Attempts to Silence a Church
The Ontario Court of Appeal decision in the Church of Scientology case can only worsen public confidence in the administration of justice in this country. Why choose to prosecute this Church?
The Church of Scientology was established in Toronto in 1967. Within a year, complaints by Scientologists about human rights violations in the field of psychiatry had brought the attention of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).
Thirty years later, the crimes Scientologists were warning of have finally been discovered and have shocked the nation. The involvement of post-war Canadian psychiatrist Ewen Cameron in CIA-funded military mind control experiments suddenly became real to most Canadians only a few years ago when a group of his surviving experimental subjects successfully sued the Canadian government for millions of dollars after proving that they had been unwillingly subjected to the most hideous and horrifying psychiatric experiments in the name of mind control research.
But when Scientologists warned of those same experiments in the 1960s, the result was a coordinated campaign to silence the Church from the psychiatric fraternity and their backers in political and intelligence circles.
In 1969, an autonomous office was set up outside the Church of Scientology, called the Guardians Office, to care for the Churchs legal responsibilities and to discover the source of the harrassment which, at that time, seemed inexplicable.
It did not take long to trace the Churchs troubles to the psychiatric criminals whose government funding, amongst other things, was threatened by the Churchs efforts to expose the mind control experiments.
However, over the ensuing years the Guardians Office had less and less to do with the actual activities of the Church of Scientology and by the 1970s it had begun operating almost exclusively on its own directives, completely ignoring and severely violating Church policy.
It was several people associated with the Guardians Office who, between 1974 and 1976, committed illegal acts in the course of their misguided attempts to isolate the sources of, and exact reasons for, the continuing attacks upon the Church.
When these offenses were discovered by the mother Church in 1981, Church executives took swift action to remove or excommunicate anyone connected with the unlawful methods, regardless of those individuals motivations. By 1983 the entire Guardians Office had been dismantled and disbanded.
In 1984, the representatives of the Church who had discovered the illegal actions and seen to the dismantling of the Guardians Office traveled to Ontario and offered to assist in the prosecution of the offenders.
Instead, the prosecution approached the offenders and asked them to testify against the Churchoffering full immunity if they agreed to testify.
Giving evidence in court is normally done under the agreement that one will tell the truth and nothing but the truth. But in the case of the former Guardians Office personnel the Ontario prosecutor required something else.
Several of these individuals had violated an oath of office and secrecy. They had been expelled from the Church. They were not eager to testify. What made them come forward? The Ontario Provincial Police used confidential information obtained through search and seizure to convince the first of them to do so. They were toldtruthfullythat the Church was planning its own legal action against them over their activities. Once one individual testified, the others would be implicated and they had therefore best move fast. The government offered immunity. But they needed to implicate the Church. If they were willing to take responsibility for their own actions there would be no immunity.
The special agreement made with one of the individuals, Dianne Fairfield, shows how far the government was prepared to go. Fairfield was told that to be granted immunity from prosecution herself, she not only had to provide testimony, but her information would have to advance in a material fashion the information obtained from previous witnesses.
Such methods of obtaining testimony would only sound peculiar to someone who does not know the history of this case. A year earlier, on March 3, 1983, in its desperation to find the Church guilty of something, the OPP had conducted the largest raid in the history of Canada on the premises of the Toronto Church of Scientology.
A literal army of OPP troops in flak jackets, carrying sledge hammers and axes, spent 20 hours working their way though the Church and virtually emptying the property of administrative files and, in some cases, records of the personal spiritual counseling of parishioners.
Disruption to the Church was inestimable. Huge legal costs were incurred in proving that the OPP had illegally exceeded the bounds of their search warrant. Yet when Mr. Justice Southey confirmed more than 8 years laterthat the police had indeed acted illegally, there was no compensation for the Church, and to date the figure remains zero.
On the other hand, when the Court of Appeal for Ontario confirmed the lower courts decision against the Church on April 18, it upheld sentence of a quarter of a million dollar fine, stigmatizing every single parishioner of the Church. The court found that this non-trivial burden on the practice of the Scientology religion was reasonable. They reasoned that parishioners would inevitably be stigmatized even if the real offenders were prosecuted rather than the Church as a whole. So the entire congregation pays.
For what? When the lower court confirmed that the OPPs 100-man force had illegally entered the Church and removed tens of thousands of documentsunnecessarily smashing doors and furniture in the process, disrupting Church activities for years and causing the Church to incur millions in legal billsneither the OPP nor the individual agents were required to pay any fine or damages.
So, in comparison, what had the Church done to deserve a quarter of a million dollar fine? It had discovered that a few individuals acting entirely without Church authorization or approval had unlawfully sought to obtain documents from the OPP and other agencies to uncover why individuals in those departments were irrationally attacking the Church. The Court of Appeal confirmed that many of the current parishioners would have had no knowledge of those activities. Yet those parishioners today are the ones paying the fine, while the offendersthe individuals who committed the offenseswere exonerated on the basis of their agreement to testify against the Church.
Why does the public have little confidence in the political, judicial and administrative system?
Laziness is not the Problem
Why does the public have little confidence in the political, judicial and administrative system? A study conducted last June by Ekos Research Associates suggests that public servants look at themselves in a distorted mirror, seeing images jarringly different from the publics perception. In their minds, public discontent stems from the conviction that public servants are lazy. But this is not the reason for widespread disenchantment. The case against the Church of Scientology gives a much better picture.
How can the Court of Appeal find the Church liable?, said Clayton Ruby, counsel for the Church. We will be appealing, he added, noting that there are important constitutional principles to be clarified by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Rev. Al Buttnor, Director of Public Affairs for the Church of Scientology of Toronto, said that while the legal matters of a bygone era wind their way through the system, we are continuing to grow and to increase our services to the community. What the Church of Scientology is really all about is helping people, and taking initiative in the community to improve conditions for individuals through our programs addressing literacy, drug education and rehabilitation and other social challenges. No misguided ruling could ever change that, for that is what we are dedicated to.