by Charles W. Hall
Scientology Suit Against Post Dismissed
US Judge Orders Plaintiff to Pay Attorney Fees In Secrecy Case
By Charles W Hall
A Lawsuit against The Washington Post by the Church of Scientology has
been dismissed by a federal judge, who ordered the church to pay all
attorney fees in the suit.
US District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema said that the church had no grounds
to prohibit The Post from printing brief excerpts from religious texts
that the church has tried to conceal from the public. The excerpts were
published in a Style section story on litigation bewteen the church and
former members who have put the disputed texts on the Internet.
In her ruling, filed yesterday, Brinkema said The Post's quotations from
copyrighted church texts were brief and fell within fair use doctrine,
which allows publications to quote some copyrighted materials in covering
matters of public interest.
"The court finds the motivation of plaintiff in filing this lawsuit
against The Post is reprehensible," Brinkema wrote. "Although the
[Religious Technology Center, an arm of the Scientology Church] brought
the complaint under traditional secular concepts of copyright and trade
secret law, it has become clear that a much broader motivation
prevailed--the stifling of criticism and dissent of the religious practice
of Scientology and the destruction of its opponents."
Mary Ann Werner, vice president and counsel for The Post, said:
"Obviously, we're very pleased with the judge's decision. The fact that
she thought we had done nothing wrong."
Helena Kobrin, attorney for the Religious Technology Center, called
Brinkema's ruling "another nail in the coffin of American justice. We
brought this suit to protect out religious rights, but the judge defiled
them when she bought into the propaganda of the Internet anarchists. The
essential fact is that our sacred scriptures were stolen in the first
place, and this theft and rape of our copyrighted property has been
completely buried under this travesty."
Scientology officials said they had not decided whether to appeal.
Brinkema has yet to rule on Scientology suits against Arnaldo Lerma, a
former member from Arlington who published church texts on the Internet,
or against Digital Gateway Systems, the company that gave Lerma access to
The church has filed three federal suits nationally seeking to prevent
dissidents from publishing its texts electronically. On Monday, a federal
judge in San Jose denied attempts by a California Bulletin board service
have another Scientiology suit dismissed.
The church has argued that trade secrecy and copyright laws prohibit new
publications, church members, and bulletin board services from
dissemnating church texts. It said the texts are confidential
instructional materials for advanced members.
In helping to prepare the Aug. 19 article, written by staff writer Marc
Fisher, a Post researcher obtained 69 pages of advanced training material
filed in a federal libel case against a former church member in Los
According to church beliefs outlined in the material, a galactic
federation leader solved an overpopulation problem 75 million years ago by
tranbporting excess people to Earth, where they were chained to a volcano
and exploded hydrogen bombs.
Church officials help students achieve awareness by re-creating that
experience, according to the text.
Post lawyers argued that the article adhered to the fair-use doctrine.
They also said the materials no longer were trade secrets, because they
were available on the internet and in public court files.
Brinkema said that although people can be sued for putting business
secrets on the internet, trade secrecy laws do not prevent Internet users
from downloading such material. "Once a trade secret is posted on the
Internet, it is effectively part of the public domain." she wrote.