Scientology Versus The Internet - Raids and Lawsuits

Raids and Lawsuits

Shortly after the initial legal announcements and rmgroup attempt, representatives of Scientology followed through with a series of lawsuits against various participants on the newsgroup, including Dennis Erlich in Religious Technology Center v. Netcom. The first raid took place on February 13, 1995. Accompanied by Scientology lawyers, federal marshals made several raids on the homes of individuals who were accused of posting Scientology's copyrighted materials to the newsgroup. Raids took place against Arnaldo Lerma (Virginia), Lawrence Wollersheim and Robert Penny of FACTNet (Colorado), and Dennis Erlich (California). Internationally, raids took place against Karin Spaink (The Netherlands) and Zenon Panoussis (Sweden). In addition to filing lawsuits against individuals, Scientology also sued The Washington Post for reprinting one paragraph of the OT writings in a newspaper article, as well as several Internet service providers, including Netcom, Tom Klemesrud, and XS4ALL. It also regularly demanded the deletion of material from the Deja News archive.

Participants in alt.religion.scientology began using quotes from OT III in particular to publicize the online battle over the secret documents. The story of Xenu was subsequently quoted in many publications, including news reports on CNN and 60 Minutes. It became the most famous reference to the OT levels, to the point where many Internet users who were not intimately familiar with Scientology had heard the story of Xenu, and immediately associated the name with Scientology. The initial strikes against Scientology's critics settled down into a series of legal battles that raged through the courts. The Electronic Frontier Foundation provided legal assistance to defendant Tom Klemesrud and his attorney Richard Horning helped find Dennis Erlich Pro Bono defense. Daily reports of the latest happenings were posted to alt.religion.scientology.

In the wake of the Scientology actions, the Penet remailer, which had been the most popular anonymous remailer in the world until the Scientology "war" took place, was shut down. Johan Helsingius, operator of the remailer, stated that the legal protections afforded him in his country (Finland) were too thin to protect the anonymity of his users and he decided to close down the remailer as a result.

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