The following was submitted for publication in Skeptic magazine, but the magazine declined to publish because of space considerations. A much shorter response from Jeff Jacobsen which contains a pointer to this web page has been published in vol. 4, no. 2, July 1996, pp. 28-29.

Scientology vs. the Internet: An Update and Response to Leisa Goodman

By Jim Lippard

A great deal has occurred between the Church of Scientology and the Internet since the article on the subject was published in Skeptic in June 1995 (vol. 3, no. 3). Since that time, the Scientology litigation machine has been in full force, with raids and lawsuits against three more individuals and lawsuits against several others.

Scientology's Religious Technology Center (RTC) has raided the homes of three more individuals since the February 1995 raid against Dennis Erlich. These raids centered around the posting to the Internet of the "Fishman declaration," a set of documents entered into the case of RTC v. Fishman and Geertz which contained large excerpts from Scientology's formerly secret OT (Operating Thetan) materials, parts of which were described previously in Skeptic. After Arnie Lerma posted the court documents to the Internet in August, the RTC seized his computers, diskettes, and personal files. Similar raids occurred in a separate case in Colorado against FACTNet (Fight Against Coercive Tactics Network) founders Bob Penny and Lawrence Wollersheim after Lerma revealed that he was a director of FACTNet and covered by FACTNet's insurance. RTC v. Lerma resulted in a summary judgment against Lerma for copyright infringement of OT II and OT III, while RTC v. FACTNet is expected to go to trial this summer. Dennis Erlich's case, by contrast, has not even entered the discovery phase.

Although Scientology won the Lerma case, it was a Pyrrhic victory, as the judges in both RTC v. Lerma and RTC v. FACTNet have ruled that the OT materials posted to the Internet have lost any "trade secret" status they might have had, thus permitting "fair use" quotation. The Church had formerly tried to prevent even the briefest quotations from the documents, threatening several dozen individuals with lawsuits for posting a mere six lines from OT VII regarding communications with plants and animals (see the news update on Scientology in Skeptic vol. 3, no. 4). Three defendants in the RTC v. Lerma case--the Washington Post and two of its reporters--were cleared of any copyright infringement in a Post article which quoted some forty-six words from the OT materials. RTC was ordered to pay their court costs.

Scientology has also found itself chastised by the courts in these cases for exceeding the proper bounds of the writs of seizure and for failure to obey orders to return seized items to their owners. In both the Lerma and FACTNet cases, Scientology went well beyond searching for copyright infringement by examining files containing a wide variety of keywords having nothing to do with its copyrights. The search list used by the Church included the names of numerous Internet critics who have not infringed copyright, the names of prominent ex-Scientologists and their attorneys, and even the name of a deceased judge who had made rulings unfavorable to the Church. Included in the search list was one of the authors of the previous Skeptic article, Jeff Jacobsen, who was also subjected to an abusive deposition in RTC v. Lerma by Church attorney Kendrick Moxon. Most of the questions asked of Jacobsen had nothing to do with RTC v. Lerma, and Lerma's attorney at the deposition placed numerous objections on the record.

Meanwhile the Church suffered legal setbacks in two major cases in California. The first, an anti-SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) lawsuit filed by Wollersheim, was won against Scientology in California Superior Court. This lawsuit charged that Scientology has abused the legal system to harass Wollersheim and avoid paying him the more than $5 million presently owed to him from in earlier case in which the Church has exhausted all appeals. The second case is RTC v. Mayo, a suit against David Mayo, who for many years was one of the highest ranking members of the Church and L. Ron Hubbard's personal auditor. The appeals court dismissed the RTC's claims against Mayo and one of Mayo's counterclaims against the Church, but remanded Mayo's remaining claims back to the trial court and affirmed the trial court's award of $2.9 million in legal fees to Mayo. Between Wollersheim and Mayo, the Church owes over $8 million.

A case in the Netherlands similar to Lerma's was filed against several Internet providers and one individual who have had the "Fishman declaration" on over 100 web sites, accessible to anyone in the world with an Internet account and a web browser. Just days before the case was originally set for a hearing, the Church dropped the case because of its inability to provide the appropriate documentation to the Dutch court to prove that it owned the copyrights to the materials in question. The Dutch court system would not accept the masked copyright registration information which is used in the U.S. to copyright materials which are also claimed as trade secrets. The case was later re-filed when RTC was able to produce copyright registrations for OT II, OT III, and a magazine article which was on the Dutch web sites. Karin Spaink, the individual named in the lawsuit, removed the copies of these three documents from her web site when the Church finally produced legal proof, replacing them with her own summaries of the material. The judge ruled that no copyright infringement was then taking place, and ordered the Church of Scientology to pay the defendants' legal costs. This result --like many other previously--was trumpeted as a "victory" by Scientologist spokesman Andrew Milne on alt.religion.scientology, prompting critics to observe that Scientology has a strange habit of continually appealing its legal "victories." The Church has recently filed another lawsuit in Holland regarding the "Fishman declaration" materials which are still available on Dutch web sites.

Linda Woolard, the "Miss Blood" of the original Skeptic article, filed a small claims suit against Tom Klemesrud for his alleged assault and harassment of her. The lawsuit claimed Klemesrud had been stalking her, naming one date and time in Los Angeles when Klemesrud was attending his father's funeral in Iowa. Woolard, who claims no involvement with Scientology, was represented by attorney Don Wager, an associate of Scientology "attorney to the stars" Elliot Abelson. Woolard won $5,000 in the lawsuit, the maximum award in California small claims court, which was paid by Klemesrud's insurance company. Both parties in the suit continue to stick by their original stories.

Two new suits have been filed by Scientology in California, against Grady Ward and Keith Henson. The Church claims that Ward is "Scamizdat," the anonymous poster of numerous formerly secret Scientology documents to alt.religion.scientology. This lawsuit claims that Ward is "Scamizdat" because of Ward's repeated requests for secret Scientology materials and predictions that further "Scamizdats" would be posted, as well as a "Scamizdat" posting which contained a piece of a message header with Ward's email address in it. Judge Whyte (also the judge in RTC v. Netcom) granted a restraining order and injunction against Ward and any associates that they neither solicit nor publish Scientology's "NOTs" (new OT) materials. Ward maintains that he is not "Scamizdat" and possesses no Scientology materials, and has filed a $50,000,000 counterclaim against Scientology for its harassment against him. The counterclaim's list of harassment includes the unannounced visit Ward received at his home from Jeff Quiros of the San Francisco OSA (Scientology's Office of Special Affairs); theft by deception of a photograph of Ward, his wife, and children from his widowed mother in Tacoma by Scientology private investigator Eugene Ingram (posing as a college pal of Ward's named "Jack Hoff"); alleged libelous remarks about Ward made to his publisher, apparently by Ingram; the obtaining of Ward's long distance telephone records by someone claiming to be him, bypassing the password on the account by claiming to have had a stroke and having forgotten it; and allegedly defamatory remarks about Ward made on signs around the San Francisco Church of Scientology during a picket in which Ward participated. Ingram, it should be noted, recently lost his ability to legally engage in private investigation in the state of Arizona when his PI license was not renewed because of his still-outstanding warrant in the state of Florida for impersonating a police officer.

Keith Henson's case is based on his posting to a.r.s. of a letter he had previously delivered to Judge Whyte regarding the TRO against Ward. Henson asked whether the TRO forbade him from posting NOTs material which amounted to criminal activity by the Church of Scientology, citing and quoting in full NOTs 34, which purports to cure diseases through the process of auditing. This NOTs apparently violates of an FDA injunction against Scientology forbidding it to make medical claims for the process of auditing and the use of its E-meters. When Henson was told by Whyte's clerk that he was not a defendant in the case and not bound by the TRO, Henson posted the letter.

Yet another legal battle which continues is a lawsuit filed by Tax Analysts against the IRS to try to get the details of Scientology's IRS settlement made public. The settlement, which granted the Church tax-exempt status, has been kept under wraps by the IRS on the grounds that it contains "return information." So far, Tax Analysts has won at every step and the court has begun to order some of the documents made public.

The above actions have led to significant media coverage, including articles in Spy, Wired, American Lawyer, Internet World, New Scientist, Reason, Boardwatch and Gauntlet, and news coverage on the British TV series "The Net," the PBS series "The Internet," BBC Radio, National Public Radio, an MTV special on cults, and CNN, to name a few. Pickets have continued to occur periodically worldwide, and on March 9, 1996, Internet users from around the country flew to Clearwater, Florida, to picket Scientology's "Flag Land Base," the home of the Sea Org. Participants included Dennis Erlich (who was greeted at the airport with a restraining order forbidding him to come within 150 feet of any of seven Scientology buildings in Clearwater) and Arnie Lerma, as well as Jeff Jacobsen and other Internet critics.

Scientology PR spokeswoman Leisa Goodman's lengthy response in Skeptic (vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 18-19) makes little or no mention of most of the above information and fails to address most of the article to which it purports to respond. In her response, she mischaracterizes the nature of the debate on the a.r.s. newsgroup, engages in "guilt by association" reasoning, and defames Dennis Erlich and Arnie Lerma by referring to them as "thieves." She is no doubt following the dictates of Hubbard--"never defend, always attack."

Goodman's reply fails to mention the loss of "trade secret" status for the OT material in the courts, nor that RTC withdrew its claim of trade secret for OT III's stories of Xenu and the thetans cast into volcanoes after testimony in the case by former high-ranking Scientologist Robert Vaughn Young. Young pointed out that the OT III material had been widely circulated for decades before it was posted to the Internet, including in a screenplay by Hubbard titled "Revolt in the Stars." Goodman, Scientology's Media Relations Director, responded as follows to a question about OT III on MTV's 1995 special on cults:

KURT LODER:  I do understand there's like a galactic overlord, Xenu. Is there a 
whole staff of characters, or is that not true?

LEISA GOODMAN:  Oh, I...I don't think...I don't really know what you mean, what 
you're talking about.
Perhaps Goodman could use a refresher course in TR-L, the training routine for PR personnel in how to lie convincingly (a copy of which was seized from the Church of Scientology by the FBI in raids in the seventies which led to the criminal convictions of 11 top-ranking Scientologists, including L. Ron Hubbard's wife, Mary Sue).

According to Goodman, the a.r.s. newsgroup "is really a forum for a handful of individuals to engage in bigoted attacks upon the Church of Scientology and its parishioners" and that "Ninety-nine point nine percent of [a.r.s. postings] are no more criticism than it is criticism to abuse a black by calling him a 'nigger' or a Jew by labeling him a 'kike.'" Here Goodman follows the line taken by Scientologists in their flame-free discussion forums on America Online (where critics are forbidden to post anything critical of Scientology), that a.r.s. is populated by only a few critics. One AOL poster claimed there were only 28 people posting to a.r.s. Statistics collected from the newsgroup between July 1995 and April 1996 show that postings have been made from 9,143 different unique posting addresses, of which 163 have posted more than 100 separate articles. 12 pro-Scientology posters account for some 3,269 posted articles during that period, about 4% of the total. If Goodman's made-up statistic were correct, then her statement attributes the equivalent of racial slurs to almost all of the Scientologists' postings as well as to those of the critics. (Church spokesman and Freedom magazine staff writer Andrew Milne, a regular poster to a.r.s., gave a different fabricated statistic that "95% of what you will find on a.r.s is misinformation.")

In fact, postings to a.r.s. regularly include such things as the full text of affidavits, declarations, and decisions from Scientology-related court cases, news updates about ongoing litigation, detailed critiques of Scientology doctrines, contradictions in claims about Hubbard's biography, and questions asked of Scientologists on the newsgroup which remain unanswered and ignored. A sampling of highlights can be found in Rod Keller's "A.R.S. Week in Review," which summarizes each week's postings for those who cannot follow the enormous volume of traffic.

Goodman's description better characterizes much of the contribution to a.r.s. made by Scientologists. Andrew Milne, for example, regularly posts the same press releases again and again, including one attacking Larry Wollersheim which accuses him of being a drug abusing con man and draft evader. Ironically, in this piece Milne suggests that Wollersheim engaged in dirty tricks to win his major lawsuit against the Church, such as drowning the judge's collie, Duke. When a quote from Judge Swearinger regarding the dog's drowning was published in The American Lawyer (Horne 1992), Scientologists denied any involvement, and Milne had previously maintained that the dog had simply had a heart attack and then fallen into the pool. Apparently Milne feels that it is legitimate to change stories when convenient for an attack on a Scientology critic--he has never explained his contradictory accounts.

Scientologists have referred to a.r.s. critics as "arsholes," "criminals," and "copyright terrorists." A flyer distributed at several anti-Scientology pickets nationwide was headlined "These 'Demonstrators Support Copyright Criminals" and began with the sentence "The 'demonstrators' outside this Church support crime on the Internet." This is despite the fact that none of the litigation arising from the Internet battles have had anything to do with criminal law; it is all civil litigation.

The bigotry which Goodman attributes to critics is also better applied to L. Ron Hubbard, who wrote in his childhood diary of the Chinese that "they smell of all the baths they didn't take. The trouble with China is, there are too many chinks there" (quoted in Miller, p. 43). In Dianetics (Book 2, Ch. 8, para 9), Hubbard wrote, "The number of engrams in a Zulu would be astonishing. Moved out of his restimulative area and taught English he would escape the penalty of much of his reactive data; but in his native habitat the Zulu is only outside the bars of a madhouse because there are no madhouses provided by his tribe." And despite Goodman's claims of Scientology fighting apartheid, both Hubbard and the South African Church of Scientology, founded in 1957, openly supported apartheid and offered assistance to the South African government to assist in combatting the civil rights movement. Hubbard wrote admiring letters to Hendrik Verwoerd, the man who imprisoned Nelson Mandela, praising the system of grand apartheid. This has been documented at some length by critic Chris Owen in a series of articles posted to a.r.s, extensively quoting from the relevant documents. Scientologists have offered no response.

Critics have also pointed out Hubbard's numerous anti-Christian statements, including one statement in a taped lecture that "There was no Christ" (also see Corydon, p. 355). Scientologist Andrew Milne publicly denied the tape's existence, but an audio clip of the statement by Hubbard is available on the Internet, along with his remarks about Xenu, the transport of frozen thetans to Earth in space planes that looked exactly like DC-8's, etc. Similar statements have been produced from a variety of Hubbard's writings, which make it clear that according to Scientology, Christianity is based on a set of "implants" known as R6 --false memories placed in thetans during their transport to "Teegeeack" (Earth).

Scientology has demonstrated major hypocrisy regarding alleged "copyright terrorism" by engaging in the wholesale copying from the "Too Cool" web site. The "Too Cool" site gives out daily awards for cool web sites, and gave one to the Dianetics web site for its animated erupting volcano. When the "Too Cool" administrators learned of the connection between Dianetics and Scientology, they first withdrew the award, then reinstated it but added links to their site to web pages critical of Scientology. The Scientology pages bearing the "Too Cool" label were originally linked back to the "Too Cool" site, but once the critical links were in place there, they duplicated the original version of the "Too Cool" page on their own site, and linked to that instead, removing all links back to the real site. While the majority of critical web sites contain links to Scientology's web sites so that readers can see both sides of the story, Scientology steadfastly refuses to make any public acknowledgment of the critical web pages, or even of the existence of the alt.religion.scientology newsgroup.

Goodman falsely claims that the Church "took no action against [a.r.s.] until some of its regulars engaged in rampant, unlawful conduct by repeatedly posting to it copies of the Church's copyrighted, unpublished and confidential scriptures." As the original Skeptic article points out, Arnie Lerma was subjected to harassment for posting court documents about the impending criminal trial of high-ranking Scientologists (including its president, Heber Jentzsch) in Spain. The first article cancelled by the "cancelpoodle" was a Spanish court document regarding that trial which contained no quotations from Scientology documents. Many harassing actions have been taken against individuals who have never posted anything more than "fair use" quotations from Scientology materials.

Goodman alleges that the previous Skeptic article characterized Dennis Erlich and Arnie Lerma's "deliberate infringements of the Church's legal and constitutional rights as excusable, even commendable." The article made no characterization of Lerma's infringement at all, since that did not occur until two months after the article was published. Erlich's postings were quite different from Lerma's in that in most cases he was not the initial poster of the quotations, but merely responded to anonymous postings to add his own criticisms. While Judge Whyte has ruled in RTC v. Netcom that there is merit to Scientology's complaints and that it appears some of Erlich's postings exceeded "fair use," Erlich always used quotations as a starting point for additional criticism, whereas Lerma's postings contained only the "Fishman declaration" documents themselves.

Goodman complains that "Lippard and Jacobsen criticize Scientologists for making known factual information about Dennis Erlich, as if Church members had no right to tell the truth about a man who regularly spews offensive, degraded and false messages about senior Church executives onto the Internet." What we criticize is the making of false and ad hominem remarks about individuals rather than responding to the charges made against Scientology and its leaders--a reaction which suggests that the charges are true. Of our description of the raid on Erlich's home, Goodman writes that it is "disingenuous in the extreme" because it does not state that the raid was conducted by law enforcement officers. What Goodman fails to note is that of the approximately 12 people present, three were law enforcement officers. Two were off-duty police officers in the employ of Scientology. The other was an on-duty Glendale Police Officer who was present for fewer than half of the 7.5 hours of the raid. The rest were Scientologists. No federal marshal was present, despite the legal requirement for ex parte civil seizures that a federal officer be on hand. (Judge Whyte had written on the order that the Glendale officer was acceptable, however.) No inventory of seized items was given to Erlich at the conclusion of the raid.

Goodman claims that Arnie Lerma is on the "Board of Policy of the Liberty Lobby," while failing to note that the "Board of Policy" includes all subscribers to Spotlight who contribute $15 to have a voice. Lerma says that he resigned after becoming better informed about the organization. At any rate, if such ties are relevant, Goodman should explain why Scientology "patron" (contributor of $40,000) Tom Marcellus was for 14 years the director of the Institute for Historical Review, the leading Holocaust revisionist organization, yet remains in good standing with the Church.

Finally, Goodman claims that our quotations of Hubbard were taken "out of context." The documentation of Scientology's "fair game" policies has been made at length in numerous court cases. The FBI raids of the seventies produced documents showing that the Church of Scientology had forged bomb threats against itself in the name of writer Paulette Cooper (author of The Scandal of Scientology) which led to a criminal case against her. A man who befriended her and she took into her confidences during this time was actually a Scientologist who made daily reports of her state of mind to the Church. She only learned of this betrayal and was fully cleared of the bomb threats after the FBI raids, years later. The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) was also the subject of a Scientology dirty tricks campaign when forged letters were sent out on CIA stationery by Scientologists trying to depict CSICOP as a front group for government intelligence agencies (Skeptical Inquirer, Spring 1980, pp. 8-10). I challenge Goodman to put the quotations from our article in context, show that the context makes any difference to their meaning, and demonstrate that her interpretation is compatible with the documented behavior of the Church of Scientology.


Corydon, Bent (1992) L. Ron Hubbard, Messiah or Madman? Fort Lee, N.J.: Barricade Books.
Horne, William W. (1992) "The Two Faces of Scientology," The American Lawyer (July/August), pp. 74ff.
Miller, Russell (1987) Bare-Faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard. N.Y.: Henry Holt and Company.

Further online information:

Ron Newman's Scientology vs. the Internet pages:

A.R.S. Week in Review:

Jim Lippard's Skeptical Resources page: 24 April 1996

[Added 16 January 2008 by jjl: Former Scientologist Dan Garvin gives an update on the -AB- matter regarding the Tom Klemesrud/"Miss Blood" incident in "What really happened at Scientology's secret INCOMM facility." -AB- was a night computer operator at INCOMM and a Caltech alum named Tom Rummelhart, who thought he was helping Scientology by taking a document from a Scientology computer belonging to Linda Hamel and posting it to alt.religion.scientology through the Penet remailer, as the document contradicted Klemesrud's account of what happened.

Garvin's account shows some of the devastating effect Internet criticism had on Scientology during that time.]

[Added 14 August 2011 by jjl: Another account of INCOMM internals from an ex-INCOMM member, Chuck Beatty, is here:]