Protesters march down Broad Street Saturday as part of a demonstration against Scientology organized by the group Anonymous.
A protester holds a poster urging disconnected Scientologists to get in touch with their families. Scientology prohibits members from speaking with opponents of the church, including their own family members.
Last Saturday, members of the group Anonymous staged a protest against the Church of Scientology. Protesters were upset with aspects of the Church’s doctrine, which purportedly breaks up families.
The protest is the third in a series of demonstrations against the Church of Scientology in the Seattle area and worldwide.
The group trekked from Key Arena and ended their march in front of the Church, a mostly red brick building with several cameras perched on its roof. Demonstrators stood alongside Aurora Avenue, waved signs, ate chocolate cake, and cheered as drivers honked their horns in support.
“Well, it’s a good waste of a beautiful day,” said Sandy Finn, a longtime member of the Church, when asked what she thought about the crowd outside. “I don’t really know what the issue is. It appears that the age group seems to be between 16 and 22. They’re not Scientologists. They have nothing better to do.”
What makes Anonymous protests unusual is the group’s strong condition of anonymity and their work in Internet vigilantism. Anonymous is an organization that lacks a leader. Its members wear various masks and disguises to protect their identities from what they perceive as a genuine threat from the Church; parishioners of the Church also view Anonymous as equally threatening and accuse the group of cyber-terrorism.
Enigma, an Anonymous member, expected 100 to 150 people to show up for the protest.
Enigma and members of Anonymous strongly disagree with the Church’s policies and tax exemptions.
Their most recent protest brings attention to the Church’s “disconnection policy,” a policy described as a practice “that any Church member who has family and friends that disagreed with Church policy should be removed entirely from that person’s life” according to a forwarded email.
“[The disconnection policy] has broken up many families; this is part of why the Church is considered a cult,” the email states.
In retaliation, the Church of Scientology released a statement explaining that Anonymous “destroyed the Web sites of thousands of MySpace users” and perpetrates “religious hate crimes … for no reason other than religious bigotry.” The Church claims that Anonymous attempts to suppress “free speech through illegal assaults on Church Web sites so as to prevent Internet users from obtaining information from the Church.”
“I’ve been a critic of Scientology for a long time,” Enigma said. “Anonymous has really allowed everyone to voice their opinion without being subjected to Fair Game by the [Church of Scientology].”
According to Norway-based Operation Clambake, a Web site that offers information critical of Scientology, Fair Game is a previously banned practice against so-called enemies of the Church.
Church documents reveal that enemies are considered “fair game” and “May be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.”
Church documents also show that Fair Game was eventually cancelled affirming that “The practice of declaring people FAIR GAME will cease. FAIR GAME may not appear on any Ethics Order. It causes bad public relations.”
However, Operation Clambake argues that the document “only cancels the use of the term ‘Fair Game.’ It states clearly that the practice described in the policy … is not cancelled. The Church of Scientology does not change anything because it’s wrong … they change it because it gives bad [public relations].”
Anonymous also believes that the Church continues its policy of Fair Game to this day.
The conflict between Anonymous and the Church of Scientology began in February 2008 when Anonymous posted a declaration against the Church in response to a leaked video of Scientology advocate and celebrity Tom Cruise.
Since then, the Church has worked to keep anything related to its doctrine off the Web “‘due to a copyright complaint from the Church of Scientology’ which makes it very difficult for normal people to understand what is going on” according to Anonymous.
Anonymous added that the Church “went so far as to try to get a restraining order against all protestors.”
“They really attack ruthlessly with their lawyers,” Enigma said describing Church tactics. “They ruthlessly attack any critic, anyone of the church.”
The Church of Scientology produced a DVD to counter claims made by Anonymous and released audio clips of assumed Anonymous callers avowing violence, declaring to the Church that “Death will come” and “You should fucking kill yourself” among millions of expletive-laced phone calls, death threats, bomb threats, emails, acts of vandalism, and derogatory faxes.
Finn equated the demonstrators against the Church with former members of other faiths such as Catholicism and Buddhism. She pointed out that all faiths will have ex-members who will speak out against past beliefs.
“You find that in all religions,” Finn said.
The struggle between the Church and Anonymous won’t end anytime soon. Both sides don’t intend to step down from their accusations and the escalating rhetoric is becoming stronger if not nastier.
“These people that are in [the Church of Scientology] are trained not to look,” a former Scientologist and protestor said. “They’re trained not to think. They’re drones coming off the assembly line cross-eyed.”
[Contact Anthony Shelley at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
What is Scientology?
— Scientology is “the study and handling of the spirit in relationship to itself, others, and all of life.”
— Man is considered to be an immortal, spiritual being capable of fixing his own problems and achieving higher understanding.
— Science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard started Scientology in 1950 with the publication of Dianetics, a technique that “constituted the definitive explanation of the human mind.”
—The first Church of Scientology in 1954 in Los Angeles.
— Scientologists are encouraged to seek medical treatment when ill
—Anonymous describes itself as “a cultural phenomenon [that] began on internet image boards”
—The group is “collection of individuals” with no leader.
—Members organize through posting on public Internet forums.
— Anonymous doesn’t advocate hatred toward the religion of Scientology but the Church
— Anonymous was credited with helping to close white supremacy radio show produced by Hal Turner and arrest of Canadian pedophile Chris Forcand.
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