Arnie Lerma reported that photos of the New Year's event in Los Angeles released by Scientology had been doctored by adding spectators to the audience. The photos were then removed from Scientology's web site.
"'Freedom' magazine has essentially admitted the FAKED photos by pulling them off their website! http://www.lermanet.com/PhotoLIES.htm"
From Roland Rashleigh-Berry:
"It is clear that those seats were only half full and they have used photographic techniques to make it seem more full. One I spotted was right at the bottom of the photo in the middle but very slightly to the left. You will see a man wearing a white jacket with a woman to his left and a man clapping to his right. The man is looking back in this direction. These people are too small for the position they are in because we can see women behind them who are much taller. They are almost next to themselves in the row behind them. And if you have them spotted you will see it is a whole section of them repeated. The fake section is the one on the far left. You will see a man in a colourful shirt to the left and in front of the man looking back. That has been repeated. In front of the man looking back is a man with a black jacket and white shirt next to a woman in a black dress. They are both repeated in the fake section on the left BUT THE MAN HAS HIS HEAD MISSING. There are two girls two rows behind the man looking back. They are repeated as well. There is a black man next to a white girl just behind them. They are repeated as well as a whole swarm of people behind them. Take a look at the woman wearing a red sweater. She is repeated as well as other people around her."
"Birdie" reported the impression of people who attended the event.
"I have spoken to some people (staff, family members) who attended the Dec 28th event. One person said it was a major disappointment. They went expecting to really be impressed with news of the future and what scientology was planning in the millennium and instead found it boring! Another person told me that what the event was advertised to be was not what it ended up being and it was mostly a history of the 'wins' scientology has had through the past 50 years. These people are very devoted scientologists but even they felt they had been let down." (A.r.s Week in Review - 1/2/2000)
A.r.s Week in Review - 1/2/2000:
The text of a bill introduced in the U.S. House and Senate was posted to a.r.s this week, which criticizes Germany for treatment of religious minorities including Scientology.
"Mr. SALMON (for himself, Mr. PAYNE, Mr. GILMAN, Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD, Mr. SCARBOROUGH, Mr. WYNN, Mr. MALONEY of Connecticut, Mr. ROTHMAN, Mr. FOLEY, Mr. SHERMAN, Mr. ROGAN, Mr. PASTOR, Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas, Mr. EVANS, Mr. CONYERS, Mr. NEY, Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi, Mr. METCALF, Mr. SMITH of Washington, Mr. DAVIS of Virginia, Mr. FORD, Mr. BECERRA, Mr. ENGEL, Ms. BROWN of Florida, Mr. SABO, Mr. ABERCROMBIE, Mr. FORBES, Mr. HILLIARD, Mr. WELLER, Mr. HORN, Ms. PRYCE of Ohio, Mrs. MEEK of Florida, Mr. TOWNS, Mr. GUTIERREZ, Mr. CHABOT, Mr. CUMMINGS, Mr. OWENS, Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN, Mr. HASTINGS of Florida, Ms. WATERS, Mrs. CAPPS, Mrs. JOHNSON of Connecticut, Mr. JACKSON of Illinois, Mr. MEEKS of New York, Mrs. CLAYTON, Mr. PASCRELL, Mr. DAVIS of Illinois, and Mr. WATT of North Carolina) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on International Relations
"Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives with respect to government discrimination in Germany based on religion or belief. Whereas government discrimination in Germany against individuals and groups based on religion or belief violates Germany's obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Helsinki Accords; Whereas the 1993 through 1998 State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in Germany have disclosed acts of Federal, State, and local government discrimination in Germany against members of minority religious groups, including Charismatic Christians, Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Scientologists; "Whereas State Department Human Rights Reports on Germany have also disclosed acts of government discrimination against American citizens because of their religious beliefs; Whereas State Department Human Rights Reports on Germany have disclosed discrimination based on religion or belief in Germany in such forms as exclusion from government employment and political parties; the use of 'sect-filters' by government, businesses, sports clubs, and other organizations; government-approved boycotts and discrimination against businesses; and the prevention of artists from performing or displaying their works; "Whereas in 1997, a United States immigration court judge granted a German woman asylum in the United States, finding that she had a well-founded fear of persecution based on her religious beliefs if she returned to Germany: Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives urges the Government of Germany to uphold its commitments to 'take effective measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination against individuals or communities on the grounds of religion or belief' and 'foster a climate of mutual tolerance and respect between believers of different communities' as required by the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe's Vienna Concluding Document of 1989; urges the Government of Germany to enter into a constructive dialogue with minority groups subject to government discrimination based on religion or belief; continues to hold the Government of Germany responsible for protecting the right of freedom of religion or belief of United States citizens who are living, performing, doing business, or traveling in Germany; and calls upon the President to assert the concern of the United States Government to the Government of Germany regarding government discrimination in Germany based on religion or belief."
From the Congressional Record:
"Mr. ENZI. Mr. President, I rise to submit a resolution concerning religious discrimination in Germany with my colleague, the distinguished Senator from Louisiana, Ms. Landrieu. The resolution urges the German government to eliminate religious discrimination within its country because I believe, as a matter of general government policy, no religion or belief should be discriminated against. Anytime the government collects or allows businesses to collect and use information that marks an individual as being different, it is discriminatory and it is wrong.
"[A] minority group that has been subject to significant discrimination in Germany is the Church of Scientology and its members. The documentation of discrimination against both Americans and Germans based solely on their Church membership seems irrefutable. I especially find the growing governmental use and sponsorship of 'sect-filters' disturbing.
Nonetheless, in spite of all this evidence and documentation, the German Government seems to believe the State Department has revised its views as to the existence of religious discrimination in their country. I have also seen media reports that characterized the 1998 Report as effectively ending earlier State Department criticism of Germany for its treatment of Scientologists. I cannot believe these characterizations of the Human Rights Report are an accurate representation of the position of the State Department on these matters. Clearly, the matter of religious discrimination and persecution in Germany needs to be reviewed and the position of the State Department clarified."
ABCNews: Ghost-Written Column Draws Flak - The Biggest Essay Clinton Never Wrote
By Josh Gerstein, ABCNEWS.com
Here’s to Scientology!
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.”
It’s not the first time the White House has appeared to be cozying up to Scientology. In 1997, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger met with actor John Travolta and other Scientologists to discuss the German government’s concerted effort to shut down the group’s operations in that country.
Several State Department reports have also taken issue with Germany’s heavy-handed approach.
The German government says Scientology is a cult more akin to organized crime than organized religion.
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.
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 case.
"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."
The doors of the Lisa McPherson Trust opened this week in downtown Clearwater.
"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 chosen then publicized: 'They were the first to be developed'." (A.r.s Week in Review - 1/9/2000)
Jyllands-Posten reported on January 20th that the recent U.K. decision denying Scientology charity status could have an impact in Denmark and across Europe.
"A committee under the Ministry of Ecclesiastics will during the coming month take a decision on Scientology's three year old application for recognition as a religious congregation. An approval would give Scientology the rights of conducting wedding ceremonies, and trigger tax exemptions worth millions of kroner.
"A British decision does, however, suggest that Scientology will face obstacles in realizing their dream. The British authorities have established that the American movement cannot be perceived as a religion. Scientology is more of a private organization, that offers therapy to a small circle of paying members, says the British Charity Commission, which in December denied Scientology the status of religious charity. The British commission uses some of the same criteria of religion, as those that the Danish committee stresses.
"Scientology has now been denied recognition in both France and Great Britain. In Sweden, the tax office has recently granted Scientology tax exemption as a charity, but it is still uncertain whether the movement will get recognition as a religion.
"I think there would be a public outcry, if Scientology was approved. The movement has a bad reputation with the public, and some Christian groups apply massive pressure against a recognition. I don't think that the minister dares to go against those forces, says Dorthe Refslund Christensen."
A prosecution filing in the Lisa McPherson criminal case was posted to a.r.s this week. It details reasons why the Religious Freedom Restoration Act should not be a defense for Scientology against the criminal charges, and lays out the investigation in the circumstances of Lisa's death. (A.r.s Week in Review - 1/23/2000)
"Wogendas" reported that Eugene Ingram has been working in the Seattle area to investigate a staff member of the Lisa McPherson Trust.
"Mr. Eugene M Ingram, former LA Police officer who was fired for running a house of prostitution and preventing the arrest of drug dealers, visited Kitsap County Washington this week. Mr. Ingram visited the home of a woman who was once the fiancée of David Cecere. She really thought Ingram was 'not a bad guy'. I am sure he was disappointed to learn that David and his ex are friends." (A.r.s Week in Review - 2/6/2000)
BBC News - 22:33 GMT - France urged to ban Scientology
The church has 8 million members worldwide
A government committee in France has recommended dissolving the Church of Scientology there, on the grounds that its activities threatens public order.
A report submitted to the Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, described the church as a "totalitarian" sect that kept files containing personal information on its members.
The head of the committee, Alain Vivien, said that while the committee opposed a blanket ban on what he termed sects, it favored dissolving "extremely dangerous" organizations such as the Church of Scientology.
The report added:
"When such organizations disrupt public order and violate human dignity, measures should be taken to dissolve them."
Mr Vivien said the committee had determined that the church's leaders in France were manipulated by their headquarters in Los Angeles.
He attacked the organization's operation in France as "underground activities led from abroad".
The findings are the latest in a series of controversies to hit the church which is promoted by celebrity supporters such as John Travolta and Tom Cruise and his wife Nicole Kidman.
US criticism rejected
The report rejected US criticism of the French Government's hostility to Scientology.
The church has come under attack several times in France in recent years, with some of its 30,000 members there tried for fraud.
Last year, a US Government report raised questions about freedom of expression for new religious groups in France and several other European countries, including Germany.
But this concern was dismissed by the French report which said Washington's protection of sects was "exorbitant". It also said American criticisms of France's conduct were based on "inexact and unfriendly allegations."
A Scientology spokeswoman in France, Daniele Gounord, denounced the report. She described it as a "slap-dash Mickey Mouse job in which facts are pulled out of a hat." "With this report, France has joined the ranks of banana republics," she said.
The Church of Scientology was set up in the United States in 1954 and claims 8 million members worldwide. The church offers self-improvement on the basis of the writings of the late science-fiction author L Ron Hubbard, who spelled out principles that he called Scientology and Dianetics.
The recent attack on Mark Bunker at the Clearwater home of Scientologist Gottfried Helnwein continued to make news in Germany this week, with the airing of a piece on ARD television. From dpa:
"A team from ARD magazine 'Report Mainz' says that it was attacked by a man with a hammer in Clearwater in front of artist Gottfried Helnwein's house. Camera man Mark Bunker was hit twice and his camera was damaged. He, himself was not wounded. The 'Report' team was trying to do some research into the artist's Scientology background before the new set of hearings in the Helnwein proceedings.
Rod Keller posted clarification on the issue of the white lines zone in downtown Clearwater.
"People who wander in unaware of the restrictions are not going to be arrested without a good amount of warning. Trust members are not going to be arrested without warning. I asked [Wayne Shelor] to clarify his comments on Channel 13 news about stepping over the line being 'obstruction of justice'. The context of his answer is that the Fox 13 reporter asked him what would happen if somebody got in the zone and either pushed or interfered with a police officer. That is obstruction of justice. The charge for just staying in the zone with no pushing or interfering is still 'failure to obey a lawful order from a police officer.'
"I asked him what the policy is on audio taping with or without notification or consent. Officer Kelly is under administrative review for his actions in the infamous hammer episode. An officer can only insist that taping stop if he is trying to interview a witness or victim in privacy. He can make his own zone to conduct these interviews without recording. People can continue to tape and record audio on the streets of Clearwater except under that special circumstance."
A hearing was held to determine if members of the Lisa McPherson Trust would be added to the restraining order on Bob Minton. From the St. Petersburg Times on February 8th and 10th:
"As he took his seat Monday to referee yet another dispute between the Church of Scientology and its critics, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Thomas E. Penick Jr. already wore the look of frustration. He repeatedly wondered aloud during the four-hour hearing whether it was possible to quell a dispute that has tied up the Clearwater Police Department and spilled onto streets and sidewalks in the heart of downtown. When it was over, Penick said he would decide Wednesday whether eight associates of Minton should be prohibited from walking within 10 feet of 17 church properties in Clearwater. Most of the picketing has taken place just outside the church's dining halls along Watterson Avenue, a side street off Cleveland Street. 'The police are in a pickle,' said Scientology attorney F. Wallace Pope Jr. 'They're having to guess who this injunction is in force against.'"
"The group that has been taunting members of the Church of Scientology on a downtown Clearwater street should stay at least 10 feet from church properties, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Thomas E. Penick Jr. ruled Wednesday. The group also must not cross into a 'safety zone' at the entrance to the church's downtown dining halls, the judge said.
"Penick's ruling expands an earlier injunction that was limited to New England millionaire Robert S. Minton, who last month moved to Clearwater to oppose the Church of Scientology full time. In adding Minton's cohorts to his ruling on Wednesday, Penick said he was trying to prevent physical confrontation between Scientologists and Minton's group. Penick specifically named three Minton followers who now are to abide by the 10-foot buffer: Jesse Prince, Grady Ward and Mark Bunker. Penick included any agents of Minton's new Clearwater corporation."
Grady Ward and Mark Bunker dispute the newspaper account, reporting that they will be give a hearing to defend themselves against the order. "Unfortunately, this report was false. A hearing must be held to determine whether the name people will be enjoined. Not before."
"[T]he three of us now are listed as co-defendants and the church must now serve us properly if they want us added to the TRO. Then we have another hearing to decide if we actually do get added. So the judge has just said of the ten names the church wanted to add, he would only make it possible now for them to add three of us.
"Why did he add us? Because he saw some short videotapes of the three of us interacting with the Scientologists. In Grady's case, he saw Grady standing by the dining room door saying 'We don't bite. It's okay, critics don't bite.' In my case, the judge saw me stand in front of the OSA cameraman one day while I was passing by. I spent a few moments standing in front of his camera then turned to him and said 'I just wanted to see what it was like to block your camera. Remember back in July when you spent the day standing in front of my camera. I wanted to see what it's like to be you. It's not much fun.' And in Jesse's case, he was across the street (where the judge wants him to be) talking to the police officers when that same OSA cameraman comes up to him and videotapes his conversation. Jesse being added to the list is the most perplexing since he was where he was supposed to be. Amazing as it is, the judge saw video footage of him and decided he must be doing something wrong."
From the Sunday Times:
"The influence and wealth of the Church of Scientology look set to increase this summer, thanks to a Warner Bros movie and a spin-off toy line. Battlefield Earth, based on the sci-fi novel by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, is due out here in May. It stars prominent scientologist John Travolta, right, and planned merchandising includes a doll based on Travolta's character, Terl, a villainous warlord. The doll will deliver movie lines in Travolta's voice, including 'Exterminate all man animals at will,' and, best of all, 'Ratbastard'. The sales deal includes Author Services, the agency which handles all the works of Hubbard and is widely assumed to benefit the Church of Scientology - though a church spokesman denies this. Travolta says the $80 million Battlefield was not inspired by church teachings. However both the story and the church deal with intergalactic travel and space battles."
Reuters reported on February 13th that the mayor of Paris is in favor of restrictions on cults near schools and shelters.
"Mayor Jean Tiberi said he would present to the National Assembly a draft law that would also ban sects from advertising within a certain radius of establishments considered vulnerable. 'Jean Tiberi wanted to go further in order to protect from the risk of manipulation or press-ganging the most vulnerable people such as lonely old people, young people suffering family break-ups, minors.' Tiberi's office said in a statement.
"Tiberi said he would suggest to Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin the creation of a monitoring unit to gather and update information about sects. The move comes as local authorities warn of an increase in what they consider to be cult activities in Paris, in particular by the U.S.- based Church of Scientology. The newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche said in a report published on Sunday that members of the Church of Scientology were recruiting near high schools in smart neighborhoods."
Judge Susan Schaeffer has handed the Lisa McPherson criminal case to another judge for medical reasons. From the Tampa Tribune on February 15th:
"Chief Circuit Judge Susan Schaeffer had taken responsibility for trying the state's criminal case against the Church of Scientology's Flag Service Organization because she said she expected it to be too time-consuming for a regular judge with a docket full of other cases. Schaeffer signed an order Thursday transferring the Scientology case to Circuit Judge Brandt Downey. Bill Lockhart, the circuit court administrator said Schaeffer has asked that her medical situation be kept private.
"When the charges were filed, Schaeffer predicted the case would involve so much work that no regular trial judge would have time to handle it. The case file has grown to eight volumes. At one hearing, Schaeffer told the church's lawyers that she would not be reading any of the several Scientology books they have filed in support of the motion to dismiss."
The St. Petersburg Times reported on February 18th that Scientology has asked that the autopsy photographs of Lisa McPherson not be made public.
"Photographs taken during the 1995 autopsy on Scientologist Lisa McPherson should not be made public, the Church of Scientology argued in a motion filed Thursday. The photos would 'aggravate the hostile publicity which the church has already received' from being charged in McPherson's death, Scientology lawyers argued. The photos, they contend, almost certainly would be published in newspapers, broadcast on television news shows and spread across the Internet by anti-Scientology groups. The publicity would make it 'virtually impossible for the church to receive a fair trial anywhere, much less in Pinellas County,' the motion states.
"The photos are at issue because the church has made a routine demand to see all the evidence prosecutors will use to try to prove the charges. When the church gets the material, the public may see it as well. For that reason, the church said it wanted everything except the photos. The decision will fall to Circuit Judge Brandt C. Downey III. At issue are 29 photos taken by the medical examiner, plus a roll of film taken for Clearwater Police by the Sheriff's Office."
Former mayor of Clearwater Gabe Cazares spoke in defense of the Trust at a Clearwater City Council meeting on February 17th.
"Good evening, I'm Gabe Cazares. I'm here tonight to speak on the letter to the editor in the St. Petersburg Times of February 13 that stated in part, quote, 'Neither Mr. Bob Minton nor any of his followers are good for Clearwater. They're all from out of town and don't care for Clearwater or any of its citizens.' This is an outrageous lie. Mr. Minton did not lie when he came to Clearwater, nor did he try to hide his assets. His doors are open to anyone, any time, without police escorts. I was here in 1976 when the United Churches of Florida lied and took over the Ft. Harrison Hotel before admitting that they were the infamous Scientology cult. They were all from out of town. How many in this room are from out of town? I remember standing before the City Hall flag pole in 1979 proclaiming that Clearwater was not for sale at any price. I was wrong. As of last October the Scientologists own more than 37 properties in Clearwater with value of more than $40,143,900 with a tax-exempt value of at least $23,674,500. No wonder our taxes are at an all-time high. The long-existing coalition of Scientologists, City of Clearwater officials, zoning lawyers and the Greater Clearwater Chamber of Commerce has now been confirmed without commission or media objection. Only the citizens and true citizens in, in Clearwater can put an end to this unholy alliance. The city owes Mr. Minton at the least an apology. Concerned citizens and religious institutions and veterans groups owe Mr. Minton their prayers and thanks for coming to Clearwater and trying to save this community. Thank you."
Itar-Tass reported that a Moscow court has ruled that the registration of a Scientology group is invalid.
"The ruling of the Ostankino Municipal Court of Moscow on recognizing as invalid the registration of the Hubbard Humanitarian Centre, a regional public organization, came into force on Monday, a spokesman for the press service of the Moscow prosecutor's office told Tass. The press service spokesman said that a preliminary investigation on the case of the leader of a regional branch of the Hubbard Centre under Article 171 of the Russian Criminal Code (illegal business activities) had been completed by the prosecutor's office of the North-Eastern Administrative District of Moscow and would be referred to court.
"The Hubbard Centre was officially registered in Russian by the Scientological Church. In the opinion of Alexander Dvorkin, who handles the problem of religious sects at the Moscow Patriarchate, 'this is a very dangerous sect. In Germany it was put under the control of the secret police. It is believed there that the Hubbard Centre is not a religious, but a commercial organization, which is after power and money. In Greece it was outlawed early in 1998.'"
ARS Week in Review:
U.S. State Department
The United States State Department issued its annual report on human rights. This year's report contains several mentions of Scientology.
"The Moscow procurator general and approximately 70 members of the FSB, Federal Tax Police, and local police raided two locations of the Church of Scientology in Moscow on February 25. According to church officials, the authorities confiscated documents, including tax records and priest-penitent privileged counseling records. The tax police say that they are investigating possible tax evasion and other financial irregularities. On October 6, a Moscow district court revoked the operating license of a social center affiliated with the Church of Scientology because mistakes were made allegedly in the center's license application materials in 1993."
"In March the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church stated that it considers the Church of Scientology to be a dangerous sect that can have a negative impact on individuals and families. A spokesman for the Patriarchate said that it wanted the activities of the Church of Scientology to be scrutinized by the appropriate legal entities."
"[T]he Government in 1997 asked an advisory commission to examine Scientology. The commission published its findings in 1998. 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."
"In August 1997 the Court of Cassation annulled a lower court decision that Scientology was not a religion, finding that the lower court was not competent to rule on what constitutes a religion. The Court of Cassation found further that the issue of whether Scientology constitutes a religion must be readdressed by another court of appeal, in accordance with criteria established by the Constitutional Court."
"Scientologists, most of whom are located in the Athens area, practice their faith through the Center for Applied Psychology (KEFE), a registered nonprofit philosophical organization. According to the president of the KEFE, the group chose to register as a philosophical organization because legal counsel advised that the Government would not recognize Scientology as a religion. In a step toward gaining recognition as a religion, Scientologists applied for a House of Prayer permit in October 1998. The application was pending at the Ministry of Education at year's end. A 1995 police search of Scientology headquarters revealed a file of press clippings on Greek opposition to Scientology. The file was confiscated and 15 KEFE board members subsequently were charged with 'unprovoked factual insult.' In May an Athens court acquitted the 15 Scientology board members of the charges."
"As of July 10, 1998, 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. In September 110 national police officers raided Church of Scientology facilities and the homes and businesses of about 20 members of the Church. One member's home in France was raided simultaneously by the French authorities. At year's end, an investigation continued, and no arrests had been made."
"The National Assembly formed a parliamentary commission, also known as the Gest or the Guyard Commission, to study so-called 'sects.' The Commission's report identified 173 groups as sects, including Jehovah's Witnesses and the Church of Scientology. The report was prepared without the benefit of full and complete hearings regarding the groups identified on the list. Groups were not told why they were placed on the list. The ensuing publicity contributed to an atmosphere of intolerance and bias against minority religions.
"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. The Government appealed the Court of Appeals decision, but on June 30, the Court of Cassation rejected the Government's appeal, but the Court stated that it lacked the authority to decide if Scientology was a religion.
"There have been a number of court cases against the Church of Scientology, which generally involved former members who sue the Church for fraud, and sometimes for the practice of medicine without a license. In November the court found a former local leader of the Church of Scientology and four other Church employees guilty of fraud for swindling money from former members. The court sentenced the local leader to 2 years in prison, of which 18 months were suspended and the remaining 6 months served prior to sentencing, and a fine of approximately $16,700 (100,000 francs). The other four members received suspended sentences; charges against two other persons were dropped."
"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 December the Stuttgart administrative court ruled that Baden- Wuerttemberg could not deregister the Church of Scientology as an ideological nonprofit organization, stating that Scientology's activities could not be classified as commercial if such activities were used to accomplish the organization's ideological purposes. In August the city of Munich revoked the nonprofit status of the local Scientology organization. In June the Munich administrative court rejected an appeal by the Church of Scientology and upheld the November 1995 decision by the city of Munich to deprive the Scientology- affiliated Celebrity Center Munich of its status as a nonprofit organization. During a March visit to the country by a lawyer for the Church of Scientology, officials in the Foreign Ministry refused to engage in a dialog with the Church and decided not to meet with the attorney.
"Some government officials allege that Scientology's goals and methods are antidemocratic and call for further restrictions on Scientology- affiliated organizations and individuals. During a March meeting with a lawyer representing the Church of Scientology, Hamburg state officials expressed their belief that the Church is a criminal organization with a totalitarian ideology. OPC officials seek to collect information, mostly from written materials and firsthand accounts, to assess whether a 'threat' exists. Scientology filed a suit in Berlin to enjoin the Berlin Interior Ministry from the alleged practice of bribing members of Scientology to 'spy' on other members. The case continued at year's end.
"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.
"'Sect-filters,' statements by individuals that they are not affiliated with Scientology and which, in practice, are not applied to members of other groups, are used by some state, local, and federal agencies, businesses, and other organizations to discriminate against Scientologists in business and social dealings. The Federal Ministry of Economics imposed the use of sect filters on companies bidding for contracts to provide training courses. Some state governments also screen companies bidding contracts relating to training and the handling and processing of personal data. The Federal Property Office has barred the sale of some federal real estate to Scientologists. Scientologists assert that business firms whose owners or executives are Scientologists, as well as artists who are church members, faced boycotts and discrimination, sometimes with state and local government approval.
"In recent years, some individuals who had been fired because they were Scientologists took their employers to court for 'unfair dismissal.' Several reached out of court settlements with employers. Scientology held exhibitions in Munich, Stuttgart, and Hamburg to explain the Church to citizens. Although Scientologists reported that the exhibitions were a success, Scientology encountered serious difficulties in renting space in major hotels and convention centers. In some cases reservations were canceled because hotels said that they feared a loss of business if they allowed Scientology to rent exhibition space."
"In December 1998, the Ministry of Education turned down the application of the Finnish Association of Scientologists to be registered as a religious community. This was the first time that an applicant had been denied church status. The Scientologists' application was pending for nearly 3 years while the Government awaited additional information that it had requested from the Association. The Association acknowledged that it had not responded to the Government's request. The Education Ministry's decision can be appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court. The Scientologists have not yet done so, but they have indicated that they may begin the process anew and reapply for recognition as a church."
From Sueddeutsche Zeitung on February 19th:
"The Bavarian Interior Ministry had asked for a comprehensive analysis of Microsoft's Windows 2000 operating system from the Federal Office for Security in Information Technology after it was revealed that a portion of the software for that program had been delivered by Executive Software International. Executive Software belongs to professed Scientologist Craig Jensen. Therefore users in Germany expressed concern that Windows 2000 users could be spied upon by Scientology.
"In October 1995, the Interior Ministry put a list of measures into effect which was supposed to prevent the state from giving contracts to companies which were under Scientology's influence. Since then, companies who bid for state contracts must sign 'security statements' in which they verify that they do not operate according to the principles of the psycho-business founded by Ron Hubbard. The Microsoft corporation, however, is not affected by this list of measures, said Ziegler, 'We cannot demand security statements from all the sub-contractors.'"
Der Tagesspiegel reported on February 25th that Scientology has filed for access to government files.
"Calling upon Brandenburg Constitutional Basic rights, the Scientology sect wants general file access to government documents.
Vice-Administration speaker Manfred Fueger verified that Scientology had filed applications at the end of with three ministries - finance, interior and state chancellery. The state administration see no method of basically refusing such desires, but still has asked for clarification for the applications in a letter of response. The process has triggered a debate in the administration coalition as to whether the document access law should be strengthened. The PDS, State Data Security Commissioner Alexander Dix, and even SPD politicians, like SPD legal expert Peter Muschalla, have opposed this move.
"Constitutional Security chief Heiner Wegesin affirmed that constitutional Security federal and state offices were already familiar with the exploitation of the document access law by the Scientology sect. CDU faction interior political spokesman Sven Petke spoke out in favor of restricting the danger of misuse of the data access law by 'politically motivated requests.' Files which contained company data, government memos or personal date could not be released. Dix confirmed that there had also been unrest in the Brandenburg Finance Ministry because of the inquiries Scientology made. Staff members had expressed concern that their names could be accessible to the organization from the files."
The Los Angeles Times reported on February 29th that a government panel in France has decided that Scientology should be disbanded.
"A blue-ribbon government panel studying what French officials define as 'sects' has concluded that the faith, founded by the late U.S. science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, is a 'vast enterprise of transnational character' with its own private police force run clandestinely from the United States. 'They have a clear strategy of infiltrating and of trying to influence the state, and the will to do it,' said Denis Barthelemy, a career magistrate serving as secretary-general of the panel, the Interministerial Mission on Combating Sects. 'This goes beyond being an ordinary pressure group. For the internal security of the state, we are afraid.'
"In the report to Prime Minister Lionel Jospin published this month, the panel contends that Scientology is, in fact, a moneymaking venture. The report goes to the extraordinary length of proposing the dissolution here of Scientology and another religious group, the Order of the Solar Temple, which lost 74 members to murder-suicides in France, Switzerland and Canada between 1994 and 1997.
"Some former Scientologists agree. 'I was turned into a robot,' said Mona Vasquez, a 40-year-old Frenchwoman who spent seven years in the organization. 'They made me leave my studies, my boyfriend, my family.' French authorities maintain that they are not attacking religious beliefs, which are protected by law, but illegal conduct. Leaders of France's Scientologists indignantly deny the charges against them. They plan to issue a detailed rebuttal. 'These are total hate campaigns,' Gounord said. 'We are people who obey the law.'
"The French report makes special mention of Scientology's Office of Special Affairs, which it labels a private police. Stacy Brooks, a former member now working with an anti-Scientology organization in Clearwater, Fla., described the OSA as a dirty-tricks squad that targets the church's critics. 'I know all about these people,' Brooks said. 'They tried to smear and harass me and my husband after I left in 1989.' Karin Pouw, spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology International, called Brooks a 'liar for hire.' Pouw, a member of the OSA, said the office functions as a 'public affairs office.'"
Newswire dpa released an analysis of this year's U.S. State department report on Human Rights on February 25th:
"The USA has determined in its annual Human Rights report that, worldwide, there is a positive trend. In its report published on Friday, the State Department sees a tendency towards democratization. A positive comment was made about Germany in that the number of attacks against foreigners in the past year has decreased again. In contrast to previous years, the attitude of the German authorities toward the Scientology Organization was not criticized, but merely recorded. For instance it was stated that the organization is not regarded as a church in Germany, but as a commercial business. In addition, it was noted that civil service applications in Bavaria include a mandatory, detailed questionnaire in which contain questions about connections to Scientology."
The St. Petersburg Times published an editorial on the criminal case against Scientology in the death of Lisa McPherson.
"The tragedy of Lisa McPherson's death in a Scientology hotel room has turned into a sad, convoluted mess that cries out for justice. An unexplained reversal by Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner Joan Wood has prosecutors reviewing their case and raises questions about Wood's competence. Meanwhile, sworn statements by Scientologists paint a disturbing picture of McPherson's final days and raise this question: Why was no individual charged with a crime?
"Wood certainly surprised the state attorney's office. The new autopsy report is 'something of major significance we need to review,' said Assistant State Attorney Doug Crow. Amid the doubt, this much is clear: Wood owes the residents of Pinellas County an explanation; and State Attorney Bernie McCabe still needs to prosecute those his office determines to be responsible in McPherson's suffering and death.
"No doubt remains that McPherson was ill served by her Scientology 'caretakers.' Alain Kartuzinski, a senior church staff member, ordered McPherson's isolation and authorized medication without a doctor's approval. Then he lied to police about his involvement. Janis Johnson, a church medical officer and unlicensed doctor, was seen giving McPherson injections of a prescription muscle relaxant that had not been authorized by a doctor. She also lied to police. David Houghton, a dentist, helped administer medication, including forcing crushed aspirin and Benadryl down her throat with a large syringe. David Minkoff, a church member and doctor in Pasco County, prescribed drugs for McPherson over the phone without examining the patient. By the time he saw her, she was dead.
"Changing a few words on the autopsy report does not change the tragic events that unfolded in a darkened Scientology hotel room. Whatever caused the blood clot that killed McPherson, timely medical care would have given her a chance to survive. No matter how many experts the Church of Scientology hires or how much pressure they put on public officials, a jury should decide if someone committed a crime in the death of Lisa McPherson."
Scientology asked the new judge in the criminal case to remove himself for conflicts of interest. From the St. Petersburg Times on March 3rd:
"The Church of Scientology says it fears Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Brandt C. Downey III cannot be impartial and is asking that he remove himself from presiding in the Lisa McPherson case. In a motion filed late Thursday, Scientology asserts that several of Downey's former law partners were active in anti-Scientology efforts in the late 1970s and early 1980s, after the church's controversial arrival in Clearwater. The motion also notes that Downey has been an officer in local mental health groups involved in providing psychiatric and psychological services. Scientology is staunchly opposed to psychiatry and psychology, calling its practitioners 'psychs' who are 'the sole cause of decline in this universe.'
"In its motion, the church says it recently discovered aspects of Downey's background that 'reasonably cause it to fear that it will not receive fair treatment before the judge . . . because of his prejudice or bias against the Church of Scientology as well as its religious beliefs relating to mental health treatment.'"
According to the Tampa Tribune on March 4th, the judge refused Scientology's request.
"Pasco-Pinellas Circuit Judge Brandt Downey also refused to put the case on hold while the church asks an appeals court to remove him. Downey then held a second hearing in which he ruled in favor of the church and against The Tampa Tribune. The newspaper is seeking the release of an estimated 10,000 pages of police reports and other documents from the investigation of McPherson's December 1995 death.
"The suggestion that a judge must be sympathetic to Scientology's beliefs in order to preside over the McPherson case is not a legitimate reason to seek Downey's removal, Assistant State Attorney Doug Crow argued. 'They are not entitled to manipulate the court system to require a judge whose beliefs match theirs,' Crow said. Crow called the church's complaint about Downey's former partners 'guilt by association, innuendo and speculation.'
From the St. Petersburg Times on March 4th:
"Immediately after the ruling, Scientology lawyer Morris 'Sandy' Weinberg asked Downey to stop the case completely until the judge's ruling could be appealed. Downey quickly denied the request, advising Weinberg to be ready for a significant hearing March 13. Weinberg faced a delicate task Friday morning, asking Downey to step down while trying not to offend him. His arguments were laced with phrases such as, 'with all due respect.' In its motion, the church noted Downey's affiliations with Clearwater lawyers N. David Karones, Tom Hersem and Barry Glenn, each of whom was pitted against Scientology on various issues during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
"Weinberg said the church believes its fundamental beliefs are on trial. He noted that the church's defense is based in large part on the argument that the Scientologists who cared for McPherson were engaged in religious practices rooted in the avoidance of psychiatry and psychology. Weinberg was met with a testy response from Downey, who denied the motion, saying the church had no evidence that 'would place a reasonably prudent person in fear of not receiving a fair and impartial trial.'
"The judge was equally short with lawyers for the Times and Tampa Tribune, who asked Downey to release investigative records in the case. Downey said the lawyers made it sound like he rushed to judgment on a ruling last week that kept the records closed. 'That does not sit well at all,' the judge said, denying their requests."
The judge's decision to bar Jesse Prince, Mark Bunker and Grady Ward from a strip of Waterson St. in Clearwater, Florida was posted to a.r.s this week. Some highlights:
"We're just concerned about the feeding hall and unloading those buses. And in this particular law review article, 85 Cornell Law Review, 271, they get into the requirements for areas where you limit an entity or individuals first amendment rights. It must be very carefully drawn. It must be narrow not broad. The interests protected must be very clear. When I looked at this and I considered what we have here, and I also consider the fact that this safety zone, or the United States Supreme Court refers to it as a buffer zone, referred to in the cases, I'm impressed by the fact that the zone we have here was in essence more or less negotiated. I think that it is narrow enough. It is needed for safety. It is very small when you consider the number of individuals on a daily basis that get on and off those buses and proceed directly into the, as we refer to it in the documents, as the Bank of Clearwater. There is ample opportunity for the respondents to be heard or to exercise their first amendment rights without this being over restrictive or creating a problem. So I am going to adopt that.
"And it is the finding of this Court that from the evidence presented here, at least for the purposes of joining a party defendant, and then setting forth some sort of allegations I will add as party defendants Jessie Prince, Mark Bunker, and Grady Ward, and that is all. Wait a minute, excuse me, and, and, and, and I will name the corporation.
"I would besiege both sides to refrain from overburdening the Clearwater Police Department or their authorities with chicken little phone calls. The sky is not falling. So knock it off.
"Make it very clear that that safety zone only applies to this case. And as a citizen I expect to be able to walk through that safety zone. And if Chief Kline has any questions about that I'm in the phone book. The safety zone is to keep the picket signs and the in-your-face out of there while the people are getting on and off those buses. That is my intent. Now, as the case law clearly points out, the safety zone cannot inhibit the flow of traffic in or out of. Here they're dealing with churches, the people, even little children.
The Associated Press - Wednesday, March 15, 2000; 1:44 p.m. EST
STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- The Church of Scientology on Wednesday hailed a decision upgrading its status in Sweden from nonprofit organization to religious community.
The change of status came as part of a broader new law to separate the national Lutheran church from state control. The law says all churches that fulfill certain conditions will be considered religious communities with equal status.
The National Judicial Board for Public Lands and Funds decided Monday to register the Scientologists - who have long worked for recognition as a church - as a religious community. The decision means the church can apply for the right to wed people, but it has little other practical significance.
Chronology not continued