Double Crossed

The Church of Scientology has a reputation for ruthlessly going after its enemies. Robert Cipriano claims Scientologists rewarded him for helping them do just that. Now he's turned on them.

No court has endorsed Berry's version of events, and Moxon vehemently denies wrongdoing. He says he had no reason to disbelieve Cipriano's allegations that Berry was a pedophile and says that he has corroborating evidence to back up those allegations. He refused to turn over that evidence. Asked about Cipriano's court documents, Moxon attacked Berry and Cipriano. Berry is "psycho" and obsessed with Scientology, Moxon says, and Cipriano has admitted to lying under oath. Neither is credible, Moxon complains.

A convincing argument, maybe. But when Moxon was asked about the records, he balked, refusing to answer questions about why he sent $20,000 on Cipriano's behalf or about where the money came from.

When a writer persisted in asking the questions, Moxon threatened to sue New Times if it printed a story about Cipriano's allegations.

It's three weeks before Christmas 1993, and the Church of Scientology, which believes Jesus Christ is a figment of the imagination, is putting on a gala concert in his name.

Some of Scientology's most notable celebrities are in attendance at the Hollywood Celebrity Centre party. John Travolta and his wife, Kelly Preston. Juliette Lewis. Isaac Hayes. And Charles Durning, who is not a Scientologist, is dressed as Santa Claus. Heavy security separates the VIPs from the large crowd of well-wishers milling about on the lawn of the old mansion on Franklin Street.

In the audience is a man, his wife, and four other people who appear to be their grown children. They joke with Durning about his Santa suit, and the venerable actor comes by later and checks on them during one of the intermissions. At the show's finale, the entire firmament of Scientology stars takes the stage for a bow. Then, as the crowd disperses, the man and his cohorts make their moves.

Slipping by security, the family suddenly whips out court summonses and begins chasing after celebrities. Travolta bolts, but the process server and his children manage to hand subpoenas to Preston (who screams), Lewis, Hayes, and Durning.

Scientology officials go ballistic over the caper and, later in court, angrily denounce the person behind it.

Graham Berry.

The subpoenas resulted from Berry's defense of a man who had been mentioned in a 1991 Time magazine story in which Scientology was called a "ruthless global scam." The church was suing the man, saying that it had been defamed. Berry argued to the court that he simply wanted to depose the church's celebrities to see if their opinions of Scientology had suffered because of the article. The judge asked Berry how much time he needed with each of the celebrities. An hour, Berry responded. The judge gave him two.

Scientology's attorneys responded by dropping the case.

Berry's brazen tactic had paid off. And it wasn't the first time. By late 1993, he was already one of Scientology's most bitter enemies.

Berry says it didn't surprise him that after the Christmas caper, Scientology stepped up its efforts to investigate his background.

Historically, the church has dealt with its enemies harshly. L. Ron Hubbard encouraged his followers to go after critics with "noisy" investigations, lawsuits, and intimidation. Although Hubbard died nearly 14 years ago, the millions of words he left behind in books, audiotaped lectures, and bureaucratic "policy letters" are still considered by church members to be unalterable Scientology scripture.

An example of such church doctrine, from a 1968 manual: "The purpose of the suit is to harass and discourage rather than to win. The law can be used very easily to harass...if possible, of course, ruin utterly."

In a 1967 internal church bulletin, Hubbard wrote that critics of Scientology all had criminal pasts to hide. "Over and over we prove this. Politician A stands up on his hind legs in a Parliament and brays for a condemnation of Scientology. When we look him over we find crimes -- embezzled funds, moral lapses, a thirst for young boys -- sordid stuff. Wife B howls at her husband for attending a Scientology group. We look her up and find that she had a baby he didn't know about....If you oppose Scientology we promptly look up -- will find and expose -- your crimes."

Throughout its nearly half a century of existence, Scientology has been attacked by some former adherents who feed a curious press about the organization's odd beliefs, voracious appetite for parishioners' cash, and aggressive litigiousness. Hubbard responded to such critics by declaring defectors "suppressive persons."

In 1967, Hubbard issued his "fair game" policy, which announced that a suppressive person, or SP, "may be deprived of property or injured by any means, by any Scientologist....He may be tricked, sued or lied to, or destroyed."

Since then, former Scientologists, government officials, and journalists have claimed to have become targets of "fair game":

* Paulette Cooper, author of the The Scandal of Scientology(1971), became the target of Operation Freakout, an attempt by church operatives to either drive her insane or get her put in prison. The operatives managed to get Cooper indicted by framing her for making bomb threats against the church. She was only exonerated when documents detailing Operation Freakout were discovered by government agents.

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