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"We are not a turn-the-other-cheek kind of religion."
These words came from a Scientology "Field Staff Member", or salesperson, who gave a tour of the Flag Land Base in Clearwater, in June 1994.
The same words were recited by the Media Relations Director for the Church of Scientology International during a recent interview by MTV's Kurt Loder, and in 1991 by CSI's president, Rev. Heber Jentzsch.
The words are true; the Church of Scientology has made a policy of litigation -- and, many assert, illegal harassment -- against its critics. Journalists such as Bette Orsini (of the now-defunct Clearwater Sun) and public officials who oppose the church (such as Gabriel Cazares, former mayor of Clearwater) are frequent targets, as are former members who speak out against Scientology and, most recently, critics on the Internet.
Scientology's history of harassment is not unknown in this area. It established its presence here over twenty years ago with the purchase of the landmark Fort Harrison Hotel, and has since turned the hotel's environs into one of six "Advanced Orgs" where the upper-level teachings are delivered to its members.
Entering Clearwater in 1975 under the assumed names of "United Churches of Florida" and "Southern Land Development and Leasing Corp.," the Scientologists purchased the hotel in December. By the following March, the non- Scientologist owners of a gift shop in the hotel had filed a lawsuit, contending, among other charges, that the Scientologists had shut off their telephone, air conditioning and alarm system, ignoring requests to restore the services.
Documents seized by the FBI from Scientology's Los Angeles and Washington headquarters in 1977 reveal that the church's espionage and intelligence branch, the Guardian's Office (now called the Office of Special Affairs), was planning the infiltration and control of local media and political offices even before the purchase of the hotel.
A confidential memo dated 10 November 1975 reveals their plans for the Clearwater Sun: "Our target on this, very confidentially, is ownership or control of the paper ... the finance information on the paper, its debts, its income (and how it could be cut) are prime information needs."
Another memo, three months later, speaks of a "chart of enemy lines used up to this point for CW attack" and lists, among the "areas of priority to infiltrate", the St. Petersburg Times and Channel 13 TV, Mayor Cazares, the Florida Attorney General, and the Florida State Attorney.
Cazares was quickly labeled a "Suppressive Person" -- an enemy of Scientology -- and operations to discredit him were quickly begun. On January 30, 1976, the church provided a "fact sheet" to the media which alleged dishonest and illegal conduct on the part of Cazares and his wife; eight days later, the church filed a lawsuit alleging libel, slander and violation of civil rights, asking for one million dollars in damages. Later, they staged a hit-and-run accident in an attempt to implicate him in scandal.
These actions were completely consistent with the church's written policies. L. Ron Hubbard, the science fiction writer who founded Scientology, wrote in 1967 that enemies "may be deprived of property or injured by any means ... may be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed," a policy often referred to as "Fair Game."
Scientologists are quick to point out that the policy was canceled years ago, and that there is no longer any such thing as Fair Game. Technically, this is true: a policy letter dated 21 October 1968 states that "the practice of declaring people FAIR GAME will cease." The reason given: "It causes bad public relations."
The final paragraph explicitly states, however, that the policy letter "does not cancel any policy on the treatment or handling" of a Suppressive Person. The cancellation is in name only; the handling of an enemy may not be called "Fair Game", but it is otherwise unchanged -- a semantic game practiced often by the Church.
Hubbard's policies must be followed to the letter, and on the topic of criticism, they are plentiful and explicit. In a policy letter entitled "Handling Hostile Contacts", Hubbard exhorts, "Always attack ... never defend or deny." When dealing with a critic, he says, "start investigating them promptly for FELONIES or worse using our own professionals ... start feeding lurid, blood sex crime actual evidence on the attackers to the press."
This "evidence" was sometimes manufactured: Paulette Cooper, author of a book critical of Scientology, was framed on a number of bomb threats. Part of the operation involved getting her fingerprints onto a blank sheet of stationery and using it to write a threat against Henry Kissinger; on another "channel" of the operation, a double was used to impersonate her and cause scenes in public places, in hopes of having her committed to a mental institution.
Hubbard wrote, "The law can be used very easily to harass ... if possible, of course, ruin him utterly." On the Internet, Scientologists have taken a number of steps to silence criticism, including the use -- some would say abuse -- of the legal system.
Last year, the Religious Technology Center, a branch of the church, raided the homes of four American critics after receiving ex parte writs of civil seizure from the courts, ostensibly to obtain evidence of copyright violation. In every case, however, the RTC exceeded the allowed search scope, and all of the writs were vacated and the seized materials ordered returned unaltered. In Colorado, RTC refused to comply, deleting files from the computers' hard drives before returning them to their owners.
One judge not only vacated the writ, but chastised the church for "unclean hands" in the lawsuit, calling the suit "reprehensible" and stating, "It has become clear that a much broader motivation prevailed--the stifling of criticism and dissent of the religious practices of Scientology and the destruction of its opponents."
For more information, see the following Web pages: