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Harassement shouldn't quiet media, say cult experts

Title: Harassement shouldn't quiet media, say cult experts
Date: Thursday, 8 August 1991
Publisher: Winnipeg Sun
Main source: link (132 KiB)

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The Church of Scientology has a long and undistinguished history of harassing its detractors — but that shouldn't stop the media or anyone else from speaking out against it, cult experts say.

The church commonly threatens lawsuits, tries to have detractors arrested, and harasses sources and individual reporters, said Cynthia Kisser of the Cult Awareness Network in Chicago.

And recent Sun stories linking the church — alleged by experts to be a dangerous, mind-control cult — to Narconon, a drug rehabilitation program, will likely be no exception, she said.

"I think they thought they were going to have a free run there in Winnipeg. They will try to bombard you and the media with propaganda," she said.

Bob Lobsinger, publisher and editor of the Herald Journal in Newkirk, Okla., claimed he was threatened with lawsuits, harassed by private investigators, and robbed after he reported on the church's connection to Narconon two years ago.

The church even took out advertisements in other Oklahoma newspapers suggesting anyone opposed to Narconon was in favor of drug abuse, he said.

"Let 'em holler. They holler all the time," he said.

Toronto Sun reporter Bill Dunphy said after he wrote a feature story on Scientology last summer, the church tried to have him arrested and charged under the Ontario Private Investigators Act.

After a police investigation found there was no basis for any charges, the church tried to gain access to investigation reports under the Freedom of Information Act.

Dunphy opposed the move — which would reveal his sources and methods to the church — but he said he's sure the church will try again.

This summer, the church tried to have him found in contempt of court after he wrote a brief, legally permissable, story on an upcoming court case involving the church, he said.

Reporters at the Los Angeles Times who wrote a series on the church last year became the subjects of a $1-million publicity campaign — they found their names plastered on billboards, along with quotes taken out of text from their stories.

And a Time magazine cover story printed this May has garnered an 80-page booklet and a 27-page magazine slamming Time, its reporters, and its sources.

UCLA professor of pyschiatry Dr. Louis West, who's studied — and criticized — the church for decades, said anyone who denounces the church can expect to be denounced and harassed.

"I've been harassed for years by them. It's not pleasant, but somebody has to (speak out)," he said.

"They have lots of money, and that means they have plenty of lawyers all over the place. Their No. 1 priority these days is respectability. They're going to make it as difficult for their critics as they can."