This is the first known newspaper article about a.r.s.
Written 5 months prior to Scientology's infamous RMGROUP attempt, it
vaulted a.r.s. to world-wide attention.
OSA's Elaine Siegel said, "... imagine 40-50 Scientologists posting on
the Internet every few days, we'll just run the SPs (suppressive persons)
right off the system. It will be quite simple, actually."
Siegel added: "Basically, as a group, we will NO longer put up with
our religion being criticized, harassed and denigrated on the
Internet. There will also be some legal actions, which you will be
further briefed on."
OSA's Elaine Siegel called critics "jerks".
Dear OSA - Regarding a.r.s., thanks for not making your "postulates
stick". Thanks for one of your greatest gifts of all: failing to "make
it go right". Thanks for helping bring more attention to a.r.s. And
thanks for stating and demonstrating that you are intolerant of criticism.
Warrior - Sunshine disinfects
A battle of beliefs waged in megabytes
St. Petersburg Times
Wednesday, August 3, 1994, page 1A
By Wayne Garcia
Copyright 1994, The St. Petersburg Times
Scientologists and their critics are colliding in cyberspace.
The critics started the fight, creating an electronic bulletin
board dubbed alt.religion.scientology on the Internet, a worldwide web
of computer networks with an audience pushing 25-million.
Then they downloaded their knowledge and opinions in e-mail
messages that just about anyone with a computer, a little money and a
modem can view.
"As you will see, Scientology is astronomically prohibitive," one
anonymous writer said on a.r.s in a message that reprinted the
church's price list for counseling and training. "If you're not a
celebrity or a very rich businessman, you'll be in for a few
Another, code-named "The Squirrel," chimed in: "I am plotting, for
the umpteenth time, how I can reveal that yet another `Scientology
Truth' is just one of the many strange and somewhat stupid utterances
that came from the lying lips of L. Ron Hubbard."
Scientologists were appalled when they found out about this
bashfest three months ago. A church staff member in Los Angeles
electronically deputized a posse of the faithful to counter the
naysayers. Within days, the Internet was flooded with testimonials
praising Scientology and with texts written by Hubbard, the late
science fiction writer who founded Scientology in the 1950s.
Hundreds of pages of dogma hit the computer screens, including a
chapter-by-chapter serialization of an 863-page Scientology book. From
Largo, the manager of a software company threw in glowing weekly
accounts of goings-on at the Fort Harrison in Clearwater,
Scientology's international spiritual headquarters.
The message throughout: Try Scientology, it works.
Watching from afar, and laughing at both sides, is a splinter
group calling itself the Free Zone. Its members love Hubbard's
teachings and technology but reject the organization that is the
It's no surprise that Scientology is a hit on the Internet. For
many religions, computer networks have become a place to pray, debate
dogma, study the Bible, read the Koran and recruit new members.
But Scientology's niche is busier than most, and certainly more
entertaining, say some of the 77,000 Internet "surfers" a month who
run across the Scientology-related bulletin boards, called newsgroups.
The explosive growth of the Internet - and Scientology's presence
on it - caught church officials by surprise. Scientology has always
met its critics head on and spent time and money dealing with dissent.
That was easier when the critics were earthbound, warm bodies with
In the world of computer networking, the critics float unfettered,
as anonymous as they want to be, connected to millions of others at
the push of a button, disconnected and hidden just as easily.
Kurt Weiland, who heads Scientology's legal and public affairs
branch, dismissed much of the Internet traffic as irrelevant and a
waste of time. In the next breath, though, he acknowledged that "we
asked our law firm to look into what was going on."
A private investigator working for Scientology posed as a
journalist to quiz a computer user in Bloomington, Ind., who is
believed to have started the anti-Scientology newsgroup.
"These people are welcome to speak their minds," Weiland said. But
he added a caveat: "It is clear that some of this is written to be
derisive of and libel the church."
And, as Weiland acknowledged, the Church of Scientology doesn't
stand still in the face of what it believes is derisive, incorrect
The Elaine Siegel briefing
Every few days, someone posts a message on the Internet asking,
"Where is Elaine Siegel?"
They worry that Siegel, a staff worker in Scientology's Office of
Special Affairs in Los Angeles, has been punished for letting a copy
of her now infamous letter fall into the wrong hands - the critics'
They have not received a response from her.
Siegel's letter has been posted more than a dozen times on
Internet. It details a plan for Scientologists to counter their
"If you imagine 40-50 Scientologists posting on the Internet every
few days, we'll just run the SPs (suppressive persons) right off the
system," Siegel wrote. "It will be quite simple, actually."
She added: "Basically, as a group, we will NO longer put up with
our religion being criticized, harassed and denigrated on the
Internet. There will also be some legal actions, which you will be
further briefed on."
Scientology is going to get its own link to Internet, Siegel said.
She called the critics "jerks."
The critics went ballistic, half-upset at the takeover attempt,
half-tickled at the impossibility of such a task. They began the
"Where is Elaine Siegel?" e-mail campaign, its sinister-sounding
question about her fate sure to tweak Scientology officials.
Weiland said Siegel's letter was distributed without her
superior's approval and doesn't represent an official position. She
has not been punished, he said. Weiland said he agreed with her basic
message of countering negative news with positive but denied wanting
to push anyone off the Internet, saying the critics' response suggests
it is they who want to dominate the medium.
"That just shows that these people wanted a free-for-all on a
forum that is meant for everyone," Weiland said.
Through Weiland, Siegel declined to talk to the Times for this
The man who exposed Siegel's private letter to the Internet is
Chris Schafmeister, a third-year biophysics graduate student at the
University of California in San Francisco. He posted the Siegel letter
after receiving it from a Scientologist whom he said he befriended on
Internet. Before tripping across the Scientology newsgroup, he had no
experience with the organization. He is now a caustic critic.
"My role is to make sure they're never going to be comfortable on
the Net," Schafmeister said.
Now, he is the one getting uncomfortable. After being interviewed
for this story, Schafmeister said, he learned that someone claiming to
be a reporter from Orange County, Calif., was checking up on him with
other computer users. The "reporter" refused to identify his newspaper.
In a second incident, someone claiming to be a parcel delivery worker
phoned Schafmeister to get his home address. Schafmeister never got a
Weiland said he doesn't know of any Scientology inquiry into
Schafmeister but acknowledged that a private investigator did pose as
a reporter and question the Bloomington man who is believed to have
founded the anti-Scientology bulletin board. Weiland said that was
done because the person who started the board used the name of David
Miscavige, the current leader of Scientology.
Scientologists on the Net
Stu Sjouwerman is vice president of a software company in Largo.
The Dutch native has been a Scientologist for 12 years and is known to
Internet users for his "Warm Regards" Stu closing on his weekly
reports about what's happening in Clearwater Scientology.
Sjouwerman (pronounced Shauw-er-min) uses his Internet time to
spread the word from Scientology's Clearwater-based Flag Service
Organization, mainly detailed accounts of the speeches given at the
Friday night graduation ceremonies at the Fort Harrison Hotel.
Sjouwerman, 38, also guides people on Internet to Clearwater,
where the top Scientology courses and processing are available.
Sjouwerman said his motivation is to tell how Scientology has
helped his life, how it keeps his marriage alive, how it helped him
get the best job he has ever had.
". . . I'd like my fellow beings on this planet to experience this
same absolutely wonderful feeling of spiritual freedom," Sjouwerman
said in a written statement. "That is why I am here on the Net."
Others get similarly involved, posting lengthy passages from
Scientology books, a list of every Scientology organization in the
world and lists of available books and tapes. On the Internet, they
describe how Scientology has helped them become better people.
"Ever wonder why the critics can't just let you do Scientology,
while they simply not do it, since it's obviously not for them?" wrote
one person who identified himself as a Scientologist. "What would be
wrong with people getting better?"
Weiland said the Scientologists on Internet are individuals, not
part of any church plan. Scientology's marketing branch, he added, is
looking at the possibility of using the Internet.
The Free Zone lives
All the benefits of Scientology at a fraction of the cost. That
is the promise of the Free Zone, located on an Internet bulletin board
Neither fish nor fowl, not Scientologist or basher, the United
Free Zone Alliance and its estimated 3,000 adherents trade variations
on Hubbard's theme, and some continue his research, an idea that is
blasphemous to the Church of Scientology.
It also attracts believers in alternative mind-clearing
technologies or religions outside of Scientology, people who practice
processes aimed at ridding the mind of harmful, painful memories.
That kind of dissension and continued research, coupled with the
freedom of choice to learn mind-clearing outside official channels,
makes the Free Zone Scientology's "worst nightmare," said
alt.clearing.technology founder Homer Wilson Smith, a computer artist
from upstate New York.
"Scientifically this is very fertile ground," said Smith, 43.
"Dogmatically, it sows the seeds of war."
Some even use the medium to discuss auditing techniques and tips,
Scientology's confessional process that is used to locate and
discharge areas of mental strife. The most expensive Scientology
auditing costs $1,000 an hour. Free Zoners are doing it for nothing,
or next to nothing.
Weiland called the Free Zoners "squirrels," a term for those who
take Hubbard's teachings and use them outside the officials channels
of the church or who alter them into something else. Scientology has
pursued countless lawsuits against squirrels, aimed at ridding the
religion of squirrel tech, as they call it.
Scientology has known about the Free Zone for years, long before
it went on the Internet. As long as no Scientology copyrights or
trademarks are violated, Weiland said, no legal action will be taken.
But what the Free Zone is doing is wrong nonetheless, he said.
"We are not tolerant of any alterations or deviations from the
standard technology. If you alter it, you may get some benefit, but it
won't be the benefit you could get by following it."
Out in cyberspace, the skirmish for souls continues.
A man who identifies himself as a Russian writes: "My name is
Alexander. I live in Moscow and I'm interested in Scientology very
much. I'd like to know if it is possible to have your information in
A Scientologist responds that most of the literature has been
translated and that there are even several Scientology organizations
in Russia. He offers to mail him more information.
That's too tempting for a critic in Arizona, who posts the last
"My critique of Scientology has been translated into Russian,"
Jeff Jacobsen writes, "in case you want a copy of that."
(Times researchers Kitty Bennett and Debbie Wolfe contributed to this
Network gives voice to former Scientologists
By WAYNE GARCIA
St. Petersburg Times, August 3, 1994, page 12A
Computers have done what years of opposition couldn't do, uniting
the handful of former Scientologists who have waged war against
the Church of Scientology .
These dissidents are now gathered under the rubric of the Fight
Against Coercive Tactics (FACT) network, or FACTnet, a free data
base and electronic bulletin board available to the public.
The network, based in Golden, Colo., electronically stockpiles
information critical of Scientology , from affidavits to court
rulings to federal investigations.
Although fewer than 150 people now use the computer network,
Scientology officials have responded to FACTnet's existence
with a blitz of legal threats and reams of allegations about
The church also has tried to derail publicity about FACTnet.
The Church of Scientology sent two high-ranking officials from
Los Angeles to St. Petersburg to lodge a protest when the Times
asked about FACTnet.
Kurt Weiland, who heads Scientology 's legal and public relations
branch, said FACTnet merely hopes to become a big enough annoyance
to force Scientology into a multimillion-dollar settlement.
Linda Simmons Hight, a top church spokeswoman, added: "They have
no educational function whatsoever."
Hight and Weiland brought notebooks containing allegations about
FACTnet's co-founder, Lawrence Wollersheim, as well as refutations
of a FACTnet investigation into suicides and psychoses that FACT
members claim could be caused by Scientology counseling.
Scientology officials say that assertion is crazy; they say the
members died under normal circumstances or in accidents. FACTnet
officials acknowledge making errors in their first listing of the
deaths but say many suspicious cases remain.
Since FACTnet's formation last year, Scientology lawyers have
threatened a civil lawsuit against the group three times.
Scientology has asked local and federal law-enforcement officials
in Colorado to investigate FACT for hate crimes and fraud.
- WAYNE GARCIA
And I'd like to add:
Thanks So much for inviting me into your ever so secret Internet mafia,
run out of OSA International, by Gavino and no doubt a few higher Exec's.
That one action literally moved me onto the path to finally wake up and see
I finally could SEE (even while "in") what liars you are, how hypocritical
you are, how you rip people off and spit them out when they're broke; how
you are the opposite of what I know to be a religion.
Thanks SO much for continuing to piss people off with all of your legal
smaltz and insane Black PR. People can see you...and they KNOW they don't
want to EVER be a part of your group. That's not from "The Critics" ....and
it's not even from X-Scientologists. That's from YOUR very own
actions...pissing people off, daily. Way to go!
Hope your stats are up, and you get your one day off for Christmas. Oh
that's right...you have to keep the stats up ON Christmas, and let's face
it, none of you really believe in what Christmas is all about anyways...so
you may as well work.
To those who may drop by here, and are trapped "in"...may you have a
Merry Christmas, and remember Ron's final PL:
The Way Out
The Nearest Door!!!
((( Hey! Ron took it, why not YOU?)))
Merry Christmas to you all,
Tory/Magoo~dancing in the light!