Letters

Mad Scientology
About the only thing your reporter did right in the article about the Church of Scientology ("Picket Fencing," Tony Ortega, January 21) was correctly position himself and New Times amongst the shameful ranks of yellow journalism.

Your vicious article against my church is simply another clustering of lies and pure garbage recycled in the media from time to time. What's the matter? Slow news week, so it must be time to bash a religion? I'm sure your article will appeal to the more base people of society. Intelligent people will recognize it for what it truly is--lazy, slanted and irresponsible reporting.

You've also got to wonder why a paper would glorify someone who admittedly attacks a religion because he thinks it is fun!!?! One of the other religious bigots who pickets here says he does it for the exercise! Yet the critics say they are really afraid of us? Come on--dig a little deeper here. The real story is what or who do they have to hide.

You also neglected to mention that the injunction against Bruce Pettycrew was necessary for the protection of the public, or parishioners and staff. This man has for two years now yelled and screamed at passing public, yelled at and insulted our staff and parishioners, and generally disrupted church services from the sidewalk in front of our church. He has even gone so far as to cowardly picket our church two hours before we open our doors in the morning! Jeff Jacobsen and his ilk are doing nothing but sowing the seeds of their own death harvest. I pity their cold black hearts.

The other thing you got right was showing clearly what caliber of people attack our church. It is obvious the real, underlying basis for all the attacks is to undermine our faith's right to its own copyrighted scriptures. And that is a crime.

It is not uncommon for new religions to be subjected to discriminatory attacks and to have to defend themselves. In the United States, suits may be filed for absurd or no reasons, and like many others, we were sued in the Eighties by people trying to make a quick buck. We earned a reputation for aggressively litigating to defend our rights. In addition, it became apparent early in the church history that government files contained false reports about Scientology, which were being used as the basis for unjustified actions against the church. When the government agencies refused to release the files, we had to sue under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain access to them in order to locate the false reports. Our FOIA litigation has set precedents which have helped other groups.

As a result of our copyright litigation on the Internet, copyright protection in that forum has been greatly strengthened for artists, publishers and other owners of intellectual properties.

Completely aside from the inherent right of the members of a religion to call their own faith a religion, Scientology has been granted full religious recognition by the IRS and by courts around the world. Legitimate religious scholars who have studied our religion say we are undoubtedly a religion.

Scientology is a religion in the most traditional sense. It deals with man as a spirit, and is distinguishable from material and nonreligious philosophies, which hold man to be a product of material circumstances. Scientology does not demand blind faith, but endeavors to help the individual discover past experiences and shed the trauma and guilt (sin) which encumber him.

We have ordained ministers who perform the same function as other clergy. We celebrate our own unique and joyous religious holidays.

In a perfect world, our religious services would be free. Until that day, however, we need to sustain ourselves just like any other church. Do not all churches have and are entitled to their own means of support for their services and activities? I doubt seriously anyone would tolerate your questioning of any other church that tithes or passes around a collection plate each week. The donations for services that our parishioners wish to contribute are our primary sources of financial support. These same donations also fund our social betterment activities in the areas of literacy, and drug and crime rehabilitation.

Scientology books are widely available in libraries and bookstores as well as in our churches and missions around the world. We have just released a new edition of the best-selling What Is Scientology? book, which has the true information about the religion available in it, and which is specially designed to answer any questions people may have about our church. We have also released a scholarly work on the religion called Scientology: Theology and Practice of a Contemporary Religion. We invite anyone who cares to know the truth about our religion to read these books, or to come into our church to see and find out for themselves.

Reverend Leslie Durhman
director of special affairs
Church of Scientology of Arizona

Regarding your recent article on Scientology critic Jeff Jacobsen, I've read some of L. Ron Hubbard's books, as well as books about him, and quickly came to the conclusion that the man had some serious mental problems. However, I found it ironic that Mr. Jacobsen, a Christian, would carry a sign reading "Scientology Kills," when you consider the countless millions of victims killed over the past 2,000 years in the name of Christianity. Lisa McPherson's death was a travesty brought on by the paranoia of secretive cult worshipers, but Mr. Jacobsen might want to look within the history of his own religion before looking outside at others.

Patrick Vincent
Glendale

Thanks for taking the time and courage to write the story on the Church of Scientology and Jeff Jacobsen, who has taken an awful lot of abuse.

I am hoping you won't get much flak from the Church of Scientology, as their resources are rather stretched now by so many lawsuits and critics, and with the Internet and the current availability of so many people being able to hear about harassment almost immediately.

I know that I, as well as others who are afraid not only to speak openly but even speak or write privately, appreciate it when a journalist walks up to the plate and doesn't fear hitting the ball.

Beverly Rice
via Internet

Congratulations on Tony Ortega's riveting expose of the Scientologists and their hateful response to outside criticism.

I've always thought that the so-called "church" founded by L. Ron Hubbard was nothing more than an elaborate metaphysical pyramid scheme turned "religious" in order to gain the advantages of a tax-free status. If they want the benefits of special tax-free business considerations, then all religious institutions should have to avail themselves and their practices to public scrutiny.

The last paragraph of the article is what infuriated me, when Mesa Reverend Durhman said: "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."

How dare the so-called reverend make the comparison that people lawfully exercising their constitutionally protected freedom of speech is the same as painting a swastika onto temple walls of a Jewish synagogue, or a cross burning. The acts of violence described are crimes: hate crimes, to be precise. Free speech in this country is not a crime. Perhaps the Scientologists should exorcise with some introspection, specifically the apparent lies that are the foundation of their faith.

Further, I find it very difficult to believe that any person could become a priest or minister of a religion that keeps its teachings so secretive, such as the OT-III revelation: ". . . thetans are space aliens exiled to Earth 75 million years ago by Xenu, an evil galactic overlord." Puhleeese!

Jeff Ofstedahl
Phoenix

I just read your article about Jeff Jacobsen and his fight against Scientology. I'd like to congratulate and thank you for publishing such an accurate account of who Jeff Jacobsen is and what his crusade is really about. I, like Jeff, have encountered harassment by Scientology simply because I dared to bring attention to its unethical and dangerous practices. As a result of your story, no doubt your newspaper and the reporter who worked on the story will also get a taste of how they work. News organizations throughout the world are well aware of Scientology's penchant for threatening lawsuits and otherwise harassing those who dare to criticize its behavior. Many choose the easy road and remain silent. Congratulations for being courageous enough to take on Scientology.

Patricia Ryan
via Internet

I would like to thank you for writing the article titled "Picket Fencing." Scientology is a very vicious organization that needs to be exposed. As you probably already know, the author and New Times will likely now be a target for attack. It is part of their doctrine.

I met Jeff Jacobsen when I was confronted with a Scientology organization that entered into my business. As a result of the infiltration of the Scientology business management philosophy, I lost a very competent business partner, and the business was all but destroyed.

I can confirm your report that Mr. Jacobsen is "reserved" and "conscientious." As with other aspects of Scientology, labeling Mr. Jacobsen as a bigot while trying to destroy his character for criticizing their organization is blatantly duplicitous if you stop to think about it. Ironically, it is their duplicity that is one of the tools that make Scientology adherents so blindly loyal.

It needs to be known that Scientology does not just target those looking for spiritual enlightenment or personal help; it has programs that permeate business management (as with my experience), education (including public education), drug addiction programs, social welfare programs, and political environments. With all these programs, deception plays a key roll; people are not told what lies behind these efforts. They are simply initially enticed in with reasonable-sounding, common-sense methods of success, then systematically pulled in deeper and deeper until they are willing to accept the most wildly outrageous precepts, some of which your article included. It is most frightening to know that none of us is sufficiently immune to this kind of sophisticated confidence game . . . unless we have been forewarned of what devastation lies beyond the sweet-sounding come-ons. This is why I thank you for your excellent expose.

Tom Dumbauld
Glendale

Thank you very much for publishing your article on Mr. Jacobsen and his run-ins with Scientology. Mr. Jacobsen is to be commended for exercising his rights of free speech and advocating an ideal in which he strongly believes--truth.

The "church" of Scientology appears to be one of the most profitable nonprofit operations that this country has ever seen. I would wager a guess that it has more attorneys on retainer than any other nonprofit organization, including the ACLU. Isn't it odd behavior for a church to insist that all detractors are criminals (my conviction hasn't arrived in the mail yet), that it is being persecuted like the early Christians (no lions as of yet) and that it is the underprivileged (with all that office space in downtown Hollywood)?

Scientology is under attack from many corners of the globe. The death of a young woman prompted some members of the media to launch intense investigations. The German government has outlawed Scientology as part of its anti-fascism laws. Internet sites showing the dark side of Scientology abound. The church and its leaders are being hounded from all sides.

But I think for a clergy member to say that four people bringing to light the questionable death of an innocent woman under a bizarre set of circumstances is ". . . no different than someone painting a swastika on a synagogue or burning a cross in a black family's yard--no different whatsoever" is absolutely outrageous. To compare a small, peaceful demonstration in the light of day to cowardly, despicable acts such as those is unconscionable.

Hopefully, people will do as the church encourages and "think for yourself . . ." You have to, since the church sued the Cult Awareness Network (CAN) and won big. If you call CAN for information on the church, chances are pretty good you'll get a Scientologist answering the phone. Taking a clue from another corporate giant, if you can't beat the competition, buy 'em out.

All religions have their positives and negatives. I believe that Mr. Jacobsen is doing a good job in making sure that the church's balance sheet gets all the publicity it deserves.

Heath Newburn
Chandler

A very informative article on Scientology. How can a "religious" body behave in such an execrable and inhumane fashion? Picketing Mr. Jacobsen at his home and workplace? Harassing his family, acquaintances? I must admit I am more than a little bit astounded, not to mention disgusted. Once again, kudos for your article. This is information that needs to be made known.

E. Fischer
via Internet

I've just finished reading Tony Ortega's article, and I'm really impressed with the Phoenix New Times.

Here in Ontario, Canada, our newspapers tend to be ultraconservative, and even though something is true, as is the info in your paper's article, it doesn't get reported in such detail. But, in the U.S., freedom of the press is a given, isn't it?

Name withheld by request

Phone Hex
Terry Greene Sterling's "For Whom Your Bell Tolls" (January 21) relates the severance payments of $45.1 million to three retiring U S West executives, including $24.5 million to CEO Richard McCormick. These golden parachutes were, in part, for the non-arm-length "negotiation" of the restructuring of U S West.

Actually, the restructuring of U S West has the potential for a much greater impact on the customers of U S West than $45 million golden parachutes to executives who had lost billions in non-phone diversified investments. Prior to restructuring, the Media Group lost $480 million in 1997, despite $347 million net income from DEX/Yellow Pages. The restructuring moved DEX back to the phone side, from which it should never have been separated in the first place, for $4.75 billion, or 28 times DEX's book value, including debt of $3.9 billion to the "new" U S West phone company. In giving their stamp of approval to this restructuring last summer, Arizona Corporation Commissioners Carl Kunasek and Jim Irvin made no effort to make sure that Yellow Pages revenues and expenses would be accounted for and allocated prior to the allocation of the interest on this humongous debt.

There are many precedents for using Yellow Pages revenues for the "goal of providing affordable telephone services for all Americans." An Arizona court has said that the 1988 ACC-U S West agreement of $43 million annual imputation from Yellow Pages to hold down phone rates may be adjusted "either upward or downward as the evidence of fees and services supports."

However, back to Ms. Sterling's main thesis. In the restructuring decision last summer, commissioners Kunasek and Irvin also said nothing about keeping these golden parachutes out of rates. Perhaps they, like many Americans, measure the U.S. by its 3.5 million millionaires rather than by its 30 million hungry or by the $2 to $8 paid per day to foreign workers to keep U.S.-based corporations competitive in the global marketplace.

Roland James
Glendale

Thank you for alerting us to the executive money grab at U S West. It is interesting that U S West spokesman Dick MacKnight justifies these outrageous payments on the basis of Richard McCormick's delivering outstanding return to shareholders.

If the shareholders want to fork over millions in gratitude, sharing some of their returns, they are welcome to do so. They should not expect the customers to do it for them. The manager of a regulated public utility monopoly can only justify remuneration to be paid by the customers on the basis of quality and economy of service delivered to customers.

My only complaint about the article was that it did not include the e-mail addresses of the Corporation Commission and its commissioners so that your readers could express their outrage and hopefully head off this money grab or at least put a little heat on the grabbers. Maybe in this case, phone numbers as well as e-mail addresses would be appropriate. Keep up the good work, but give us a way to act on the dirt you discover.

Lawrence P. (Larry) Grasso
Tempe

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