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Censorship Your Rights Online

Scientology Critic Flees U.S. Over Usenet Posts, Pickets 477

Posted by jamie
from the that-was-a-joke-Your-Honor dept.
Keith Henson was arraigned on charges of "misdemeanor terrorism" last September. Last month the jury deadlocked on those charges, but convicted him of making threats to interfere with the constitutional privilege of enjoying religious freedom. He was not present at his sentencing hearing yesterday and is a fugitive from justice, apparently planning to claim asylum in Canada. If you've ever flamed anyone in an online forum, and think you have a right to carry a picket sign, you need to study this miscarriage of justice. Details below. Update by J : freehenson.tripod.com has been taken down, so I'm linking to a mirror.

"Religious bigotry will not be tolerated in Riverside County," was a Scientology spokesperson's reaction to the verdict.

That's basically the problem right there. The First Amendment gives me the right to be a bigot as long as I don't hurt or threaten anyone. You don't have to like my opinions, but you do have to tolerate them.

If you've ever hung out in an online forum, you'll probably get deja vu reading this Usenet thread. The first message posted is a description of cruising past some Scientology related buildings, complete with GPS coordinates for whatever reason. It's written as a self-mocking, satirical sendup of spy movies. The remainder of the thread is jokes in the same vein.

The question is whether this running gag about "Tom Cruise Missile Coordinates" (get it?) could be taken seriously enough to qualify as a threat under Section 11415 of the California Penal Code.

As I read the recently-passed law, if you go along with the jokes about the "handheld laser guidance system," you might be a terrorist:

Any person who knowingly threatens to use a weapon of mass destruction [including] by means of an electronic communication device, is to be taken as a threat, even if there is no intent of actually carrying it out ...

The fact that the person who allegedly violated this section did not actually possess a biological agent, toxin, or chemical weapon does not constitute a defense to the crime specified in this section.

The victim of said terrorism must have been in "sustained fear" of the threat being carried out. And how does the law know your victim was in sustained fear? Because he or she evacuated the building -- or took "any other action."

Here's what Henson says. In this case, the Scientology organization's legal team managed to bar any evidence from being presented about why Henson was picketing the Scientology location (because of two unusual deaths within a month).

Nor was the context of the above thread, or context of Henson's other Usenet posts, allowed to be introduced. For example, the jury could not see the context of the above thread; they only saw Henson's contribution to the running gag:

Modern weapons are accurate to a matter of a few tens of yards. The terminal guidence ones are good to single digits.

Of the next quote, the jury was only allowed to see the first sentence, not the second:

The only way I can get clear of this scientology mess is to "destroy them utterly." So: This week I will be back picketing gold base.

And you can decide what you think his third quote means, but again you have the advantage of its context being just a click away:

PPS Killing the organization off entirely is the best way to change the future of Scientology.

Worse still, according to Henson's at-the-time lawyer, whether these statements caused fear in some Scientologists was decided not by the statements he actually made, but by hearsay versions they got from others. He points out that Scientology's censorware package ("Scienositter") would have blocked the original Usenet posts anyway:

...cult members, who are not allowed access to the Internet and are actively prevented (by the Church of Scientology "net nanny") from reading the newsgroups on which Henson posts, may have an unreasonable and irrational fear based on unreasonable and out of context statements of which they were informed selectively, but which they did not read.

So picture Keith Henson's situation. He feels strongly about his particular cause. He peacefully carries a picket sign. He exercises his First Amendment right to post on Usenet about what he's doing and why -- and in so doing he uses sentences and phrases which, in context, clearly are not threats, but out of context could be construed that way.

Dragged into court, all context is stripped away and -- while he narrowly escapes conviction as a domestic terrorist -- he is convicted of using the threat of force against people who may never have actually read what he wrote.

If you're smart, you'll take Henson's case as a warning. You'll think about what your own statements would look like, with their context totally removed, and in the harsh spotlight of a courtroom. Do you really need to post that joke, or wouldn't the judge find it funny?

You'll soften up your opinions just a little, trying not to change what you mean while trying to change what you could be twisted to mean.

Maybe it's not such a great loss for you or me; we're not great writers anyway, and if we censor ourselves before hitting Save, maybe that's not the end of the world. We weren't really going to use that First Amendment right anyway, you know?

But somewhere out there is a Mark Twain who's had it up to here and is poised to pen a caustic attack on a religion which will become an important classic. As of yesterday, Mark's a bit more likely to live in Canada.

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Scientology Critic Leaves U.S. Over Usenet Posts

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 17, 2001 @05:54AM (#216724)
    Er, ACs aren't "members," right?
  • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Thursday May 17, 2001 @05:41AM (#216726) Homepage Journal
    The article harps on and on about how these quotes were taken out of context, yet isn't it the job of the defendant's lawyer to give context to those quotes (and to explain his clients actions and why these threats were not real?)

    I'm by no means a fan of $cientology, but I have the strange feeling I'm only getting 1/2 the story here. Certainly his lawyer should have explained that the usenet posts were a joke and the jury shouldn't have given it a second thought (the post in the google archive isn't terribly threatning IMHO, you'd need see-through thin skin to be affected by it). All in all, something just isn't adding up here.

    Down that path lies madness. On the other hand, the road to hell is paved with melting snowballs.
  • "Be full of faith", and "seek truth" are incompatible goals.
  • Having faith in something and being right totally by accident is not how one seeks the truth. One seeks the truth by NOT engaging in faith. Columbus' trip was not based on faith. It had already been proven mathematically that the world was a sphere. In fact, if anything Columbus's faith was a faith that the world was small enough to make his trip short, a faith that was proven to be incorrect later. The fact that the world was a sphere was already known. In fact, the greeks had even made an experiment to measure how big the earth was, by extrapolating from the curve of the sea surface. (Put a stick of known hieght a great distance away (or use a ship's mast), than see how far away you get before the top of the stick is lost behind the horizon. Using this, it can be determined how tightly the surface is curved, and if you assume the world is spherical, you can figure out how big around it is from just that fragment. Using this primative technique, the Greeks got a figure that was only about 5% off from what we know today. Very smart people. Columbus's faith COUNTERED this fact, with his assumption that the world was much smaller. In fact, the notion that his exploration was opposed because people thought the world was flat is a myth. His expedition found opposition because learned scholars were telling him the world was MUCH bigger than he had guessed, and they (not he) were right. Columbus is damn lucky there was a continent out there in the way or he'd have died.
  • You miss my point. The people that did the raid on Washington were British Navy, NOT colonial soldiers. They weren't even Canadian colonists. They just happened to be stationed in Canada at the time. Now, that said, SOME colonists did participate, but not in the burning of the white house. That was a navy operation, involving sailing down the coast and up the Patomic river.

    Now, as to your second point, even if Canadian colonists were participating, it still wouldn't be the same sort of thing. They declared themselves to be fighting for the Brits, under their army, under their command. The official start of the US as a country was the signing of the declaration of independance, in 1776, which occurred a few years after the fighting began, but well before it was over. Before that declaration, the war was a *set* of splinter groups fighting, that hadn't even declared themselves to be a single entity yet, and the thirteen colonies had no connection to each other at all. New Jersey and New York were just as "foreign" to each other as Maine and Nova Scotia. The signing of that document is what declared the 13 colonies to be one federated nation, and that's why it's the start of the US as a country. The fact that the war wasn't over yet is not relevant. Britain *declared* that the US was still just a set of colonies, but Britain wasn't really in charge phyiscally. They just held a few cities. (And held them well, and won most battles, but in the end it didn't matter because at the time the US was largely agricultural and could function on the large amount of land the Brits were ignoring.)

  • You must have missed the part where I said the burning of the white house wasn't even done by Canadians. (be they colonials or not) It was done by the British Navy, NOT by people born and raised in Canada. They sailed out FROM Canada to do it, but so what? If you say that means Canada did it, then by the same logic France bombed England in World War 2. Sure, it was german pilots in german planes, but many of them took off from airstrips in France to do it.

    If you ignore the rest of the world and look at just the US and Canada, then it might look like the US started the war of 1812. But if you look at the world, the war of 1812 was merely an expansion of US/British hostilities that actually began at sea, over British trade blockades.

    (And if you look at the whole Western Hemisphere, and not just the US/Canada border, the war of 1812 was a draw. No land changed hands, even though both sides tried taking over land. (The US tried invading into some British land (called Canada), and the British tried invading into the south of the US, near New Orleans. Both of these failed. The US capitol buildings were burned (but the city was not held by the British. They just burned some buildings and left.), but at the same time the US Did get what it wanted in the end, which was open trade in the Western Hemisphere. (The war was started over the British Colonial practice of forbidding trade between British colonies and anyone other than Britain herself. It was illegal to sell US goods to British colonies (both Canadian and Carribiean) and visa versa, and THAT was the issue that sparked the war.)

    If you seriously think that the skirmishes along the US/Canadian border were the ONLY part of the war of 1812, then I see how you might have gotten your skewed view.

    You can't ignore the fact that Canada was British in 1812. That's the only reason why any fighting occurred at all across the US/Canada border.

  • by DunbarTheInept (764) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @12:52PM (#216731) Homepage
    Fact: Canada had not yet declared independance during the war of 1812. It was still a British colonial holding.

    Fact: The war of 1812 was fought between the US and the British.

    Fact: The British made use of their vast colony known as "Canada" as a place to fight the US from (instead of trying to do it from across the sea).

    Conclusion: The Canadians didn't burn the white house down. The British did. Despite Canadian patriotic claims to the contrary, the US has NEVER been to war with the nation known as Canada. In 1812, there was NO such thing as a nation called "Canada" yet. The name "Canada" referred to a vast array of British colonies in the north.

  • by defile (1059) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @07:59AM (#216732) Homepage Journal

    Get out! Scientologists abusing people through the legal system?! How dare you make such accusations?! I can't believe any of this garbage. People should stop being religious bigots and accept Scientology for the well meaning organization that it is.

  • I'm curious to know why you believe Discordianism is a made up religion. Although I am not a Discordian, I do know enough about the Principia Discordia and the beliefs of the religion to know that you should _not_ base your opinion on the perversions of it that you see in the news media. Seeing rebel stoners claiming holy war on others is not what Discordianism is about. Indeed, Malaclypse the Younger was all for peace and love. Read a little before you just lump it in with every religion.

    Your point is valid in a lot of other ways though, a belief system is a belief system is a belief system. You'll still kill for it, you'll still put down others in it's defense.

    Please do not lick this post.
  • So that we can all talk civilly, I want to mention a few critical points:
    1. Scientology is the only "religion" (at least in the US) that engages in these kinds of litigious tactics. Please don't blame "religion" in general for the actions of Scientology.
    2. There is considerable reason to believe that scientology was started as a joke and/or a business. Many countries (e.g. Germany) do not regard Scientology as a religion but as a business.
    3. By most accounts, one advances in Scientology by spending a lot of money. A Supreme Court case found that this money was not donations, but fee for service.
    4. Most of all, scientology is in no way affiliated with any world religion. Please don't hold us accountable for their errors.
    Disclaimer: I am not an expert on Scientology, and the above statements are based on things I have heard said in other forums over the years.

    --

  • Asylum in Canada is an embarrassment to the US if it is granted. Canada is America's closest Neighbor and closest ali (Except for burning that building which had to be repainted and is now called "The White House").

    Ordinary American citizens if asked to pick a justice system other than the US they would trust their fates to would likely select Britain or Canada.

    Running away to Canada just splatters egg all over the face of the US system.
    --
    Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.
    Whatever is said in Latin sounds profound.
  • by Vermifax (3687) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @05:41AM (#216743)
    to kill all slashdot members with Phasers and Photon torpedos.

    Vermifax
  • If the recognized court of the government determines that he can not express his views on Scientology, then why wouldn't that be prosecution by the government? The court is merely the legal branch of the government in the United States.

  • by TBone (5692) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @07:12AM (#216749) Homepage

    You can condemn him to your heart's content. You can post to these newsgroups that he will burn in hell for being so bigoted and intolerant and offensive.

    I would defend your right to do so, too. It's your opinion, you have the right to express that opinion, no matter how offinsive or misplaces it may be.

    But it's not the place of the courts of California or any government to determine what speech in particular should or should not be condemned. That brings us right up the the looming cliff of Censorship, and once we go that way, there will be no going back.

    If this case stands, Scientology will have legal grounds to have every non-apprived reference removed from the public eye. If that happens, any group can have anything removed that is offensive to them. ALl these Neo-nazi groups can have information on all the experiments that Himler oversaw removed, because they have nothing to do witht he Nazi political movement and detract from their message. Or orders from the Religious Right because I have pictures fo Diablo on my web page, and we all know that Diablo comes from the Latin for Satan.

    Regardless of what you think about what he said, you can not claim that he should be subjected to this without me condemning you as a hypocrite.

  • Better yet, ROT26 (i.e.,ROT 13 twice), or even ROT 42.
  • I'm pretty sure that you're a few wars off and that it was actually World War I (one).
  • Let's suppose that, instead of venting his anger against a religious organization, Mr. Henson had made similar statements against some other minority group.... let's say homosexuals or abortion rights activists.

    I wonder if the reaction here to his supposed "hate crimes" and "threats" would be any different.

    I strongly suspect that the majority of the posts here regarding Mr. Henson's innocence, or the "harmless threats" he made would be on the other side of the fence...

    It's all a matter of "us" and "them".

    --

  • The "'Fire' in a crowded theatre" analogy was penned in a decision to imprison a peaceful protester whose only crime was to condemn the draft.

    Anyone who talks about limiting your write to yell 'FIRE' is talking about limiting your right to peaceable protest. Remember that. The historical context should always remind us that so long as the pwerful and control-oriented can craft "reasonable limits," they will use them to stifle criticism.
    --G
  • This is an interesting assertion (and may in fact be a troll). I would counter with the assertion that the constitution as written is far more robust than you (or many modern jurists) give it credit for.

    For example, the constitution as written addresses "intellictual property rights", and says congress has the power to guarantee them to authors and inventors "for limited times" (where "limited" has a legally significant meaning). The separation between that limit upon the power of Congress and current statutory law is an issue well worth addressing; if you believe the status quo to be preferable, then perhaps you have a consistent argument, but if not, it suggests that current statute and juris prudence are errant, not that the Constitution per se has a weakness.

    One significant point on which I think the framers got it wrong was their mistrust of standing armies (see the 2-year appropriation limit), but even in that I see why they did it, and recognize that it was in many ways tied with the logistics of war in the day which are no longer applicable.

    I'm curious which of the "first principles" enshrined in the constituion and its amendments you think are out of date and need replacement?

  • The defense lawyer was NOT ALLOWED to enter the evidence he wished to enter. keith was not able to talk about why he was picketing or the policies of practive of the Church (i.e. fair game, "hatting" a Scientology witness, destroying critics "utterly and without sorrow").

    Speaking of the last point, Hubbard is quote as saying:

    "There are only two answers for the handling of people from 2.0 [
    antagonism] down on the tone scale, neither one of which has anything to do with reasoning with them or listening to their justification of their acts. The first is to raise them on the tone scale by un-enturbulating some of their theta by any one of the three valid processes. The other is to dispose of them quietly and without sorrow."


    L. Ron Hubbard, Science of Survival

    Now, Keith said the following in the USENET post:

    The only way I can get clear of this scientology mess is to "destroy them utterly." So: This week I will be back picketing gold base.


    You see, Keith was just quoting Scientology scripture. Any critic would have immediately "got" the joke. However, Scientology was able to act like their own scripture was coming out of Keith's mouth and try him on that. Furthermore, KEITH WAS NOT ALLOWED TO SAY WHERE THAT QUOTE CAME FROM!!!! The defense was under strict rules that none of Scientology's internal practices or even the name of the church he was picketing could be entered into evidence.

    Scientology's abuse of the court system is scary. Remember people, these are the people who scared Slashdot with litigation. Not even Microsoft could do that!!!!!
    ---------------------------
  • However, freedom of religion carries with it the same burdens of freedom of speech in that you take the good with the bad.
    Freedom OF religion also means freedom FROM religion.

    --

  • ``But somewhere out there is a Mark Twain who's had it up to here and is poised to pen a caustic attack on a religion which will become an important classic. As of yesterday, Mark's a bit more likely to live in Canada.''

    Quotations from Ambrose Bierce's ``The Devil's Dictionary'' could be hazardous to your freedom as well.

    Canada may not be a safe haven. Are we sure there aren't any obscure clauses in the NAFTA agreement that might apply here? And for the truly paranoid, there's this [villagevoice.com] story on The Village Voice's web site [villagevoice.com].


    --

  • You are correct.

    The DA & the Scientology lawyer somehow convinced the judge to not allow the full thread nor context of the posts to be used.

    Why was the DA working WITH the Scientology lawyers ???

    This is a criminal case, you don't get to "parter up" with the other lawyers when you are the DA in this manner. Very strange.

    Also, Keith's motivations for picketing and posting $cientology criticism were not allowed either.

    From the point of view of the jurors, Keith just hated these "religious" people for theheck of it, and from that one quote, he did seem obsessed with weapons.

    What a miscarriage of justice !
  • If you want to maintain a strong sense of Hyperbole, might I recommend instead using non-existent science-fiction weapons? Threaten to use a Death Star or anti-matter weapons. Perhaps you should add a further touch of the comedic by threatening somebody with a 747 full of rabid weasels.

    Uh, last time I checked, "Tom Cruise Missiles" was a non-existent weapon.
  • The messages had quotes and matters relating to Scientology, so I guess the judge felt that would prejudice the jury.

    In addition, keep in mind, that they were not allowed to mention Scientology at all in the trial, so the defense couldn't even explain why Henson was opposing this "Church".
  • by gorgon (12965) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @06:23AM (#216771) Homepage Journal
    No, of course that's not what he's advocating. His next paragraph is:
    Maybe it's not such a great loss for you or me; we're not great writers anyway, and if we censor ourselves before hitting Save, maybe that's not the end of the world. We weren't really going to use that First Amendment right anyway, you know?
    He's trying to show what a slippery slope this is. Cases like this won't affect most of us directly, so we won't do anything about it. The point is that the importance of the First Amendment comes from its protection of inflamatory, unpopular, or dangerous speech. Those of us who only speak in bland centrist platitudes don't really need the protection of the First Amendment. But if we don't fight to support it, the power of the First Amendment will not be as strong when the day comes when we need it.

    --
    I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations ...
  • by sterno (16320) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @06:25AM (#216776) Homepage
    My impression is that the judge's interpretaion of the california law was slightly overboard, but not as much as I'd like to think. It says tht somebody who knowingly threatens to use a weapon of mass destruction even if the have no intent or capability of using it can be prosecuted.

    So my thinking is that the judge saw the context as irrelevant in the case because this law doesn't really make clearance for the "just kidding" defense. Effectively this is being treated similarly to the laws about bomb jokes at the airport. So he forbid entry of that evidence into the record because it would have tainted the jury's perspective.

    It seems quite realistic that if you sent an e-mail to somebody and jokingly said, "If you don't come out with us tonight, I'm gonna blow up your house with a cruise missile," you can be prosecuted as a terrorist (assuming they feel compelled to do so). This is a VERY bad law written in the heat of the moment and in desperate need of overturning. So whatever you do in the mean time, if you describe conducting violent acts on anybody in any forum, don't do it in California, and don't use weapons of mass destruction. And ESPECIALLY don't do it to scientologists :)

    If you want to maintain a strong sense of Hyperbole, might I recommend instead using non-existent science-fiction weapons? Threaten to use a Death Star or anti-matter weapons. Perhaps you should add a further touch of the comedic by threatening somebody with a 747 full of rabid weasels.

    Disclaimer: If you choose to use advice in this posting, you need to put down the crack pipe. Just say no!

    ---

  • Sounds to me as if the judge was a Scientologist. He forbade the defense attorney from making an effective defense, and forbade the jury from using common sense.

  • I have to agree with you about Jamie's postings. He is so far over the top that I can't trust his stories. When I started reading this story, my blood was boiling. Then I took a step back, looked at the author, and figured the guy was probably just a anti-COS kook who went overboard and then got himself a stupid lawyer.

    Jamie, I know you've read my critisms before, but please take this constructively. By being so one-sided in your reporting, you're encouraging the people you're trying to persuade to distrust you. Your style might generate a lot of posts, but a mis-guided /. effect launched against an innocent school district, judge or whoever will dramatically damage your cause. (This says nothing of the guilt/innocence of the judge in this case.)

    Why would you damage you cause? Remember when fax machines were becoming popular and there were tons of junk faxes. It was spam that cost you a lot due to the high cost of fax paper back then. Legislators started considering legislation to restrict spam faxing. How did the spammers react?

    They flooded legislative offices with faxes trying to persuade them to not pass the legislation. Hrm...I wonder how legislators reacted to having to go through rolls of thermal paper a day? A huge response might be a grassroots movement, or it's more likely a bunch of idiots who don't have their facts straight motivated by some muckraker who either doesn't have all the facts or is motivated by one side or the other to mis-represent those facts.

    Jamie, I'm saying this as constructive criticism. Whether you like it or not, you're a journalist. People rely on you and take action based on what you say, without realizing that you are only giving one side of the story. Those actions may negatively impact the very people you want to help with your article. As more and more people realize that you let your biases color your reporting, they'll start to distrust you and your stories. Since there will still be a force who'll follow you dispite you bias, you'll lose both ways. Your followers will hurt those you want to help, and you'll lose your reputation with those who see through your bias.

    -sk

  • You'll soften up your opinions just a little, trying not to change what you mean while trying to change what you could be twisted to mean.

    So, Jamie, to be perfectly clear, are you advocating that we give in and just abandon our right to speak as we see fit?

  • Actually, all of your posts are already copyrighted by you. I'll direct your attention to the bottom of the page: "All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective owners. Comments are owned by the Poster. The Rest © 1997-2001 OSDN." (Emphasis mine). Plus, when something is created, it is automatically copyrighted by the creator, unless the copyright is explicitly granted to another. Now, if you want to make that copyright explicit, that's of course perfectly acceptable, too.

  • by GregWebb (26123) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @10:19AM (#216789)
    Two things worry me here.

    Firstly, this means the best and the brightest are pretty much eliminated as possible jurors. That's not good.

    Secondly, I find it difficult to concieve of how to draw the line here on what evaluation of the credibility of evidence is permitted. One divorce case springs to mind where a defendent said that him and the woman he was alone in the unlit room with were playing snooker. That's clearly ridiculous testimony...

    However, note my location. What's the situation like over here, then?
  • Seems to me that Keith had a horrible defense. I took the time to read the penal code, specifically the section which would apply here, and I would think any competent legal defense would have been able to show both that the code itself would not apply to this case and that the code is poorly worded.

    Paraphrasing:
    11418.5.(a): the threat must be "on its face and under the circumstances" be so unequivocal, immediate, and specific enough to make the person threatened feel that the threatener really means what they say and that the threat is likely to be carried out immediately.
    11418.5.(b): "sustained fear" can be identified by any action taken in direct response to the threat, but is not limited to such.

    So, for part a, I would think any decent defense would have made clear to the jury the circumstances under which these "supposed" threats were made. This would include making available the context of the Usenet postings. Failure to do so would be a good grounds for appeal.

    For part b, I would hope that a defense lawyer would argue that this portion of the penal code is too vague and ill-constructed that it should not be used as a basis for enforcing this code.
  • This story is as paranoid and alarmist as most ./ stories are, but I don't see any hard evidence. All I see is Henson's site (which we can't see anymore) and a couple references to california law. I don't even see so much as a link to a badly reported Reuters Yahoo story.

    Doesn't anyone have anything substantive aside from that poorly updated xenu.net site?

    --

  • Y'know, I don't mind reading score zero posts, but I do mind reading score 0 anonymous posts. Its just the worst of all worlds. Viz, above.

    --

  • It's not the far left and the far right that think this way. Both sides are opposed to almost all government interference and help in daily lives of the citizen. The side that is most for this is the center, which is why this sort of thing plays so well. If the center was against it, then the whole thing would be mute.

  • Dear Mr. Vermifax,

    We are sorry to inform you, that the post above is a threat to our client, a slashdot member, and an evidence of teroristic intentions.

    Not only you threatened to use armed force against our client, you also threatened to disturb our client from practicing peacefully in his slashdot religion.
    We contacted some military representatives to inquire how you required an access to top-secret military equipment. Those representative took our inquiry quite seriously but refused to press charge against you. The representative said he contacted the CIA regarding this matter, and they will take care of it using their own methods.

    We decided to press charges on you. We filled a class action in the name of all slashdot members. Please stay where you are, and wait for the police representatives to make contact with you and read your rights.

    Regards,

    Sela & Sela, IANLs attorneys LTD.

    PS: We will be more than happy to represent you in court. We advise you to claim for insanity. Such claim is very likely to be accepted, since, as a slashdot member you have threatened to kill yourself as well.
  • by Remus Shepherd (32833) <remus@panix.com> on Thursday May 17, 2001 @07:06AM (#216804) Homepage
    Although it seems clear that Mr. Henson statements where intended as a joke, they also where bigoted, intolerant, and highly offensive.

    Bullshit.

    If you want to find offensive posts about scientology, look back in the a.r.s archives to about 1995. The flames were on full back then. I still remember one in particular that began with, "I am going to impale you on my clue stick. Maybe once my clue-bearing sperm chew their way through your clammy insides to your brain, you'll understand why you're such a fuckwit." Now *that's* bigoted and offensive. It was also highly entertaining.

    (Go for -1 -- Flamebait, folks; I've got karma to burn. ;) )

    Mr. Henson's remarks were very reasonable WHEN TAKEN IN CONTEXT, for a man who is spending his life in opposition to a criminal organization. Read the posts; the missle 'threat' was an obvious joke, and the 'utterly destroy' quote was not only in the context of pickets and legal battles, but was originally lifted from the scienos' own scriptures. Every statement Mr. Henson made should have been protected by free speech, and his flight to Canada is a sad, sad reflection on America.
  • by revscat (35618) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @09:15AM (#216809) Journal

    Uh-oh. Looks like /. has attracted the attention of a Scientologist. Will the nefarious Scientology legal team follow? Let's hope so. I'd be DAMN interested in watching that combat play itself out.

    Look man, this guy has no history of violent behavior, he didn't have any weapons in his possession, and the only thing he is guilty of is speaking out of his ass. But if you've spent any time at all in Usenet you know that this stuff happens ALL THE TIME. If he had been saying these things directly to you then I might sympathize with you a bit. But he didn't. He said it in a newsgroup. Newsgroupies are exactly as threatening as you let them become.

    The last statement proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Slashdot.org is dominated by people who want to help destroy Scn.

    Wrong again, m'friend. /. is dominated by skeptics who virulently detest any quelshing of speech under damn-near ANY circumstances. There is more rancor directed towards the CoS because of their past (and current!) actions against netizens. But they're (we're) equananimous in our loathing of such behavior, whether it comes from the CoS or the Mormons or the government of Paraguay. Doesn't matter. What DOES matter is that Scientology goes way over the top, moreso than almost all other groups, when it comes to trying to silence criticism.

    BTW: You might want to go check out the Freepers [freerepublic.com] for some really crazy stuff that is much worse than this.

    - Rev.
  • by revscat (35618) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @06:03AM (#216810) Journal

    I don't think that the man should be running to Canada. If he is going to commit such inflammatory actions then I think he should take up the responsibility and face the injustice that he has provoked in order to showcase his cause, otherwise, he will just cause the erosion of more of our freedoms.

    Yeah what the fuck ever man. You ain't the one facing time in the big house. If I have a choice between being somebodies bitch and bounding over to Bampf, that ain't even a choice. Besides, he'll have a much louder voice outside of jail than inside it. I'm all for martyrdom and sacrificing yourself for principles when it's appropriate, but that only works whenever people give a shit. 99% of America doesn't care about this, so he'd be hard pressed to accomplish anything positive from jail.

    - Rev.
  • Also, according to a recent California ruling, juries aren't allowed to use their consciences anymore and judge the law. The reason we have (the few remaining shreds of) free speech and freedom of worship is that juries in England and America judged laws against Quaker worship and truthful criticism of government officials as wrong.

    The reason there's no Fugitive Slave Act, and the Salem Witch trials failed, and there's no alcohol prohibition all stems from the leadership of the common man -- juries. Not politicians, not 'leaders,' ordinary people like you and me. Unfortunately, judges like to lie about jury power and say that juries DON'T have the rights explained much better than I have at http://www.fija.org/ [fija.org]. It's very sad for me and for the future of respect for the law when judges lie, the lie is corrosive and affects far more than one case or thing (although obviously the main target is to continue funding for the tax and spend war on some drugs, if you ask me).
    JMR

    Speaks ONLY for himself!!! Especially in this message!

  • Maybe it's coming up on election time in California and the DA is needing to make an example of somebody to boost his public appeal...

    --

  • I hate that analogy. It IS a crime once the other, reasonable, person believes that you really do intend to harm him. "Menacing," IIRC. This can occur long before the fist is anywhere near the nose.

    A similar restriction applies to free speech issues. Your right to speak *does not* include the right to block me from the private enjoyment of life. This is why there are all sorts of "time, manner and place" restrictions - a speaker on a soapbox in a public park during a Sunday afternoon is a very different thing than, e.g., someone using a bullhorn to screech at your residence at 2 AM.

    However, these restrictions should be based on "presentation" alone, not "content."

    (Not a lawyer, but a serious student of civil liberties.)
  • by werdna (39029)
    So far as I can tell, he is not a political prisoner by any stretch of the imagination. He was accused of a crime, and after a full trial, a jury unanimously found him guilty. If his problem is with the form of the trial, he has remedies in the United States, far more powerful than would any convict in any other nation in the World. He instead decided to abuse the freedoms he had and left the nation.

    Time will tell if Canada will offer him any meaningful refuge.

    I was under the impression that the charges were federal (1984 deprival of civil rights). Why would he ever end up being held in a county lock-up?
  • I believe he just did.

    If you say so. By fleeing the country as a fugitive, being never able to return absent a grant of amnesty for both the underlying crime AND the crime of running, he simply becomes the poster child that the CoS can muscle you out of anywhere -- even the United States. By doing so, Keith loses credibility with U.S. politicians, lends credibility to the CoS for its claims, and ultimately moves nobody previously on the fence to the side of right and reason.

    If that's the kind of thing you think makes for a favorable result, so be it. For my part, I think the cause of CoS critics took a major step backwards if these reports are true.

    Belief in one's convictions means standing up for one's rights, not running scared.

    The next person who considers cocking a snoot at the Church, I believe, will find herself deterred, not inspired, by this result.
  • Similarly if you for instance campaign against industries using third world sweatshops, and you actually have an impact on the business, then you are a terrorist.
    Sure, and if you dump a boatload of tea in the ocean, you are a terrorist. The US was founded on terrorism. Israel was founded on terrorism. Most Commmunist nations were founded on terrorism. Hitler employed terrorism. It's a political tool of the weak against the strong; the problem is that we've cast a pretty wide definition; destruction of property ranks alongside mass murder. Personally, I favor using the word only for the violent extremes. To do otherwise is an insult to the dignity of its victims.

    Which brings me back on topic; does it strike anyone as absurd that there is such thing as "misdemeanor terrorism"? What is that, scaring someone only a little bit? Boo! Now send me to jail.

    Of course, the tin foil hat count is so high in southern California that it's not hard to see how a jury there could convict someone who threatened to summon an asteroid down on the Creeps of Scientology, but that's another matter.

    Boss of nothin. Big deal.
    Son, go get daddy's hard plastic eyes.

  • Discordianism *is* a made up religion. That is why it is true.

    Scientology is a made up philosophy that acts like a religion, which is why it's false as a religion and a philosophy. If it were called "scientism" but had the exact same belief system, it would a religion. I can say this without reproach because I am clear*, so if you are angry with me for criticising Scientology, you need more auditing; you see the part of your brain that can't understand what I am saying is exactly the same part that keeps you from being a better Scientologist.

    Now, as to why the poster you are answering can't distinguish context or irony correctly, who knows.

    Fnord.

    Boss of nothin. Big deal.
    Son, go get daddy's hard plastic eyes.

  • Is degrading to fruits or vegetables.
  • And they call it a free country.
  • He is not even a nazi skinhead.
  • I don't know if Keith had a lawyer in this case. I sat in on one of his cases some years ago (he was being sued for copyright infringment) and he was defending himself. This is not necessarily a bad thing. But Keith, in his full glory, telling the judge that he was prejudiced and mean, is not a pretty sight. Keith has a tendency (no, I think it's more accurate to say he has a need) to be a rabble rouser. He doesn't do very well at it. But he does have a tendency to not listen to the judge, refuse to answer questions, and call the judge dumb/prejudiced. Now, as a normal human, the judge is not going to react favorably to this. Keith usually causes half the trouble he's in by not knowing what not to say.

    Independent side note: A recent (this week) Supreme Court case found that if there is a misdemeanor charge that may result in jail time, the defendant has a right to an attorney. Public Defenders love this stuff. (Except maybe in Riverside, which is definitely conservative...)

    I wish he hadn't fled. There are attorneys out there who would help him. (not that he'd listen to them).

    Thalia
  • by wiredog (43288) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @05:59AM (#216827) Journal
    Seems to me that he has strong grounds for appeal. Fleeing the country seems extreme. Why do he, and presumably his lawyer, think he would lose on appeal? There's something missing here.
  • What in the hell was this judge doing disallowing every defense that was going to be presented? Is he in the pocket of $cientology or what?

  • That grand defender of civil liberties? Where was it, when your precious 1st amendment rights are being abused by Scientology?

    Or do you just fight the fights you know will get you the best publicity or a sure win?
  • by Hard_Code (49548) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @06:28AM (#216834)
    Man, do I <LOVE> those damn Scientologists. They just <ENLIGHTEN> people and <GRACIOUSLY ACCEPT> their money. What a total <EXCELLENT RELIGION>. If I ever get my hands on a Scientologist I swear I will <PAT THEM ON THE BACK> until they are red with <PRIDE>.

    *----- This message has been sanitized for your protection by Scienositter -----*

    um, yeah, this was a joke...
  • What about now? The trial is over, is the jury allowed to read the last few days newspapers, jump on Slashdot, do their own investigation? And discovering that they made the wrong decision and performed a gross miscarriage of justice, do they have any recourse? After all, the end goal here is Justice!
  • heh, in Australia the lawyers get a stat sheet for each person and they get a look at them as they go up to take the oath, but dont get to ask questions. I wrote on my form 'computer programmer' as occupation, I didn't even get out of my chair when they called my name.
  • More specifically:

    Is someone legally liable if they do the same thing, but immediately after their "threatening" sentance, clearly state that they're joking? Or can the statement of non-intent be removed like the rest of the context was?
    --

  • I'm not aware of canada's position on Scientology, but perhaps he should seek asylum in Germany? If i remember correctly, Germany isn't too big on the whole scientology thing.

  • but I have the strange feeling I'm only getting 1/2 the story here.

    I feel that way with almost anything Jamie posts. His writing is so completely one-sided that my natural inclination is to assume he's wrong. Even though I've thought for years that Scientology was sinister and repugnant, my first guess was that this guy must have been a kook. It wasn't until I read some of Keith Henson's postings [holysmoke.org] that I thought Jamie might actually be right.

    Really, I'm happy for people to post opinion pieces, but these jumbled mixes of news story and opinion piece just read like propaganda.

  • ... is at:

    http://www.operatingthetan.com/

    -jcr
  • >Sounds to me as if the judge was a Scientologist.

    The criminal nut-cult has a long history of trying to intimidate judges. One one notable occasion, they had the nerve to demand that a judge recuse himself, because their own (admitted) dirty tricks against the judge would bias the judge against them!

    -jcr
  • Keith isn't just a member of the L5 society, he's the guy who FOUNDED the L5 society.

    -jcr
  • Keith is already picketing the clams again in Toronto.

    -jcr
  • These miscarriages of justice have a habit of happening to people the Church of Scientology views as enemies (and not just in the US).
  • to kill all slashdot members with Phasers and Photon torpedos.

    Whew! I don't have a phaser or a photon torpedo. I feel safer now!

  • by taniwha (70410) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @07:53AM (#216857) Homepage Journal
    In this country we have a freedom of belief, and expression of that belief (that's what the 1st ammendment is all about) - that includes the right to decide for ourselves which religion(s) we believe in and which we don't - and the right to express to others our beliefs - if you choose to label simple freedom of speech as a bad thing and call it 'bigotry' that's your right - but you are WRONG - completely full of crap (see I have that 1st amendment right too).

    If Keith were blocking access to a Scientology place of worship, or discriminating against members by refusing to hire them I think that would be bigotry - but he was posting in a public forum and walking on a public highway carrying a picket sign - I think that that sort of exercise of free speech is what the US is all about - the alternative starts to look more like the Spanish Inquisition and other sorts of state organized anti-religious organizations that caused people to move to the US in the first place.

    Everyone has a right to beleive in any religion they like - even the loony haunted-by-space-aliens Scientology stuff - but equally everyone has a right to question religion too

  • by tycage (96002) <tycage@aol.com> on Thursday May 17, 2001 @05:49AM (#216899) Homepage

    It just occurs to me that this could be the start of a large campaign to drive people out of California in order to solve their power problems.

    Just a thought.

    --Ty

  • by 4of12 (97621) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @06:31AM (#216900) Homepage Journal

    I don't mean to drift too far off topic, but your comment reminds me of something my wife told me a while back about expert witnesses, etc.

    It's not just that juries cannot do extra curricular investigation, nor can they consider any evidence that was not brought out during the trial.

    As a member of a jury, you cannot bring in your own special expert knowledge into deliberation!

    Say you could do your own calculations in your head about what the probability is of a gun going off that hits the floor expelling a bullet that hits an individual 20 feet away, and that your estimate of the facts conflicts with what you and the rest of the jury heard from the expert witness on the stand. If that becomes known, it is grounds for declaring a mistrial.

    Practically, this isn't much of a problem.

    Lots of readers here probably have too much education and too much of an ability to sift between emotion and fact (oh--wait--this is /.) to get themselves past disqualification from most jury selection. For that reason, it's not an issue that would come up often in our current justice system.

    But, I found it interesting, and I thought you might like to know...

  • There is considerable reason to believe that scientology was started as a joke and/or a business. Many countries (e.g. Germany) do not regard Scientology as a religion but as a business.

    It is widely known to critics of $cientology that this is exactly why Hubard created his cult.

    A New York based magazine editor recalled, in 1986,

    "[Hubbard] was really quite a character. I always knew he was exceedingly anxious to hit big money - he used to say he thought the best way to do it would be to start a cult."

    This seems to echo Hubbard's statements to a Newark, New Jersey science fiction club in 1949:

    "Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous," he told the meeting. "If a man really wanted to make a million dollars, the best way to do it would be to start his own religion."

    And consider this quote, from California Superior Court Judge Breckenridge, speaking of Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard, in a 1984 legal decision:

    "The evidence portrays a man who has been virtually a pathological liar when it comes to his history, background and achievements. The writings and documents in evidence additionally reflect his egoism, greed, avarice, lust for power, and vindictiveness and aggressiveness against persons perceived by him to be disloyal or hostile." ...

    "[The court record is] replete with evidence [that Scientology] is nothing in reality but a vast enterprise to extract the maximum amount of money from its adepts by pseudo scientific theories ... and to exercise a kind of blackmail against persons who do not wish to continue with their sect.... The organization clearly is schizophrenic and paranoid, and this bizarre combination seems to be a reflection of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard."

    Finally, Hubbard himself is quoted in a communication to his followers dated 25 February 1966:

    "Make money. Make more money. Make people produce so as to make more money."
  • After doing a little cursory research into this (following some of the links), it seems to me that this case manages to violate fully half of all amendments in the bill of rights: I, V, VI, VIII, and IX. It seems to me that his reason for seeking asylum in Canada is to attract attention to this case in Canadian press, and to make this a matter of international concern.

    This ruling violates the first amendment, obviously, in that it infringes on his right to free speech and free assembly. Scientology argues that the first amendment favors their own case; however, this means that amendment IX would be broken, since enumeration of freedom of religion would be infringing on both free speech and free assembly. Amendment V is clearly broken; it states that "... nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law". The use of quotes from the defendant, of which the context was barred from presentation, would seem to be comprise a case of him being forcibly used as a witness against himself, and seeing the circumstances of his trial, he was clearly not given due process of law.

    Continuing with amendment VI, the unconstitutionality is absolutely appaling. The sixth amendment states that "the accused shall enjoy the right to ... be be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor". He was barred from obtaining witnesses or evidence in his favor; he was not informed of the charges against him (until they accidentally leaked out). Amendment VIII states that "excessive bail shall not be required." According to his cached web page, he was ordered to jail despite paying $10,000 bail.

    This is a case that everyone should be watching very, very closely. Even more so than the DeCSS decision, the freedom of the States depends on the outcome.
    ------------------
    A picture is worth 500 DWORDS.
  • by zyqqh (137965) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @07:54AM (#216940)
    Take a look at this article [newtimesla.com]. Specifically:

    Greta Van Susteren, the CNN legal correspondent, and her husband [...] are Scientologists.

    So, what's the last time you heard a scientology story on CNN? I certainly don't remember hearing one in recent history. It is quite disturbing that they have control over people so high up in the "visibility" hierarchy...

  • by Frank T. Lofaro Jr. (142215) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @08:02AM (#216943) Homepage
    All in all, something just isn't adding up here.

    The ruling makes perfect sense. Remember, the case was heard in CALIFORNIA. :/

  • ...if you ever do wind up on trial, you will not under any circumstances be tried by a jury of your peers?

  • by mallie_mcg (161403) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @05:49AM (#216966) Homepage Journal
    In other news today, user_xyz was sued today after police raided andover HQ to obtain ip information after a spork threatened to utterly destroy commander taco with nothing other than hot grits, all your xyz are belong to ijk, petrified natalie portman statuettes, and other assorted obselete objects such as phallic beowulf clusters.

    Seriously though, this shit scares me? Is there anyway to protect/imdemnify yourselft against such things when you want to desperately desire to abuse some twat that needs it? Can an american sue me even though i am an australian for implying / saying that they are a [insult here][bodypart here if needed]?


    How every version of MICROS~1 Windows(TM) comes to exist.
  • by Anonymous Canadian (165757) <rick.rickharris@org> on Thursday May 17, 2001 @06:01AM (#216969)
    Give me your tired, your poor, Your religiously prosecuted...
  • by Fat Rat Bastard (170520) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @05:41AM (#216974) Homepage
    This is typical Scientology "fair game" tactics used to intimidate critics. Twist and/or manufacture evidence, sue defendants into bankruptcy, etc. For anyone who reads Operation Clambake [xenu.net] this is just par for the course. If you're a critic of Scientology you better have deep, deep pockets, good lawyers and a thick skin.

    If you don't have anything nice to say, say it often.

  • by DavidBrown (177261) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @06:00AM (#216994) Journal
    The jury was absolutely prohibited from doing their own investigation into the facts of the case, just as they are prohibited to do so in EVERY trial. Juries may only consider the evidence that is admitted at trial, and the judge gets to make the determination about which evidence is admissible (subject, naturally, to appeals).
  • by locofungus (179280) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @05:37AM (#216999)
    Have I got this right. Can you really be prosecuted for threatening someone even if they couldn't have been threatened by it. It will be thought police next.

    In 2001, when the thought police come Knocking at your door. Think? "I'm Out".

    Tim.
  • by Karl_Hungus (180893) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @08:20AM (#217001)
    Before you go frothing about those evil, greedy Scientologists(like myself, I guess), think about what would have happened to the guy had he been saying this in relation to a Jewish Mosque.

    If he said anything about a Jewish mosque, it'd be ignored as incomprehensible babble, as Jews worship in synagogues, and Muslims worship in mosques. Talking about a Jewish mosque makes about as much sense as talking about a "Church" that operates like a con game.


    intending to obtain Slashdot's membership list, firebombing the building the servers are in and hunting down the staff and members one by one and killing them painfully

    Hmm. Taken out of context, this sounds pretty frightening. If I'm on /.'s membership list, I think I could have YOU prosecuted under this law. And NO, you don't get a chance to explain the context of that remark. It's clear to all, as is your guilt. Turn yourself in now, you terrorist.
  • by SubtleNuance (184325) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @07:44AM (#217006) Journal
    I read the article on midiclorians.. Interesting...

    What really amazes me is the birth of $cientology. $cientology is a 'new religion' invented by Hubbard. Over the next 200 years - if we permit it to grow by giving it tax breaks etc etc and not identifying it as the sham cult it is - what stops it from becoming Christianity for the new age? They have a cool-new-hip techno hook (that emeter thingy), they have aliens, they have copyrights, they have celebrities - Fuck man, they have it down. Will $cientology will grow into a 'respectable religion'. $cientologists know how to play the 'fair game' with lawyers and whatnot to drum up 'popular' support by claiming refuge behind 'religious freedom'. "Middle America" who are Christians, Muslims, Jews and Hindus know how important it is to defend their 'religious freedoms'... they are going to get hoodwinked into supporting these crazies.

    How long until the 'jedi movies', stories of 'midiclorians', claims by the Aussies of "jedi" as their religion are all tied together in a grand unified story of their acceptance (and righteousness). 300 years from now, will the fog of history cloud all the real stories behind the origins of these 'things'. Will they be mis-represented by the $cientologists as history (proof) of the birth of their religion. Hubbard's popular faux-pas will be lost - the quotes of him saying 'if you want to be rich start a religion', histories of his family of him being out of control with his drug use, the 'fair game' letters all hidden by copyright...

    We are all truly lucky to live in these days - we may be witnessing the birth of a religion that will explode over the next 1000 years. We may sit back and think - smugly - at what a joke it is that this cult is taken seriously, how bizarre their 'tactics' are. Anyone who recounts these stories will be marginalized as a 'religious bigot' and put in jail (article shows its already happening). The 'Operation Clambake' event will be shown as a moral victory - a testament to the conviction of the founders of the religion to overcome religious persecution. But make no mistake; this is a very fucking big deal.

    What do you do when humanity grows out of our old religions.. the old emotional crutches and fairy tales -- you create new ones with stories based on the times, one appealing to modern people - with technology, stories of aliens, religious-technology devices..

    is anyone else as amazed at the whole event as I am? It tells as much about Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism and their origins.

  • by Ereth (194013) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @05:53AM (#217010) Homepage
    Of course you can. This isn't even new. What do you think they do to people who phone in bomb threats, even if they didn't have a bomb and had no intent of actually blowing anything up? It's likely that the law was enacted precisely for people who make bomb threats with no intent to follow up, just for the disruption factor. If you have to shut your business down for a couple hours while the police wander through looking for a bomb, did it matter that it was non-existent?

    And, of course, we all know what happens if you say "bomb" or "gun" in an airport.

  • by wardomon (213812) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @05:49AM (#217039)
    Be very afraid. Our right to free speech is almost gone. Even (y)our president thinks that "there ought to be limits to freedom." We can barely express an opinion without the fear that we will offend someone. How long before Bill Gates himself sues everyone here for speaking ill of Microsoft?
  • by rugadillo (215478) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @05:54AM (#217042)
    The constitution says nothing about individuals interfering with religion. It only says the government may not. But since most people don't have the first clue as to what the constitution actually says it is not suprising that this verdict came down the way it did. Today, free speech covers everything except what is deemed "politically incorrect", and this guys speech was apperently deemed "hateful". I say keep saying what you want. They can't throw everyone in jail.
  • by touretzky (215593) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @03:59PM (#217043) Homepage
    I've picketed with Keith Henson in Clearwater, FL. He is totally nonviolent. I watched OSA (Scientology's dirty tricks squad) try to bait him and fail miserably. Keith just loved talking to them, no matter what they said to him. The guy is unflappable; he's having WAY too much fun. It's maddening. Enough to drive a cultist right up the wall. (And Scientology operatives HAVE assaulted Keith in the past.)

    I'd also like to point out the correct citation [cmu.edu] for Henson's "destroy them utterly" quote. It comes from L. Ron Hubbard's 1955 article "The Scientologist, A Manual on the Dissemination of Material". Hubbard wrote: The law can be used very easily to harass, and enough harassment on somebody who is simply on the thin edge anyway, well knowing that he is not authorized, will generally be sufficient to cause his professional decease. If possible, of course, ruin him utterly.

    This is one of the most famous of all Hubbard quotes, having been cited in dozens of legal cases against the Scientology cult. It is a reflection of Scientology's "fair game" policy, which is still in full effect today. Keith Henson is just the latest in a long string of victims. But he may yet have the last laugh.

  • by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @06:41AM (#217048) Homepage Journal
    "Religious bigotry will not be tolerated in Riverside County," was a Scientology spokesperson's reaction to the verdict.

    First, it's got to be a religion, rather than a ponzi-scheme-like business.

    --
    All your .sig are belong to us!

  • by HyperbolicParabaloid (220184) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @05:46AM (#217050) Journal
    but I have the strange feeling I'm only getting 1/2 the story here
    You missed half the story. The article says the judge refused to allow the context to be introduced as evidence. The lawyer was powerless to discuss the other usenet posts. Though it doesn't say so in the article, the judge would also, probably, have forbidden the jury to do their own research, such as going to google to look for themselves. (assuming the either the judge or the members of the jury have heard of google ;-(


    -------------------------
  • by hillct (230132) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @05:43AM (#217058) Homepage Journal
    Scientology has had critics online for a long long time. They routinely pursue them more vigorously than any other organization in modern times. The msot notable of online criticisms of Scientology is called Operation Clambake [xenu.net] and has been around for many years. The proprietor of this collection of information has helped several people high in the Scientology organization 'escape' the clutches of that organization. It's a vary interesting read, and it gives insight into why it's in the vested interest of the organization, not to tolerate descenters.

    --CTH

    --
  • by dbowden (249149) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @06:52AM (#217080)
    I believe that embarassment of the US justice department is Keith's goal. I think he's hoping that press coverage of his asylum request will bring media attention to the story, and help his case. Here's some quotes from his "press release" [google.com] to alt.religion.scientology about his asylum request:
    Embarrassment will likely result for the US State Department when it is forced to act in the thinly veiled interest of Scientology and its long standing vendetta against Mr. Henson. Scientology is a criminally convicted corporation in Canada and the Crown will also be embarrassed if it is asked to litigate in US and therefore Scientology interests, to deny any petition for Refugee Status on Human Rights Violations by a US Government component.

    The full text of the "press release" can be read by following the above link. It's a pretty good synopsis of the entire story.

  • by MojiDoji (254291) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @07:33AM (#217085)
    is a God-given right that Americans enjoy.

    Unless:
    It causes harm to someone.
    It is a direct threat to personal well-being.
    It violates someone's intellectual property.
    It could possibly be used to violate someone's intellectual property.
    It is construed by someone to be offensive in some way.
    It is degrading to some group of people to which you do not belong, unless it is derogatory to a group that is the majority. Then it's ok.
    It is, in some way, derogatory towards a corporate entity.
    It somehow inhibits someone else from possibly making some money, in some way, at some time, at some place, that will be disclosed at your trial.

    Am I forgetting something?

  • A number of people have asked why the defense was not allowed to reveal the full content of the usenet posts.

    The fact is that the defense was forbidden from revealing anything to the jury that would show that the "religion" in question was Scientology since this would have (rightly so) prejudiced them. In fact, there was one post where Keith quoted L. Ron's babbling. Because the jury could not discover that it was Hubbard's quote, they could only assume that the quote was actually Keith's!

    The Co$ lawyers also put into evidence pictures of Keith picketing, but with the words on his sign removed from the picture.

    "Scientology is both immoral and socially obnoxious. It is corrupt sinister and dangerous...."
    Justice Latey, ruling in the High Court of London
  • Why did he run?

    Scientology runs numerous front groups that serve to indoctrinate people into their cult. They have over fifty years experience in mind control.

    One of their front groups is called Criminon and pretends to rehabilitate prisoners. The Co$ has mentioned that their Criminon program is operating in the county jail where Keith may be incarcerated.

    L.Ron said that the thing to do with critics was to "dispose of them quietly and without sorrow".

    Would you want to end up in jail under these circumstances?
  • by CrazyLegs (257161) <crazylegstoo@gmail.com> on Thursday May 17, 2001 @05:41AM (#217089) Homepage

    I hope Mr. Henson finds the asylum he seeks (I'm Canadian). The Free Speech issues seem self-evident here. However, he should be aware that we have some Hate Crime laws in the Great White North that (sometimes) are heavy-handed - although not likely to the extent to which Mr. Henson is currently experiencing.

    As well, the Scientology folks have no right to claim any injury here. I had a personal experience with these twits when I was in my teens. While walking down the street with a friend one day, some clean-cut guy (looked exactly like a mid-level manager-drone from M$ - complete with Dockers) jumped out from around the corner and offered us a free "personality test". Upon learning that we were minors, he offered to give us the tests and then discuss the results and "possible remedies" with our parents - just to be above board. Very spooky.

  • "What in the hell was this judge doing disallowing every defense that was going to be presented? Is he in the pocket of $cientology or what?"

    This case seems very reminiscent of the Scopes "Monkey Trial", where Clarence Darrow, the lawyer defending the teacher being prosecuted for teaching evolution, was FORBIDDEN by the judge from presenting ANY of Darwin's theries as evidence. However, Darrow ended up pointing out inconsistencies in the Bible (which was allowed to be entered as evidence), that the case ended up being such a farce, that the embarassed judge fined the teacher only a token amount of money.

    Judges are supposed to play the role of an impartial, unbiased "referee". But just as the NBA refs have the unwritten "Jordan Rules" etc that give preferrential treatment to certain superstars, today's crop of judges seem to do the same with their personal biases... A good judge, like a good referee, should be invisible, only calling attention to himself when someone steps out of line...

    But then California has some wacky courts. This week, a Federal circuit court judge there basically gave Clear Channel Communications complete ownership of the word "Kiss".

    I think it's sad that he had to flee to Canada. But I have my doubts that he will get asylum, as the US DOJ will likely lean on Canada hard. As someone else pointed out, he should have gone to a country more anti-Scientology, like Germany.
  • by Shoten (260439) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @06:10AM (#217098)
    If you're smart, you'll take Henson's case as a warning. You'll think about what your own statements would look like, with their context totally removed, and in the harsh spotlight of a courtroom. Do you really need to post that joke, or wouldn't the judge find it funny?

    Or, if you're actually brave, you'll refuse to cow under the perceived threat of rare circumstances like this. This is a horrible miscarriage of justice, but I find it hard to believe it to be a common occurrence. On the other hand, if I were to watch everything I say in a public forum from this day onwards because of this incident...well, that would be a common occurrence, and greatly magnify the damage caused by this. Furthermore, I have enough faith in this country and our Bill of Rights to think that the better choice is to accept the risk, and aim to set a precedent against such abuse of the law in the future.

  • by Bobo the Space Chimp (304349) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @07:02AM (#217120) Homepage
    It sure as hell does guarantee this. You are perfectly free to hate any race or religion you care to, and to blather your asinine mouth off about it.

    The only problem is when it becomes "fightin' words". But at that point it is still protected, it's just that the person punching you out has an excuse.

  • by myschae (317401) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @06:00AM (#217129)
    Now, I'm not one who usually gives into conspiracy theories but this just makes me mad. We're getting to the point in our society where we are trying so not to upset people with contrary viewpoints that it's not all right to express your opinions unless they toe the party line. If we sanitize society.... does that mean we'll all be living in a sanitorium?



    And, who do we think we're fooling anyway? Oh sure, you can point to the very few cases where someone was going to do something terrible (say, shoot up a school) and announced thier intentions and no one paid attention... but compare and contrast that to the 100's of thousands of times that nothing happened at all. That's why it's such a shock. And how exactly does making voicing that sort of idea a crime solve the problem? Do you think that if language and communication is sanitized people will continue to announce that they are planning to commit violence? I doubt it. The reason they do it now is becaue it's reasonably 'safe'; no one takes them seriously.


    But I digress. The whole purpose of free speech is that (within some very broad boundaries) you shouldn't have to fear prosecution for expressing your opinion. Those bondaries are getting awfully narrow.


    Political tags -- such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth -- are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. the latter are surly curmudgeons, supsicious and lacking in altruism, but they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort. - R. Heinlein

  • by Guppy06 (410832) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @03:06PM (#217153)
    I can't speak for Keith's situation or his personal feelings or financial situation, but, in general, he's done pretty much exactly what the Scientologists wanted him to do: Go away and shut up.

    I would hope that, sooner or later, somebody that the Scientologists try to be heavy-handed with will be able to stick it out in the court system (perhaps with help from the ACLU or other such groups) and/or inform the local media of their plight and cause exactly what the Scientologists DON'T want: Publicity. I doubt they'd be all that happy about this story appearing on, say, CNN.

    Speaking of ACLU-like organizations, are there any specificly anti-Scientologist lawyer groups?

  • by cdmarine (452918) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @12:40PM (#217181) Homepage
    The county jail were Keith would have been residing is heavily infiltrated by the Church of Scientology's Criminon program, i.e., there's an extremely good chance that he'd be sharing quarters with a bunch of newly zealous Scientologists.

    Coupled with the organization's stated and written policy to destroy and "dispose of quietly and without sorrow" all who criticize them, I hope it's not too hard to see why it's not as simple as you're saying it is.

    Being a political prisoner is only valuable if you live long enough to publicize your cause, particularly if it's not a well-known or sensational one.

    And I fail to see how seeking asylum in another country is ipso facto a "grave error... legally and morally." We encourage others to come to the US under similar circumstances (i.e., the accused believes they are dealing with a kangaroo court and have been prosecuted for political reasons). Isn't it hypocritical to brand asylum seekers as morally wrong when they happen to be coming from the US?

  • by kristiw (452955) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @11:31AM (#217187)
    I've been picketing Scientology and running the Scientology Lies [scientology-lies.com] web site for a few years now.

    I currently picket Scientology once a month (first Saturday of every month); I picketed a little more often when I started out.

    I make every effort to be courteous, cheery, and non-confrontational when I picket. I greet the Scientologists I know, especially the handlers who come out to try to distract or provoke me, with a friendly "Hi! Nice to see you!" but I don't try to discuss confidential Scientology doctrine - or indeed, anything - with Scientologists who don't want to talk to me. I'm there to educate the public and to encourage people to contact public officials about Scientology's continuing pattern of illegal acts [scientology-lies.com].

    Although I have never had any legal hassles over my web site - no claims of copyright infringement, despite my tiny bits of fair-use quoting [scientology-lies.com], and no trademark or libel threats - I have been followed after pickets (both by car and on foot), been verbally provoked (including being slandered with accusations of hate crimes and statutory rape and of being on "psych drugs", and being called a bitch and told "you can suck my dick" [scientology-lies.com]) (... and frankly, the obscenities don't bother me - I just think it's strange behavior for representatives of a church to display to the public), and had regular revenge pickets at my home [scientology-lies.com], with Scientology reps videotaping anyone who came and went from my apartment building. (My home address has never been publicly available, not in the phone book, not on the web.) Scientology reps have distributed libellous fliers [scientology-lies.com] to my neighbors. As part of the biggest denial-of-service attack in net history, they forged disgusting racist a.r.s. posts in my name (which, of course, they did to dozens of other critics as well). Those posts have been resurrected at google.

    Recently, three different Scientologists have implied that I'm next to be charged the way Keith was. The first was in e-mail.

    The second was at a picket; as I was leaving, I playfully called out to my handler, Craig, "Will I see you later?" (asking if he was planning to come revenge-picket me, as is his wont). He asked, "Is that a threat?" I said, "How could asking if I'll see you later possibly be a threat?" He said "It sounded like a threat to me."

    (After what Scientology did to Gerry Armstrong [uni-wuerzburg.de], I carry a visible tape recorder with me at all pickets. Some day I might get a helmet cam, but for now at least I have audio of these types of exchanges.)

    The third was in a recent post to a.r.s., which you can find by searching "kristi slatkin thetans outfit" on Google. In part, it says,

    "We all know that Kristi is one of your criminal gang and very active in
    committing hate crimes like you. Her postings and her website are loaded with
    hatred against the Scientologists. Now that you are passing out her hate
    propaganda, look likes she'll be the next one to face 422.6."

    I have a page at my web site explaining that I don't hate anyone [scientology-lies.com]; Scientology disagrees.
    I believe that informing people about Scientology's dark side - and criminal acts - is education, not bigotry; Scientology disagrees.
    I think people should have access to all the information, so they can come to their own understanding of an issue (which is why I link to Scientology's own site from Scientology Lies); Scientology disagrees.
    I consider peaceful public protest to be constitutionally protected free speech; Scientology disagrees.

    I believe everyone has the right to express their opinion.

    Scientology disagrees.

    Kristi Wachter
    Scientology Lies [scientology-lies.com]

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