Scientology Crime Syndicate

Press Association Newsfile

June 8, 1999, Tuesday



Jan Colley, PA News

The Church of Scientology today paid #55,000 damages in settlement of a libel action brought by a former member who it accused of waging a "hate campaign" against the organisation. American Bonnie Woods, 49, became a Scientologist in the United States during the 1970s but left in 1982 and, three years later, moved to England with her husband, Richard. In 1991 Mrs Woods converted to Christianity, her counsel, Mr Michael Tugendhat QC, told Mr Justice Eady in the High Court in London.

Some time later Mrs Woods and her husband began to provide information, operate a call line and offer advice about Scientology to families and friends of Church of Scientology members. She also publicly criticised Scientology and spoke to the media about her experiences as a member of the organisation. Several times she attended vigils outside the organisation's bookshop in East Grinstead, Sussex, and handed out a document which was very critical of it. As a result of her activities, said Mr Tugendhat, the Church of Scientology Religious Education College Incorporated - the body responsible for the propagation and practice of Scientology in the UK - produced a leaflet in June 1993 showing a photograph of Mrs Woods above the words "Hate Campaigner Comes to Town".

A group of Scientologists put the leaflet through the letter boxes of people living in the Woods' road in East Grinstead and handed it out to members of the public on the high street during one of their vigils. The leaflet described Mrs Woods as a "hate campaigner" - someone motivated by hatred and religious intolerance - and as a "deprogrammer", who tried to force people away from their chosen faith. It also cast doubt on the sincerity of Mrs Woods's claims to be a born-again Christian. Mr Tugendhat said the defendants now accepted that the allegations in the leaflet about Mrs Woods were untrue.

"Bonnie Woods does not hate any religion and would not take any step to force people away from their chosen religion or encourage others to do so. "While the Woods have on occasion met with Scientologists and their families at the request of their families and discussed the Church of Scientology with them, the Woods have not put pressure on them or the Church of Scientology to prevent them continuing in Scientology." Mrs Woods, he added, was sincere in her Christian faith.

The publication of the allegations to her friends and neighbours in the local community was deeply distressing to Mrs Woods, he said. The organisation's counsel, Mr Patrick Moloney QC, said that it regretted that when responding to Mrs Woods' criticisms it went too far in attributing to her conduct and motives which it now accepted were not correct. It apologised, agreed to pay her damages and undertook not to make any such allegations again. Outside court, Mrs Woods said that it had been a "horrific" experience. She was "absolutely delighted" with the outcome and paid tribute to her legal team, which she compared to the "US cavalry coming over the hill".

The Church of Scientology issued a statement in which it said it was were "very happy" to resolve the proceedings on the basis of the statement in court. --
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