One Less Scientology Dirty Trick?
§ June 19th, 2009 § Filed under Mad Mad Mad World, Religion § Tagged Anonymous, Dirty tricks, Scientology
The Church of Scientology (COS) has a fairly high profile here in Hollywood. It owns several million dollars worth of buildings on Hollywood Blvd, has a large complex on Sunset Blvd, and runs its Celebrity Centre International on Franklin Ave — all within a short bike ride of CFI- Los Angeles. (ironic, ain’t it?)
Apparently they have a bit of political sway as well. Their “Big Blue” complex on Sunset is bordered on one side by L. Ron Hubbard way, named of course, after Scientology’s sci-fi-author-founder.
But despite massive 7-figure support from celebs like John Travolta and Tom Cruise, their local detractors seem to be gaining a bit of ground. Among the Church’s most organized critics is a group called Anonymous .
Technically, Anonymous takes up a number of causes, but out here, they seem to spend a fair amount of time on Scientology. Where Operation Clambake provides information about Scientology and maintains an internet presence, Anonymous protests on the street with an in-your-face attitude.
(They dress as pirates in opposition to the Sea Org, the COS’s more elite church-managing members. Sea Org members sign a contract with the Church for a billion years. Anonymous mocks them for it.)
When I see Anonymous on the streets of Hollywood pestering the Scientologists, I always envision some nefarious higher-up in one of their tall buildings clenching his fists like Dean Wormer in Animal House seething, “I hate those guys.”
The Church has tried to fight back though. Recently, after Anonymous announced an upcoming protest in Hollywood, the COS took out a filming permit from the L.A. Film Office . This gave them control over the sidewalk where the protest was to happen, which they used to prevent the protesters from having access to the COS building on Hollywood Blvd they were targeting.
But a film permit doesn’t mean you own the sidewalk - it just allows you to hold pedestrians during the moments of actual filming. It was obvious that the Church used the permit to quash the protest. People without protest signs were allowed to pass down the sidewalk while the protesters were held back. When one protester tried to walk down the sidewalk, he was handcuffed and detained for 15 or 20 minutes by off-duty L.A. police working for the Church.
Pretty outrageous, eh?
The good news is that the L.A. Film Office is now hip to this dirty little trick that uses the pretense of filming to subvert the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The L.A. City Council and the police have also been notified about similar tricks like using street closure permits to close off areas near Church property.
We hope the local authorities won’t let the law be abused like this in the future.
In the meantime, we at the Center for Inquiry and the Independent Investigations Group will be watching to see that the Church of Scientology - and any other church for that matter - plays by the rules of an open and democratic society.