology sued CAN (the Cult Awareness Network) for libel, amongst other things. CAN was a non-profit organization that was the one of only a few choices families had if a member wound up in a cult. Scientology litigated them into bankruptcy, then bought CAN out. They kept the phone numbers, offices, and letterhead and proceed to operate as if nothing ever happened. The (obviously unstated) goal of CAN is now to route people into Scientology. There's much more than meets the eye when it comes to the church and it is truly fascinating stuff.'
"Scientology views this film as a very important recruiting tool. In many ways it will be just another bad sci-fi film that will come and go, but for the church it is a project they have been trying to make since the 70's. Bridge Publications, which is a branch of Scientology that handles all of Hubbard's writing, is going all out to publicize the release of this movie. Scientology also put the money together for the production in a manner that makes 'Get Shorty' look sane.
"Sometimes it's fun to finish with a quote, so how about one from scientologist Jenna Elfman? She was asked why she wouldn't sign autographs for a celebrity auction for children with HIV and Elfman stated that she couldn't support any organization that raised money for AIDS research or relief because 'AIDS is a state of mind, not a disease.'"
"Most of the reports on the film have been 'wavy hand' to 'thumbs down', but I've held that a lot of this has been coming from the kneejerk reaction to anything and everything that is L Ron Hubbard related. Reports in Entertainment Magazines seem to focus more upon the 'CULT activities' of Scientology and not so much upon the film itself. Something that kind of reminds me of the pre-hype tripe that was hurled at TITANIC, criticisms aimed at James Cameron's perceived arrogance as opposed to the quality of the film itself. I'm not saying this movie is not a big heaping load of dog dung but someone out there with some big ass deep as hell pockets has seen what has been shot and has given a sequel a go ahead.
"Some people in the biz are dying to see B.E. not for any other reason than they believe it is a train wreck. Some people actually dig the trailer. Our own Seque Zagnut really liked it. Scientology has made some big ass enemies specifically in the Entertainment Journalism field. I'm trying to stay as open-minded as possible about this film, there's enough closed off minds that'll be writing about it anyways."
Scientology issued a press release on the status of electroshock therapy
"The Citizens Commission on Human Rights reports that the Italian region of Piedmonte, Northern Italy, has approved an historic state law banning the use of Electro Convulsive Treatment (ECT) on children, the elderly and pregnant women. Regional Bill N. 561 states that in the Piedmont Region, in accordance with the deliberations of the United Nations, of the European Council and of the Italian Republic in matters of human rights, it is [hereby] forbidden to use ECT on children, the elderly and pregnant women, and if ECT is to be used at all, the psychiatrist in charge must adhere to strict guidelines including supplying both in writing and verbally the possible harmful side effects of the treatment."
Letters to the Editor of the St. Petersburg Times this week:
"Like most Floridians, I take a live-and-let-live attitude toward different religions. But the Scientologists go to such extremes to avoid exposure that I often wonder what they are really up to. Their aggressive tactics toward critics - ongoing toward Robert S. Minton and his brave little band - make them sound more like the Nixon White House than a spiritual organization. The often frightful 20th century has come to an end, and what the human species does not need is another movement to 'clear the planet' of 'undesirables.' Nazism, Stalinism, apartheid, 'ethnic cleansing' and racial lynchings in the South were more than enough. - Louis J. Davis, Palm Harbor"
The St. Petersburg Times reported that Clearwater city officials are considering a downtown development plan.
"A trio of West Palm developers, led by George de Guardiola, spent Thursday trying to prove why they should be selected over three other groups vying to develop Clearwater's 39-acre waterfront bluff. But what distinguished their plan from others was their focus on reinventing Clearwater's entire downtown. They did it in West Palm Beach, buying most of the buildings on Clematis, downtown's major street, and filling them with new trendy shops, bars and loft apartments. Donald Trump loves the area so much that he calls Clematis the most 'happening' street in Florida. 'I'm very impressed with these people,' Aungst said later. 'They seemed very down-to-earth, very genuine. 'That's personally what I'm looking for.'
"City officials brimmed with questions. They asked de Guardiola why he visited Scientology officials three times but never met members of the city's downtown business community. De Guardiola said the presence of Scientology, with its uniformed parishioners walking downtown streets and its vast property holdings, is the most unusual aspect of designing a master plan for Clearwater's downtown. He felt he had to begin forging a relationship. Aungst and City Manager Mike Roberto warned de Guardiola that he could be criticized and accused of being a Scientologist. 'Me, a Cuban Catholic?' de Guardiola said, somewhat puzzled."
Reuters reported this week that the plaintiffs in a recent lawsuit against
Scientology will be paid by the government over the lost files in that
"A French court on Wednesday ordered the state to pay 20,000 francs ($3,070) in damages to two plaintiffs over the mysterious disappearance of legal evidence in a probe into the Church of Scientology. The court said Paris investigating magistrate Marie-Paule Moracchini was at fault for failing to make copies of the 44 documents whose disappearance in 1998 has never been explained.
"The plaintiffs, both former Scientology members, had launched legal action against other former members of the Church, accusing them of fraud and illegally practising medicine. Lawyers for the plaintiffs said foul play was involved in the disappearance of the files.
"Justice Minister Elisabeth Guigou has said it was destroyed by mistake by court clerks who thought the documents were related to an investigation that had been closed, and that foul play was not involved."
Freie Presse Lokales reported on January 2nd that a Zwickau theater will
lose relations with a labor union over its ties to Scientology.
"The discussion on Scientology gains in acrimony: beginning immediately, the Zwickau area DGB will cease cooperation with the 'Sero' theater group because it maintains connections with Scientology Kurt Fliegerbauer and intends to temporarily move into his 'Stadt Zwickau' hotel. DGB area chief Werner Schuh stated the reason for the step, in a letter to Sero director Egmont Elschner, as a disregarded summons for leading labor union officials to maintain their distance from Fliegerbauer. 'You had promised us. Unfortunately, we have now found out that you have gotten involved with Fliegerbauer again,' wrote Schuh and reminded Elschner that the psycho-sect violated goals and principles of the DGB and its member unions."
TAZ reported on January 6th that the city of Hamburg has little ability to prevent a Scientology banner or surveillance cameras at the new org there.
"That was the Senate's reply to an inquiry by SPD Representative Walter Zuckerer. Zuckerer was upset primarily because of the promotional banner and the video camera which Scientology had mounted at its residence on Dom Street. The promotional banner, which hung on the building's outside wall in November and December, was taken down without notice. In the matter of the video camera, the Senate is still waiting for Scientology's response to a request made of the organization by data security commissioner Hans-Hermann Schrader.
"Zuckerer had also inquired as to whether the large rally which Scientology held in opening its new Hamburg center on November 27 was legally sanctioned. Here, again, the Senate could only shrug its shoulders: in accordance with ordinance, the rally had been announced beforehand, 'no interruptions of public traffic were reported,' and the parade which Scientology had organized from Steindamm to Alten Fischmarkt had been announced and approved. The rally which the organization held in October for its 'peace marathon' on Gerhart-Hauptmann square was also legally sound."
Lisa McPherson Trust
The doors of the Lisa McPherson Trust opened this week in downtown
"At 3:45 this afternoon the Lisa McPherson Trust closed on the building at 33 N. Ft. Harrison Ave., despite a last minute desperation attempt by Ben Shaw, Flag PR. The owner of the building was offered much more than the building is worth to break the agreement with the Trust, plus indemnification against any lawsuit caused by breaking the deal."
>From the St. Petersburg Times on January 6th:
"An organization that says it wants to reform the Church of Scientology has followed through with its plans to open a headquarters at the epicenter of the Scientology world. The group, led by New England millionaire Robert S. Minton, on Wednesday purchased a small office building at 33 N Fort Harrison Ave., just 30 feet from a major Scientology building downtown. Minton and a five-member staff say they plan to educate local residents -- including existing Scientologists -- about abuses within the church.
"Scientology reacted Wednesday with strong words. 'These guys are nobodies,' said church official Marty Rathbun. 'They bring absolutely nothing to this community.' He compared it to the Ku Klux Klan opening an office in North Greenwood, a Clearwater neighborhood with mostly black residents. He said the notion that a group of outsiders needs to reform Scientology is absurd. Support for the church is higher than ever among its members, Rathbun said. He also said Scientology has worked hard to normalize relations in Clearwater, where city officials have included the church in discussions about downtown redevelopment for the first time since its controversial arrival in Clearwater during the late 1970s.
"Minton's group has a different view. He and a staff that includes four former Scientologists say they have been embraced by locals, including some current church members. 'Everywhere I go I've met people in the community saying, 'Thank God you're here,' ' said Stacy Brooks, a former Scientologist who will help Minton lead the new group. 'People are starved for information about Scientology: 'What are they doing? Why do they act so secretive?' '
"At a closing Wednesday afternoon, an enthused Minton agreed to pay $325,000 for a two-story, 7,500-square foot building. The phones were hooked up and an Internet Web site was to be installed this week. A neighboring restaurant owner who supports Minton welcomed him to the block with a festive basket of bruschetta and a 1998 bottle of merlot. The new headquarters is two doors north of Scientology's Clearwater Building, a renovated bank facing Cleveland Street that was one of the church's first land purchases in the mid-1970s.
"The new group, called the Lisa McPherson Trust, is named for the 36-year-old Scientologist who died in 1995 while in the care of Scientology staffers. Her death has resulted in criminal charges against the church and a wrongful death lawsuit by McPherson's family. Minton, a 53-year-old retired investment banker, is financing the lawsuit and says he has donated $2.5-million to anti-Scientology efforts. He said the trust has no quarrel with Scientology's beliefs. 'What we are opposed to,' Minton said, 'is the way they handle criticism.' He also said the church's ethics system is abusive and harmful to members. Minton said he hopes to prod Scientology into 'acting like a church.'"
The Washington Post reported this week on the strangely altered photos
provided by Scientology of the recent event in Los Angeles.
"The Church of Scientology insists that more than 14,000 of its faithful packed the Los Angeles Sports Arena for a millennial celebration of Scientology's first 50 years and the 'triumph of spirituality over materialism.' To bolster that claim, the church's PR operation posted four panoramic color photographs of the Dec. 28 event--for use by the news media--on the Scientology Web site. But then Arlington resident Arnaldo Lerma entered the picture, reports The Post's Richard Leiby.
"The 49-year-old Lerma -- an ex-Scientologist who has tangled repeatedly with church officials since he quit 23 years ago -- immediately thought he spotted something fishy: He says the crowd scenes were doctored extensively. In one shot he found repeated images of some attendees--apparently added to fill empty seats. The touch-up work left one doppelganger parishioner with no head. In another shot, a bald man who had been replicated magically grew hair.
"On Friday, Lerma shared his discovery with the media and posted his findings on an online Scientology discussion group, and on New Year's Day the church removed two photos altogether and considerably cropped the remaining two. Yesterday, when Leiby asked church spokeswoman Janet Weiland for an explanation, she said there was no intent to inflate the head count. 'That was just a goof when they put it up on the Web,' she said. 'It was later corrected.' She maintained that the celebration was 'absolutely packed ... there wasn't an empty seat.'
"Lerma vehemently disagreed. 'It wasn't a mistake -- we think it took many hours of work,' he said. 'They didn't just clone people; they squished their heads and drew hair on them. It's only a goof because we noticed it.' Later, Scientology's Weiland phoned Leiby back to offer further explanation. 'Someone made an independent decision over the holidays to fill in a hole around the camera crew for aesthetic reasons, and when we found out about this, the photos were pulled,' Weiland said. 'That wasn't okay.'"
>From the French newspaper Liberation on January 7th:
"On december 28th, into the Sports Arena in Los Angeles, the church of Scientology invited its most convinced adepts to an immense rout. Three hours long, it was a feast to the glory of the cult founder, L. Ron Hubbard. Speaking: the present super chief, David Miscavige himself. Coming there, some 30 french people or more. Two days after the event, scientology sent a press release. And it published four photos on one of its websites. But the same evening, an American internetizen, Arnaldo Lerma, 49, ex executive in the cult turned critic, received a hint from inside Scientology. The published shots on Internet by scientology could be somewhat strange. Arnaldo Lerma checks them. And he finds here and there, a women appearing twice in the crowd. There, a man has been cloned three times, and has lost his head through a wrongly done copy and paste.
"Then, as usual, the fast reacting cult acts immediately and suppresses the images from its website. The other critics of scientology and internetizens have already taken the coup: this manhandling symbolizes so well the 'Cult's Lies'. Cut shots helping, some indicate as well that this is no new practice for L. Ron Hubbard followers.
"Karin Pouw has no other argument than the following to explain why those manipulated shots have been choosen then publicized: 'They were the first to be developed'."
Vernon Cain continued his protest reports from Hawaii this week.
"I arrived at 14:30 and stayed until 15:12. When I arrived the sandwich sign was back in it's usual place close to the door. I noticed three staff and three new mid to late teen girls talking to the nice blonde Public Exec lady. As I approached I startled the teen girls with my slogans. I offered them a flier which two of them took one. They were reluctant and I knew that I had frightened them a little. As I circled I heard the nice Public Exec Lady third party me with a he's crazy and we tolerate him. The girls asked her if $cientology taught or believed in aliens. She lied and said 'Of course not. That's crazy talk.' Bait and Switch became my slogan instantly. As I passed them on the street they handed my fliers back to me. The nice Public Exec lady gave me a kind of triumphant sibling smile.
"The three late teenage girls emerged. I returned to their sides and offered a flier back to them. The cute brunette in the tank top with too much navel showing said to the taller black girl similarly dressed don't take that we are not supposed to talk to him. As the tall black girl with a sweet smile and very observant eyes extended her hand to accept a flier I added only you can decide what to think about what is written here isn't that right? I offered that I was sorry that I had frightened them but I have to find your level of susceptibility to this SCAM. What SCAM the shorter girl with black hair. As we chatted about the $360K they wanted my story. I finally got to ask them to bring out one single person that had finished all of this expensive level stuff and show me one single thing that they could do now that they couldn't do prior to all of the money being spent. Just one super power being with one even not so powerful ability at all. The shorter girl then interjected; you finally saw that you were being scammed. Yup you got it! They all joined in saying that they would read the flier and asked if I had any other information. I gave them the Xemu flier to go along with the 'I$ $cientology=Money $CAM?' flier."
"Mr. Bungle" reported a protest in Sacramento.
"Sunday January 2, 2000. I arrived at the org at 2:55 PM and began pacing the sidewalks, passing the time until Meklar's impending arrival. When I first arrived all windows were unblinded, save one which was boarded. My third time or so passing in front of the entrance to the org, a youngish lady wearing glasses emerged and took a gander at my picket sign. The side I had facing the Org said 'I'd Like To Start a Religion. That's Where the Money Is' -L. Ron Hubbard. She read this and laughed; I just continued walking. A little later into the picket, Meklar noticed that all the blinds had been shut on the side of the org which the entrance was on, but on the other side the windows were still unobstructed. This gave Meklar an idea. He prompted me to come with him, and we both went up to the window with our signs low enough to be seen through it. There were two people in this room, both males, both young. It turned out to be a course room. The course instructor looked at us, then jumped up and left the room. As we returned to the street corner, the little guy power walked to within a foot of Meklar's face and said 'Look buddy, I don't mind if you guys are here, just don't be interrupting my courseroom!' For a moment I thought he was going to punch Meklar; he was that pissed. He turned around and retreated back into the org, ass so puckered I imagined it squeaking as he walked. This turned out to be our last encounter with any of the Scientologists."
"I flashed my picket sign, 'Scientology is a SCAM', '$360,000 for Religious Salvation is a SCAM'. Most of the blinds on the windows had been dropped except for a glass door that serves as an exit to the sidewalk. Inside was a classroom was full of people, so I waved my picket sign, and smiled. Most of the people who could view the door did see me and my sign. After a few moments a staff member came and taped plastic trash bags over the door preventing people from seeing into or out of the Org.
"The Org has invested in a nice digital camera, so I Sylvia if that camera was functioning, her reply was to call me a 'Smart Ass'. Foot traffic was very light, but one person stopped to talk to us for a few minutes. He told about how he used to work for a book store and that the owner had all the employees taking Scientology courses to help with sales. He stated that the owner really thought that he was doing good by forcing his employees to take the courses. However he and a number of other employees saw that the Scientology was only interested in money and nothing more."
>From Keith Henson:
"I was in San Jose today, so about 2 pm I spent 15 minutes picketing the Los Gatos Org on Bascom. Someone saw me, lowered the blinds and a woman in a Sea Org uniform came out and took my picture. This is the first time I have seen a camera being used in some time. "
Rod Keller protested in Washington, DC.
"Arnie Lerma, Donnie, Cher and I protested at the Washington DC org yesterday, from about 12:30 until 5:00. I handed out about 300 flyers, and I think several hundred more were handed out by the others. My flyer was 'Why I Protest' plus a few quotes from judges. Arnie made one with the Post article on the altered photos, I think it had 'Scientology Lies' at the top. He put some milestones in Scientology history on the other side. Snow White, UK Charity decision, etc.
"We were handled by OSA members Sylvia Stanard, Donya Fradkin and Michelle Rochefort. Donya and Michelle were forbidden to speak to either Arnie or me, so they concentrated on Donnie and Cher. There were also a couple Div 6 guys trying to get people in to take personality tests. I saw three people go in, but at least one was a plant. 'Do you want to take our personality test?' 'Okay, let's go inside right now.' or words to that effect.
"The use of the key phrase 'It's worse than you think.' had at least 20 people came back after having initially declined a flyer. I met a young woman who answered a help wanted ad for 'administrative assistant' at the org. She told me she quit after one day, because salary was based on how much the auditors bring in each week. A fellow employee was paid $1 for the week, so she never went back."
Tages-Anzeiger reported on January 5th about Scientology's tax returns in
"Scientology's tax returns are blank. Although the organization's sales are in the millions, for years it has not listed a Swiss frank in either proceeds or capital. Nevertheless, the psychosect now wants to be officially exempt from the obligation to pay tax. There is hardly another organization which is run as efficiently as Scientology. Therefore it is surprising that the organization lists no income. It requires exorbitant fees from its members for services and materials. Because Scientology only gives auditors tips of from 50 to 100 franks per week, the pseudochurch would really have to putting down a huge margin of profit.
"Former Scientologists who have worked in its revenue office state that the Zurich Center has made ten to thirteen million franks yearly. Scientology spokesman Juerg Stettler recently said in an interview that the 'church' makes ten million franks annually across Switzerland. The amount of income today cannot be checked out. Certainly it can be said that the Swiss Scientologists, in international comparison, are the best donors: in the last several years they have put around 20 million franks into the 'war chest.'
"What is the money used for? Scientology performs a considerable amount of advertising and proselytizing, but since it hardly has any wage expenses, there would still have to be a profit. In regard to that, sect founder Hubbard said, 'The costs we have to cover to defend ourselves in court in a dozen countries are not small.'
"In the USA, for example, the Scientologists conducted a 'war' (their words) for forty years against the American revenue office which cost the sect millions. It hired private detectives which spied on revenue officials and placed advertisements for persons or companies who had had negative experiences with the IRS. Then the pseudochurch put top agency members on public display in large newspaper advertisements and filed 2,500 law suits to wear down the officials. 'Making public the names of the criminals inside the IRS brought about the desired effect,' wrote the sect in a report.
"Is the Zurich agency threatened with a similar 'war'? Probably not. Since the Scientology Church does not pay taxes anyway, they are limited by expenses. Nevertheless the tax officials have to prepare for some hard times because when the Scientologists go into 'battle,' they arm themselves to the teeth, to use their figure of speech. The Zurich Scientologists are motivated to apply for tax exemption because of Scientology's success in Sweden. In England, however, they suffered a setback. What are the chances in Zurich? According to the new tax harmonization law, exempt organizations will include those who exclusively pursue cultural goals, perform public functions or are for the common good. "
A report from the New York Post this week questioned the congratulations
given by U.S. President Bill Clinton to Scientology for the new year.
"MANY people consider the Church of Scientology to be a cult rather than a religion, but not Bill Clinton. In a recent press release, the star-studded organization lists Clinton as being 'among those sending congratulations' for a 'half-century of spiritual leadership,' reports the Washington Post. It was under the Clinton Administration that the IRS reversed 20 years of rulings to recognize Scientology as a tax-exempt church. The Prez sent a letter thanking the followers of science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard for 'all your efforts to promote [religious freedom] and to build communities united in understanding, compassion and mutual respect.'"
>From a White House press briefing by Press Secretary Joe Lockhart on January 5th:
"The Washington Post reports that the President, on December 22nd, congratulated the Church of Scientology for promoting religious freedom and building just communities, at the same time of your strong criticism of the Southern Baptists. Has John Travolta, who portrayed the President, possibly converted him?
"MR. LOCKHART: No."
>From ABC News on January 7th:
"Among those receiving warm New Year's wishes from President Clinton: the Church of Scientology. The controversial religious group celebrated its 50th anniversary on Dec. 28 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. The thousands of members in attendance were told of Clinton's salutations.
"A White House spokesman says the letter was essentially 'boilerplate' and was not the product of any high-level decision. But the language in Clinton's message clearly recognizes Scientology's fears of persecution by government authorities. 'It's a fitting moment to reflect on the importance of religious freedom and the profound role that religion continues to play in the lives of people around the world,' Clinton wrote. He also thanked the church for its work to promote religious tolerance and to 'build just communities.'
"The Scientologists say the Clinton letter came with a warning not to reprint or misuse the message, but the White House says that is commonplace and reflects no skittishness regarding Scientology in particular."