CYBERSURFING - 1995-02-02
Perturbations, pleasures and predicaments on the information superhighway: The controversial Church of Scientology is not making any new friends on the Internet. In recent weeks, attorneys for the church have threatened legal action against people who they say post church documents in the alt.religion.scientology discussion group.
Now the church wants to shut down the alt.religion.scientology newsgroup entirely, claiming its top-secret "scriptures" are being revealed, and its copyrights and trade secrets violated. "We are trying to deal with an anarchy created by some net users who callously trample on the intellectual property rights of organizations," Scientology attorney Helena Kobrin wrote in a letter that's been reposted in many newsgroups.
Them's fightin' words on the Net, whose partisans are nothing if not impassioned defenders of free speech. Internet users have begun a petition drive decrying the church's efforts as censorship. Defectors from Scientology say the copyright argument is a smoke screen, and that Scientology's leadership simply cannot tolerate an open forum for dissent. Last week, the Washington-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, the leading civil liberties organization for Net users, rallied to the defense of system administrators who've been caught in the middle. Scientology lawyers say defectors from the church are illegally distributing "advanced technology" course materials that usually cost devotees thousands of dollars to obtain. Those scriptures include Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard's dogma that an intergalactic holocaust 75 million years ago touched off mankind's spiritual woes.