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Search for information followed long, winding trail

Title: Search for information followed long, winding trail
Date: Sunday, 15 April 1990
Publisher: San Diego Union-Tribune
Main source: link (698 KiB)

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The San Diego Union first asked for an interview with Bridge Publications in December 1989. The request was referred to the L. Ron Hubbard Office of Public Relations, a Church of Scientology organization in Los Angeles.

Several times throughout January, Union reporter Mike McIntyre contacted the L Ron Hubbard Office of Public Relations to request an interview with Bridge personnel. Each time, L. Ron Hubbard spokeswoman Sharyn Runyon said that a decision had not been made.

Runyon later asked McIntyre to send a written request, which was faxed on Jan. 29. McIntyre made several more requests by phone in early February, but Runyon said she still did not have an answer.

Two months after the first request, Runyon told McIntyre that he would not be allowed to interview Bridge officials.

"We're not interested in a controversial story," Runyon said.

Asked who had made the decision, Runyon said Fred Harris, of Author Services Inc., a Hollywood literary agency that owns Hubbard's copyrights.

Church officials maintain that the Church of Scientology, Bridge Publications and Author Services are separate entities. Yet a request for an interview with Bridge was bounced to the church's public relations office then declined by Author Services.

McIntyre left several phone messages for Harris at Author Services, but none were returned.

Meanwhile, the Union decided to proceed with the story.

About a week later, a second church spokeswoman, Leisa Goodman, called McIntyre and requested that questions for the story be submitted to her in writing. Questions were faxed to her on Feb. 15.

On Feb. 19, Goodman asked if McIntyre would meet with her and Bridge senior vice president Mark McKinstry the following day in Los Angeles. Goodman would not allow the interview to take place at Bridge's office. Instead, McIntyre was requested to meet Goodman and McKinstry on a downtown Los Angeles street corner. At Mclntyre's suggestion, the interview was subsequently scheduled for a restaurant.

Goodman used the occasion to remind McIntyre that the church had sued the Union for a story the paper had run on Scientology in 1977. The church later dropped the lawsuit without a settlement.

On Feb. 22, several Union officials received letters from attorneys for Bridge Publications. The letters suggested that publication of this story might result in legal action.

More than 80 named sources agreed to be interviewed for this story. Most of the former Scientologists quoted have been both plaintiffs and defendants in lawsuits involving the church. The church has often paid former members to settle lawsuits out of court. But it is believed that the church has never successfully sued a former member in a jury trial.

Many sources were initially reluctant to be interviewed for this story, leery that McIntyre was not who he claimed he was. Several hung up and called back through the Union switchboard. They claimed they had previously been harassed by Scientologists misrepresenting themselves.

Others interviewed alluded to the church's so-called "Fair Game" policy. Allegedly written by Hubbard in 1967, the policy, former church members say, states that enemies of Scientology "may be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist, without discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued, lied to or destroyed."