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Scientologists Fight On

The Guardian (London), Thursday 17 August 1995

by Wendy Grossman

The HOME of audio-video technician Arnaldo Lerma, in Arlington, Virginia, was raided on August 12, under a writ of seizure; this was obtained by the Church of Scientology (COS) from Judge Leonie M Brinkema of the Eastern District of Virginia. The COS alleges that Lerma violated its copyrights in postings to the newsgroup alt.religion.scientology.

The materials at issue were contained in court documents relating to a legal case in Los Angeles, and can be obtainined from that court by anyone willing to pay the $36.50 it costs to get them copied. Lerma posted the complete set on July 31. The COS contends that the materials are protected by copyright even though they are part of an unsealed public record.

The raid was carried out by a group of around 10 people, including US federal marshalls, computer technicians and COS attorneys Helena K Kobrin and Earle C Cooley, who is also chairman of the Board of Boston University. Among the items seized were more than 100 disks and Lerma's computer, which holds his business records.

The raid is the latest in a series of skirmishes between the COS and its Internet critics. Two previous raids were carried out at the end of February, one at the home of Usenet poster Dennis Erlich in California, and the other on an anonymous remailer. In July, Bristol University philosophy student Martin Poulter had his Internet access suspended for a day after an e-mailed complaint from Kobrin reached his system administrator. Poulter's access has since been restored, but he had to agree not to quote any COS documents in his postings and to remove the extract he categorises as 'fair use' from his Web page.

Lerma was a Scientologist until 1977, and discovered the Internet about a year ago, where some of the horror stories he saw posted convinced him to speak out.

"I gave the best seven years of my life trying to save the world there until I found something was terribly wrong." Lerma says of his time in Scientology. "If I can save one 18-year-old the seven best years of his life, I figure it's all worth it."

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