Picket Fencing

Scientology critic Jeff Jacobsen helped get the church in hot water over a Florida death. Now, church members have figured out where he lives.

When Jacobsen pickets Scientology churches, he carries a sign with a photograph of McPherson and the years of her birth and death.

"She, to us, represents all of the other people who have been hurt by Scientology," Jacobsen says. "Why did people wear bracelets for soldiers lost in Vietnam? They didn't know those soldiers. How could you care about somebody you don't know? You do. You just do."

"We are not the first church he's attacked, and doubt we'll be the last one," says Reverend Durhman, who leads the Mesa congregation. "In fact, he has made attacking churches a lifelong career.

"You have to ask yourself what would motivate someone to spend their time at such a vicious activity. We want him to go away and stop harming people of goodwill."

Durhman blames Jacobsen and other demonstrators for an environment that encourages vandalism of their church. "There was some graffiti, and some property was damaged. Some benches in the back were thrown into the canal," she says.

She acknowledges that church members have been picketing and leafleting Jacobsen's work and home. "It's the parishioners that are concerned about this and want to get out the truth about him," she says.

She dismisses Jacobsen's complaints about retaliation against Internet critics and about Scientology's withholding of information from adherents.

"It isn't that this stuff is weird or sinister or hidden or whatever. It's just that it's understood that when you have a good body of theology, you don't just dump the whole thing on somebody at the beginning," Durhman says.

She herself has not attained the level of OT III, and so she could not comment on the revelations about Xenu the galactic overlord. Durhman did object to the dissemination of such materials over computer networks.

"Well, of course we don't want it for free on the Internet. Don't you understand that? It's copyrighted material. It belongs to parishioners when they are at that level of spiritual attainment. We have the right to receive donations for all of our services. So it's not right for people to criticize us for how we operate," Durhman says.

One of Durhman's parishioners who has picketed Jacobsen is also a familiar local personality. Realtor Russell Shaw, whose advertisements frequently run on radio and television, maintains a Web site denouncing Jacobsen as an "A.R.S. Bigot."

Shaw couldn't be reached for comment on his Web site. His wife, Wendy, says that he is in Los Angeles and could not be contacted.

But Shaw's Web site makes clear his feelings about Jacobsen. Comparing Jacobsen and eight other critics to Adolf Hitler and Ku Klux Klan members, Shaw writes that Jacobsen's "always disparaging comments have the effect of creating violence, discrimination and hatred. . . . When you open Jeff's closet, all the dirty diapers and dishpans fall out."

Shaw criticizes Jacobsen for "aligning himself" with other critics who have criminal records. (One, for example, local deprogrammer and Scientology critic Rick Ross, pulled off a 1971 jewelry heist in his early 20s and was put on probation, a decade before he began counseling members of authoritarian religions.)

Shaw also castigates Jacobsen because his father was convicted of tax evasion in South Dakota. "Jeff works for his father and surely must be aware of the tax avoidance schemes going on in the business."

Jacobsen explains that South Dakota recently passed a new law that taxes newspaper distribution. His father objected to it as an unconstitutional infringement of free speech, and refused to pay it. "He lost in court, paid a $1,000 fine, and spent a day in jail," Jacobsen says.

Shaw also criticizes Jacobsen because his father's South Dakota video chain rents adult films, and Shaw takes a swipe at the family business: "They make a living providing advice to 'singles' on how to make relationships work. Surprisingly, Jeff and his sister have not been able to make relationships work for themselves and are both approaching middle age single."

Jacobsen says he considers the site "goofy," and only objects to Shaw's statements about his father. "My father's not involved. And he's distorting the facts about my dad. To get at me, Shaw attacks my family," Jacobsen says. "That's Shaw's only Web page. It doesn't promote his business. It's for nothing but to denigrate critics of his church with smear campaigns," he says.

Besides his Web barrage, Shaw has also targeted Jacobsen by picketing one of his Friday-night dances.

Jacobsen plays music at the weekly events, held at resorts such as Mountain Shadows in Paradise Valley, where readers of Single Scene gather. Four times, Scientologist picketers have demonstrated outside, carrying signs with slogans like "Jeff Is a Bigot," "Jeff Is a Porno King," and "Say No to Religious Hatred."

On two of those occasions, Jacobsen says, the picketing occurred on a darkened sidewalk where no hotel workers or guests could see what was going on. He says he wouldn't even have known he was being picketed if a friend hadn't come in and told him.

Jacobsen's protesting of the Mesa church is far more visible.
On a recent afternoon, Jacobsen and four other church critics carry signs outside the church. Rush-hour traffic whizzes by in a loud roar punctuated by frequent honks.

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