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On Boxing Day, we remember the last time Scientology tried to knock out the press

Boxing

 
While we’re recovering from Christmas here in New York, in other parts of the world our readers are celebrating Boxing Day, a holiday which is generally a complete mystery to us Americans. (And yes, we know it has nothing to do with the sport of boxing.) Well, whatever it is you all get up to on your December 26, we have a special treat for you today.

Professor Dave Touretzky of Carnegie Mellon University sent us this great piece after he saw our post on Scientology’s reported new upsurge in harassment of the press. We’ve heard that Scientology leader David Miscavige has released his hounds, and his legal attack dogs are suddenly much more aggressive with news organizations working on Scientology stories. At the same time, Miscavige is flooding the Internet with press releases about Scientology fluff. We can’t imagine this strategy actually helping to improve Scientology’s reputation, but lack of results has never deterred Miscavige.

Anyway, even before this new surge started, we would on occasion hear from editors or network executives who were panicked about the legal threats from Scientology. We would calmly remind them that Scientology has not actually sued a news organization in 20 years. And now, Professor Touretzky reminds us just what happened in that case. We think you’re going to love his retelling of it.

 

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In response to Tony’s report of Scientology’s renewed efforts to intimidate journalists, I thought it fitting to remind Bunker readers that it’s been 20 years since Scientology actually sued anyone in the media. That lawsuit went hilariously awry.

Back on August 5, 1995, Arnie Lerma had posted the Fishman Declaration to the Usenet newsgroup alt.religion.scientology. A few hours later I turned the document into a web site at CMU that was later copied by Karin Spaink in Holland. The Fishman Declaration had been filed in the libel lawsuit against TIME Magazine. It contained secret Scientology scripture, including the complete text of Hubbard’s handwritten OT III document telling the story of Xenu.

For his efforts, Lerma was raided by Church of Scientology lawyers on August 12. They had obtained a writ of civil seizure that allowed them to haul away his computer hardware, printed documents, and whatever else caught their interest. Media covered the raid. The Washington Post went further than most and, in an August 19 article by reporter Marc Fisher, actually quoted 33 words from the secret scripture, which they had legally obtained from the court file in Los Angeles. On August 22, Scientology responded by adding the Post, Fisher, and another of their journalists, Richard Leiby, to the copyright and trade secret lawsuit they had filed against Lerma. They boasted about suing the Post in a press release.

The case took about a year to make its way through the courts. It was heard by Judge Leonie M. Brinkema, who would later come to national prominence by presiding over the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the 20th 9/11 hijacker.

Judge Brinkema was not pleased with Scientology’s antics. For Lerma’s copyright violation she awarded Scientology a grand total of $2,500 and no attorney’s fees. But it was the egregious attack on the Washington Post‘s fair use that really ticked her off. She called Scientology’s actions “reprehensible” and granted the Post‘s motion for summary judgement. She ordered Scientology to pay the Post‘s legal costs, rumored to come to half a million dollars. She ruled that the trade secret status of Scientology’s scripture had been lost. And then she decided to really stick it to them.

In her Memorandum Of Opinion dated October 4, 1996, Judge Brinkema retold the Xenu story in her own words! Here is part of what she wrote:

Scientologists believe that most human problems can be traced to lingering spirits of an extraterrestrial people massacred by their ruler, Xenu, over 75 million years ago. These spirits attach themselves by “clusters” to individuals in the contemporary world, causing spiritual harm and negatively influencing the lives of their hosts.

There can be no copyright violation when a document is paraphrased, so there was nothing to stop anyone from quoting her version of OT III. And with that, she left town for a few days.

Freaking out, the Church obtained an emergency sealing order from another judge on October 8 to keep anyone from reading Judge Brinkema’s opinion. When Brinkema returned, she vacated the order. Xenu was back on the street.

And so ended Scientology’s last lawsuit against the media. Perhaps the utter humiliation they experienced at the hands of Judge Brinkema explains why they’ve never had the nerve to try again.

— Dave Touretzky

 
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Scientology’s 2015 in review: The June gloom of Jim Jones

We’re continuing our look back at the most significant stories we covered at the Underground Bunker this year, and today we’re looking at the best stories of June.

The month started off with a real doozy. While we were researching our book about Paulette Cooper, one of our sources sent us word of a mindblowing recording that was archived at San Diego State University. On June 10, 1978, Jim Jones, at his Jonestown compound, made one of his daily addresses to his followers, during which he would talk about the news of the day. And on that day, he talked about Paulette, whose story about being framed by Scientology for a 1973 indictment had finally been made public. And Jones sympathized with Scientology! It’s really creepy stuff.

A few days later, we were sent another fun item out of the past — Karen de la Carriere sent us a page from a 2005 copy of Scientology’s Impact magazine which showed that at that time, actor Tom Cruise was one of the church’s biggest donors, having given $2.5 million to the IAS. Today, that amount has been eclipsed by the Venezuelan magnates and other whales who have given $10 million or more. But in 2005, at least, Cruise led the way.

On June 9, we had another great document find from researcher R.M. Seibert. She found that in 1963, FDA inspectors had interviewed the members of L. Ron Hubbard’s first family — his wife Polly, and their children Katy and L. Ron Hubbard Jr., also known as Nibs (and later as Ron DeWolf). The notes from these interviews had never before been put online.

Also in June, our book tour was continuing, and Paulette Cooper came here to New York for an event on June 11. While she was here, the two of us sat down with local TV legend Marvin Scott. And another tale from our book: The heartwarming story about the Scientology spy who had come in from the cold, Len Zinberg.

On June 20, we noted, sadly, that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and his anti-vax crusade had led him to his lowest point ever, an appearance with members of the Nation of Islam at the Scientology org in Inglewood, California.

After our New York event, we went to Chicago and were joined on stage by Chicago Fire actor Christian Stolte in what turned out to be one of the most surprising talks we took part in. We had no idea Stolte was going to tell the full story of his own involvement in the church. For those who were there, you really got to experience something unique.

 
StolteOrtega

 
We then went on to Toronto, where Paulette Cooper joined us again, and we live-blogged the conference put on by historian Jon Atack and professor Jim Beverley. What a collection of interesting people was in attendance!

 
JamieSpankyAndreasToryNanJon

 
And while we were at the conference, we managed to break some news — Reed Slatkin, the notorious Scientologist Ponzi schemer, who had recently got out of prison, died of a heart attack on June 20. We’re still waiting for any other news organization to mention this. We now have a physical copy of Slatkin’s death certificate in our possession. What are the rest waiting for? (Wikipedia has cautiously decided that we’re right and lists Slatkin’s death, but then slimes us by claiming we gave the wrong date for Slatkin’s death. That isn’t true, but it’s par for the course for Wikipedia.)

On June 25, we detonated a bombshell. Your proprietor, and former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder, had been notified by the US Attorney in New York that a private investigator was facing prison time after being caught trying to hack us, along with about 50 other people. There could be no other reason for Eric Saldarriaga to hack us, we pointed out, except that he was working for the Church of Scientology. The US Attorney wouldn’t tell us if that was the case, but he did invite us to make a statement in court, which we did. Ultimately, the New York Times did report that Saldarriaga had, indeed, been working for Scientology — and once again, the church proves that it can never change its ways.

But that didn’t dissuade us from going right into the belly of the beast when, on the month’s final weekend, we appeared with Paulette Cooper at the Clearwater, Florida public library, just steps from some of Scientology’s most holy locations in its spiritual “mecca.” It was Paulette’s first trip to Clearwater since she took part in the infamous 1982 hearings on Scientology’s invasion of the town.

And the month had one last surprise: We broke the news that Ron Miscavige Sr. had signed a book deal for his memoir, “If He Dies, He Dies.” The title is a reference to what Ron’s son, Scientology leader David Miscavige, told two private investigators who were stalking Ron and watched as Ron seemed to be having a heart attack. (He was actually just fumbling for a smartphone in his shirt pocket.) We have a feeling Dave is more concerned about this book coming out in 2016 than any before it. And we can’t wait!

A LOOK BACK AT JUNE 2014: Another distressing disconnection story: Where is Sami Sterne? A rare audio recording captures L. Ron Hubbard and his wife Mary Sue using an e-meter to come up with the space cooties portion of Scientology. Why we think Original OT 8 is not a hoax — the George White story.

A LOOK BACK AT JUNE 2013: Channel 4’s Scientologists at War, Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and Joe Childs on Denise Gentile’s blunts.

 
BEST OF 2015: Our personal picks for stories we’re most glad we got to write this year:

January: Being on the scene to write about the Going Clear Sundance premiere
February: A shocking tale of Scientology mistreatment of the mentally ill in Tennessee and Arkansas
March: Sylvia DeWall is declared and faces the loss of her family, and we get to hear it on audio
April: We dig up the true story of Tom Cruise and Mimi Rogers
May: Paulette Cooper appears in Hollywood two blocks from Big Blue
June: Scientology illegally hacks Mike Rinder and your proprietor with a PI who takes the fall

 
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Bonus photos from our tipsters

Stanley Clarke lays down a bass line on the Freewinds

 
Stanley_Clarke

 
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BOOK NOTES
3D-Unbreakable

We didn’t get a chance to include photos in our book, so we’ve posted them at a dedicated page. Reader Sookie put together a complete index and we’re hosting it here on the website. Copies of the paperback version of ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ are on sale at Amazon. The Kindle edition is also available, and shipping instantly.

Our book tour is concluded for now. (But you can re-experience it through this nifty interactive map!) We’ll let you know about future appearances. Previous events: Santa Barbara (5/16), Hollywood (5/17), Orange County (5/17), San Diego (5/20), San Francisco (5/22), New York (6/11), Chicago (6/20), Toronto (6/22), Clearwater (6/28), Washington DC (7/12), Hartford (7/14), Denver (7/17), Dallas (7/20), Houston (7/22), San Antonio (7/24), Austin (7/25), Paris (7/29), London (8/4), Boston (8/24), Phoenix (9/15), Cleveland (9/23), Minneapolis (9/24), Portland (9/27), Seattle (9/28), Vancouver BC (9/29), Sydney (10/23), Melbourne (10/25), Adelaide (10/28), Perth (10/30)

 
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Posted by Tony Ortega on December 26, 2015 at 07:15

E-mail your tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of LA attorney and former church member Vance Woodward

UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield

 

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