Scientology and the Courts, An Introduction

Why does a organization that claims to be a religion spend multi-millions of dollars a year on lawyers and litigation?

IMPORTANT NOTE: This site is now "archival," which means that it will not be updated in the foreseeable future. It was last revised in March 1997, and prior to that in October 1996. Despite being out of date on ongoing developments, I hope that it nevertheless will be useful in its present form. Beware of outdated links to other sites, I know that many have changed. The best current information about links to sites discussing scientology may be found by accessing the usenet group alt.religion.scientology.


An Introduction to Scientology and the Courts

The Purpose of "Scientology and the Courts"

According to scientology founder L.Ron Hubbard, the purpose of litigation "is to harass and discourage rather than to win. The law can be used very easily to harass and enough harassment on somebody who is simply on the the edge anyway, well knowing that his is not authorized, will generally be sufficient to cause his professional decease. If possible, of course, ruin him utterly.*

The purpose of these web pages is to collect and make available information concerning legal actions involving scientology. It is hoped that this information will assist readers in making their own determination as to whether the Church of Scientology and its related organizations have used the courts and the judicial system consistent with its "purpose" as described in the above statement of L.Ron Hubbard.

The information collected and presented here primarily consists of judicial opinions, and it is organized generally in a legal technical manner, intended to be most useful to individuals doing legal research. Note well that the information collected here is only a very small portion of the vast amount of material outstanding, including reported and unreported opinions, pleadings and briefs. Material is added as it becomes available to me in electronic form, and as time permits.

What is Scientology? (A very brief discussion.)

Scientology is a belief system and set of practices based on the writings of the late science fiction writer L.Ron Hubbard, quoted above. In 1950, Hubbard published one of the first modern mass-market "self-help" books, "Dianetics, the Modern Science of Mental Health," which became a best-seller. The book described a process for self-improvement called "auditing," which cleared the mind of the negative influence of past events, called "engrams," utilizing an electrical device called an "e-meter" that measured bodily responses to the auditing process.

Hubbard called his process and belief system "scientology," and he organized and began to promote scientology as a physical and mental health curative system. Hubbard quickly ran afoul of federal and state regulations involving the provision of health care and medical services, and in response to these legal difficulties, in the early 1950's Hubbard incorporated his organization as the "Church of Scientology." Scientologists believe that this was a legitimate move to protect the rights of Hubbard's adherent's to practice a valid set of religious beliefs. Critics charge that it was a cynical move, designed to shield Hubbard and his illegal activities in the cloak of religion, and thus gain protection from scrutiny by government, and the benefits of tax-free status.

Scientology's Litigation History

The Church of Scientology and its affiliated organizations historically have been involved in a great deal of litigation, both as plaintiffs and defendants, internationally as well as in the United States. The COS fought with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service for many years seeking to establish tax free status as a nonprofit organization. The COS has also brought suits against former members for libel, for unfair competition (when they have attempted to set up their own religious organizations) and against authors who have written critical biographies of founder L.Ron Hubbard. Former members and others have in turn brought suit against the COS for intentional infliction of emotional harm, defamation and other torts. Scientology organizations have often succeeded in obtaining "gag orders" to in return for the settlement of civil cases involving their critics, and they have been aggressive in enforcing those orders.

Adherents and officials of Scientology organizations have been involved with the criminal law as well. In the 1970's, a group of Scientology officials, including the wife of founder L.Ron Hubbard, were jailed for breaking into federal offices to steal documents concerning federal inquiries into Scientology. Also in the 1970's, Scientology officials were implicated in a conspiracy to frame the author of a critical inquiry into scientology on federal criminal charges.

One of the tactics of the COS in recent years is to bring suit under federal copyright and state trade secret statutes against critics who have attempted to use COS materials to document their claims concerning scientology. Currently the COS is litigating a number of cases involving documents disseminated on the Internet, both in the U.S. and internationally.

The use of litigation as a tool, indeed a weapon, is consistent with scientology's announced policy and practice of aggressively counterattacking any criticism. Indeed, church spokeswoman Leisa Goodman stated in a recent television interview: "This is not a turn the other cheek religion."

Links to Related Information

Why I Maintain This Web Site

Years ago I went to school with a very talented young woman who became a good friend. When school was finished, she moved away. We kept in touch occasionally though holiday cards and letters (mostly hers to me) and I was aware that she had become a scientologist. I said nothing, feeling that it was not my business; but I was concerned and worried for her. For the most part I paid little attention to news reports and articles about scientology; life was too full of work and family and other matters.

In January 1995, I got my first net account. I stumbled across the usenet group alt.religion.scientology, and began to pay attention to what was going on through messages posted on the group, and the web sites of people like Ron Newman. When scientology began raiding and suing its net critics, I paid close attention to the legal discussion on usenet, on alt.religion.scientology and elsewhere. It became apparent that many of the discussions lacked basic information about the source law (such as the federal copyright statutes) that underlay the litigation. I began posting excerpts of statutes, the text of relevant cases, and other relevant legal material. I actually thought that the legal issues were what was really important. ("Ah but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now.") Gradually I began to become familiar with the vast body of judicial opinions in cases involving scientology. It is truly an astonishing body of material, and represents only the tip of the iceberg, as in many, many cases judicial opinions have never been published.

Sadly, I also became aware that my friend from school days was deeply involved in the actions that scientology was taking against its critics. I tried to maintain an open mind, holding out the hope that my friend would surely see the error of her ways, and the evil that was being done in this litigation. She did not. In the ensuing months I learned more and more about scientology, and became increasingly concerned about its dangers, way beyond the current Internet litigation.

I have come to view scientology as a dangerous organization. Scientology's record of criminality is frightening and its ability to get away with wholesale abuse of the legal system is shocking. A study of the scientology cases demonstrate the weaknesses in our legal system, and its ability to be perverted to mock the goal of justice for which it was designed. Most of all, the ability of scientology as an institution to subvert people of talent and good will, and turn them to evil purpose, is most frightening of all. I often think that if a person as intelligent and well-intentioned as my friend can be caught up in something so destructive, then it can happen to anyone.

In my view, scientology can fairly be characterized as a fascist organization. For that reason, I regard with great irony the current campaign scientology is waging to discredit the efforts of the Germany government to control its activities, a campaign waged under the theme that the German government is recreating the Nazi campaign against Jews in its efforts against scientology. I recently posted a message on various usenet groups detailing my position about scientology as a fascist organization. I have a growing personal concern over the activities of groups in general, religious, political or otherwise, that seek to build organizations apart from the constraints of civil society, and hold themselves above the rule of law. In this connection, I recently posted a message on alt.religion.scientology detailing parallels that I see between scientology and the Japanese Aum Shin Rikyo cult which was responsible for the sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway in 1995. The recent suicide of 39 members of the Heaven's Gate group in California demonstrates how an organization which holds itself out as harmless and beneficial in fact turns out to do great harm. Significantly, in December 1996 a member of the Heaven's Gate group posted a "thank you" to scientology for destroying the Cult Awareness Network.

Knowledge is power. I believe it is important for people to be armed with important information, especially people who become involved in litigation with scientology. It is my hope that the material on this web site will be useful to those who require the information that it provides.

This web site is dedicated to the memory of a friendship between two young women who shared formative experiences, laughed together and looked toward a promising future; and the hope that some day that friendship can be renewed, when we both realize, on the same day, that the secret of life is that it is about family and friends, and all the rest is crap.

*This authenticity of this quotation has been established. See the MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF DEFENDANT ARNALDO P. LERMA'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND/OR TO DISMISS, filed January 5, 1995, in Religious Technology Center v. Arnaldo Lerma, et al., United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Docket No. 95-1107-A, footnote, page 4: "See L. Ron Hubbard, "Magazine Articles on Level O Checksheet," First Lerma Decl. Attach. B (Fishman Declaration) at Bates No. 58; see also Sept. 6, 1995 Deposition of Warren McShane (confidential portion) (copy attached as EX. 12 to Opposition of Defendant Arnaldo P. Lerma to Plaintiff's Motion for a Preliminary Injunction (Dkt. 220)) at 9-10 (confirming that article was written by L. Ron Hubbard); Memorandum Opinion dated November 28, 1995 ("November 28 Opinion") at 11 (quoting Hubbard) (Dkt. 220)."


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