I attended the Los Angeles protest organized by Anonymous today in Hollywood. It was a peaceful demonstration of several hundred people. No official spokesperson from the Church of Scientology appeared. Only one person on site self-identified as a current Scientologist, a bass player by the name of Billy Sheehan, who used to play for David Lee Roth after Van Halen broke up. Mark Bunker of XenuTV was interviewing him when I arrived, and I spoke with Billy a couple of times later during the day. As it turns out, Billy grew up Catholic out in Buffalo, NY, so I had a chance to ask him about what drew him to Scientology, what he thought of the Catholic Church, etc. Other highlights that I captured in audio were:
- Ken and Grace Aaron, former members of Scientology and founders of The Committee on Religious Shunning, as they were being interviewed by E! News about the church’s policy of “disconnection” which has left them without contact with their son Zachary for almost eight years
- conversations with a few members of Anonymous about their creed — “We will not forgive; We will not forget”
- a conversation with Tommy Gorman, who grew up in the Church of Scientology and who volunteered in the office of special affairs in Mountain View, about his experiences and how he and his family managed to escape the cult, after his 16-year-old girlfriend was raped by a member of the church.
UPDATE: The Church of Scientology released this statement to organizations in the mainstream press:
‘Anonymous’ is perpetrating religious hate crimes against Churches of Scientology and individual Scientologists for no reason other than religious bigotry.
And Anonymous has responded with a new message:
Ladies and gentlemen of the public and the press,
Today, working in concert with concerned citizens from all over the world, Anonymous has staged a large number of simultaneous public demonstrations at Church of Scientology centers around the globe. Now that we have made evident the sincerity of our intentions and the strength of our dedication, we would like to take this opportunity to clarify our objectives to the press and to the public. There have been a number of myths and misconceptions surrounding the nature of our means and intentions. Among these is the idea that our declaration of war is to be interpreted as a threat of physical harm against individuals affiliated with the Church of Scientology.
Allegations that Anonymous wishes to physically harm any human being as a part of our campaign against the cult of Scientology are patently untrue. As stated in one of our productions, the intention of Anonymous is to ‘systematically dismantle the Church of Scientology in its present form’. Our struggle is directed against the toxic ideals and behavior of the corrupt, violent, and abusive leadership of the Church of Scientology, not against the lives of those who have become entangled with it. Know this: though we oppose all that they stand for, even the highest officers of this cult will not be harmed physically by Anonymous. Our battle is one of ideas. As we speak, it is being fought and won in the hearts and minds of the worlds honest citizenry and their leaders. The ideological nature of our struggle brings us to another common misconception regarding the objectives of Anonymous in this campaign.
Although many of us are put off by L. Ron Hubbard’s religious doctrine, we do not oppose the right of individuals to follow beliefs of their choice. As set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”. Anonymous, as a whole, honors the spirit of this declaration. We fight against the atrocities – not the beliefs – of the brainwashing cult known as the Church of Scientology. The acts of defamation, intimidation and murder perpetrated by this criminal organization galvanize our resolve to fight against it. Our righteous indignation is directed against the hypocrisy of this institution, not against the faith of its members. As an illustrative example of our stance, we would like to draw your attention toward a group of individuals who practice L. Ron Hubbard’s teachings, but have disaffiliated themselves from the Church of Scientology. They are known as the Freezone. Anonymous bears no animosity toward an organization such as this one.
Many of you may wonder how Anonymous plans on launching into the task of dissolving the Church of Scientology. As a fundamentalist, totalitarian organization that seeks control of information and manipulation through fear, the Church of Scientology possesses inherent flaws. Anonymous is studying these flaws, and has made them the basis of a long-term strategy.
Our first major objective is the revocation of this cult’s tax-exempt status wherever it has managed to obtain one. Indeed, the privileges awarded to the Church of Scientology under US law are significantly more generous than those enjoyed by major religions. As set out by the appellants in Sklar v. Commissioner, training offered through the Church of Scientology is tax deductible, while that obtained through legitimate religious institutions is not. The status of the Church of Scientology as a tax exempt religion is an affront to honest religious organizations. However, its special status with the US IRS which places it above and beyond other religions is not merely an affront, but a slap in the face.
Other objectives set out by Anonymous at the present time include – but are not limited to – exposing the criminal practices of the Church to public scrutiny, neutralization of its fraudulently obtained assets and corresponding operations, the liberation of members coerced and blackmailed to work for the Church in illegitimate ways, declaration of the Church and its shell corporations as prohibited criminal organizations and the criminal prosecution of the persons responsible for particularly heinous acts performed in the name of this Church.
Throughout our struggle, we maintain the following thesis: that the Church of Scientology was founded for purposes incompatible with a society holding dear a respect for human rights and the rule of law. These nefarious purposes can only be achieved through criminal enterprise, and remain objectives of the Church to this day. We further maintain that this criminal enterprise is operated by its leaders knowingly and willingly, and that the true extent and tone of the Church’s activity is outrageous and sickening. These statements are not contrived, but based on conclusions derived from extensive study of Church history. Our sources include its own documents, the testimonies of its victims, the words of those who have escaped it and educational materials that the Church would keep secret for fear of exposure. We therefore consider the Church of Scientology a despicable criminal organization which, through the indoctrination of its members, predation upon those in need, the dissemination of lies regarding its nature, by way of sadistic retaliatory practices against its critics and through its cynical abuse of civil liberties has forfeit any right it had to exist.
On several occasions, figures within the media have casually dismissed Anonymous as nothing more than a gaggle of restless youth. We remain entirely undeterred by their remarks. Virtually all age groups, creeds and professions are represented within our ranks. Many who are not affiliated with Anonymous have expressed support for our campaign. Their words serve to further underscore the broad demographic base of our initiative. If you remain doubtful of our strength and resolve, we invite you to observe them for yourselves.
Actions speak louder than words. In the name of those who have been silenced by the criminal organization that is the Church of Scientology, Anonymous will be heard. Our cause is just. We shall prevail.
We are Anonymous.
We have Awoken.
We stand as One.