Alt.religion.scientology Week in Review
Volume 3, Issue
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 Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority voted to disallow non-commercial
advertisements on the sides of buses this week. The move is a response to
ads protesting Scientology being run during the December protests in
Clearwater, Florida. From the St. Petersburg Times:
"Pinellas County's transit agency has decided its buses will not be a 'public forum' for advertisers. The agency's board voted unanimously Wednesday to allow bus ads that propose only 'a commercial transaction.' The decision means that public service messages traditionally bought by such groups as the Salvation Army and the United Way no longer will be allowed.
"Opponents of the measure called it a violation of the First Amendment and said they probably will challenge it in court. The decision came after the agency found itself caught in cross-fire between the Church of Scientology and a group of church critics who bought anti-Scientology bus ads one weekend in early December."
The Deseret News published an article on Scientology celebrity Chick Corea
"He attributes a large part of his musical success to L. Ron Hubbard: The pianist embraced Hubbard's Scientology philosophy/religion back in 1968, long before celebrities such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta did -- before it became, for lack of a better word, trendy. 'It's inspirational,' he said. 'It's all about unlocking creativity. It's a way to develop one's own causation in life.'"
MSNBC reports that Jenna Elfman credits her husband, Bodhi, with
introducing her to Scientology, and with getting her off drugs.
"Add Jenna Elfman's name to the long list of vocal celebrity Scientology supporters. In an interview that appears in the next issue of Mirabella, the hot, Golden Globe-winning star of 'Dharma and Greg' defends the controversial religion, whose members include John Travolta, Tom Cruise and Kirstie Alley. In it she discusses smoking pot and doing dancing gigs before she was introduced to Scientology by her husband, Bodhi, an actor and writer. Now, when she's down, she goes to the E-meter, a device used by Scientologists for 'auditing' someone's mental state - but which some critics say is merely a lie detector. 'You know how your head feels heavy when you're having a problem?' she tells the magazine. 'It's actually mass that you can weigh. It's compressed mental energy. And the E-meter sees changes in that.'"
Hamburger Morgenpost reported this week that Scientology advertising in
Hamburg is not following permit procedures.
"Scientology is once again making a nuisance of itself in Hamburg; the US sect puts their advertising bus in public parking areas without a permit and distributes flyers on the sidewalks entitled, 'The Truth.' This past Saturday the sect adherents stood outside the Alster shopping center on Heegbarg. 'That is a commercial use of public space and requires a permit,' said Michael Naefken, Director of the Alstertal district office. 'However, a permit was not present. We would not have issued it.' The large bus has also been parked on Jungfernstieg. Again, it was on Saturday, since this is the day when there is the least chance of being caught by a district inspector. 'We know that there have been violations in the past,' said Gertold Roch, spokesman for the district. Scientology has recently applied for a permit to put its bus on display in the city."
Tages-Anzeiger reports that protests from renters and neighbors have succeeded, and Scientology will not get a lease for new offices in Albisrieden.
"The sect-like organization is looking for space for a new center and had been negotiating with the two owners of the real estate at 226 Albisrieder Street. The other renters protested and threatened to leave. The woman who runs the 'Da Anna' pizzeria was worried that her income might dry up. Additionally, neighboring residents and business people in the quarter were concerned. Scientology tried to turn the mood of the quarter's residents around with goodwill campaigns.
"In vain. Both lessors decided not to rent the approximately 1,500 square meters of office space to the Scientologists. The decision could not have been easy for them, since the spaces have been vacant for years. However, they did not wish to state the reason for their refusal. They are worried that that would be pouring gasoline on the fire.
"Time is getting short for Scientology. The organization has until the end of April before it has to leave the large center at 141 Badener Street. It is not only looking for a center where it can give its courses, but also space for mini-centers in the central city which could mainly serve its missionary activity."
Stuttgarten Nachrichten published an article on German filmmaker Peter Reichelt and his recently aired documentary on Scientology's Gold Base in Hemet, California.
"'Happy Valley' is a two hour drive from Los Angeles which lies in a desert-like landscape. About 100 people of the Sea Org elite guard must serve time there. 'The people are genuine prisoners. They are absolutely not there of their own free will,' relates Gerry Armstrong, ex-coordinator of the OSA Scientology secret service, who says he spent two and a half years in the prison camp. Jesse Prince told Reichelt before the camera what goes on behind the barbed wire and walls which are watched by video cameras. Those interned at the camp must work as slaves day and night. Prince also had experience in there, of which he spoke. 'It was absolutely terrible. I slept on the floor of a chicken coop, along with the rattlesnakes and scorpions.' Hard labor, mandatory hypnosis, brainwashing - those are they methods which former members say Scientology uses to try to bring 'skeptics and failures' back into line. Not all, but those who are of importance to the organization because they know too much or are too big of a cog in the worldwide money-making machine.
"How one must rehabilitate oneself in a prison camp in Copenhagen was described by a former high-ranking Scientologist woman: no newspaper, no radio, speak with nobody, eat others' leftovers, always work. Everybody keeps everybody else under surveillance; 'knowledge reports' are used to record the wrongdoings of others. The California prison camp inside of Miscavige's paradise on earth contains another peculiarity which Peter Reichelt discovered in a flight over the area: the 'track.' Jesse Prince commented that some 'failures' ran around a pole here for twelve hours in order to become respectable Scientologists once more.
"51 year old Wiebke Hansen is still living in Happy Valley. She was once a Scientology manager in Hamburg, one of the most successful worldwide. In 1995 she disappeared without a trace; her brother, Jochen Koerner, has now had contact with her again. He was recently able to visit with her in Hollywood for one day. Wiebke produces advertising spots for Scientology. In the evening she returned to Happy Valley more or less voluntarily. 'Re-education camps, we used to have those,' said Jochen Koerner in puzzlement."
Scientology and other sects were the topic of a meeting of the State Women's meeting in Bad Neustadt. From Mainpost:
"'Sects,' said Reverend Karl-Heinz Mergenthaler at the State Women's meeting in the city auditorium, 'sects always target people who have been left alone to fend for themselves.' This is a condition which makes clear a social malfunction 'of which every Christian must be made aware.' The women at the meeting kept these words in mind during the main presentation by Renate Hartwig from Memmingen, one of the most acknowledged and well-known Scientology experts of Germany. The audience already had a lot to think about with her perceptions about Scientology and its practices in Germany.
"For the heartened expert, Scientology is 'not a sect, but a commercial enterprise which would make a better theme for for criminologists, for the state attorney's office and the Constitutional Security agency.' The designation of 'church,' which was given to the organization just 40 years ago after its founding by L. Ron Hubbard 'has nothing, but nothing at all, to do with religion, and the title of 'sect' continues to be used to lull people into a false sense of security,' warned Hartwig, who, after personal experience with Scientology, has been involved with it since 1990, and offers extensive help to its former members.
"The problems and the danger posed by Scientology to society were made plain by Hartwig with examples. 'A mafia-like structure has been constructed under the protective cloaking designation of 'church,' and it is a commercial enterprise with claims to political power,' explained Hartwig, who is glad that Scientology has been under surveillance for the past year by the Constitutional Security agency."
Grady Ward posted an update on his copyright infringement case and
"I am preparing to file my appellant's Reply brief with the court of appeals for the ninth circuit; I filed my Appellant's Brief on January 19, 1999 and Religious Technology Center filed their Appellee's Brief on February 16, 1999. The basic issue on appeal is whether a material term was unlawfully altered by a settlement judge in issuing a Final Judgment and Permanent Injunction pursuant to the modified settlement.
"In this circuit Jeff D. v. Andrus would seem to definitely say 'no,' a settlement judge cannot only approve but not materially change a settlement agreement between the parties: 'RTC also admits that Jeff D. v. Andrus forbids the Court from altering or removing a material term in a settlement agreement.' The negotiations seem to require that the talks be reduced to writing before they were binding: 'RTC's own citation of Callie v. Near requires an evidentiary hearing regarding factual disputes involving the existence of a settlement contract. Whether the parties intend to be bound only upon the execution of a writing is such a factual issue.'
"RTC finally caused District Judge Jeremy Fogel to rule *against* them in their expedited motion to strip me of my 'in forma pauperis' status and to subsequently attempt to prevent me from appealing by falsely alleging that I have been using the designation in a fraudulent way.
"Finally, in reviewing the District Court Docket sheet, I noticed that nestled among the more than 700 items was a block of a dozen declarations relating to a single motion made under seal by the criminal cult of scientology: on December 18, 1997 the cult was urging Chief Magistrate Edward A. Infante to issue a writ of seizure against me at my home in Arcata, California. This application was denied by the judge. While the motion is still sealed, it likely has something to do with the criminal cult's false allegation that I somehow leaked telephone numbers I had lawfully subpoenaed from Religious Technology Center and broadcast them to the Internet."
The Globe and Mail reported on Scientology's tactics against Gregg
Hagglund in an article this week.
"In one comer is a small band of critics that include Mr. Hagglund, a 48-year-old newspaper distributor from Oakville, west of Toronto. In the other is an organization that describes itself as a religion but which Mr. Hagglund and his friends regard as merely a business. For two years Scientology's Yonge Street headquarters has been the target of picketing by Mr. Hagglund and others. His protests have also taken him to Clearwater, Fla., where Scientology's U.S. parent is facing criminal charges in the 1995 death of a member.
"[H]is home has been counterpicketed several times by Scientologists who have stuffed leaflets in mailboxes and paraded along the sidewalk with signs accusing him of bigotry. 'I couldn't believe it,' said Shelly Ferguson, who lives five doors down. 'Gregg had warned us they were going to picket and we'd been wondering, 'Who's crazier, Gregg or these people?'' Then the truck rolls up with the pickets, and I went, 'Oh, Gregg's not nuts. These people are really off the deep end.''
"Last May, Mr. Hagglund's 19-year-old son Christopher was arrested on a drug charge, accused of selling cannabis and hallucination-inducing psilocybin mushrooms to high-school students. The charge, which Christopher Hagglund denies, remains before the courts. Veteran Toronto Scientologist Peter Ramsay wrote to Halton Crown attorney Bob Lush, complaining about the older Mr. Hagglund's anti-Scientology activities and suggesting that his son's plight might be connected to the fact that his father practises a religion akin to witchcraft.
"Then, earlier this month, two Scientologists - Toronto church spokesman Al Buttnor and Ottawa official Cathie Mann - paid Mr. Hagglund's parents a visit at their Ottawa home. Wilma Hagglund, in her 80s, did not let them in. But she was mindful of Scientology's reputation as a vigorous opponent, and the encounter left her unnerved. 'I told them that what my son did was his own business and I didn't want anything to do with it, and they went away.'
"Why the visit? 'I think you know why,' Mr. Buttnor said. 'It has to do with hatred.' Ms. Mann who once tried to pay a similar visit to Mr. Hagglund's brother, said the mission 'was to just go and see if we could maybe talk to Hagglund's parents just to see if we could get a sense of why he is doing this and if there's some way they could help. It wasn't to upset them at all, and I felt very bad because Mrs. Hagglund ... was very upset.'
"Mr. Buttnor perceives Mr. Hagglund and his ilk as mean-minded bigots targeting one of the world's new religions, whose leaders sometimes liken their situation to that of Jews in Nazi Germany. That's not the view of Detective Richard Kijewski of the Toronto Police Service's hate-crimes unit, long familiar with Scientology's running wars. Mr. Hagglund's activities thus far involve criticism rather than hatred, Det. Kijewski said. 'According to the definition in the [Criminal] Code, both groups have a right to demonstrate.... Whether this is going to escalate , I don't know.'"
The Independent reported this week that a Dublin woman has accused
Scientology of attempting to brainwash her.
"Judgment was reserved yesterday in High Court proceedings brought by a 33-year-old businesswoman who claims she was subject of mind control techniques by the Church of Scientology. Mary Johnston operates a sport equipment shop at Westwood, Foxrock, Dublin. She brought an application seeking documents against the organisation, which she described as a pseudo religious cult. Ms Johnston claimed the documents were necessary in her action for damages against the church and three of its members - John Keane, Tom Cunningham and Gerard Ryan.
"She alleged that while undergoing 'treatment' offered by the church she suffered increasingly with a dissociative stress reaction, became intolerant and rejected family and friends. Ms Johnston claimed she suffered a distinct personality change, would often adopt a fixed stare and simulated smile while switching off her feelings. She also said she became increasingly confused and her health suffered.
"Pressure was exerted on her to have a test which took place in March 1992 and the evaluator was Mr Keane. Ms Johnston claimed Mr Keane and Mr Cunningham pressurised her into subscribing for a 'purification rundown and training routing' at a cost of £1,200. She was told to attend a 'doctor' of the organisation who transpired not to be a registered medical practitioner but a cult member. She said she was persuaded to join the 'Sea Organisation' and sign 'a billion-year contract' to work for Scientology.
"David O'Neill BL, for the church, said his clients believed they would suffer damnation if they disclosed the counseling folder."
The South China Morning Post reported that the fiancee of Scientology
celebrity Kirstie Alley has left her, following a Scientology wedding
ceremony, but before a legal ceremony.
"Melrose Place actor James Wilder, who also had a recurring role on her latest series, Veronica's Closet, told friends he was fed up with her constant moans about her appearance. 'I don't have the keys to the fountain of youth and I can't make her young again,' Wilder, 35, said. Late last year, Wilder and Alley, 48, went though an unofficial Scientology wedding ceremony to cement their relationship. Now, friends say that Alley, whose 14-year marriage to Parker Stevenson ended in 1996, is heartbroken at being left on her own."
Bruce Pettycrew reported on a protest held at Scientology's Mesa, Arizona
"Kathy and I picketed today from 1-2 PM. There was a total of 9 cars in the lot at the start of the picket, with one leaving and two arriving during the hour. There were no handlers, we talked to two pedestrians and two drive-in turnarounds during the picket."
Four Scientology locations in Moscow were raided by tax police this week.
>From German news wire dpa:
"The Russian Interior Ministry's secret service (FSB) and the Tax Police raided four offices of the Los Angeles based Church of Scientology in Moscow Thursday. The service's office told Interfax News Service that an investigation of the CoS for illegal commercial activities had been started last week. The action was the result of a criminal investigation begun last week according to Interfax. Special investigators of the militia were also involved in a supporting role during the raid."
"Dozens of police raided at least two offices of the Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology in Moscow for an inspection Thursday that lasted from early morning until late night, officials said. 'We're conducting a comprehensive inspection,' said a police officer on the scene overseeing the raid. 'There is no repression going on here.' Church officials said police, some armed with automatic weapons and bulletproof vests, arrived at about 9 a.m. at the three-story wing of a factory that the group rents out as its Moscow headquarters. Police officials were continuing the raid 12 hours later when a Reuters correspondent was allowed to visit the building with police escort. A second building nearby was also subject to a raid, police and church officials said.
"The overseeing police officer on the scene of Thursday's raid on the Scientology headquarters, who declined to be named, said officers were checking everything from tax records to weapons. 'Any organization can be inspected, any factory, any enterprise,' he said. 'Public organizations are in a special situation. Many don't pay taxes and get around customs.'
>From the Associated Press:
"The Scientologists said the investigation against them was politically motivated. 'Cruelty was in the air during this visit (by the tax police), which has reminded us that Russia has not yet acquired the right of freedom -- freedom to think and act in accordance with the convictions of conscience,' Alexei Danchenkov, a Scientologist spokesman, said in a statement. Some 200 students a week attend classes at the Scientologists' center in Moscow, said Danchenkov."
>From the Moscow Times:
"Alexei Danchenkov, the spokesman for the center, said police have been investigating the organization for more than six months. But the Scientologists, he said, believe the investigation is politically motivated. 'I think this is a plot by the highest levels of the FSB against our presence in Russia,' Danchenkov said. 'I think the Russian Orthodox Church has simply made a deal with the FSB to establish its own dominance here.' The Scientologists are registered not as a religious group but as a nonprofit organization. Even so, the Scientologists see themselves as a religion, and the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church has listed Scientology as a destructive cult.
"The warrant for Thursday's search was signed by the deputy prosecutor of the city's northeastern district, Pyotr Stolypin, a member of the prosecutor's team said. Throughout the day, as the search continued, teenagers attended Scientology classes and music blasted from gym, which was packed with people mingling and eating. Spiritual leaders, teachers and workers struggled to maintain smiles, students clapped vigorously at the end of classes, and workers in green uniforms continued wiping floors. But in the center's offices, men in fatigues were going through the files and seizing records.
"'We have prosecutors, FSB, tax police - they brought along every agency. The only ones they managed to forget are the firemen,' said Alexander Shilov, one of the center's workers. As he was talking, another member of the group hissed at him and whisked him away. 'They are packing away everything, every single piece of paper they could lay their hands on,' said Danchenkov, the center spokesman, visibly pale and shaking. 'I am sorry, I have to go now, my office is being searched at the moment.' As he walked back to his office, law enforcement officers dragged three large cardboard boxes into it. A local policeman who stood at the door to the center wrote down the names, addresses and passport numbers of all members as they left the office."
Chris Owen posted an analysis of the political situation surrounding the raid.
"Scientology's well-known creative attitude to taxation may well be an important factor behind the raid. Tax evasion in Russia has reached catastrophic proportions. To put this in perspective, the size of the official economy is now smaller than that of the Netherlands. Much of the Russian Government's cashflow problem is caused by its very low success rate in collecting unpaid taxes. The Government has made it a high priority to deal with this, and has embarked on an aggressive campaign to recover monies owed. Scientology has already run into tax problems - its St Petersburg org was fined 10,000 rubles for tax evasion.
"The Federal'naya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti (FSB) is the successor to the KGB. It was established following the dissolution of the Soviet Union on December 25th 1991. The lead FSB agency involved in the Scientology case is almost certainly the Investigations Directorate. It was reestablished in 1995 to combat illegal trafficking in weapons and drugs, corruption, and crimes in the sphere of the economy and organized crime. However, the FSB has also been used to attack perceived threats to the Yeltsin/Primakov regime, which is why their involvement in this case is so significant. The FSB has regularly targeted environmental and human rights activists, convicting some and raiding others.
"Anti-Americanism in the Russian administration is certainly running high, particularly in the wake of NATO's formal enlargement next month and the increasing NATO presence in the Balkans. The Orthodox Church is extremely powerful and closely connected to the Russian establishment; it is also very much opposed to a wide range of 'non-traditional' sects and cults which have sprung up in Russia in recent years, such as Aum Shinryko, Scientology and the Moonies. The Moscow Patriarchate has played a major role in trying to 'educate' the Russian population about such movements. Elections are coming up in Russia next year, and bashing an unpopular organisation such as Scientology *would* be a cheap way of currying favour with the conservative elements of Russian society."
State Department Report
The U.S. State Department released its annual report on human rights this
week. Some excerpts pertaining to Scientology:
"GERMANY: The Church of Scientology remained under scrutiny by both federal and state officials who contend that it is not a religion but an economic enterprise. Authorities sometimes sought to deregister Scientology organizations previously registered as nonprofit associations and require them to register as commercial enterprises. In 1997 the Federal Administrative Court in Berlin, in sending an appeal concerning the deregistration of a Scientology organization in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg back to a lower level for further review, declared that a registered nonprofit association, religious or otherwise, could engage in entrepreneurial activities as long as these were only supplementary and collateral to its nonprofit goals. The case continued in the lower court at year's end.
"Some government officials allege that Scientology's goals and methods are antidemocratic and call for further restrictions on Scientology-affiliated organizations and individuals. In 1997 authorities of the federal and state OPC's placed Scientology under observation for a year because of concerns raised by some offices that there were indications that Scientology may pose a threat to democracy. Under the observation decision, OPC officials seek to collect information mostly from written materials and firsthand accounts to assess whether a 'threat' exists.
"Most major political parties continued to exclude Scientologists from membership, arguing that Scientology is not a religion but a for-profit organization whose goals and principles are antidemocratic and thus incompatible with those of the political parties. However, there has been only one known instance of enforcement of this ban. In a 1997 ruling a Bonn state court upheld the expulsion of three Scientologists from a state-level organization of the Christian Democratic Union party, ruling that a political party had the right to exclude from its organization those persons who do not identify themselves with the party's basic goals.
"In June the commission established in 1996 to investigate 'so-called sects and psycho-groups,' including Scientology, presented its final report to Parliament. The report concluded that these groups did not pose a threat to society and state and underlined the constitutional principle of religious freedom and the state's obligation to observe strict neutrality in these matters. However, it called upon the Government to introduce legislation for consumer protection in the 'psycho-market' and highlighted the need for the Government to inform the public about dangers to health and property posed by psycho-cults and groups. Particular emphasis was placed on Scientology because it allegedly pursued policies of 'misinformation and intimidation' of its critics, according to the report.
"FRANCE: In 1995 the National Assembly created a parliamentary commission that was 'charged with studying the phenomenon of sects and of proposing, if necessary, the adaptation of existing laws' to address sects. In 1996 the commission issued a report that identified 172 groups as sects, including Jehovah's Witnesses and the Church of Scientology. The ensuing publicity contributed to an atmosphere of intolerance and bias against minority religions.
"In October the French government issued a new decree creating an 'Interministerial Mission to Battle Against Sects'. The new decree disbanded the Observatory on Sects. Although the decree instructs the commission to 'analyze the phenomenon of sects,' the decree itself does not define what is meant by sect or how sects differ from 'religions.' Some observers are concerned about the creation of a commission that targets groups not on the basis of their presumed illegal activities but on the basis of their religious or other beliefs.
"In July 1997 a Court of Appeals in Lyon recognized Scientology as a religion in its opinion in the conviction of Jean-Jacques Mazier, a former leader of the Scientologists, for contributing to the 1988 suicide of a church member. In response the Minister of the Interior stated that the court had exceeded its authority and that the Government does not recognize Scientology as a religion."
"SPAIN: The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice. Religions not officially recognized, such as the Church of Scientology, are treated as cultural associations."
"AUSTRIA: As of July 10, the Education Ministry had granted the status of 'confessional community' to eight religious groups, including for example, Jehovah's Witnesses, Baptists, and Seventh Day Adventists. The Church of Scientology and the Hindu Mandir Association withdrew their applications. Proponents of the law describe it as an opportunity for religious groups to become officially registered as religious organizations, providing them with a government 'quality seal.'
"The Austrian People's Party (OeVP) retained the policy it set in 1997 that party membership is incompatible with membership in a sect. This policy led to the resignation of a local OeVP official in 1997. In July the city government of the provincial capital Innsbruck denied permission for a concert sponsored by Scientologists, referring to a 'ban on Scientology-sponsored activities' stipulated in a 1997 city government decision."
"GREECE: The trial of 15 members of the boards of Scientologist associations charged by the Government with 'unprovoked factual insult' is scheduled for February 1999. The board members were charged in October 1996 following a police search of Scientology headquarters that revealed a file of press clippings on Greek opposition to Scientology."
"SWITZERLAND: Due to increasing public concern over certain groups, especially Scientology, the Government in 1997 asked an advisory commission to examine Scientology. The commission published its findings in August. According to the report, there is no basis at present for special monitoring of Scientology, since it does not represent any direct or immediate threat to the security of the country. However, the report stated that Scientology had characteristics of a totalitarian organization and had its own intelligence network. The commission also warned of the significant financial burden imposed on Scientology members and recommended reexamining the issue at a later date."
Landeszeitung Luneburger Heide published an article on the report.
"The report varies from previous years in that it does not support the accusations of the Scientology organization about a persecution of its members in Germany; it only references them. The US State Department, in its annual report, evaluates the situation of human rights in nearly all countries on earth."