Subject: Volkskrant 11 december 1995


By Francisco van Jole

This week, the lawsuit filed by Scientology against a number of
Internet-providers and critics (amongst whom writer Karin Spaink) serves in
The Hague. At stake: the mass-availability of the so-called Fishman
Affadavit, an American court document in which the secret teachings of the
association are explained. According to the cult, this an infringement of
their copyright. Because of the trial, the man in the center of all this,
Steven Fishman, is visiting the Netherlands this week.
  According to the critics he's a hero, but Scientology calls him a traitor.
  "I joined the church in 1979 because I heard a commercial on the radio. In
it, the curch promised that it was capable of saving troubled marriages. I
was interested, because my wife and I had problems. In those days, I was
suffering from a compulsive neurosis that made me continually arrange
everything in shipshape. In the dressers for instance, all clothing had to
be sorted in colours. It made my wife crazy. I didn't understand her
disapproval and thought that Scientology might be a way to make her accept
my behaviour."
  Things turned out differently for Steven Fishman. His wife refused to
become involved with Scientology and they eventually divorced. Fishman got
depper and deeper into the cult.
  The Church of Scientology is a highly disputed organization that was
founded in the fifties by science fiction-witer L. Ron Hubbard. The
'doctrine' of the church is a farrago of science fiction and psychotherapy,
that boils down to the belief that Earth has been polluted by aliens
millions of years ago. This pollution supposedly causes the unhappiness of
its inhabitants, because their acts are being controlled by 'polluted
elements'. Hubbard designed a series of more or less psychotherapeutic
courses to clean up this pollution. Cult-members can follow these courses if
they pay for them or work for the church.
  The cult managed to gain status, because it was joined by celebrities like
actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta. "The celebrities are cherished, they
hardly have to do anything. But other methods as used as well. We managed to
get Hubbards book 'Dianetics' on the bestsellerists by checking which
bookstores provided the sales figures that are used in compiling the list.
After that, we went to the stores and bought practically all the copies of
'Dianetics' they had in store", says Fishman.
  The cult turns out to be an internationally organized company that is
notorious for the unprecedented ferocity with which it confronts its
critics. One of their tactics is filing costly legal procedures to force the
opponent on his knees. This bigotry is, amongst others, caused by the fact
that cult-members firmly believe in a worldwide conspiracy against their
  Fishmans 'faith' was so deep, that he engaged in criminal acts for it.
Amongst other things, he joined a team that harassed opponents by flooding
them with unsollicited mail. The team collected massive of amounts
reply-coupons from magazines in libraries, put the opponents personal notes
on them and sent them in. Fishman was caught, charged of postal fraud and
ended up in prison. "The church ordered me to commit suicide. Ik would then
return in another life and be rewarded.
  At that moment, he started doubting. "According to their own teachings,
reincarnation can take place in any period in history. I might return in the
year zero. How would they be able to guarnatee me that I would be rewarded
in that case?" It took Fishman, still imprisoned, a year to turn his back on
the cult. Then another inmate was found to have photographs of Fishman in
his cell, along with a knife he made himself. To Fishman, it was clear that
this prisoner had beenordered by the cult to kill him. On that moment, he
decided to fight back. A salient detail is, that from that day on he was
ableto experience by himself what it met to be a Scientology-victim. After
he was released from prison, he daily received three to four hunderd letters
of companies and other distributors of printed material.
  Now, Steven Fishman is one of the most famous Scientology-critics, thanks
to the Dutch Internet-users. "It is not a religion, it is a company. Hubbard
himself said that whoever wants to be rich, has to found a church." In
April, 1993, he made a testimony under oath in a Californian court of law
that has become known as the Fishman Affadavit. In this statement he tells
about the crimes the cult ordered him to commit. To prove that he, contrary
to what the cult claimed, had indeed been a prominent Scientologist, he
extensively quoted the most secret Scientology-documents.
  In attempt to stop the publication of these texts on the Internet, the
cult ordered a seizure of the computer system at Internet-provider XS4ALL.
On their system, the document had been made available on a homepage, the
public part of a users domain. This caused a chain reaction: at thios
moment, the document is available on approximately 100 Dutch homepages.
Fishman wasn't aware of this movement. "A lawyer recently told me: 'In
Holland, you're famous", and showed me a list of all those homepages. I was
  Talking about Scientology with Fishman is like watching an action-movie
loaded withspecial effects. Exciting, but on first sight not very realistic.
He tells about 'concentrationcamps' that are owned by the cult, where
malfunctioning members are held against their will. His account of
Scientology's outrages is so spectacular, that it automaticaaly makes you
doubt if everything is true.
  Karin Spaink knows the feeling. She continuously hears things that sound
completely crazy, but that have usually really happened. According to her,
this makes Scientology not just another weird religion, but a dangerous