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Scientology and the Legal System

The Church of Scientology or CofS and its affiliated entities (most notably the Religious Technology Center[?] or RTC) have made a name for themselves as being one of the most litigous religious organizations in existence. The Church of Scientology has made extensive use of the legal system to defend itself and attack its perceived enemies, including both critics and those who apply the teachings of Scientology outside of the Church (the Free Zone). In the years since its inception, the number of lawsuits filed by the Church of Scientology against newspapers, magazines, government agencies (including the IRS), and individuals has been numbered in the thousands. Critics of the organziation estimate that the Church of Scientology spends an average of about $30 million per year on various legal actions, and it is the exclusive client of several law firms.

Lawyers who have become involved in legal action regarding Scientology have been quoted as saying, "There is nothing on Earth quite like a Scientology court case."

Legal tactics commonly used by Church lawyers usually involve filing massive amounts of paperwork, to the point where the opposition is often buried in endless hours of discovery[?]. Church lawyers regularly file repeated motions that are often dismissed as frivolous, appeal every motion filed by their opponents, motion to deny every piece of evidence introduced, and attempt to link their opponents to wide-ranging conspiracies, usually with the intent of defining their opponents as "hatemongers" with an agenda to "destroy the Scientology religion" and extort money from the church. The legal costs of defending against Scientology lawsuits often amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they are often extended for periods of months or years. Critics charge that the ultimate aim of Scientology lawsuits is to completely destroy their opponents by forcing them into bankruptcy. A frequently quoted statement by L. Ron Hubbard regarding the use of lawsuits was quoted by judge Leonie Brinkema[?] in the case of Religious Technology Center vs. The Washington Post, in 1995:

"The purpose of the suit is to harass and discourage rather than win. The law can be used very easily to harass, and enough harassment on somebody who is simply on the thin edge anyway, well knowing that he is not authorized, will generally be sufficient to cause professional decease. If possible, of course, ruin him utterly." -- L. Ron Hubbard, The Scientologist, a Manual on the Dissemination of Material, 1955

While the legal battle takes place, Scientology's opponents often find themselves the target of inquiries by private investigators into their backgrounds. These investigators typically look for any evidence of criminal activities that could be presented in the court case as evidence that Scientology's opponents are "criminals," and that Scientology's actions against them are in defense of its religious beliefs. Based upon court documents and testimonies from its opponents, Scientology's common investigation tactics include inquiries into credit histories, telephone records, business contacts, criminal records (if any), numerous visits by private investigators to their opponents' families, friends, neighbors, and business contacts. Scientology's lawsuits often follow a pattern of introducing evidence that suggests that its opponents are involved in bomb threats, drug use, and child molesting. Other criminal accusations have been made by Scientology against its opponents, but these three subjects are the most common in its lawsuits. (Source: Attacks on Scientology (http://www.clambake.org/archive/books/bfm/makeitro.htm) by L. Ron Hubbard, "HCO Policy Letter of 15 February 1966." See also Paulette Cooper (http://www.holysmoke.org/pc/pc.htm) and Keith Henson[?].)

Notable Scientology court cases include the following:

  • From the time its tax exemption was removed by the IRS in 1967, to the reinstatement of the tax exemption in 1993, Scientologists filed approximately 2,500 lawsuits against the IRS. At the time of the exeption in 1993, there were over fifty lawsuits still active against the IRS, though they were all settled quickly after the tax exemption was negotiated.

  • The Cult Awareness Network (or CAN) was driven into bankruptcy by a barrage of Scientology-related lawsuits. As the TV news program 60 Minutes reported in 1997, over fifty lawsuits were filed by Scientologists against CAN. The non-profit organization was forced to spend over $2 million in legal fees defending itself against these lawsuits. One of the lawsuits resulted in a judgement of $1 million being awarded against CAN. This forced CAN to declare bankruptcy and auction off its assets, which were purchased for $20,000 by a lawyer affiliated with Scientology. Scientology proudly declares the collapse of CAN to be one of its greatest victories.

  • In May of 1991, Time Magazine published a cover story on Scientology. The Church of Scientology responded by suing Time for $400 million. The magazine spent approximately $7 million defending itself in court, with the case being drawn out for over five years before finally being dismissed in the magazine's favor.

  • When the Church of Scientology was charged with a felony count of practicing medicine without a license in the 1996 case involving the death of Lisa McPherson[?], a Scientologist, the state of Florida asked for damages of approximately $15,000 to be awarded against the organization. Instead of paying the damages, the Church waged a vicious defense that resulted in the case being dismissed due to a lack of credible evidence. The cost to the Church of hiring prestigious law firms and medical specialists was estimated to be over $1 million.

  • The Church of Scientology is often accused of barratry, the willful use of frivolous lawsuits for the purpose of harassment, and sanctions have been imposed for frivolous suits brought by its attorneys. In Religious Technology Center v. Gerbode, 1994 WL 228607 (C.D. Cal. 1994), a Rule 11 sanction of $8,887.50 was imposed against Helena K. Kobrin, an attorney for the Church for bringing legally baseless, frivolous claims.

Examples for Canada:

  • The Church of Scientology is the only religious organization in Canada to be convicted on the charge of breaching the public trust: The Queen v. Church of Scientology of Toronto, et al. (1992)

See also: Scientology vs. the Internet - Scientology

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