Scientology and the legal system

From Academic Kids

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 (such as 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 organization 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.

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

Scientology's opponents have accused the Church of using litigation tactics such as investigating their criminal records (or lack thereof), subjecting them to surveillance and invasive inquiries. For an example, see:(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 exemption 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.
  • In May of 1991, Time Magazine published a cover story on Scientology. [1] (http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/Fishman/time-behar.html) 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.
  • Scientology has filed lawsuits against a number of Internet users, The Washington Post newspaper, over fifteen various Internet service providers in The Netherlands, and others.
  • 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. The Church waged a 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. In addition, on May 29, 2004 the Church paid an undisclosed amount to settle a civil lawsuit brought on behalf of McPherson's estate. An article describing the civil lawsuit notes the legal attacks made by Scientology's attorneys:
"[McPherson family attorney Ken] Dandar has persevered through a seemingly endless barrage of legal attacks. There have been nine attempts to disqualify him, and four attempts to remove Lisa's aunt, Dell Liebreich, as executor of Lisa's estate. Scientology attorneys have filed bar complaints against both him and Lirot, lawsuits against Lisa's family, and motions to remove judges and move the case to other venues. When asked how going up against Scientology compares to normal litigation, [First Amendment attorney Luke]Lirot replied, "It's like comparing LSD to orange juice." As of this writing, the wrongful death case has gone through four judges in seven years. A trial date has still not been set." — David S. Touretzky, Razor (Web-based magazine) article, "A Church’s Lethal Contract," January 2004 [2] (http://razormagazine.com/feature1203a.php) (The McPherson case was settled out of court shortly after the publication of this article.)
  • 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) (against Frank A. Gerbode, inventor of Traumatic Incident Reduction), 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.

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