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.

Kristi Wachter walks with a sign hanging around her neck. It reads: "UFO Cult."

Wachter is an a.r.s devotee from San Francisco who dropped by to picket while traveling through Phoenix. She says since she began protesting against the church, Scientologists have frequently retaliated by showing up outside her California home, where private residences can legally be picketed.

Bruce Pettycrew, meanwhile, hefts a sign that reads "Scientology Kills." It refers to Lisa McPherson, he says, but Jacobsen adds that the slogan is also meant to counter a sign Scientologists frequently carry that reads "Psychiatry Kills."

Pettycrew is a Phoenix software engineer who began picketing the church after Internet users were raided by church officials. He estimates that he demonstrates more than once a week, and last year he was sued by the local church for his frequent protests. The lawsuits have been dropped, but Pettycrew says he's still under a court order not to cause noise that can be heard in the church.

Pettycrew says he's motivated to expose Scientology because of its secretive nature. "The world has a problem with pseudoscience. I feel Scientology's one of the grossest examples of that, and I think it's a good place to press the attack," he says.

Pettycrew says out-of-town a.r.s devotees set up pickets about twice a month. Jacobsen, meanwhile, tries to go to Los Angeles and Clearwater for road-pickets several times a year. On December 5, the anniversary of Lisa McPherson's death, Jacobsen helped organize a vigil in Clearwater that drew 100 people.

Inside the Mesa church, Reverend Durhman and others keep an eye on the demonstration. Durhman comes outside to greet a visitor and to allow her picture to be taken.

Later, in a telephone interview, she says, "Jacobsen and his picketer pals are the ones harassing our church and spreading lies about us. What he does to our religion is no different than someone painting a swastika on a synagogue or burning a cross in a black family's yard--no different whatsoever."

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