Longform

Picket Fencing

Page 6 of 6

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.

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."

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Tony Ortega
Contact: Tony Ortega