Scientology Crime Syndicate

17 Sep 2000

Anton Hein <ahein.news@xs4all.nl>

:===Begin Quote===

Scientology attracts pickets, suspicion
Atlanta Journal-Constitution/AP, Sep. 17, 2000
Chad Roedemeier - Associated Press
Sunday, September 17, 2000

The only Church of Scientology in Georgia occupies a modest storefront on a busy street in the north Atlanta neighborhood of Dunwoody --- unremarkable except for the four pickets on the sidewalk.

''Scientology: Tax-Exempt UFO Cult,'' reads one protester's homemade sign. The other pickets also wave signs at passing cars: ''Just Say No to Scientology,'' and ''Scientology is a Scam.''

It's not a large or particularly rabid protest, but it seems to have the support of many passers-by who wave, honk their horns or give a thumbs-up as they drive past. The pickets counted about 50 drive-by supporters in an hour on a recent Saturday.

The Scientologists opened a mission in Atlanta in 1974 and established a full-fledged church in 1989.

Founded in Los Angeles in 1954 by the late science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology calls itself an applied religious philosophy that uses technology to bring about spiritual enlightenment.

It says it ministers to 8 million people around the world, but the church in Atlanta, which serves about 100 parishioners a week, is a lonely outpost. The only other churches in the Southeast are in Florida and Nashville.

''I see frankly nothing religious about what they are doing,'' said Ann Lowe, who runs an anti-Scientology Web site.

But the Church of Scientology does not accept criticism without a fight. Lonnie Kliever, a professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said Scientologists have been ''very aggressive about defending themselves against their detractors'' and calls them the ''most litigious of any new religious movement.''

The church set up a Web site to spotlight people they call religious bigots. Lowe, the Atlanta picket, is featured on one page: ''She constantly harasses our fellow parishioners,'' the site says.

The protest is not limited to Atlanta. Pickets stand outside Scientology churches all over the country, but particularly in Clearwater, Fla., where the church has a religious retreat center.

Clearwater has become a protest center because a Scientologist named Lisa McPherson died in 1995 after 17 days in the church's care for a mental breakdown.

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Consumer Alert: What Scientology Is (a hate group, for one thing): http://www.apologeticsindex.org/s04.html

Anton (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
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