Scientology has been a controversial belief system since its inception. Although their inner workings are secretive (and protected by the Constitution as such), the Church manages to stay in the media because of some of its high profile members, like Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Created by the charismatic author L. Ron Hubbard, the Church of Scientology has drawn considerable attention from religious groups, ex-members, and various individuals determined to thwart the organization’s message in some way. At present, few attempts have succeeded.
But a video has surfaced within the past few days on YouTube.com that is nothing short of a declaration of war against the Church. Created and submitted by someone or an organization calling themselves “Anonymous,” the video depicts a series of filtered scenes of lowering, fast-moving clouds and buildings that apparently are supposed to represent edifices owned and operated by the Church of Scientology. An obviously electronically altered voice delivers the warning/challenge/declaration in an ominous even tone, beginning with a disarming, “Hello, leaders of Scientology.”
But that is where the civility ends. Stating that Anonymous is prepared to do battle with the Church of Scientology, they claim to have watched the Church grow and misinform, curb freedom of speech, and suppress its own members as well as the public, so on behalf of the members of the Church that have fallen under their “malign influence,” Anonymous and their self-professed growing numbers intend to expel the Church of Scientology from the internet and “dismantle” the Church’s infrastructure. Anonymous claims to be doing this for the good of Scientology members, “for the good of mankind, and for our personal enjoyment.” In fact, Anonymous encourages the Church to fight, for they (Anonymous) will replace all that the Church silences with ten more. They close the two minute and three second video with: “We are Anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.”
Whether this is a serious threat to the Church of Scientology or not remains to be seen. In the meantime, the video is getting plenty of play.
But the Church has never backed away from a challenge to its right to exist or to anything that it deems might in some way denigrate or hurt the Church.
Robert Minton, a Florida millionaire, used his fortune for years to fight the Church of Scientology, spending over $10 million to fund and finance American and international entities that expressed anti-scientology sentiment. Minton founded the Lisa McPherson Trust Fund to legally battle the Church in a wrongful death lawsuit that alleged that the Church of Scientology was culpable in the death of Lisa McPherson. The Church has produced a handwritten list of an estimate of what Minton has caused the Church over the years — $23 million in legal fees. Minton, however, did an about face in 2002 and decided to testify for the Church, stating that the prosecutors in the case were coercing his testimony. An investigation by the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times revealed that considerable pressure had allegedly been used by the Church of Scientology in the form of personal banking statements and looking into Minton’s background. Whether this is the case is open for speculation.
Then there is Operation Clambake. This organization presents through the internet site, Xenu.net, and states that it has been “undressing the Church of Scientology since 1996.” Andreas Heldal-Lund, Webmaster of the site, accused Google of effectively eliminating the website in 2002 after the Church issued a copyright infringement warning against any search engine that used such tags as “Scientology” in their metatag lines without those tags actually existing on the target webpages. Google stated that it would reinstate such websites if they submitted a counter notification to Google. Despite this setback, Operation Clambake is still operational and warning people about the alleged abuses of the Church of Scientology.
There have been others; no doubt there will be more. But the wealth and litigious strength of the Church of Scientology is formidable. Can Anonymous make good on its threats? Can it really bring down the Church and destroy it as it proclaims it will? Perhaps. But one thing is certain: If history is any guide, the Church of Scientology will not go down without a fight.
“Message to Scientology,” YouTube.com
Deborah O’Neil, “How Scientology turned its biggest critic,” SPTimes.com
Matt Loney and Evan Hansen, “Google pulls anti-Scientology links,” News.com