CNN's blurb about the raid HERE 

Front Page Style Section, August 19th 1995..
Copyright 1995 The Washington Post
WP 19.08.1995 06:00 
Arnie Lerma on the front page of Wash Post Style section with photo, August 1995 Click for full size image

Church in Cyberspace;
Its Sacred Writ Is on the Net.
Its Lawyers Are on the Case.

By Marc Fisher 

Washington Post Staff Writer 
  It was 9:30 and Arnie Lerma was lounging in his living room in Arlington,   

drinking his Saturday morning coffee, hanging. Suddenly, a knock at the door --
 who could it be at this hour? -- and   

boom, before he could force anything out of his mouth, they were pouring   

into his house: federal marshals, lawyers, computer technicians, cameramen. 

They stayed for three hours last Saturday. They inventoried and confiscated 
everything Lerma cherished: his computer, every disk in the   

place, his client list, his phone numbers. And then they left. 
"I'm one of those guys who keeps everything -- my whole life -- on the   

computer," Lerma says. "And now they have it all." "They" are lawyers 
for the Church of Scientology, the controversial group   

that Lerma once considered his home, his rock, his future. Now they call   

him a criminal, accusing him of divulging trade secrets and violating copyrights. 

   Founded in 1954 by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology has   

grown into a worldwide organization that has been recognized as a religion   

by the Internal Revenue Service but has been called a cult by the German   

government. The church claims membership of more than 8 million; its 
critics say the figure is dramatically lower. 

Lerma spent nearly 10 years in Scientology. But that was almost two 
decades ago. Since then, he's lived in Virginia, designing sound and video   

systems for nightclubs and other clients.

   It was only in the past year or so that Scientology and Arnie Lerma have   

gotten reacquainted, and this time Lerma has a different view of the church: 
He considers it a dangerous cult, a corrupt organization dedicated   

to brainwashing its followers. To convince others of this view, Lerma used his 
facility with computers to   

distribute some of Scientology's most sacred texts, documents he says were   

obtained from a public court file in Los Angeles. In recent months, Lerma   

and others have placed dozens of these documents on the Internet, in a 
discussion group called alt.religion.scientology, a busy place in   

cyberspace where Scientology critics and adherents gather 
to trade arguments, insults and threats. 

"I thought it essential that the public know this, so people can make an   

informed decision when some kid on a street corner asks you, `Would you   

care to take a free personality analysis?' " Lerma says. 

    For a long time, the church treated its Internet critics as bothersome   

pests, sometimes answering their critiques, sometimes ignoring them. But   

in the past week Scientology has revved up its awesome legal machinery,   

launching a fierce campaign to protect its most closely guarded scripture. 

A federal judge ordered the raid on Lerma's house after the church filed a   

lawsuit accusing Lerma of copyright infringement and revealing trade   

secrets. Church officials also paid a surprise visit to the home of a   

Washington Post reporter that Saturday evening, seeking the return of   

documents Lerma had sent him. And in Los Angeles, the church has persuaded   

a judge to seal the court file containing the disputed Scientology   


Arnie Lerma was lost without his computer. He resorted to jotting   

everything on legal pads. Finally this week, he got a new laptop. And then   

a sympathetic stranger mailed him a modem. But Lerma, 44, is deeply   

shaken. Tears drip down his cheeks at the slightest provocation. He   

descends into deep, barking sobs and cannot understand why. 

He believes the church will try to harass him until he is silent. But he   

says that will not happen. On the Internet, Lerma signs his postings   

"Arnaldo Lerma, Clear 3502, Ex-Sea Organization Slave." It's a reference   

to his old Scientology code name and his status as a mostly unpaid church   

staffer. And then he writes: "I would prefer to die speaking my mind than   

to live fearing to speak." 

Except that when he recites the line, Lerma cannot get it out without   

collapsing into spasms of sorrow. 

Ruin Him Utterly' 

>From the documents Lerma posted on the Internet, an oft-quoted Hubbard   

directive on litigation against unauthorized use of the church's texts: 

The purpose of the suit is to harass and discourage rather than to 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 his professional   

decease. If possible, of course, ruin him utterly. 

The church has long been quick to use the legal system against government   

investigators, ex-members turned critics, and news organizations that   

publish criticism of Scientology. At one point a few years ago, it had 71   

active lawsuits against the IRS alone. In 1992 the church filed a $416   

million libel suit -- still pending -- against Time magazine, which had   

published a cover story titled "Scientology: The Cult of Greed." Earlier   

this year in California it filed suit against -- and confiscated computer   

disks belonging to -- another former member whom it accused of   

distributing copyrighted texts. And in the past year, the church has spent   

millions of dollars on an advertising blitz accusing the German government   

of a "hate campaign against Scientology." 

A Scientology document filed in the Los Angeles case advises church   

members to discourage news reports on Scientology anywhere but in religion   

pages, and to "be very alert to sue for slander at the slightest chance so   

as to discourage the public presses from mentioning Scientology." 

Free Speech vs. Copyright 

The Church of Scientology says the Lerma case is a simple matter of trade   

secrets and copyright violations. The church's unpublished, copyrighted   

texts -- previously available only to church members who have paid   

thousands of dollars to rise through Scientology's hierarchy of training   

courses -- have been placed on the Internet, open to all. 

This, Scientology lawyers argue, threatens the church's intellectual   

property rights. 

"Of course we want Scientology to go out as far and wide as possible,"   

says Kurt Weiland, a director of the Church of Scientology International.   

"There are 60 books written by the founder. There is one small section,   

the upper-level materials, which are trade secrets based on our religious   

understanding. A person has to have advanced in an orderly fashion,   

spiritually, in order to understand its content. 

"We are determined to maintain their confidentiality. We take very   

forceful and elaborate steps to maintain the confidentiality. This is not   

a free-speech issue. It's a copyright issue." 

Scientology, which runs a celebrity outreach program and counts among its   

members John Travolta, Tom Cruise and Lisa Marie Presley-Jackson, offers   

to help people attain a near-god state through several levels of training   

sessions. At the upper levels, church doctrine reads like a science   

fiction plot. 

The church believes that 75 million years ago, the leader of the Galactic   

Federation, Xenu, solved an overpopulation problem by freezing the excess   

people in a compound of alcohol and glycol and transporting them by   

spaceship to Teegeeack -- which we know as Earth. There they were chained   

to a volcano and exploded by hydrogen bombs. The souls of those dead --   

"body thetans" -- are the root of most human misery to this day. 

Much of Scientology's upper-level training consists of re-creations of   

that galactic genocide. Weiland says most church members pay up to $20,000   

to reach the final stages of the training. Critics estimate the total cost   

at closer to $300,000. 

It is the texts of those training sessions -- known as "Operating Thetan"   

or "OT" courses -- that the church now seeks to keep secret. 

In the lawsuit against Lerma, court documents unsealed Wednesday in U.S.   

District Court in Alexandria contain 30 color photographs showing how   

Scientology protects its sacred scriptures. Members ready to learn the   

material obtain magnetized photo ID cards and sign agreements to keep the   

information confidential. To see the material, they scan their ID cards to   

walk through two sanitized white doors, and security guards unlock the   

scriptures from cabinets where they are wired in place. Then guards escort   

the members to a room where they are locked in and monitored on video   


But despite the church's precautions, the OT documents have been in a   

public court file for two years, ever since they were submitted in Los   

Angeles by Steven Fishman, a former Scientologist who was quoted in the   

Time magazine article in 1991 and subsequently was sued by the church for   

libel. The suit was dropped last year, but for more than a year, federal   

court clerks say, eight people have served as a rotating guard, arriving   

each morning at the L.A. courthouse to check out five volumes of the   

Fishman case file and keep them all day. 

"They get here when the door opens at 8:30 -- they come every day,   

faithfully," says Tyrone Lawson, exhibit custodian for the U.S. District   

Court clerk's office. "They never miss a day. It's like they don't want   

anyone to read it." 

On Monday, after a Washington Post staffer asked the clerk for the file,   

one of the men challenged the clerk's right to take it to copy it,   

according to Joe Nunez, another official in the clerk's office. 

"He came at me [saying], `Oh, do you have the right to take this away?' "   

Nunez says. 

When the Post staffer approached two of the men Tuesday, they would not   

say for whom they work. "We're just helping out," one said. "It's not   

public," the other claimed when the staffer asked to look at the file. 

Weiland confirms that the people in the clerk's office were Scientology   

employees. "We took elaborate steps to assure that no one made copies of   

our copyrighted material," he says. "We actually had people there."   

Weiland says the only copies ever made from the court file were those made   

for the Washington Post staffer. 

After learning that the Post had received the documents, Scientology   

lawyers renewed their efforts to seal the file in the Fishman case.   

Federal Judge Harold Hupp had denied previous Scientology motions to seal   

the material, but the church won a temporary sealing of the file pending   

the judge's decision. 

But that may not change anything, says Los Angeles lawyer Graham Berry,   

who represented Fishman's co-defendant, psychologist Uwe Geertz, in the   

libel case. "Now that it's all on the Internet, the genie is out of the   

bottle, and no amount of pushing and shoving by the Church of Scientology   

will put it back in." 

Copyright lawyers say Scientology does not lose its copyright on the   

sacred texts simply because they are filed in court. 

"The Church of Scientology is correct," says Ilene Gotts, a partner in the   

Washington office of Foley and Lardner who specializes in intellectual   

property law. "The mere fact that you file something in the public domain   

does not get rid of its copyright protection." 

Gotts says any citizen has the right to go to a courthouse and read   

anything in the files. But making photocopies of copyrighted materials   

could get you in trouble, as warning signs in many libraries, for example,   

make clear. And putting those documents on the Internet can further muddy   

the waters, Gotts says. 

"That's something courts grapple with every day," she says. "A short   

passage for educational purposes is one thing, but if you're talking about   

60, 80 pages, that defense is not going to work." 

Clusters and Prep-Checks 

If the court clerk's daily visitors made it difficult for citizens to see   

the public file, some copies of the documents nonetheless got out. Lerma   

says several former Scientologists passed the copies among themselves and   

then gave them to him; he then used a scanner to put them onto the   

Internet. Lerma also put the copies in an envelope and sent them to   

Richard Leiby, a Washington Post reporter who has written frequently about   


On the evening after the raid on Lerma's house, church lawyer Helena   

Kobrin and Scientology executive Warren McShane arrived unannounced at   

Leiby's home and demanded all copies he might have of the disputed   


Weiland says Scientology representatives went to Leiby's home "because   

Arnie Lerma gave stolen materials to Richard Leiby to hide." Lerma says he   

sent the papers to the reporter in search of publicity. This week, at   

Lerma's request, The Post returned the papers. 

Meanwhile, the Post staffer in Los Angeles got copies of the documents   

from the court file. 

Most of the 103 pages of disputed texts from the Fishman file are   

instructions for leaders of the OT training sessions. They are written in   

the dense jargon of the church: "If you do OT IV and he's still in his   

head, all is not lost, you have other actions you can take. Clusters, Prep-  

Checks, failed to exteriorise directions." 

Scientology's jargon is often similar to the self-actualization lingo used   

by self-help groups that emerged from California in the 1960s and '70s.   

Like est and Lifespring, it includes concentration exercises in which   

trainees sharpen their perceptive abilities by focusing deeply on objects   

or people around them. In one high-level OT session, trainees are asked to   

pick an object, "wrap an energy beam around it" and pull themselves toward   

the object. Another instructs the trainee to "be in the following places   

-- the room, the sky, the moon, the sun." 

Many excerpts from Scientology texts have been published in news accounts   

over the past 20 years. What appears to be new in the Fishman documents is   

a 1980 "Confidential Student Briefing" on OT-VIII. The church calls the   

four-page briefing a fake. 

Purportedly written by Hubbard, who died in 1986, it tells the story of   

the church founder's "mission here on Earth," and warns that "virtually   

all religions of any significance on this planet" are designed to "bring   

about the eventual enslavement of mankind." It also states that "The   

historic Jesus was not nearly the sainted figure [he] has been made out to   

be. In addition to being a lover of young boys and men, he was given to   

uncontrollable bursts of temper and hatred." 

Ultimately, the briefing says Hubbard will return to Earth "not as a   

religious leader but a political one. That happens to be the requisite   

beingness for the task at hand. I will not be known to most of you, my   

activities misunderstood by many, yet along with your constant effort in   

the theta band I will effectively postpone and then halt a series of   

events designed to make happy slaves of us all." 

The text concludes, "L. Ron Hubbard, Founder." But Scientology director   

Weiland says it is "a complete forgery." 

Genie Out of the Bottle 

Forgery or the real thing, the documents are out there. The Internet   

newsgroups where the Scientology texts have been posted are among the most   

popular in cyberspace, and a recent brouhaha over the erasure of Internet   

messages has drawn new readers. 

"I'm a computer scientist, and I knew nothing about Scientology until all   

this started happening," says Dick Cleek, a professor of geography and   

computer science at the University of Wisconsin Center in West Bend who   

believes Scientologists are behind the erasures. "This is about the   

ability of people to speak out. It's as if every letter you sent saying   

`Vote Republican' got removed from the mails. . . . 

"Every time they cancel one message, three more people post the   

documents," says Cleek, who is also a member of the Ad Hoc Committee   

Against Internet Censorship, a group of academics, computer users and   

Scientology critics who want law enforcement authorities to investigate   

the erased messages. "In the past, the church has harassed individuals who   

dared to criticize them. Now they've attacked the Internet, and they get   

people like me involved." 

The church says it has never removed any messages from the Internet.   

"There are thousands of messages there about Scientology," says Weiland.   

"Those people were critical and obscene and we never did a thing about   


Weiland says people who post messages about Scientology are "just a bunch   

of people of low moral standards. They don't have a life. It's really only   

a handful of people, maybe 15 to 20 guys who just post, post, post, and   

they just get high on each other's verbiage." 

Despite the church's claim to copyright protection of its documents,   

Scientology will be hard-pressed to eliminate distribution of information   

already zipping around the world on the computer network, says Gotts. "The   

beauty and the beast of the Internet is that information gets out   

immediately," the lawyer says. The church could win every court battle,   

yet still find its sacred texts flying across phone lines from Bethesda to   


Which would suit Arnie Lerma just fine. His goal is to dissuade people   

from joining Scientology by revealing the church's philosophy to be empty   

and corrupt. 

Lerma -- who says he left the church after leaders forced him out of a   

budding romance with a daughter of the church founder -- is an angry and   

sad man. He says Scientology took advantage of him as a boy of 16, luring   

him into a life of virtual slavery, housing him in cold dormitories with   

insufficient food. "They prey on the naive with stars in their eyes. I   

just wanted to save the world." 

Weiland says Lerma left because "Scientology has certain ethical   

standards. And Arnie Lerma was not able to live up to these standards and   

therefore decided to leave. There were problems with honesty." 

"Ultimately," Weiland says, "his motivation is money." The director adds   

that Lerma never asked Scientology for money. "Not yet," he says. 

Lerma contends he has violated no copyright, and intended only to   

distribute portions of the court file, "a public court record that I had a   

public duty to make available to the people because they were keeping it   


Arnie Lerma is a man given to causes. For years, he sought solutions   

through Scientology. More recently, he became intensely active in Ross   

Perot's abortive presidential campaign. Then he dived into efforts to   

unmask what he calls Perot's "terrible misdeeds." Now he has turned to   

Scientology once more. 

Or, rather, against it. He says he does not seek revenge, only justice. He   

says that after he left the church, he went through a post-traumatic   

stress reaction, then through denial and, finally, a "reawakening." 

Lerma lights up another Marlboro. He says he's smoking too much now. Every   

time the phone rings, he jumps up off the couch. Every time there's a   

knock at the door, he glances around the room. 

Suddenly, he recalls the moment in 1977 when he called his mother in   

Georgetown and asked her to take him away from Scientology. "I said, `Mom,   

I want to come home now and see if I can make life make some sense,   

because it surely doesn't right now.' " 

And now, 18 years later, as Lerma says those words once more, he rolls   

over on his couch, drops his cigarette, and sobs until he laughs. 

Special correspondent Kathryn Wexler in Los Angeles and staff writer Lan   

Nguyen in Alexandria contributed to this report. 

Copyright 1995 The Washington Post 

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