SPOTLIGHT March 16, 1999 -13
VICTORY FOR TRUTH
When this populist newspaper first started asking questions about a secret deal between the IRS and a cult known as the Church of Scientology, we knew we were in for the usual charges of "bigotry" and "extremism." What we didn't expect was the wholehearted support and agreement of one of the bastions of the mainstream media, the Wall Street Journal.
A synoptic recap is in order. The IRS ruled that money collected by Scientology from its adherents, such as fees for "auditing" to "cleanse" them of the memories of 75 million-year-old "thetans" was not tax-deductible. That ruling was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court decades ago.
Scientology retaliated with thousands of lawsuits against the agency. Individual members even -according to the IRS- mounted clandestine "intelligence" raids against the agency, and a forceful campaign against the IRS was directed, leading patriots to assume that the "church" actually opposed the income tax in principle, not just because it couldn't get a tax exemption for its business activities.
Then, suddenly, on October 1, 1993, the IRS granted tax-exempt status to Scientology and over 100 of its front groups. In return, it received a one-time $12.5 million settlement and a promise that the cult would end its lawsuits. The IRS then announced it was looking for who leaked the story of the secret pact. Obviously, you weren't supposed to find out about it.
As Vince Ryan pointed out (March 24, 1997) in his "Liberty Lobby Reports" column: "We've scooped the media for the umpteenth time, this time with the story of the mysterious tax exemption the IRS gave the Church of Scientology.
On March 9, 1997, in a sensational front page story, the New York Times focused on the strange deal.
Now comes the powerful and respected WSJ with a lead editorial (Feb. 24, 1998) titled "The Secrets of the Universe," to detail the key points about the relationship forged by the dynamic duo of Scientology and government.
The WSJ editorial (reprinted here by permission) mentioned the strange death of a young female member of Scientology in Clearwater, Florida -a death currently being closely investigated by authorities. It also mentions the strange death of a Scientology member in Germany who had given all his money to the cult prior to what could have been a suicide -but might not have been.
In a concluding paragraph, the WSJ says, in part:
"How about an auditing session? Leading off with this question: Is there anyone at the IRS who seriously thinks that the unbelievable sums of money Scientology spends on lawsuits meets the agency's requirement that a charity spend funds only on charitable proposes?"
' The editorial in the WSJ isn't a victory for us, it's a
VICTORY FOR TRUTH.
22- SPOTLIGHT March 23, 1998
Woes continue to mount for a controversial church.
EXCLUSIVE TO THE SPOTLIGHT BY JAMES P.TUCKER JR.
The Church of Scientology is fighting for its life. Not only are law enforcement agencies around the world investigating suspicious deaths of church members, but the mainstream media has been probing Scientology's inner workings.
Last month, George, the "in" magazine published by John F. Kennedy Jr., charged that in return for President Clinton using his clout to pressure the German government to curtail its campaign against Scientology, actor John Travolta (a Scientologist) agreed to portray Clinton in a friendly way in the new film Primary Colors, which is thinly disguised account of Clinton's "sexcapades" during the 1992 presidential campaign.
Although the New York Post erroneously reported that Sen. Lauch Faircloth (R-N.C.) had formally called for an inquiry into Clinton's relationship with Travolta and Scientology, there is growing interest on Capitol Hill regarding Scientology's "sweet deal" with the IRS that resulted in a favorable tax decision worth billions to the church.
Meanwhile, a federal judge is considering whether to force the IRS to disclose the secret deal with Scientology, following a lawsuit brought by William Lehrfeld of Washington. Lehrfeld and Tax Analysts, which filed the suit, declined comment.
Although the IRS proclaimed the cult a "church," in spite of it not recognizing divine leadership, Germany was able to distinguish between thugs and theology.
Now the mainstream press is also inquiring about the secret deal between the cult and the IRS. Questionable deaths, problems in Europe and the tax deal have created what is charitably termed a public relations problem.
Scientology recruiting and funding have plunged, according to Arnie Lerma, a former member who has a team monitoring the cult on the Internet. "They're in deep trouble," Lerma said. "They are hurting for people. There is no income for the 'churches,' which are no more than front groups."
Lerma is making systematic reports on the cult's inside trading involving huge corporations to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The IRS deal identifying Scientology's global financial empire as a "church" cost the government more than $1 billion in unpaid taxes alone, Lerma said.
The SPOTLIGHT exclusively reported the secret deal between ,the IRS and Scientology on November 1, 1993. After years of fighting, the IRS secretly proclaimed the cult a "church" -providing a multi-billion dollar windfall for the Scientologists.
The IRS commissioner at the time, Fred Goldberg, a law partner (while in the private sector) of New York "super-lawyer" Kenneth Bialkin, longtime national chairman of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of B'nai B'rith, was responsible for setting up the deal. It appears the quid pro quo was that in return for the IRS deal, crafted by the ADL-linked commissioner, Scientology's higher-ups would direct several cult members -who were employed by the California-based Institute for Historical Review (IHR)- to participate in an ADL sponsored scheme to eviscerate the IHR from within.
Once the ADL's goal was achieved and the IHR was successfully victimized, however, the ADL seems to have pulled the plug on Scientology. Now the cult is being repeatedly exposed by major newspapers such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
A knowledgeable source advised The SPOTLIGHT that the New York Post, which has dubbed the Clinton-Travola affair "sect-gate" actually seems to be promoting an anti-Scientology agenda. This is interesting inasmuch as the New York Post has long been close to the ADL and invariably promotes the ADL's agenda as "news."
Still, even while limping from the pain of belated public scrutiny, Scientology remains a multi-billion-dollar global enterprise. It continues to engage in a worldwide propaganda campaign to counter bad publicity.
As a result, the "Freedom for Religions in Germany" group surfaced, charging Germany's Enquete [Inquiry] Commission on Religious Sects with "intolerance" at a Washington press conference on February 25.
The commission's sin was its conclusion that Scientology's worldwide business empire is not a religion. That's the same position held by the IRS for years before its secret deal.
The cult roped a Baptist minister from California, Rev. Alfreddie Johnson, into denouncing Germany for its "intolerance" of Scientology..
"The Enquete Commission intends to establish a permanent, government-funded witch hunt that has absolute power to blacklist and punish any citizen who dares to hold or share religious beliefs not approved by the state," Johnson fumed.
Khaled Saffuri, former deputy executive director of the American Muslim Council, tried to persuade the press that Germany's disagreement with the IRS over the definition of Scientology is a threat to all religions.
6- SPOTLIGHT June 1, 1998
Here's the inside story on the recent decision by Liberty Lobby to reorganize
under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy laws.
On May 13, 1998; Liberty Lobby, the publisher of The SPOTLIGHT, filed a petition in Washington, D.C. for protection under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy statutes.
SPOTLIGHT readers can rest assured, however, all operations of Liberty Lobby will continue, including regular publication of The SPOTLIGHT. The circumstances that led up to the bankruptcy are quite unusual indeed.
The bankruptcy filing was necessitated by unlawful efforts to seize control of Liberty lobby and liquidate it in an attempt to collect a large judgment rendered by a state judge in California even before the appeal can be heard.
A special report in the current edition of Liberty Letter, the newsletter for the members of the Board of Policy of Liberty Lobby, summarized the situation as follows:
"It is a conspiracy. Take a close look and you'll find not only the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of B'nai B'rith and the Mossad, but the CIA and the Church of Scientology: In a bizarre tactical covert alliance these forces have banded together in a conspiracy to destroy Liberty Lobby."
In a nutshell, here's what happened: Manipulating a disloyal attorney and several disloyal employees of the now-essentially defunct Institute for Historical Review (IHR) based in Costa Mesa, California, this covert alliance orchestrated a lawsuit against Liberty lobby and its founder, Willis A. Carto, after seizing control of the IHR.
After that case came to trial, a superior court judge in California -Runston G. "Tony" Maino entered judgment against Liberty Lobby and Carto on November 24, 1996. The initial judgment totaled some $9 million, but the interest has continued to toll and the judgment now stands at some $14 million.
The judgment lay dormant for over e year, while Liberty Lobby filed for an appeal which still remains to be heard. However, those behind the lawsuit pressed forward and began moving to collect on the judgment. An attorney named Bryan D. Sampson materialized and took over the effort.
On March 27, Maino issued an order giving a receiver selected by Sampson, Thomas Lennon, the authority to seize mail addressed to "Liberty Lobby" and "Willis Carto" and to liquidate Liberty Lobby, thus ending the publication of The SPOTLIGHT
Incredibly, Maino's order was secretly issued without the presence of Liberty Lobby's California attorney, J. Brian Urtnowski, even though the order falsely stated that Urtnowski was in attendance. The appointment of Lennon, in itself was controversial, inasmuch as Lennon's business practices have been questioned in other cases. That Maino appointed Lennon to destroy Liberty Lobby fit the pattern.
Following up on Maino's order, the receiver, Lennon, wrote a letter on April 6 addressed to "Postmaster, Washington, D.C. 20003" and ordered the Post Office to seize the mail.
To support his position, he enclosed Maino's secret order and demanded the mail be sent to him so he could open it and take the money. This was an attempt to hoodwink the Postal Service since Lennon had no authority to act in Washington, D.C. However, based upon similar behavior by Lennon in other cases, this abuse of process was par for the course.
By happenstance, on April 10, Maino had scheduled a hearing do a related matter, and Urtnowski and his colleague, civil rights attorney Joe Izen, demanded Maino explain his actions. Realizing his blunder, Maino ordered Lennon to immediately return all of the mail unopened.
However, the Postal Service had forwarded all mail which arrived in Washington on April 9 and April 10 to Lennon in California. This mail was released to Liberty Lobby's attorney.
According to Liberty Lobby counsel Mark Lane, "There were many problems here, not the least of which was the attempt by government agents to shut down a newspaper. This is directly prohibited by the First Amendment. In addition, Lennon, in order to unlawfully seize the mail, sent a copy of Maino's order to the Post Office. "Lennon knew, or should have known, that the order falsely stated that Liberty Lobby had been represented when the order was issued," he added "In addition Lennon should have known that he had no right to seize mail in Washington, D.C. based upon an order from a local judge in California, without a hearing before a court in Washington, D.C.
Yet, after all of this, Maino did it again. On April 29, again reversing himself, Maino issued an order giving Lennon the authority to grab Liberty Lobby's mail and, once again, Lennon sent a copy of Maino's order to the D.C. Postmaster.
(See CHAPTER, Page 20)
(Continued From Page 6)
Postal employees were clearly battled by the ridiculous antics of Maino and Lennon but felt pressured because of the fact that there had been an order by a judge, despite the obvious problems with the order, and again began seizing the mail and forwarding it to Lennon.
Maino announced he would rule on May 19 as to whether Lennon would then permitted to open the mail and seize its contents. In any case, there was no question, based upon Main's s bias, that he would permit the mail to be stolen by the marauders.
Liberty Lobby's counsel, Mark Lane, filed for a temporary restraining order in federal court in Washington. He determined based on clear legal precedents:
1) that an order from a state court in California had no validity in Washington (unless ratified by a Washington, D.C. courts
2) that, in the absence of that ratification, only unless the Postal Service believes that a crime is being committed, can mail be withheld from a recipient; and
3) that, in any event, even under those circumstances mail addressed to a newspaper or its publisher cannot be withheld. The ADL-sponsored attorney, Bryan Sampson, came all the way to Washington, D.C. to argue against Lane's motion. And although Liberty Lobby presumed the Post Office was essentially disinterested, Postal attorneys surprisingly appeared and argued against the motion, aligned with the ADL-backed conspirators.
Yes, obviously, "someone" had gotten to the higher-ups at the Post Office. This is ironic, since the honest, low-level postal employees were obviously reluctant to seize the mail inasmuch as that is the opposite of what they are employed to do -that is, deliver the mail.
On May 11 a federal judge declined to grant a temporary restraining order but gave counsel 10 days to respond to the Post Office motion to dismiss the application for a permanent injunction.
While Sampson was in Washington, Liberty Lobby learned quite a bit about him and with whom he is in contact. Sampson isn't "just another lawyer." His connections are with persons engaged in long-term efforts to undermine Liberty Lobby.
By this time it was clear to Liberty Lobby that there were few options left. Filing for relief under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy statutes was the only way to stave off the efforts of the conspirators who were bragging how they were going to directly walk into Liberty Lobby and "take over" and destroy the populist Institution and loot its assets.
Bankruptcy is only a temporary measure but it could cost as much as $300,000 in fees and other expenses; this above and beyond liberty Lobby's normal operating costs.
Liberty Lobby Board of Policy Chairman Vince Ryan emphasizes the need for united support for liberty Lobby from all patriots at this time. "If the enemies of freedom are able to bring down Liberty Lobby, rest assured they will quickly begin moving on all other independent voices in the patriot movement in America."
SPOTLIGHT June 1. 1998 -7
Arnie Lerma, a former Scientologist was the first hour guest of Tom Valentine on
Radio Free America (RFA) on Sunday, May 17. Lerma is now battling the cult via
the Internet in an effort to show they are a "scam."
Lerma told his personal story and added other facts from court records to make his case. He said he is trying to prevent other people from being caught up in the appeal and false promises so they don't lose everything to the organization that is bent on utter control over its members. He gave his telephone number as: (703) 241-1498.
In the second hour, Willis Carto, founder of Liberty Lobby and The SPOTLIGHT, was the guest. Carto explained the legal manipulations involving the takeover of the Institute of Historical Review that also affected Liberty Lobby. Pointing out that in the courts there is a thing known as the "Liberty Lobby factor" wherein rule of law does not always apply because of the power of the enemies list. Carto explained why Liberty Lobby had filed for Chapter 11 protection under the federal bankruptcy laws.
RFA is now carried on two short-wave signals: MUM on 5.745 mhz and WGTG over 5.085 mhz. Internet users can hear Radio Free America live every Sunday night by purchasing Real Audio software and then clicking in to either one of two web sites: orbit7.com or the WHRI site at www.whr.org, both provide the show for the Internet. Telephone contact for Orbit 7 network is 1-888-4 ORBIT 7; for WHRI in South Bend, Indiana, it's (219) 291-8200.
For audio tapes of RFA programs call 1-888-31-RADIO to order with a credit card. Both hours are $15, which includes shipping and handling. A 4-tape, 8-hour presentation on The History of Money in the U.S. with Stephen Zarlenga is $24 s&h included.
2- SPOTLIGHT June 16, 1998
(A digest of significant news items that failed to appear in most of the
ANOTHER VICTIM. Philip C. Gale at 19 had had a life of outstanding accomplishment. He entered MIT at 15 and at 19, when he killed himself, knew 20 computer languages fluently and was also outstanding in every field he entered. His mother, Marie, was a well-known Scientology activist and had raised her son inside the "church." Philip never took to Scientology in spite of his mother's dedication. Caught between two worlds and undergoing great stress, Philip apparently saw no other way to resolve the conflict. The Boston Herald reported that Scientologists are taught that when they leave the church they will kill themselves or have a serious accident.
24-SPOTLIGHT July 6, 1998
Will "reinvention" of the IRS include a probe of the Scientology tax
By ROBERT S. MINTON
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is undergoing major changes, according to Vice President Al Gore's new plan for the agency, "Reinventing Service at the IRS."
After a 10-month IRS study and the Senate Finance Committee hearings last fall that revealed IRS abuses of taxpayers' rights, the Clinton administration seems committed to effect change in the agency Charles Rossotti is already in place as the agency's new commissioner, and new changes are on the way to improve customer service.
But if this commitment to change the IRS is genuine, the agency should consider remedying what may be one of its largest blunders ever: its secret 1993 tax settlement with Scientology in which the IRS granted Scientology tax-exempt status and cut its estimated billion-dollar tax debt to about 1 percent of that amount. Not only was this deal a reversal of the IRS's 25-year policy regarding the cult's improper, illegal tax procedures, but it also cost taxpayers almost $1 billion in unpaid taxes and gave Scientology private/religious education tax exemptions not given to any religion.
This 1993 tax deal was secret until recently exposed by the Wall Street Journal and New York Times (SPOTLIGHT, July 8, 1996 and others) and has since captured the interest of tens of millions of U.S. taxpayers, major worldwide corporations with U.S. tax liabilities, and diverse special interest groups with concerns ranging from taxation to religion to separation of church and state.
After repeatedly and justifiably denying Scientology's tax-exempt status, the IRS suddenly reversed its position in 1993 with the secret settlement which granted Scientology religious status and canceled most of the organization's huge tax debt. The mysterious and shocking reversal for the U.S. tax agency came after 25 years of steadfastly refusing to provide Scientology with the tax exemption given to normal bona fide churches.
Many believe that the scope of what was given away by the IRS to the multi-billion dollar Scientology organization, in financial benefit and other special considerations, is far beyond anything that has been given to any other religious group, corporation, or normal taxpayer.
As outrageously unfair as this secret deal appears, the means by which Scientology obtained it may be even worse -from filing 2,200 lawsuits against the IRS, to sending private investigators to pry into the personal lives of IRS employees, to hiring an IRS-insider, to filing an application experts say is riddled with fraud.
An IRS staff member who claims to have worked on the case called the secret deal a sell-out by higher management. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the individual said that agents working on the case had endured frightening calls to their homes and disappearing pets, and that Scientology should have never 'been given what was given.
Scientology has a history that attests to such behavior. In 1979, nine top leaders of Scientology pled guilty to criminal charges for their involvement in the infiltration of over 100 U.S. government agencies. A federal prosecutor in the case wrote, "The crime committed by these defendants is of a breadth and scope previously unheard of. No building, office, desk, or file was safe from their snooping and prying. No individual or organization was free from their despicable conspiratorial minds. The tools of their trade were miniature transmitters, lock picks, secret codes, forged credentials and any other device they found necessary to carry out their conspiratorial schemes."
Scientology's background makes the IRS's radical and unexpected reversal of its position on Scientology's tax status even more baffling. Lawrence B. Gibbs, IRS commissioner from 1986 to 1989, calls the settlement "a very surprising 'decision." He said, "When you have as much litigation over as much time, with the general uniformity of results that the service had with Scientology, it is surprising to have the ultimate decision be favorable. It was even more surprising that the service made the decision without full disclosure, in light of the prior background."
Did Scientology bludgeon the IRS into complying with its will at a huge cost to all other taxpayers? Who was involved? Clinton recently showed complicity with Scientology by promising actor John Travolta to assist his cult's situation in Germany possibly in exchange for a more positive portrayal in the film Primary Colors. Given these events, one must now also wonder if the Clinton administration's accommodations to Scientology could date back to 1993 when Scientology received the huge sweetheart IRS tax deal.
Especially in light of the sweeping IRS changes Clinton and Gore have promised, the new IRS commissioner needs to initiate a review of this seemingly outrageous secret settlement as soon as possible. Justice demands it. Public confidence in fairness needs to be restored. Re-evaluating Scientology's questionable deal for wrongdoing and/or fraud will go a long way toward proving the reinvention of the IRS is not just a publicity stunt.
WHAT TO DO
What you can do about this outrageous secret IRS deal with Scientology: Forward this editorial alert to all individuals and organizations concerned with issues related to taxes, religious education, and separation of church and state. All have an interest in seeing that this secret IRS deal is reviewed. Parents paying for their children's private religious education may then be able to deduct its full cost from their taxes. Write the new IRS commissioner, Charles 0. Rossotti (who was not involved in the secret deal), and ask him to open an investigation into the secret agreement, the process of its approval, and the alleged fraud in Scientology's original application. Tell him you believe this special Scientology secret deal gives grossly unfair and inappropriate tax considerations to one church over another and appears to pierce the separation of church and state. Write the commissioner at: Charles O. Rossotti commissioner, Internal Revenue Service, Department of the Treasury, 500 N Capitol St, NW, 1st Floor, Washington, D.C. 20221. Learn more about the capitulation of the IRS to Scientology's alleged coercion.
For details on the secret deal and its background, see give-away.htm. For more information on Clinton's Cultgate affair with Primary Colors, see cultgate_head-lines.html. For the text of the secret settlement deal, see: agreemnt.html. For the Wall Street Journal article that revealed the secret deal, see: wj301297.htm1 For the New York Times article, see: ny311297.html.
This editorial opinion was provided by FACTNet, Inc., Robert S. Minton, director. FACTNet is a nonprofit Internet library dedicated to protecting freedom of mind by reducing harms caused by cults and mind control. FACTNet's web page is located at www.factnet.org. FACTNet, Inc., P0, Box 3135, Boulder, CO 80307-3135.
July 23, 1998
Dear Ms. Janette:
Since Fred Blahut knows very well that bylines are not added to articles in The SPOTLIGHT without permission, and Mr. Minton's byline was not on the subject article, we cannot explain how the error occurred.
Fred, who is supposed to know these things, also tells me that he has never heard of Mr. Minton!
We are running a correction in this issue which will be on the press tonight. I'll tell him to send you one,
W. A. Carto Treasurer
Fight Against Coercive Tactics Network, Inc.
A global nonprofit organization protecting freedom of mind by reducing harms caused by cults & mind control
PO Box 3135, Boulder, CO 80307-3135 email: email@example.com web site: www.factnet.org
July 14, 1998
Fred Blahut Spotlight
300 Independence Ave, SE Washington, DC
20003 Dear Mr. Blahut,
I am writing in response to "What's Scientology-IRS `Mystery'?" in Spotlight's July 6, 1998 issue. The article is a reprint of an editorial written by Lawrence Wollersheim, President and Director of FACTNet, Inc.
Our concern is not that the editorial was reprinted, or even that it was reprinted without notifying FACTNet. In fact, all editorials that FACTNet catalogs on our Internet library at www.factnet.org include the statement, "Re-distribution and proper re-posting of this document are appreciated." What concerns us is the misleading information Spotlight added to the editorial without contacting FACTNet, the most flagrant of which is Spotlight's attributing the article to Robert S. Minton. Although a FACTNet director, Mr. Minton did not write or contribute in any way to this editorial, and does not write editorials for posting on the FACTNet web site.
In our telephone conversation today, you said that if Spotlight does not know the author's name, it usually uses "the name of the person identified as responsible for the group." However, Mr. Minton is only one of three directors responsible for FACTNet. And in our list of board directors on the web site (from which the editorial was taken), he is listed neither first, nor as FACTNet's president. And yet, not only did spotlight print "BY ROBERT S. MINTON" at the top of the article, but also added, "Robert S. Minton, director" to our information box at the end. FACTNet clearly advertises contact addresses - postal and email -- on the web page. If including an author was so vital, why did Spotlight not attempt to contact FACTNet for that information, especially since the information involves a legal issue of authorship?
FACTNet was alerted to Spotlight's printing of this article when top Scientology officials presented it to Robert Minton, possibly in an effort to cause divisiveness between Mr. Minton and FACTNet. It is possible that a Scientology operative is secretly at work within your organization; such activity has historical precedent on the part of Scientology.
Or perhaps, since Mr. Minton has gained wide publicity recently for his opposition to Scientology (on Dateline and in numerous newspapers), his name was used as an attempt to gain credibility or notoriety for Spotlight. (Note that Spotlight added a reference to itself in the body of the article, appearing to be part of the original).
Unfortunately, providing inaccurate information compromises not only Spotlight's credibility, but also its integrity. Fabricating information to fill in the blanks is not acceptable journalism. And your declining to look into the matter, as you did today, is simply a baffling response for a journalist. I would ask you to reconsider.
I would also request that you retract and correct the attribution for this article in a timely manner in an upcoming issue of Spotlight,. and that you send FACTNet a copy of the issue, so that our records may reflect the correction.
CC: Willis Carto
Board of Directors Lawrence Wollersheim Denver, Colorado
Robert S. Minton Boston, Massachusettes
Stacy Young Vashon, Washington
Board of Advisors
Margaret Singer, Ph.D. Emeritus Professor, Psychology Univ. of California, Berkeley
Edward A. Lottick, M.D. Kingston, Pennsylvania
Health Industry Advisor
Patricia Ryan, M.P.A. Sacramento, California
Van Nuys, California
Eugene H. Methvin
Senior Editor, Reader's Digest Washington, D.C.
Associate Editor, JAMA
Illinois Interfaith Advisor
Kent Burtner, M.Div.
Ford Greene, Esq.
San Anselmo, California
14- SPOTLIGHT July 13, 1998
Few Americans are aware of it, but one of the most powerful behind-the-scenes
pressure groups influencing the Clinton administration today is the Church of
Scientology Under the Clinton regime, the Internal Revenue Service granted a
highly controversial tax break to Scientology, first exposed by The SPOTLIGHT
and now widely written about in -among other places- the New York Times and the
Wall Street Journal.
In addition, it has been alleged that actor John Travolta, a prominent member of the Church of Scientology, agreed to soften his portrayal of the president in the film Primary Colors, in return for President Clinton using his clout to pressure the German government to cease and desist in its legal actions against Scientology.
Despite all this, very little is known about the inner workings of Scientology, except from what has been revealed by former devoted Scientologists who have gone public Among the former Scientologists now speaking out against the group is Arnaldo Lerma who was the guest on the May 17 broadcast of The SPOTLIGHT's weekly call-in talk forum, Radio Free America with host Tom Valentine. On many previous occasions Valentine featured interviews with representatives of organizations affiliated with the Church of Scientology, belying current claims by Scientology that The SPOTLIGHT is "bigoted" and "biased" against the group for "religious reasons."
In fact, although "The SPOTLIGHT and its publisher, Liberty Lobby, had been friendly to various projects of Scientology, such as its (earlier) fight against the IRS and dangerous drugs, agents of the Church of Scientology played a key part in launching a conspiracy that led to the ongoing lawsuit against Liberty Lobby that has forced the populist Institution to file for protection under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy statutes. Since that conspiracy was first unveiled on October 1, 1993 -on the very day the IRS gave Scientology its lucrative tax break- The SPOTLIGHT has been investigating what critics of the Church of Scientology, such as Lerma, have to say.
What follows is an abbreviated transcript of the interview. Questions by Valentine and callers appear in boldface. Lerma's responses are in regular text.
Would you call Scientology a church or a cult?
I would call it something that deceives the public.
You've been taking your fight against Scientology on the Internet. The leaders of the Church of Scientology are a dangerous bunch of people to challenge, the way you have challenged them.
Well, they use a technique similar to the IRS. They depend on intimidation and fear to keep most people silent.
And you're not going to be intimidated?
Well, they haven't succeeded yet, and they spent $1.7 million in direct costs and litigation in trying to get me and I've managed to survive thus far.
There was a time when you were quite caught up with the philosophy of L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, and you probably felt that you were going to improve yourself tremendously.
I was going to save the world. I thought Scientology had the secrets to the universe. I thought Hubbard was a Navy war hero. I thought he cured himself of being blinded and crippled from wounds he received during World War II.
Is that the story that the Church of Scientology tells about its founder?
Correct. They've reworded that slightly and softened it up because too many people know the truth now. But not enough. And I won't stop until everyone does.
How long ago was it that you were caught up in all this?
I got sucked into Scientology when I was a teenager. I was first exposed to it perhaps when I was 15, fought it off for a year or so and then got into it when I was 16 years old. I'm now 47.
Did you ever meet L. Ron Hubbard? I didn't actually meet him, no.
But you worked your way up inside the Church of Scientology, did you not?
I got up to the level where you're exposed to the story of Xenu and the space aliens. I ended up in Scientology's Sea organization as a financial manager running the organization that prints and distributes all of the books and printed materials.
Well, that's how they make their money.
They make a considerable amount of money selling books. The book pricing, I think, is five or seven times the cost.
And that's not their big income. That's one of their big incomes, I would assume.
Right. That's actually a side line, compared with being able to offer the public the "secrets of the universe."
So then, that's when you pay them to go through what Scientology refers to as "auditing"?
Is that their big money maker?
I believe so.
The Wall Street Journal kind of hinted at that, didn't they, when they reported on the secret deal between the IRS and Scientology (and that was first exposed in detail nationally by The SPOTLIGHT)?
When did you finally begin to see problems with Scientology and conclude that it wasn't right for you?
It took occasional tough situations to get it through my skull that perhaps I had been deceived. It built up over time. There was a final "last straw" and then I think I stayed in just long enough to accumulate the wherewithal to get together a few dollars in order to escape.
Escape? Now that's an interesting word. You can't just up and walk out of Scientology?
That doesn't happen. You don't just say you're going to leave, though a few people have managed to do that. But when you read their stories, its quite a thing trying to just say you're going to leave and then go through all of the hoops they try to make you jump through and the pressure they're going to bring to bear.
What year was it that you decided to try to escape?
It was 1977.
That was a long time ago, but you didn't start speaking out publicly against Scientology for some time.
Yes, it was. The plan of this particular fraud includes provisions that will keep the "average Joe" silent for a considerable length of time before he might decide to speak out. In 1977 I was very grateful to have escaped with my mind intact. I actually would have been 27 at the time, and I made one phone call to my mom and I just said, "Mom, life doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I think I'll come home and sleep on the couch for awhile, and think about things." And then shortly thereafter there was a criminal trial: U.S. vs Mary Sue Hubbard -that's Hubbard's wife- and she and a half dozen or so other fellows actually ended up doing jail time. Some of those guys I knew when I was in, so I wasn't in any mood to come forward and say anything about them.
When did you start exposing Scientology as a scam?
In 1994. In 1994 1 was on America On-Line and it was, I think, that spring of '94 that America on Line opened up themselves and connected to the outside world. You could get onto the Internet. And when I got onto the Internet, I ended up meeting folks. I contacted a fellow named Joe Harrington who lives up in Portland, Maine. I hadn't talked to Joe in 25 years up to that time. We started talking again and it was terrific. We picked up right where the conversation had left off 25 years before. And he had been in Scientology when I was in.
And that's how you started connecting with other former Scientologists who were also disillusioned with Scientology and who wanted to make their experiences known to the public?
Joe and I exchanged personal stories of the things that had happened to us, and realized that a lot of the things that happened didn't just happen to me; they also happened to him. We then started comparing notes with other folks who had gotten out.
Now, with this magic tool called the Internet, we were able to compare notes with ex-members all over the world. I found that some of the things that happened to other people were even stranger than what had happened to me.
And the more I found out, the more disturbed I became that Scientology, in fact, misrepresents itself to the public in order to get the naive to believe that perhaps they do have the secrets of the universe.
And so I began a quest to collect court records, scan them onto a computer and turn them into text, rather than image documents, and then put the text onto the Internet so that other folks could have the benefit of testimony sworn under penalty of perjury concerning the true nature of Scientology. Little did I know that within a few years the documents I would be scanning would be from my own court case with Scientology.
When did Scientology sue you?
They threatened litigation in November 1994. I had been posting affidavits for a few months, and I got a knock at my door on November 4, and there were two fellows out front who just said "Hello. We represent the Church of Scientology. We'd like to speak to you."
I said, "I don't think so fellas," and closed the door. Strangely enough, they looked like "Men in Black." There was an affidavit stuck in the door and after they left I looked at the affidavit, and evidently it was something they had hoped to get in the house -two on one- and then pressure me to sign this thing. And this thing would have admitted that because of my low ethical standards I had been thrown out of Scientology.
And they might have done something had they been able to strong-arm you to get you to sign that?
They're not above that sort of thing?
Oh, absolutely not. Intimidation is the name of the game that they play. Plague anybody who connects enough dots to realize that these people are in fact a threat to democracy.
If there are people out there who are struggling with Scientology, how do they reach you if they haven't found you on the Internet?
My phone number is 703-241-1498. My address is Lermanet.com. That will get you to a page and it has my phone number and address if you want to get hold of me.
Are you still in litigation with Scientology?
No. My litigation is finished. We decided
SPOTLIGHT July 13, 1998-15
not to appeal in my case, and I had to pay a $2,500 fine. That was the end of
A $2,600 fine? Was that some kind of criminal charge?
No. It was civil. There was a statutory crime for copyright infringement. There were five files on my hard disc when they seized it - and between the hard disc and the 400 floppy discs that were seized in the raid, they found five files that contained copies of their copyright stuff.
Three of those files, I believe, were just -and for those of you who know how this works- from having the log function turned on while reading a news group when some of this stuff had been posted to news groups previously. Just from reading it, if you have logging turned on, it just keeps a record of what you looked at.
So somebody else put it out there, but you ended with it on your disc and that's it?
Exactly, and then two of the files were Windows temporary files, and there were some articles written about that. Windows has some temporary files that it uses just doing routine operations.
Now normally, something like this wouldn't be important enough to be on the air and talking about it. I mean there are all kinds of cults that people get into and then leave and so on. But the Scientologists have some kind of a real "hand-in-glove" situation going with the powers that be today and they're an extremely powerful organization. In a country that is supposed to be of the people, by the people and for the people, Scientology is taking advantage of the existing condition in this nation, where it is government of the money, by the money and for the money.
Now you are saying it's a scam. Let's see if we can tell the people who are tinkering with it, or are on the outside of it, what they're heading for.
Well, what you're heading for is this. You're heading for a pattern where all your secrets will be recorded just in case they'll need them at some time in the future to intimidate you into silence. You're going to end up having some experiences that will be transitorily very pleasant. The auditing experience results in a transitory high. It could be described as a release of endorphins.
I mean if you were to become convinced that you could discover the truth about yourself and the universe using this auditing technology, you might get pretty enthusiastic about Scientology. I mean, you have to understand that I myself thought that perhaps it would be a way to make this a better world. That's why I decided not to go to college and joined them and gave them 10 years of my life.
Did you actually believe that you were infested with the spirits of dead space aliens?
That's a tough call, my friend. When I got to the OT-3 level and read that stuff, that was quite a day because on the one hand this was the big big secret. On the other hand, it was about the evil emperor Xenu and a plan to end overpopulation in this sector of the galaxy 76 million years ago.
You and some other fellows are continuing the fight through FACTNet and you need support. That's one of the reasons you come on radio talk shows.
Absolutely. There's a fellow named Robert Minton, an investment banker in Boston, Massachusetts. This fellow read some of the things that I'd written on the and read about my court case which was in the Washington Post with 95 column inches covering it.
As a matter of fact the Washington Post got added, in an amended complaint, to the lawsuit against me for quoting 41 words of this particular document. The Post won their part of the lawsuit. They finished that litigation, but the Post won outright and I believe had their attorneys' fees paid for.
Recently, Bob Minton found private eyes following his 10- and 12-year-old daughters down the street in Boston on the way to school. Scientology has been out picketing his home and distributing leaflets saying that this fellow is supporting hate mongers and is a bigot against religion.
For the record, neither he nor anybody I'm associated with is in any way, shape or form "anti-religion." That is the point of most everything I write: that Scientology is in fact a fraud being perpetrated on the American people and there are many court opinions to support that contention to the point that you can't be sued for saying this anymore.
Well, that is a good piece of news because this idea of their being a church and getting all of the deductions that they got from the IRS raises some questions.
Oh, absolutely They have an internal public relations policy to attack institutions that folks don't like, like the Internal Revenue Service or like psychiatry. It is part of their plan to gain public acceptance to pick unpopular institutions and attack them publicly and very noisily so that folks will think that these people do have good intentions.
The rank and file member in Scientology, in my opinion, is a good person trying to do the right thing, but has fallen into the grip of what I consider a completely corrupt organization that lies about the founder and lies about what can be had in Scientology in order to keep the person in for years, until every dime they have or their life has been extracted.
There's a doctoral thesis entitled "Brainwashing in Scientology, Rehabilitation Project Force" by Dr. Stephen Kent. It's fully documented and its based on interviews with ex-members who survived these rehabilitation project force things, which in my opinion are nothing more than brainwashing a la the Manchurian Candidate.
Now you went into detail, I imagine, on this case down in Clearwater, Florida about Linda McPherson.
Yes. That's extraordinarily ugly. Here you have a lady who is in fine health, who lost 45 pounds being held by them during a 17-day period, and then died. They drove past three hospitals to take her to a hospital where there was a Scientologist working in the emergency room. She was pronounced dead on arrival.
Evidently the authorities went after the Scientologists on this one.
There is a grand jury convened on this. Just a few weeks ago, certain people in the police force were asked for more information, but it is still continuing. There is a civil trial brought about by her grandmother who isn't in it for the money, and who states publicly that she's in it for justice. She doesn't want people to be able to be treated this way anymore.
Well, they shouldn't he able to, and they shouldn't get away with it. They shouldn't be able to have so much control.
Well, that is the nature of Scientology. It is completely controlled internally. When you're in, you can't even disagree with anything Hubbard says or it's just amazing the number of problems created for you. Hubbard is described internally as being their "source" for all of their knowledge and no one else is source, only Hubbard. Yet in my opinion, there is some workable stuff in Scientology, but it was stolen by Hubbard from Descartes. It's stolen from prior art. There's a free association form of psychoanalysis which is very similar. The regression therapy is very similar to what is currently offered as Dianetic auditing.
Even the core secret OT-3 and Xenu and all this stuff in fact Hubbard states that he "discovered" this in 1967 and he described it as a "wall of fire."
This wasn't even discovered by Hubbard. He stole it. He lifted this out of a book called Oahspe. Oahspe is a book that has resulted in many many cults. You can find in Oahspe, in a section of that book called "the Book of the Magicians," a section that describes this particular incident as "The Wall of Fire." It talks about spirits being packaged up in vessels and transported to earth, which is part of this story that Hubbard says he discovered.
Scientologists say there was no Jesus?
Right. In some confidential materials that are not normally let out to the public, except through the efforts of some folks on the Internet, it has come to our attention that in fact Hubbard did say that them was no Christ.
Over in Europe, the Scientologists are really having a heck of a time, aren't they?
The Germans as a nation experienced the rise of the National Socialist Party, the - Nazis- and barely survived. There's an organization that, after all these millions of people are dead, is fighting in the last bunker at the end. Having survived that, the Germans as a nation have antibodies to anything that smacks of totalitarian fascism. And it is because of this sort of mental antibodies of the Europeans as a society that they're having an allergic reaction to Scientology at this time. America, having never actually experienced such a thing as Nazism or a fascist regime, is very slow in awakening. I would call myself and some of the activists on the advance guard of the first wave of antibodies to this scam.
Americans are very tolerant of the metaphysics and the so-called "new age" and Scientologists got themselves in there. A lot of people link them in with the Children of God. Do you remember that group, the cult that was running around in the late '60s and early '70s?
Right. And also the Process Church. Scientology states that they have a bridge to total freedom. I've talked to a few people who've done everything available in Scientology and gotten up to their level 8, like this friend of yours in Australia. One of these people who did this told me that there's an end phenomenon for each of these secret levels. The end phenomenon for doing everything in Scientology is - "I now know what I am not, and I'm interested in finding out what I am."
If they used brainwashing techniques, then why are they funding the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) which is opposed to psychiatry and the use of psychiatric drugs?
When Hubbard was in the Navy he got sent off to Oak Knoll Medical Hospital. Oak Knoll Psychiatric Hospital is a facility for people who start "losing it." He was sent there after an incident in which he reported that he had found a bottle with gasoline in it, and a rag with some materials that were being loaded onto his ship.
The boat he was on was about to go out to active duty and he reported that he had found a bomb. You know, a bomb threat. As the navigator on board, well, it turns out that a few days later he was relieved of duty there and sent to Oak Knoll Hospital. I think he had a less than pleasant experience there. And I think he held that grudge for many many years.
I always thought that Hubbard had put himself out as a psychologist and a psychiatrist, and he was trying to take credit for the idea of being the first person who would regress into the womb.
Hubbard made up stories as he needed to. He was a science fiction writer and if you view everything you read in Scientology, including the claims of CCHR based on the fact that it was developed by a science fiction writer, then it begins to make a little more sense.
Representatives from CCHR had been guests on my show and I felt that they had done a fine job in combating abuses by the psychiatric community and the drug industry.
Well, there are psychiatric abuses. There are a lot of things wrong in this country and across the world. But it is written in Scientology's own public relations materials to find unpopular institutions and attack them publicly in order to get and maintain public sympathy and support.
Well, Scientology has done very well public relations-wise with that CCHR.
Well, that was the plan. CCHR used to be run out of Scientology's "dirty tricks" division called the Guardians Office, which has now been renamed OSA -Office of Special Affairs- but it was always classically run out of their secret police division.
SPOTLIGHT August 17, 1998 -19
Cult Defector Sues
A disillusioned Scientologist is in court making charges and looking for
By THE SPOTLIGHT STAFF
Former Scientology "celebrity" member Michael P. Pattinson has filed a lawsuit against the Church of Scientology in Los Angeles federal court. The suit is Pattinson v. Church of Scientology International, Case No. 9&3985. After spending more than $500,000 to improve himself and discover the secrets of the universe since 1973, after 25 years and after reaching the cult's highest level, OT VIII, he realized that he had been defrauded.
In addition to being a paying customer, Pattinson was also a staff member and worked hard to draw others into the cult. Cult members get a commission on the fees paid by those they recruit.
Pattinson's lawyer is Graham E. Berry, a veteran foe of Scientology, having been active in a number of major actions against the cult in the past seven years.
Ironically, one of Pattinson's friends was Lisa McPherson, who died in Clearwater, Florida in December 1995 while under the "care" of fellow cultists. Her body showed evidence of serious abuse.
Another friend was David Miscavige, senior boss of Scientology.
The suit also names various federal officials as "relief defendants," including the connection with the corrupt granting of tax exemption to the cult by the IRS -a matter fully reported on in past issues of The SPOTLIGHT.
The lawsuit alleges racketeering, fraud, false advertising, assault, false imprisonment, defamation and conspiracy. He also claims that cult members tried to strip him of his Christian beliefs, contrary to Scientology's claim of compatibility with other faiths.
SPOTLIGHT August 24, 1998 -27
Your recent articles on the Church of Scientology have contained a number of serious factual errors, far too many to discuss in one letter. For example you reported that President Clinton discussed German discrimination against Scientologists with actor John Travolta during a meeting in Philadelphia -as noted originally by George magazine (See "The Secrets of the Universe," March 16, 1998 and "Scientology Skids on World Stage," March 23, 1998).
However, you neglected to report that Travolta's movie, Primary Colors, had already been completed prior to that meeting, making it impossible for Travolta to agree to soften his presidential performance in the movie in exchange for the president's help on Germany. The U.S. State Department, by the way, had determined years prior to that meeting, that the German government's discriminatory actions against law abiding Germans and Americans simply because they are members of the Church of Scientology are wrong.
Further, the issue of religious discrimination in Germany does not begin and end with the Church of Scientology. Despite the misreporting of The SPOTLIGHT on this issue ("UN Report Slaps Cult, Doesn't Find Discrimination," April 20, 1998), a recent UN report noted an atmosphere of intolerance against a number of religious denominations in Germany including the Church of Scientology and urged the German government to take steps to correct it.
ALEXANDER R. JONES Washington, D.C.
(The writer is the public relations spokesman for the "Founding Church of Scientology" in Washington, D.C.-Ed.)
2- SPOTLIGHT .: September 28; 1998
The city commissioners of Clearwater, Florida, have rejected a settlement that would have ended a four-year legal battle with the Church of Scientology. The deal concerned a federal lawsuit between the city and the group over the future of 40 boxes of intelligence files on Scientology gathered by Clearwater police for 13 years in the 1980s and 1990s. The deal fell apart over an unusual provision that would have required the police to notify the group's lawyers immediately by phone or fax when anyone requested the records.
20- SPOTLIGHT, November 30, 1998
There's both good news and bad news for the Church of Scientology in a criminal
case arising from the strange death of a dissident church member.
EXCLUSIVE TO THE SPOTLIGHT BY H. B. CODIER
CLEARWATER, Florida- On Nov. 13, Bernie McCabe, the state attorney for Pasco and Pinellas counties, Florida, filed felony criminal charges against the Flag Service Organization -the so-called "elite corps" of the Church of Scientology.
The organization has been charged with abuse or neglect of a disabled adult and with the unauthorized practice of medicine in a case stemming from the Dec. 5, 1995, death of long-time Scientologist Lisa McPherson.
The charges followed a two-year joint investigation by the Florida State Department of Law Enforcement and the local police department in Clearwater where Scientology maintains a major base of operations.
Throughout the period of the inquiry, leaders of Scientology cried that they were being subjected to religious discrimination by Clearwater officials including the state attorney, the coroner, the mayor and myriad others.
The 36-year-old McPherson, who spent half her life as a member of Scientology (but who was preparing to bolt from the church), died under what can most charitably be described as "strange circumstances."
Following a minor traffic accident, the young lady reportedly began acting strangely and was taken to a hospital where a doctor wanted to conduct a psychiatric investigation of her behavior. However, a group of Scientologists removed her from the hospital and took her to a church-owned facility where she was placed under round-the-clock watch.
An affidavit filed by A. L. Strope, a special agent involved in the inquiry, presented a bizarre account of the treatment accorded the young woman during what was her virtual imprisonment by the Scientologists.
According to the Pinellas County medical examiner (whom Scientologists claim is a bigot and a liar), Miss McPherson had gone for some five to 10 days without water and, as a consequence, died of a blood clot caused by dehydration. She also reportedly lost some 40 pounds. Scientology lawyers dispute these accusations.
On the evening of her death, Scientologists contacted a Scientologist, Dr. David I. Minkoff, who was an emergency room physician at a hospital 45 minutes away. Minkoff told investigators that he suggested the woman be taken a nearby hospital, but instead of taking her to a hospital which was only a few blocks away, her captors instead drove her the 45-minute distance to Minkoff's hospital where she died.
The "good news" for Scientology in all of this is:
The authorities chose not to file charges against individual Scientologists involved in the affair;
Under Florida law, the maximum penalty is a $5,000 fine for each charge; and,
The authorities did not charge the church or any members with intentionally causing harm to Miss McPherson. The final point is significant in that Miss McPherson's family and friends think otherwise. They believe that because Miss McPherson had become disenchanted with Scientology and was preparing to leave the church that she was intentionally mistreated.
But the bad news for Scientology outweighs the good news:
Under Florida law, the courts may impose additional penalties;
The Scientology organization could be subject to forfeiture of property, and in Clearwater the Scientology organization is a major property holder, including the Fort Harrison Hotel where Miss McPherson was held under restraint;
The upcoming criminal trial will shed much unwanted negative publicity upon the operations of Scientology;
Miss McPherson's family has filed a multi-million dollar wrongful death lawsuit against Scientology that will create additional unfriendly press coverage for the already embattled organization;
Fact-finding inquiries and testimony under deposition and in court in both the criminal and civil inquiries will subject the Scientology operations to additional scrutiny that it has otherwise withstood in the past;
Scientology's long-standing claim that it "helps" its members will be cast in a new light, whatever the consequences of both the criminal and civil cases;
Former Scientologists who have left the church and have become some of its biggest critics have been energized by the McPherson scandal and have gained much new ground as a consequence in their efforts to expose Scientology;
Other less vocal critics of Scientology, who have, in the past, been fearful of speaking out publicly, will be more inclined to speak out;
In the same vein, media outlets that have been hesitant to expose Scientology will be less hesitant to launch their own inquiries into Scientology's activities; and
Foreign governments that have already launched numerous criminal and civil investigations of Scientology's worldwide affairs will be likely to take a nod from the Clearwater affair and reinvigorate their own inquiries.
Already, Scientology's highly-paid public relations spinmeisters have gone into overdrive attempting to orchestrate a counter-effort against the nationwide bad press they had already expected (and received) as a result of the conclusion of the two-year-long investigation.
For example, David Miscavige, who is billed as the "chairman of the board" of the Religious Technology Center (which controls the lucrative copyrights to all of the works of Scientology's founder, the late L. Ron Hubbard) recently emerged from the shadows and gave an unprecedented interview with The St. Petersburg Times (published on Oct. 25, 1998) in an effort to explain away the scandals and intrigue surrounding the church.
Many Scientology critics (particularly former members) say Miscavige is no more than a corporate front man for a more powerful, far more secretive, behind-the-scenes clique that seized control of the church and its lucrative assets during the final years of L. Ron Hubbard's life. Ultimately, this clique allegedly ousted Hubbard's wife, Mary Sue Hubbard, from her position of influence in the church.
One of the church's behind-the-scenes controllers, Los Angeles attorney Lawrence Heller (who is reportedly not even a Scientologist) has been pinpointed as one of the prime players in a long-term effort to wreck Liberty Lobby, the publisher of The SPOTLIGHT See the Oct, 26 issue of The SPOTLIGHT for further details.