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How Pete Griffiths sued a Scientologist and ended up being vilified by former friends

[Pete Griffiths]

On May 1, 2013, ex-Scientologist Pete Griffiths gave a talk about Scientology to some Dublin secondary school students (what we call high school in the U.S.). Griffiths was the guest of a teacher who had his own run-in with the church.

“He knew me from protests. I was friendly with him,” Griffiths says.

Speaking to students was something Griffiths had done before, at Trinity College and in other settings, and he was scheduled to give two addresses, the first on May 1, a Wednesday, and then another two days later.

After his first talk, Griffiths posted an audio recording of it to his YouTube channel, which is watched closely by the church. On Friday, after his second speech was finished and he was preparing to leave the school, three people — his teacher friend, a deputy principal, and another teacher — approached him and told Griffiths that they had received an email about him.

“They said, ‘You wouldn’t believe the stuff they’re saying about you. Is any of this true?’ I asked them what it said. They described it, saying that I was a criminal under watch by the police, and that I was a gay pornographer, and that I shouldn’t be talking to young kids. I just thought, that’s terrible.”

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Griffiths posted something online about their description of the email, but it took another month before they released it to him.

“It was a lot worse than what the teachers told me,” he says.

The email included a photograph of Griffiths, naked except for a Guy Fawkes mask held over his privates with his left hand, and saluting with his right.

The email had been sent by Zabrina Collins, who is now (as Zabrina Shortt) a director of Scientology’s new “Ideal Org” recently opened in a Dublin suburb.

Collins claimed that she was writing as “a concerned parent,” and made the accusations about Griffiths being under police surveillance and that he was a gay porn distributor.

“The truth about the movies were that they were art house movies with gay content. It was clearly not pornography. I had no role in them at all, I just copied them and posted them on Vimeo. One was singer Seal singing a song, and another was Keane, with clips from movies.”

That Friday evening, after the teachers alerted him, Griffiths went to a police station to see if it were true that he was under investigation. But they told him that wasn’t the case.

As for the photo of his naked salute, at the time it was taken there was a wave of similar photos showing up on the Internet as soldiers and others showed their support for Prince Harry, who had been photographed in the nude in a 2012 Las Vegas incident.

Griffiths took the Collins email to a lawyer, who told him that he’d been defamed. So he filed suit against Collins as an individual.

At a court hearing in October 2014, other former Scientologists showed up, and caused a scene, Griffiths says.

“I didn’t invite people to come, but a bunch of people came to court,” he says. “It was giving the judge a bad impression of me.”

Then, two months later, on December 20, 2014, Griffiths heard that church members were going to be handing out Truth About Drugs leaflets on Dublin streets.

He and another former Scientologist, John McGhee, went to warn shopkeepers about the leafleting.

“Earlier on the same day, Zabrina came out and glared at me, daring me to say or do something. She was clearly trying to provoke an incident,” he adds.

“We followed them for about 30 minutes. I was quoting ‘OT 3’ and filming. It was just to warn shopkeepers, but John took it a stage further and got aggressive, snatching leaflets from them.”

 

[McGhee gets aggressive with Collins, snatching her leaflets]

Ten days later, Griffiths learned that Collins and another Scientologist, Michael O’Donnell, had obtained a court injunction against Griffiths and McGhee, and filed a lawsuit against them for harassment and assault.

The court injunction put a stop to Dublin’s monthly Chanology protests after 7 years, as local police broke up the next protest under threat of arrest.

“A Scientologist thug who had previously assaulted me, smashing my phone, came to my home and threw papers at me. They later described this as having served me professionally,” he says.

The two separate lawsuits — Griffiths against Collins for defamation, and Collins and O’Donnell against Griffiths and McGhee for harassment — were then combined in one case to be heard together.

“We allowed that to happen, which was a big mistake,” Griffiths says now.

“The defamation case came first. The Scientologists were showing videos of McGhee shouting. It had no relevance to me or the case. Then they showed the gay videos, which had the court laughing,” he says. “Crazy stuff was said in court, trying to get me rattled, and it just didn’t work.”

After three days of testimony, the harassment case was put on, and the Scientologists put on more videos, showing Griffiths and McGhee following and interfering with the leafleters.

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“The judge was sick of watching videos. They kept showing videos that had no relevance except that they showed John yelling at them.”

Collins testified that she had been physically assaulted by McGhee, and Griffiths says that was really the crux of the case. But when McGhee cross-examined her, he didn’t ask her if that was true.

“Instead, he used his time to go on a big rant on how awful Scientology is,” Griffiths says.

Griffiths didn’t speak during the second half of the trial, but he still felt that the legal team had done an adequate job.

Several weeks later, in April 2016, the court rendered its verdict: Griffiths had been defamed by Collins, but the court also believed that Collins and O’Donnell had been harassed.

Griffiths was awarded 5,000 euros for defamation, of the 50,000 he was asking for.

“The judge said I would have gotten more if I hadn’t revealed the contents of the email myself,” he says. But Griffiths believes the judge got that wrong — he had never published the email, only the initial description of it he heard from the teachers on May 3, 2013.

For the harassment case, Griffiths was ordered to pay 2,000 euros and McGhee 3,500.

So Griffiths, after subtracting what he was ordered to pay, was just 3,000 euros ahead.

“But I don’t know if the Scientologists will ever pay me what I’m owed. I’ve certainly spent more than that just on my legal fees,” he says.

Griffiths decided not to appeal the ruling, but he did go back into court to fight the injunction, which the court had decided to make permanent.

The injunction was so draconian, he says, it would have prevented him from protesting against Scientology in the future at all without risk of being taken to jail. (The same injunction pertained to McGhee, but he kept protesting anyway, telling friends that he didn’t care if he was locked up.)

Griffiths then testified in a hearing about the injunction. McGhee didn’t appear.

“I had no interest in getting the injunction lifted because it doesn’t stop me in any way, shape, or form from protesting,” McGhee tells us.

Under questioning, Griffiths said he regretted the way the protest on Dec. 20, 2014 had turned out, and that he personally had nothing against Scientology and Scientologists — and then he was cut off before he could explain what he meant by that.

As a result of the hearing, the court lifted the injunction against Griffiths.

McGhee is bitter about it, even though he didn’t show up for the hearing himself. “In order to save his own skin he also had to grovel and sold himself out by saying that he didn’t have a problem with Scientology or Scientologists,” McGhee says. “When I was on the stand two years ago I was completely honest and I called the Scientologists a scumbag cult and said what I thought, without boundaries.”

On Wednesday, the Scientologists had one last opportunity to raise an objection, but the court dismissed it.

Finally, Griffiths was free to speak about the case, and he sent us a statement that we wanted you to see…

After almost 3 years, I’ve succeeded in getting the Scientologists’ High Court injunction against me dissolved. The last hearing was this week, and the Scientologists aren’t going to appeal, so I’m now free to speak about the case. The Scientologists (Zabrina Collins and Michael O’Donnell) won their initial assault and battery case against John McGhee and myself in April 2016. I won my appeal and the Judge dissolved the Scientologists’ perpetual injunction against me two weeks ago. Judge Noonan ruled that “there is nothing from the evidence that indicates that there was any physical contact at any time between Mr. Griffiths and either of the plaintiffs.”

As part of the case, I said in the High Court that I don’t have an issue with Scientologists or Scientology, that it was not my intention to harass or intimidate anyone, and that the two Scientologist plaintiffs were due an apology for what went on that day in December 2014.

I’m aware that saying this in court has cost me a few friends, as some (former) friends now call me a turncoat, a narcissist, a traitorous piece of garbage, not good enough to kiss John McGhee’s shoes, and so on. I’m also aware from reading John’s Facebook comments that he will “definitely never apologise for what he did.” I can appreciate that John doesn’t see anything wrong with his behaviour, but personally speaking, I do regret how the encounter played out and that I didn’t do more to keep the peace.

I could only answer the questions put to me in court. The judge said that his only interest was in adjudicating whether or not I would pose a threat to the Scientologists if he removed their perpetual injunction, and he warned that his court was “not to be treated as a platform for the expression of views that were not relevant to the case.”

The Scientologists’ barrister’s last question to me before the judge put a stop to the cross-examination was: “The truth is, the purpose of your conduct is because you’re not trying to protest at all, you have an issue with Scientology, isn’t that your position?” I responded “In answer to that, I do not have an issue with Scientology, or Scientologists.” The judge cut me off before I could elaborate, and I definitely could have worded my answer better, but this is broadly in line with what I’ve said over the years. I’m opposed to the Scientology organisation’s fraud and abuses but I see Scientologists as victims deserving of sympathy and understanding.

As I said in court, my intention has never been to harass or intimidate anyone. I don’t want to hate or harm Scientologists (or anyone else), I only want to help them. My goal is to inform the general public, and if possible, to reach the existing membership in the hopes that they too will eventually come to see that they have been duped.

As Judge Noonan ruled in court, “I am satisfied having heard his evidence that Mr. Griffiths is a truthful witness and by and large a law abiding citizen. He candidly accepted that what occurred on 20th December, 2014, involving the plaintiffs was wrong, unlawful, should not have happened and he has, in his evidence, apologised for it. I must also have regard to the fact that Mr. McGhee was clearly the main protagonist in the event complained of.”

We have not written about this case until now because Griffiths couldn’t speak on the record. While it was going on, however, we were appalled at the way some former Scientologists cast aspersions on him and questioned his motives.

The truth is that Pete Griffiths has come through this experience while on very modest means.

“I cashed in my pension early to help pay my lawyers. I used what was left over to buy a 13-year-old car so I could leave town to move to a much cheaper social housing set-up in a remote area with no public transport,” he says.

But one former Scientologist spread rumors that Griffiths had bought an expensive car. It was a knowing lie.

When news about the most recent hearing was published in the Irish press, Griffiths was viciously attacked online by a former Scientologist, as well as by a more recent Scientology critic with no background in the church.

But let’s take an assessment of what happened. Griffiths sued, and won, against a Scientologist for defamation. He and McGhee were ordered to pay for harassment, but Griffiths managed to get the injunction against him lifted so that he can continue his Scientology activism. McGhee, meanwhile, has admitted that he doesn’t care about the injunction and will continue to protest in spite of it.

Pete Griffiths made a statement in court he admits could have been worded differently, but that he says generally reflects his approach – it’s Scientology’s abuses he takes issue with, and not the people in it.

As Scientology continues to crumble, we believe that’s going to increasingly become the correct view to have about the people coming out of it.

We are glad these court cases are finally, completely over. And we hope the people who attacked Pete Griffiths take a long look at what they’ve done.

 
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Chris Shelton on the “tech”

Says Chris: “This week, I take a look at Scientology as a subject/philosophy compared to the Church of Scientology. Some people, especially Independent Scientologists and academics, have asserted that the “tech” can be assessed separate from the organization and even from L. Ron Hubbard. In this video, I show why I disagree with this assessment and why this matters.”

 

 
——————–

Danny Masterson victim makes a public statement

While we wait for the Los Angeles District Attorney to make a decision on whether to charge Danny Masterson on the rape allegations of four different women, one of those victims decided to give a statement to the Daily Beast about Netflix ordering a new season of Masterson’s series, The Ranch.

 
——————–

Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,935 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 81 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,144 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 1,918 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,692 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,038 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,532 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,572 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,284 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 810 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,899 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,039 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,359 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,334 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 690 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 4,992 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,098 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,501 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,374 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 955 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,460 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,704 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,813 days.

——————–

3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on November 16, 2017 at 07:00

E-mail 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. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. 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

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | 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 | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | 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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