Scientology Threatens Watchman with "OT" Lawsuit
In a letter dated 9 February 1996, Helena Kobrin, an attorney representing Scientology's "Religious Technology Center" renewed legal threats against Watchman Fellowship. Kobrin alleges that Watchman is in possession of, and thereby could theoretically distribute copies of, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard's top-secret Operating Thetan (OT) literature. Thus, Kobrin claims, Watchman is in violation of the US Copyright laws, as well as "trade secret and unfair competition laws."
In her original threat dated 13 June 1995, Kobrin warned of immediate legal action including "damages, an injunction, and impounding of materials and equipment used in perpetrating the infringing acts."
Kobrin's February 9th letter is the latest of six letters written to Watchman Fellowship or attorneys representing our ministry concerning this issue. In one letter dated 29 June 1995, Kobrin gave a detailed description making it appear that Scientologists or agents of the church may have gained access to Watchman Fellowship's Texas office without our knowledge.
Watchman Fellowship has not violated any copyright or trade secret laws - nor do we have any plans to violate such laws. We are not engaged in "unfair competition" with the Church of Scientology or any of its corporate entities. This attack, we believe, is one more example of Scientology's long history of using the legal system to persecute those who disagree with their theology.
Perhaps Scientologists are trying to use this issue as a pretense to search and seize Watchman's files, computers, and confidential counseling correspondence. Or perhaps their motive is found in the words of their founder, L. Ron Hubbard, who said, "...beware of attorneys who tell you not to sue...the purpose of the suit is to harass and discourage rather than to win" (Time, 6 May 1991, p. 38).
Scientologists have already sued Watchman Fellowship on two earlier occasions. In 1992, Watchman Fellowship,Watchman's Southeastern director Craig Branch, the Cult Awareness Network, and several others were named in a $9.5 million lawsuit filed by Sterling Management Systems (SMS). Sterling was named by Time magazine as one of Scientology's "front groups and financial scams" (Ibid., p. 54). Watchman's portion of the suit was quashed by a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge. Last year Sterling Management System lost the whole suit, (Cult Awareness Network News, September 1995, p. 1).
Again in 1992 the Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology filed another lawsuit against Watchman Fellowship. Among other claims, the suit accused Watchman Fellowship of involvement in a conspiracy of illegal activities including detaining a client of the Church of Scientology, Glover Rowe, against his will and forcing him to breach his contract with Scientology. Of course, no one at Watchman Fellowship endorses or engages in any form of kidnapping or involuntary "deprogramming." Ironically, Glover Rowe claimed that it was Scientologists, not Watchman Fellowship, that were guilty of falsely imprisoning him and his wife and intentionally inflicting emotional stress on his family (Cherokee County Herald, 12 December 1990, pp. 1A, 5A).
As far as we know, the two lawsuits in 1992 represent the first time the Church of Scientology or its related businesses have sued a Christian organization.
Scientology's 1992 legal attacks against Watchman Fellowship were reported in Christianity Today. In their article, an attorney defending Watchman, Eric Johnston of the Rutherford Institute, stated, "this kind of case carries significant implications of censorship on the freedom of religion and freedom of speech guaranteed for religious organizations." He explained, "One of the questions is whether Christian organizations have the right...to publicly speak out against groups that are in conflict with their faith and/or who fraudulently represent themselves as compatible with Christianity" (Christianity Today, 24 February 1992, p. 60).