The Church of Scientology is suing a Redondo Beach couple and a New York writer, alleging they ruined one of its gala fund-raisers by distributing anti-Scientology literature outside the event.
While the church
claims the demonstrators should pay damages for causing the event to lose
money, the defendants say the case amounts to harassment and an attempt
to bully them into silence.
"They are interfering
with basic free speech," said Carl Pearlston, a Torrance attorney
representing one defendant. "Scientology simply wanted to file a
lawsuit to stop people from talking."
The case involves
Curt and Henrietta Crampton of Redondo Beach, whose daughter was a member
of a religious cult, and Paulette Cooper, a writer Scientology targeted
once for a smear campaign.
The suit alleges
the Cramptons were distributing a Reader's Digest article, "Scientology:
The Frightening Cult," outside the Hollywood Palladium, where the
church was having a fund-raiser in September, 1981.
The event, billed
"Celebrity Auction for the Charities of the Stars," was to auction
memorabilia donated by movie stars, famous athletes and other personalities.
Among other things,
the money was to be used to restore Fifield Manor, a Hollywood landmark
Scientology uses for offices.
The Cramptons, believing
the public did not know the church was sponsoring the auction or was misled
about where the money would go, wanted to warn celebrities and the public
Scientology was behind it.
Before going to the
Palladium, the Cramptons and members of their anti-cult group, Citizens
Freedom Foundation, cleared their activities with the Los Angeles Police
It is alleged that
as a result of the defendants' actions, the church was defamed and the
auction, which cost $40,000 to put on, only raised $13,000. Because of
this, church officials say, they are entitled to their losses and $2 million
in punitive damages.
in Los Angeles Superior Court about a year ago. Since that time the case
has remained dormant.
requests, Scientology officials declined to discuss the lawsuit and the
defendants' allegations. Carson Taylor, the church's attorney, said "We
would rather try the case in court. We have no comment at this time."
Although Ms. Cooper
was never outside the Palladium, Scientology charges she conspired to
disrupt the event and slander the church. The writer said she was on a
free-lance assignment in Los Angeles when Scientology members served her
with two lawsuits.
"I was at the
Boneventure Hotel attending the American Psychiatric Association Convention
looking for stories. They found me between speeches," Ms. Cooper
said. "Then one of them asked me if I had any comment on the fact
that I was 'going to jail soon.'"
Scientology's allegations that the defendants interfered with the church's
right to make money are unfounded. He likened the situation to a church
suing over an empty collection plate because someone told people not to
attend its services.
Both the Cramptons
and Ms. Cooper claim the lawsuits are nothing more than harassment and
an example of the philosophy of L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology's founder.
Hubbard's writing advocates the use of lawsuits to discourage the church's
critics. One Hubbard passage reads: "
We should be very alert
to sue for slander at the slightest chance so as to discourage the public
presses from mentioning Scientology."
curtails free speech even when we have the documents and the truth. By
doing this to us, others might be afraid to do it. The legal costs are
prohibitive for many," Mrs. Crampton said.
For Ms. Cooper, who
wrote the Scandal of Scientology in 1971, the current case represents
the 19th time she has been sued by Scientology. So far, there have been
no judgments against her, she said.
Ms. Cooper claims she was the target of a Scientology plot called "Operation Freakout," which was designed to send her to jail or a mental institution. According to church documents the FBI seized, the purpose of "Freakout" was to force her into stopping her criticism of the church.
The documents were
among thousands of records confiscated in an FBI raid on the church's
Los Angeles offices in 1977. Authorities used some of the records to prosecute
nine Scientology officials who were convicted Oct. 26, 1979, of plotting
to steal government records about the church.
The records mentioned
specific plots in which Scientology spread rumors that Ms. Cooper had
venereal disease, harassed her and planned to make bomb threats in her
She said one threat
sent by the church on her stationary resulted in her indictment by a federal
grand jury in New York in May 1973. It took her two years to convince
prosecutors the church sent the threat.
"The lawsuits can be used to harass. For me this is a perfect example," Ms. Cooper said. "It is part of a typical Scientology dirty tricks campaign."