The Church of Scientology vs. the Net

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This page created by Ron Newman. Small changes made on February 14, 1998. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author, and are not necessarily shared by Complete Internet Access, Inc.

The Church of Scientology is a religious cult which has unwisely decided to declare war against the Usenet and Internet communities. Since December of 1994, this Church and its followers have committed numerous acts that are hostile to the spirit of free speech on the Net. This web page is intended to document these activities.


My apologies for the length of time this page has been unavailable to the Net, and even more apologies for the fact that I've not substantially updated it since October 15, 1996. I'm no longer able to keep up with events on a day-to-day basis, so this site is probably going to have to remain a "historical" document rather than a source of up-to-date news. For a more conscientiously updated site, I recommend Andreas Heldal-Lund's Operation Clambake page, which contains both later news and pointers to many of Scientology's Secret Scriptures.

Many of you may be wondering why I'm no longer at The reason is that on May 15, 1997, Cybercom deleted my account, all my web pages, and all of my private files, without any notice whatsoever. I had to file a lawsuit to get my files back and my mail and web pages forwarded. For more information, visit this page: Cybercom.NOT, or Why I'm no longer a Cyber Access customer.

Quick index:

Recent events

Judge Brinkema issues decision in Lerma case

On October 4, 1996, Judge Leonie Brinkema finally issued her long-awaited opinion in the Arnie Lerma case. Follow this link for more information. closes after Scientology demands user names

In early February, 1995, Scientology representatives somehow used Interpol and the Finnish police to demand the True Name of one particular user of, an anonymous remailer in Finland. The owner of the remailer reluctantly complied, fearing that if he resisted, he might be forced to give up his entire database that matched anonymous IDs to True Names. In 1996, Scientology once again demanded the names of two users; as a result, Julf Helsingius, the remailer's owner, has closed it down. For the full story, including official Finnish police documents, follow this link.

Zenon Panoussis raided and sued in Sweden

In August of 1996, Zenon Panoussis, a Swede, appeared from out of nowhere on alt.religion.scientology and posted a copy of Scientology's "secret" NOTs levels to the newsgroup. (These are a totally different set of documents from those found in the "Fishman affidavit" on Karin Spaink's page.) Zenon invited CoS to sue him, and they did so, in the process raiding his apartment while he was not present. This was apparently an illegal search and seizure. For more information, look at these web pages:

Massive spam attack continues on alt.religion.scientology

Starting on May 19, 1996 and continuing until about December 19, 1996, the newsgroup alt.religion.scientology was intermittently bombarded with thousands of spam postings from more than twenty different accounts or pseudonyms. The spam consisted of verbatim excerpts from copyrighted material found on the Church of Scientology's official web site.

Tom Betz has compiled the "What Is Scientology?" (ARSBOMB) Spam Team FAQ for Los Angeles Area ISPs as a source of information for Internet Service providers who have been or may become victims of this spam attack.

For more information on the spam, read:

Scientology sues Keith Henson

On April 4, 1996, the Church of Scientology sued Keith Henson and obtained a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against him. The first hearing was held on Friday, April 12. See my page, The Church of Scientology vs. Keith Henson, for more information.

Scientology sues and deposes Grady Ward

On March 21, 1996, the Church of Scientology sued Grady Ward and obtained a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against him. The suit accuses him of producing a series of anonymous postings called "Scamizdat" which allegedly violate the Church's copyrights. Grady was deposed on April 8 and 9, after he objected to an absurdly broad and overreaching demand to produce everything under the sun, including private e-mail. He has now filed a $50 million counterclaim against the Church, as well as his own demand for documents from the other side. See my page, The Church of Scientology vs. Grady Ward, for more information.

Victory for Dutch ISPs and netizens, March 12

On March 12, 1996, a Dutch court found in favor of writer Karin Spaink, 15 Internet service providers, and 7 other parties in the Netherlands whom Scientology had sued for copyright violation. Read Karin Spaink's March 12 report, Karin's home page, or my page "The Church of Scientology vs. the Net(herlands)" for more information.

Newspaper and magazine articles

The weekly Boston Phoenix, in its April 19, 1996 issue, published a lengthy article entitled "BU's Scientology Connection", all about Earle Cooley--a Scientology lawyer who helped raid Arnie Lerma's house, but who is also Chairman of the Boston University Board of Trustees!

David Post, a professor at Georgetown Law School, wrote the cover story of the April 1996 issue of Reason magazine: The State of Nature and the First Internet War: Scientology, its Critics, Anarchy, and Law in Cyberspace.

The March 1996 issue of American Lawyer magazine contains a great nine-page article about CoS and the Net entitled "Making Law, Making Enemies" by Alison Frankel.

Wendy Grossman's alt.scientology.war, from Wired magazine 3.12 (December 1995), is still one of the best articles available on the subject. See also her new (November 1997) book net.wars, available both in hardcopy and on the Web. It has a whole chapter about Scientology vs. the Net.

See my media page for a comprehensive list of other newspaper and magazine articles (and a few TV and radio transcripts) available on this web site.

What follows is a short summary of the various attacks that the Church of Scientology has made on the Net over the past 13 months.

Tried to censor a Usenet discussion group

Starting in December 1994 and continuing up to the present time, members or allies of the Church have tried to remove messages critical of the Church from the Usenet discussion group alt.religion.scientology. They did this by sending unauthorized cancels, which are specially-formatted messages instructing Usenet servers to delete a previously posted message. Many of these cancels contained a sentence claiming that they were issued to remove "copyright and trade secret violations." Eventually, a group of Netizens known as the "Rabbit Hunters" organized to find and stop the people who were sending these cancels. For the full story, follow this link.

Tried to shut down a Usenet discussion group

In January of 1995, Church of Scientology lawyer Helena Kobrin actually tried to remove the entire alt.religion.scientology newsgroup from the Net, claiming that the very name of the discussion group violated their trademark, and that the group was being used to post infringements of the Church's copyrights. Usenet administrators around the world told Helena to forget it. For the full story, follow this link.

Threatened the operators of anonymous remailing services

During the winter of 1995, the Church of Scientology's lawyers sent legal threats to the operators of numerous anonymous-remailing services, demanding that the remailers block access to alt.religion.scientology and another related newsgroup, With these threats, the Church's anti-Net activities began to attract the attention of Netizens who previously had little interest in Scientology, as well as major news media such as Time and the Los Angeles Times. Update, April 1996: Scientology appears to be renewing its attack on the remailers. For the full story, follow this link.

Invaded Dennis Erlich's home, seizing and deleting files
Sued Erlich, his BBS, and Netcom

On February 13, 1995, Church representatives raided the home of former Scientologist Dennis Erlich in Glendale, California, seizing his computers, disks, and many other items. The Church claims that Erlich violated their copyrights and trade secrets by posting excerpts from the Church's secret "Operating Thetan" training materials. In addition to suing Erlich, they also sued Tom Klemesrud, the operator of his bulletin board system, and Netcom, the US's largest internet service provider, which exchanged Usenet news with Klemesrud's BBS. Follow this link for the full story.

Raided and sued Arnie Lerma, and sued his Internet provider
Also sued the Washington Post!

In early August, 1995, former Scientologist Arnie Lerma posted portions of a publicly available US Federal court document known as the Fishman Papers. This document included long excerpts from the Church's "secret scriptures". On August 12, 1995, Church representatives responded by raiding Lerma's home in Arlington, Virginia, seizing his computers and disks in a near-rerun of the Erlich raid six months earlier. Once again, the Church sued not just Lerma but also his Internet service provider, Digital Gateway Systems. When the Washington Post wrote about this and included 46 words from the "secret scriptures", the Church sued the Post as well! On October 4, 1996, a federal judge issued a judgment against Lerma, fining him $2500 for 5 copyright violations. Follow this link for the full story.

Raids the FACTnet bulletin board system

FACTnet is a bulletin board system (BBS) created by ex-Scientologists Lawrence Wollersheim and Bob Penny, containing a huge library of information on Scientology and other cults. On August 22, 1995, Scientology representatives accompanied by Federal marshals raided both Penny's and Wollersheim's homes in Colorado, seizing the FACTnet BBS computer as well as backup tapes, CDs, floppies, and a large amount of other computer equipment and printed material from both houses. Follow this link for the full story.

Threatened to seize XS4ALL, an Internet Service Provider in the Netherlands
Sued XS4ALL, 14 other Dutch ISPs, and writer Karin Spaink

On Tuesday, September 5, Scientology agents, accompanied by a locksmith, local police, and two U.S. `computer experts', entered the premises of XS4ALL (, an Internet service provider in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Scientology demanded that XS4ALL remove a copy of the Fishman Papers from a customer's web page. (XS4ALL refused to do so.) Dutch Internet users protested Scientology's action by putting over 100 copies of the Fishman Papers on web sites all over the country. Scientology responded to this cyber-civil-disobedience campaign by suing four Dutch Internet service providers (including XS4ALL) as well as well-known Dutch writer Karin Spaink, who helped initiate the campaign. They withdrew this lawsuit on December 12, but filed a much larger suit, against 23 separate parties, on January 31. A court hearing was held on February 26, and a verdict was rendered on March 12, giving a total victory to the defendants. Follow this link for the full story.

Legal and extra-legal threats against netizens

Church of Scientology lawyers have sent threatening email (and occasionally faxes and snail-mail) to numerous Netizens, claiming that they were violating Church copyrights by posting short excerpts (often as short as 6 lines) from the Church's "secret scriptures". They've also sent private investigators to harass Internet users and their families, obtained telephone billing records under false pretenses, tried to get universities to remove the Internet accounts of students and staff members, published the True Name of a pseudonymous user, and engaged in other forms of extra-legal harassment. These activities have caused at least one Netizen to lose his job, and another to "shudder into silence" after losing his university account.

Follow this link for the sordid details, or (better yet) take a look at this 1995 Timeline of Scientology harassment of Internet critics. And consider participating in the worldwide "Stop the Harassment, Scientology" protest on March 9th.

It's been going on for the Net

Internet users are finding out something that writers and journalists have known for years: the Church of Scientology doesn't take kindly to people who write negative things about it. Follow this link for more information on their harassment of writers and journalists.

For more information...

The web page you are now reading was one of the first to tackle the subject of Scientology, but the Church's actions against the Internet have motivated many other Netizens to create an ever-growing web of new online information. Much of that information was previously hidden away in obscure libraries, court records, and local periodicals. I've put together a (now somewhat outdated) page of links to other information on the Net concerning Scientology; for a much more complete but somewhat less detailed set of links, go to Marina Chong's A.R.S. Web Page Summary.

For an FTP-like list of all available files on this site, follow this link..

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Ron Newman, <>
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