On the run from L. Ron Hubbard - 2001-05-23
Keith Henson is waging a one-man crusade against Scientology. Arguing that the church threatens to undermine the First Amendment by suing opponents into submission, he has fought the house that L. Ron Hubbard built at every turn. Since 1995, when the church first angered Net users by trying to close down a newsgroup dedicated to discussing Scientology's practices, he has posted documents that the church considers secret on the Web, picketed the church's headquarters and defended his actions in court.
Just last month, the California Superior Court in Riverside County handed Henson a major defeat. Citing Henson's picketing in front of Riverside's Golden Era Productions (a sound and film studio for the Church of Scientology) last summer and messages he posted in a Scientology newsgroup, the court found Henson guilty of violating the state's hate-crimes law. His demonstrations, the court ruled, interfered with Scientologists' constitutional right to religious freedom.
Online critics of Scientology, and some free-speech advocates, responded to the decision with outrage, calling Henson "an American hero." His conviction, they said, was nothing less than a "miscarriage of justice," as one poster at geek site Slashdot put it. Others called Henson "a martyr."