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Court rejects bid to ban Scientologist's biography

Title: Court rejects bid to ban Scientologist's biography
Date: Thursday, 3 December 1987
Publisher: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Author: Thomas Claridge
Main source:

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A Federal Court of Canada judge rejected a bid yesterday to ban Canadian publication of an unauthorized biography of L. Ron Hubbard, describing the Church of Scientology's founder as an author of "outlandish, foolish, vicious, racist writings." In dismissing a motion by Danish publisher New Era Publications International ApS, Mr. Justice Bud Cullen said the material supplied to the court by the plaintiff "falls far short of the evidence required to sustain" the request for an interim injunction.

In the 10-page judgment, delivered four hours after lawyers for New Era and Key Porter Books of Toronto ended their arguments, Judge Cullen also concluded that New Era had delayed in bringing the motion and that there were "many triable issues requiring a much more extensive hearing than is possible with affidavit evidence." He said he had been impressed "at first blush" by an affidavit statement by New Era chairman Carl Heldt that, without the injunction, the plaintiff "will have forever lost the right to control the first publication of these unpublished works of L. Ron Hubbard."

But he wound up agreeing with Key Porter that such a concern should have led New Era to join in a British court action — which was unsuccessful — aimed at stopping publication there of the same book, Bare-Faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard.

The bid to halt publication of British journalist Russell Miller's book was based primarily on an alleged breach of confidence and unauthorized use of a copyrighted photograph of Mr. Hubbard.

Church of Scientology spokesman Cathia Riley said New Era's lawyers will be filing an appeal today.

Judge Cullen said the quick release of his judgment was prompted by Key Porter's plans to start printing 5,000 copies of Bare-Faced Messiah tomorrow.

"In proceedings such as this, one would have preferred more time to consider one's judgment, and certainly more time to elaborate on the reasons for judgment. However, exigencies of the situation here dictate a quick response; any delay is in effect to the benefit of only the party seeking to postpone publishing altogether."

Judge Cullen said that, although Key Porter had not cross-examined the authors of affidavits submitted by New Era, lawyers for the defendants had pointed "to glaring inadequacies in their content to support a motion of this kind." He also observed approvingly of extensive quotations by Key Porter lawyer David Potts of a 1984 custody judgment by a British High Court judge, who held that Scientology is "both immoral and socially obnoxious" as well as "corrupt, sinister and dangerous." As for Mr. Hubbard, a science-fiction writer who died in January, 1986, the British judge said the evidence was "clear and conclusive: Mr. Hubbard is a charlatan and worse, as are his wife Mary Sue Hubbard . . . and the clique at the top privy to the cult's activities." The British judgment went on to quote from some of the same unpublished writings that became an issue in the New Era motion. Among them was a policy letter dated Aug. 15, 1960, which Mr. Potts suggested was reflected in the current court action.

"In face of danger for governments or courts, there are only two errors one can make: (a) do nothing and (b) defend," Mr. Hubbard wrote. "The right things to do with any threat are to (1) find out if we want to play the offered game or not, (2) if not, to derail the offered game with a feint or attack upon the most vulnerable point which can be disclosed in the enemy ranks. (3) Make enough threat or clamor to cause the enemy to quail. (4) Don't try to get any money out of it. (5) Make every attack on us also sell scientology and (6) win. If attacked on some vulnerable point by anyone or anything or any organization, always find or manufacture enough threat against them to cause them to sue for peace." In summing up his defence yesterday, Mr. Potts said last month's British ruling included a conclusion that Scientologists had been advised by their founder to use legal action as a means of stifling criticism.

He also drew Judge Cullen's attention to portions of the unpublished Hubbard writings that he described as "racist." New Era lawyer Kenneth McKay suggested such comments were irrelevant to the case, which he portrayed as involving only enforcement of Canada's copyright laws. He said his client plans to publish an authorized biography of Mr. Hubbard and objects to Mr. Miller's use of "unauthorized, unpublished" materials.