Riverside Press Enterprise

Anti-cult group says Scientologist harassing them by trying to join

by Laura Myers

March 17, 1992

Hundreds of Scientologists are trying to join an anti-cult group that has targeted their church in a bizarre clash of wills.

Three Scientologists filed suit claiming their applications were ignored.

August Murphy, a San Francisco-based spokesman for the Scientologists, said Thursday that the members did not set out to harass the anti-cult group, the Chicago-based Cult Awareness Network, but instead decided "if we can't fight 'em, join 'em."

"Unfortunately, it's come to the point where the only workable thing is to face them head-on," Murphy said. "They have a blatant bias against some religious organizations and spread inflammatory stuff about us."

Critics say the Church of Scientology, founded by the late science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, targets emotionally vulnerable people with high-pressure recruiting and self-improvement programs. The church, which claims several million members, also has been accused of sapping financial resources of followers.

Leaders of the Cult Awareness Network, which has taken on Scientology, "Moonies" and the late Jim Jones, who led his followers to a mass suicide, said the "cult" members are trying to infiltrate and quash their strongest critic.

"If you knew there was an organization that provided negative information that could cause people not to join, you might want to consider ways of getting rid of that opposition," said Cynthia Kisser, executive director of the network. "They just want to stop us any way they can."

Suits filed in two California courts and in U.S. District Court in San Francisco contend the Cult Awareness Network and its local chapters are discriminating by denying Scientologists membership.

About 700 Scientologists have sent letters to CAN asking to join, saying they only want to be involved in "religious education." But Kisser called the mass applications and lawsuits harassment.

Kisser, who said the group could not afford a long legal battle, said the network has not denied Scientologists membership, but told all applicants to send a $30 annual membership fee for a newsletter subscription.

"I can't tell you if any Scientologists have joined our national organization, because we just don't ask. If they send a $30 check, we just cash it," Kisser said. "But we haven't had a flood of new members."