Author Here Sues Scientologists

Source: New York Times
Date: April 1, 1972

by Henry Raymont

A 27-year-old freelance writer has accused the Church of Scientology in a lawsuit filed here of "intentional interference" with her constitutional freedom of speech and press, charging that the organization threatened her in the form of libel suits and wiretapping after her critical book about the quasi-religious organization was published last fall.

The accusation was one of seven made against the controversial cult by Paulette Cooper, author of "The Scandal of Scientology," in a $15.4-millian damage suit brought before the State Supreme Court on Thursday.

She alleged that representatives of the organization had intimidated prospective publishers of her books and articles and had subjected her to obscene telephone calls, threats and electronic surveillance.

Although the Scientologists have filed no formal reply, a spokesman for the group yesterday denied all the charges.

A copy of the 15-page complaint was made available yesterday by Miss Cooper's attorney, Paul D. Rheingold, a former Justice Department lawyer who in 1970 filed a suit on behalf of Ralph Nader against the General Motors Company in a similar action. The Nader suit was settled out of court.

'Stifle Free Discussion'

"The reason for this kind of litigation," Mr. Rheingold said yesterday, "is to protect the freedom of individuals to express themselves without having to fear an intrusion on their privacy or threats to their livelihood from corporate organizations."

The complaint charged that officials of the church of Scientology had embarked on a pattern of litigation and threats "to inhibit and stifle free discussion and free press about the nature and conduct" of the group here and in England.

The Rev. James R. Meisler, the group's minister of information for New York, expressed surprise when asked about the charges.

"A month ago we served a libel action against her attempts to try and make us look foolish," he said yesterday. "We thought it was done with, that she had sort of faded away from whatever she was doing. Nobody in our organization had been asked to harass her."

Scientology, a system of thought that was created by L. Ron Hubbard, asserts that man is essentially a free and immortal spirit. Mr. Hubbard, a one-time science-fiction writer, maintains that in order to achieve his true nature, an individual must free himself of emotional encumbrances through counseling, or "auditing," conducted by ordained members of the sect.

The movement was incorporated as a religion, and the first church of Scientology was established in 1955 in the District of Columbia. The group says it now has 20 central churches and more than 100 missions in this country with three million active members.

In the suit, Mr. Rheingold said that In the last two years Scientologists had instituted more than 100 suits here and in England alleging libel. Among those named in the actions were the American Medical Association, Fairchild Publications, The Washington Post, Delacorte Press, The Sunday Times of London and two members of Britain's Parliament.

Brandeis U. Graduate

"The true reason for this policy of litigation held by defendant's group," Church of Scientology," the suit said, "is to inhibit and stifle free discussion and free press about the nature, and conduct of defendants' group."

Action by the Scientologists against Miss Cooper, a graduate of Brandeis University who holds a master's degree in psychology from the City University of New York, began, she contends, after she published an article in London's Queen magazine, titled "The Tragi-Farce of Scientology," In December, 1969.

A series of communications from the church's attorneys sought unsuccessfully to prevent Tower Publications, Inc., of New York, from publishing Miss Cooper's book, the suit said.

After the book appeared, a $1.5-million damage suit was filed by the church against Miss Cooper and Tower,

Similar threats to lnstitute libel action have prevented publication of the work in England and "have reduced if not destroyed the market for future articles or books by plaintiff on scientology or any other subject," Mr. Rheingold's complaint said.

Miss Cooper repeated som of the charges in her suit during an interview yesterday.

She said agents for the Scientologists had sought to "disrupt" a lecture she gave on Scientology on Feb. 18 to MENSA, an organization of persons of high intelligence, by "jumping out of a car" and serving her with a summons just before her talk and placing a person, with a tape recorder in the front row of the hall.

Appearing nervous and tense, Miss Cooper said, "Although nothing Intimidates me, lots of people frighten me, but I do what I think is right."