From 'de Volkskrant', September 11, 1995:
INTERNET CORNERS SCIENTOLOGY WORLDWIDE
A veritable electronic war is being fought over texts that are
used by the Church of Scientology. The cult threatens everyone who
quotes them with legal action. Now it has got into trouble with
Internet-users. Last week the bailiff and two American cult-officials
raided the office of an Amsterdam Internet-provider
`1. Find some plants, trees, etc., and communicate with them
individually until you know that they have received your communication.
2. Got to a zoo or any other place with many life-forms and communicate
with each and everyone of them until you're sure that the communication
has been received and, if possible, answered.' Over the past months,
this text has been the cause of a true electronic battle that's as
futuristic and exciting as the script of a movie like War games'. The
remarkable sentences are part of the secret religious doctrines of the
Church of Scientology, a worldwide cult. Almost everyone who quotes them
is threatened with legal action. But the problem is, that these
quotations can be found in the legally obscure world of the Internet.
The controversial cult has got into trouble with Internet-users.
The Church of Scientology was founded by science-fiction novellist L.
Ron Hubbard in 1954. The`religion' is based on the theory that the
planet Earth is crowded with the wandering souls of aliens that landed
here 75 million years ago. These spirits are supposed to be responsible
for all the world's misery.
Strangely, the religious documents of the cult are considered
top-secret and they are treated accordingly. Cult-members who want to
develop themselves, are obliged to follow classes. The total cost of
these lessons can amount to hundreds of thousand guilders.
This makes secrecy one of the most important resources of the cult. The
most expensive part of the material can only be studied under strict
surveillance. Nevertheless, parts of these documents have been revealed
to the general public through the Internet.
On Tuesdayafternoon, September 11, a small army under the command of
two American cult-officials raided the office of the Dutch
Internet-provider Xs4all. Amongst them was an usher who was urged by the
cult to seize the computer-system.
The legal action was meant to force Xs4all into the removal of a
certain document from the public accessible part of their system. In
this document, also known als the Fishman Affadavit, the condemnable
practices of the cult are exposed. It is the confirmed statement of
former cult-member Steven Fishman, made by him on May 3, 1993 during the
trial in which the cult accused him of libel.
According to Fishman, these practices are the official guidelines of
the cult, but Scientology calls them inventions'. Fishman describes in
great detail how the cult protects itself against criticism and how it
makes legal action by its opponents impossible. As Hubbard once said:
"We don't go to court to win, but to terrorize and disencourage. It's
very easy to use the law to harass an individual. Proper appliance of
this principle will in most cases be enough to cause the professional
demise of a person who is already on the verge of the abyss. If
possible, he should of course be completely ruined."
Another tactic is to take a person to court in several states on the
same day. This way, the costs for the defense will rise to extreme
heights. No wonder that almost every former cult-member that dared to
battle the cult, has been ajudged bankrupt. Apart from those actions,
many trials are being held because the cult finds certain press-releases
As is he case with all legal papers that are open to the public, the
Fishman Affadavit was filed in 1993 in the library of the court that
handled the case. However, from the first day on it's been virtually
impossible for interested parties to study it. As soon as the library
opened its doors, eight cult-members went in and one of them asked for
the documents. After that, they worked' in shifts in order to keep het
documents under their custody until the library closed again. This went
on for over a year, until August 15, 1994. On that day, the cult managed
to persuade a judge to declare the documents as not accessible to the
general public. In spite of all these precautions, criticists managed to
obtain a copy of the document and they published it on the Internet. As
a reaction, Scientology opened a witch-hunt on everyone whom they
suspected to have a copy of the Fishman Affadavit.
But the isolation- and intimidation-tactics appear to be less
successful on the Internet. Instead of an individual criticist, the cult
is confronted with an electronical legion that seems to grow in numbers
with every action Scientology undertakes.
The seizure of the Xs4all-hardware was relieved after the user
concerned had removed the documents. A cult-spokesman declared
triumphantly that the goal was reached. But the question whether or not
this has been a Pyrrhus-victory remains: the documents can still be read
and downloaded. The only difference is, that they no longer reside on
the Xs4all-system, but somewhere else in the world. After all, the
characteristic of the Internet is the unimportance of the exact location
Francisco van Jole