Over the next few years a last determined effort was made by the cult to use the courts to staunch the flow. In America, the defectors were raided by federal marshals and scientology lawyers. Internet service providers - including those in Australia - were threatened unless they removed material. Fresh court cases began. Exhausted and broke, many defectors dropped off and US websites closed down.
That is when the Europeans took over. Andreas Heldal-Lund runs the Norwegian website Clambake (www.xenu.net
) which has become the leading repository for Scientology texts and criticism of the cult. He has not been taken through the courts. "They started seeing that the more they got involved with these crazy people on the internet, the more they sued them, the more trouble they had."
Heldal-Lund is not a refugee from the cult but the managing director of a big US corporation in Norway who comes to this issue as a champion of free speech. He has not emerged unscathed. Like many critics who have conducted research on Scientology, he complains of attempts by the cult to intimidate him.
"They are good at shaking up," he told the Herald. "When they want to attack me, they don't go directly at me. They go to my ex-fiancee. They go to my employer or they go to people in the company I work for. They go to the guy I rent the house from. They never make direct claims but ask weird questions. They do all this planting of small seeds of mistrust so that people think, hmm there's something weird about this Andreas. This has been going on for years. This is what they're very, very good at."