March 13, 2001
Superior Court hearing supported decision to dismiss Scientology lawsuit
From an article by Mark Hamblett in the "New York Law Journal" of Jan. 16, 2001
In its lawsuit against Time magazine and against journalist Richard Behar, who published a quantity of text about Scientology (Russian translation available in the book "Sekty protib Tserkvi (Protsess Dvorkina)" published by the Moscow Patriarciate, 2000. pp. 586-606) in 1991, the "Scientology Church" was not able to demonstrate an evident predisposition of the defendants. That was the decision of the American appeals court.
The appeals court, in its decision about the article entitled "Scientology: The Cult of Greed," also stated that no jury, despite their best efforts, would be able to see that Richard Behar had published material about the machinations on the stock exchange and about driving a sect member to suicide "purposeful avoidance of the truth."
The court's decision in the matter of the "Church of Scientology International vs. Behar, No. 98-9522," confirmed the decision of the New York southern district judge Peter K. Leisure, who after two and a half years of discussion, rejected the cult's claim. In a ten-page article, Richard Behar had called Scientology a "ruthless global scam" which pretended to be a religion. According to Behar, Scientology provided for its existence by intimidating its members and critics "in a Mafia-like manner."
One of the accusations in Behar's article that was fiercely denied by the cult concerned a member of Scientology, Steven Fishman, who engaged in mail fraud. Behar also reported that the receipts for the results of the fraud were more than 300,000 dollards. Mr. Fishman spent the money on Scientology books and recordings and, when he was caught, the cult ordered him to kill Doctor Uwe Geertz, his psychiatrist, who was acquainted with his story, and then to commit suicide.
In its decision, like the superior court, the lower court stressed that Richard Behar had objectively reflected the story of Mr. Fishman and Dr. Geertz, and that he had also quoted the opinion of the "Church of Scientology" that denied the facts. Not one of the church's opinions impressed the readers who were able to freely make up their own minds about them. The court ruling also stress that journalist Behar had thoroughly stratified all facts on which he reported and that he cited all his sources.
Other statements by Behar which Scientology claimed were slanderous were recognized by the court as legitimate expressions of the journalist's personal opinion. Those included the comparison of Scientology to the Mafia, Behar's words that the cult was a "classically terroristic" organization and the following words, "Those who criticize the church -journalists, doctors, lawyers and even judges - often find themselves framed for fictional crimes, beaten up or threatened with death."
In another section which told about the suicide of a young member by the name of Noah Lottick, Mr. Behar wrote that the Lotticks "lost their son, Noah, who jumped from a Manhattan hotel clutching 171 dollards, virtually the only money he had not yet turned over to Scientology. His parents blame the church and would like to sue but are frightened by the organization's reputation for ruthlessness."
Scientology asserted that Richard Behar had a negatively inclined attitude towards Scientology in advance, and that his attitude had an influence in his investigation and was the reason he published false and slanderous statements about the "church." However Judge Leiseure, in his decision, verified that Scientology had not been able to prove the truthfulness of its accusation.
Both decisions have now been supported in the second hearing in the appellate court. Judges Jose Cabranes and Fred I Parker agreed with the arguments of the lower court. This is another example of victory over the totalitarian cult that is famous for its barratry.
Russian Scientology News