RALSTON-PILOT, INC., Publishers, LOS ANGELES
Copyright © 1980 by Omar V. Garrison
All rights reserved
Printed in the United States of America
Note: The figures behind the title (: : 17) are the original page numbers of the book.
A deep-felt concern with several serious problems now confronting the American people prompted me to write this book.
All of them involve and grow out of a single, overriding dilemma: what to do about the federal government's centralized power and its abuses. This is the foremost imperative of our day.
This central issue, in turn, begets another critical question, one that a growing number of people on all levels of our society are facing for the first time:
What non-violent recourse has a citizenry against total gov
ernment, when functionaries of that government act oppressively, and when the courts sanction their lawless acts? Is an individual or group whose life, liberty or pursuit of happiness is gravely threatened by the state, justified in taking action that is technically illegal, in order to survive?
Historically, the answer has been in the affirmative. Indeed, the American Republic came into existence, based on that premise.
Today, the political situation in the United States is once again a revolutionary situation.
Recent opinion polls have shown that an overwhelming majority of the American people fear and distrust their government. President Carter called it a "crisis of confidence," but that, it seems to me, was an understatement. The public attitude goes deeper than mere loss of confidence. It is, rather, a positive contempt for the leadership in Washington, and a smoldering resentment against governmental misconduct.
The multiplicity of laws, mindlessly enacted by the Congress in response to political pressure or special interests, have added fuel to the fire, by setting up bureaus and agencies with almost unlimited power to intervene - often illegally - in the most intimate affairs of our daily lives.
The pandect of regulatory codes, now spread across every aspect of national life, is so complex and all-encompassing that equitable administration is impossible. Furthermore, the system has bred a whole legion of little Hitlers, commanding their own gestapos.
Meanwhile, the ranks of these petty dictators increase each year, as more and more people evade, defy, or violate laws they view as unjust. The disgraceful history of the Internal Revenue Service provides a vast file of perfect examples.
It is in the development of this theme that I have chosen to detail in these pages the continuing story of the Church of Scientology and its endless struggle against official oppression - a story which I began in a previous book, The Hidden Story of Scientology.
Even though I am not now, and never have been, a Scien-
tologist, I have researched that church's history in great depth because I believe their experience is the forerunner, the testing ground for abuses that in the immediate future will involve greater and greater areas of our society.
As any writer who has challenged the malfeasance of official mandarins corrupted by power (and often money), and in return has been the victim of official harassment, I can easily empathise with the Scientologists. I know from personal experience their fury and frustration each time they receive first-class mail with one corner of the envelope torn open in regulation form, where the contents have been scrutinized in violation of Public Law 89-44, Section 812.
I have myself relived their dark mood of helpless rage each time my telephone conversations have been monitored, my notes and manuscripts stolen from my car, my home illegally entered and my files searched.
I have shared their just indignation with each Freedom of Information request denied or circumvented; with each violation of the Privacy Act, in which personal, non-criminal information about me has been passed to various agencies and individuals, here and abroad.
Like the Scientologists, I have recoiled at each sordid revelation of crimes and blunders by officials of our government elected and unelected - who go unpunished and who seek to cover up their wrongdoing by silencing their critics under the guise of protecting the "public interest," "national security;" or by some other specious pleading.
1, too, deplore the arrogance of today's judiciary in America, where political appointees are placed on the bench of higher courts, often by shrewd crooks endowed with the gift of gab and a con man's instinct for fooling the voters. Too many of these "honorable" judges seem to believe that the government owns the law and can use it as they see fit, to maintain the machinery of oppression.
While I thus admit to a personal attunement with the Scientologists in their struggle, the account presented here is based upon documented evidence, not upon subjective feelings. I
have had an unbelievable mass of material to draw upon.
The evidentiary record of the U.S. Government's conspiracy against the Church of Scientology - extending, as it does, over more than two decades - has no parallel in American legal history.
There have been previous cases of official persecution of new religious sects (that of the Mormons, for example), but never before have so many agencies of the federal government joined forces in a dedicated - yes, a fanatical - scheme to destroy a legally constituted religious community.
That destruction of the church was the ultimate objective of the cabal there can be no doubt. The internal memoranda passed among the various agencies and departments involved, say so, clearly and emphatically.
After analyzing hundreds of governmental documents relating to the Scientology case, Rodney A. Austin, an expert on Constitutional and Administrative law, affirmed unequivocally that the U.S. Justice Department had directed "an allagency effort to malign, oppress, criminally prosecute and ultimately end the practice of Scientology."
I reached a similar conclusion in my earlier work, already alluded to, which also carefully examines the role of such vested interests as the American Medical Association, World Federation of Mental Health, Better Business Bureaus, and others, in initiating the government's offensive against the church throughout the world.
At that time, I did not have available to me the copious documentation which has recently been obtained by using the Freedom of Information Act. The church has been able thus far to acquire or to gain access to a mind-boggling 100,000 pages through administrative action, and another 100,000 pages through costly litigation.
Well-informed sources estimate that the various federal agencies and government departments are still withholding another hundred thousand documents pertaining to the church, its founder and/or its members. The Internal Revenue Service alone is said to have 33 linear feet of files, most of
which that agency has refused to disclose, employing various obstructive tactics to avoid compliance with the law.
It doesn't require the deductive acumen of a Sherlock Holmes to discern the reason agency officials resist the lawful disclosure of their records. They would reveal too much.
Rodney Austin noted:
"Given the history of government misconduct so far documented, it may be inferred that the crucial evidence relevant to the church's allegations of bad faith, selectivity, illegal searches and seizures, entrapment and provocation has yet to be revealed."
To prevent the release of documents, some agencies classified them Confidential, Secret, and even Top Secret.
In their legal responses to the church's FOI suits, charging unlawful withholding of public records, some of the agencies not only claimed exemption to disclosure of their files, but introduced into the court action defamatory material wholly unrelated to the issue at bar, which was solely an appeal from their refusal to divulge records under the FOIA. Instead, they took the occasion to impugn the validity of the denomination as a bona fide religion.
During the course of one litigation, the government lawyers submitted a series of totally irrelevant arguments describing the corporate structure of the church, citing the church's legal strategy, and alleging that Scientologists had "infiltrated" government offices. All of these inapposite arguments, meant to prejudice the court and to damage the church's reputation, were based upon internal church memoranda and correspondence seized by the U.S. Customs Service in a high-handed action of the kind that is the hallmark of all totalitarian regimes.
Again, during a civil action brought by the church against the Food and Drug Administration, U.S. attorneys sought to take depositions from officials of the church, an action unheard of in FOI litigation, and one undertaken for the sole purpose of intimidating the church and possibly of obtaining further information unrelated to the instant case, but which
might be used against the church in future proceedings. The immateriality of such depositions was so glaringly apparent that the court issued protective orders forbidding them.
It is unfortunate - for all people who would preserve their fundamental liberties, as well as for the Church of Scientology - that from the beginning of the church's troubles with the government, the media generally have focused upon the alleged evils of the church. They have uncritically accepted from government sources news releases filled with outrageous lies and innuendoes. They have meagerly reported and often misrepresented the lawful, reform-directed activities of the church. They have cooperated with federal and state officials who have leaked derogatory information and have tried their legal cases in the press before they ever reached the courtroom.
In their coverage of the church's difficulties, they have used the warmed-over accumulation of a bad press dating back a quarter of a century.
As a result of this misdirection, the principal issue involved in Scientology's troubles has been minimised or overlooked.
Let me proceed, then, to the implications the Scientology case has for all religious institutions in America.
Since the first government moves against the Church of Scientology, attacks on other religious bodies - independent sects and, later, major denominations - have steadily increased. At this writing, the clash between the First Amendment right to a free exercise of religion and the despotic power of an omnipresent government is approaching a decisive showdown in the courts. George Cornell, religion editor of the Associated Press, has taken note of the struggle:
"In a time of growing strain between the church and state, some churches are launching unprecedented court challenges to new government inroads on their lives.
"U.S. Catholic bishops have filed their first lawsuit in history against the federal government. Lutherans are laying grounds for another key case, and United Methodists are fighting a landmark dispute.
"In each of the actions, the issues are different, but they all claim government infringements on the constitutionally guaranteed right of free exercise of religion."
It may be difficult for an orthodox denomination to see in their own situation vis-a-vis Washington any similarity to the Scientology struggle against the same machinery of oppression. The central issue, however, is the same. Both conventional and unconventional churches are concerned with the same important question: has any agency or department of the federal government the legal right to define religion -any religion; or to dictate its practices?
The answer, as everyone knows, is an absolute no. That is a well-settled fact of law. At least, it was well-settled until the revisionist judiciary in recent years arrogated to themselves the illegal power to amend the Constitution. Back in 1943, when the U.S. Supreme Court still regarded the Bill of Rights as a perfectly lucid and viable instrument, which needs no judicial gloss nor latter-day re-interpretation, the justices wrote:
"If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. "
With these grand words still ringing in our ears, it is enlightening to place that statement alongside Internal Revenue Service Publication 557, issued May 14, 1979. In that remarkable document, the IRS boldly (and unconstitutionally) sets forth 14 criteria which a religious organization must meet in order to be a church. Among these government- established characteristics are: (1) "a distinct religious history"; (2) “a recognized creed and form of worship" [recognized by whom?]; (3) "ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study"; (4) "A complete organization of ordained ministers"; (5) "a literature of its own"; (6) "a definite and distinct ecclesiastical government"; and (7) "a formal code of doctrine and discipline."
As a matter of fact, neither the Internal Revenue Service (nor, indeed, any other federal entity) has a legal right to set up any kind of criteria respecting the practice of religion; but in the light of recent rulings by federal judges, churches can expect little relief in court.
The outrageous set of criteria are aimed, of course, primarily at unconventional sects, including the Church of Scientology. They are timed to coincide with the current anti-cult hysteria in the United States. The schemers at the tax agency hope to establish their unlawful authority by an appeal to prejudice. They reason that if the major denominations feel that the regulations except them (for the most part) and put the "cults" out of business, it would be a good thing. They will not realize that their own necks will be in the same noose.
Syndicated columnist Nicholas von Hoffmann gave a quick, thumb-nail analysis of the situation, when he wrote:
"While we like our teenagers to go to church, we also only like them to go through the motions, so we assume, when they get caught up in anything, they're being brainwashed, and the full power of the centralized state may be invoked to stop it. Scientology, of course, makes as much or as little sense as Presbyterianism, but since it's different and it hasn't been in business for 300 years, its members can be robbed of the First Amendment rights and no Congressional investigations are convened."
Under the broad mantle of protection provided by the First Amendment, the independent congregation meeting in a storefront church or in a neighborhood bungalow has the same freedom of worship and belief as the most exalted assemblage forgathered in an orthodox cathedral or temple. They do not require a "recognized" creed or form of worship. They do not have to have a minister who has been selected after "prescribed" courses of study. They do not have to have a "formal code of doctrine."
In short, neither an IRS auditor nor any other minion of the federal government is empowered by anything but the arrogance of office even to enquire concerning the citizen's free
exercise of religion, much less to prescribe doctrinal or organizational standards.
It is precisely this kind of official impudence, however, that from the outset has informed the government's dealings with the Church of Scientology. The FBI, IRS, FDA, and CIA and other agencies sought to justify their unlawful encroachments by declaring that Scientology is not a "real" church (even if its several million members think it is) and even though it is legally chartered as such, and has been declared a bona fide religion by the courts.
When New Zealand refused to ban Scientology after holding an official enquiry, U. S. government officials wrote to the authorities down under that the Church of Scientology "has no status as a church or, indeed, as anything other than a private organization similar to the Fruit and Nut Society."
If, at the last, in their long trial of strength against a criminous regime, some Scientologists broke the law (as justice Brandeis said people would do in such circumstances), they were merely following the example set by their official persecutors. Every offense of which the Scientologists were charged had been committed by federal agents previously. Yet not one of the sworn officials of the government was held accountable for his illegal acts.
In other words, in their adversary relationship with the government, the Scientologists were up against a stacked deck. They were faced with a choice between two evils: they could do as the federal functionaries had done and flout the law; or, allow their enemies to use their privileged position to achieve their avowed aim -destruction of the Church of Scientology.
After more than 20 years of persecution and bad faith by the government, the Scientologists found themselves between a rock and a hard place. They opted for what they considered the necessary evil: contravention.
At law, such a pleading is known as justification, or the choice of evils, and in the right circumstances it is a legal defense for illegal acts, rendering the defendant guiltless,
even if he is mistaken in fact. All that is necessary to prove is that he held an honest and reasonable belief in the necessity of his action.
There is no doubt that most judges sitting today would interpret such a defense in the narrowest legal construction possible. This would be especially true in cases involving illegal action against the state, even though the government had itself been guilty of numerous breaches of the law. In past decisions, the courts have dealt harshly with defendants who, in desperation, have defied crushing governmental encroachments they felt threatened their constitutional liberties.
The judicial system has been heavily weighted in favor of centralized power and sovereign immunity.
That concept has to be challenged. If it is not, our founders' idea of freedom and self-rule, based squarely upon the dispersion of power, will perish. In its place, we will have an autocratic, total government, exercising full control over our lives. Our system of justice will pass from its historic form of accusatorial law into governmental absolutism, supported by inquisitorial procedures.
We will deserve no better.