Court Approves Return of Scientology Materials

Source: Boulder Daily Camera
Date: September 19, 1995

by Doug Cosper, Camera Staff Writer

A federal appeals court Monday stiff-armed the Church of Scientology's request to be allowed to keep boxes of information seized in raids of two Boulder County men's homes.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dissolved its five-day-old emergency order holding up return of the materials to Lawrence Wollersheim of Boulder and Bob Penny of Niwot, clearing the way for return of the property.

Federal District Judge John Kane ordered the computer and paper files returned to the men Sept. 5 after a stormy three-day hearing that saw some of what the 41-year-old church calls "sacred scripture" summarized in public. Scientologists accompanied by U.S. marshals raided the Wollersheim's and Penny's homes Aug. 22 to prevent the dissemination of secret texts, materials church leaders say are protected by copyright and trade secret laws.

The Los Angeles based organization said Monday it will continue to use what legal remedies it has to keep the materials. It did succeed in persuading the court to seal the last copy of the secret "Operating Thetan" materials -- the same texts that critics say are readily available on the Internet.

"I doubt they will return the materials, I believe they will play more games," said Wollersheim, a Scientology defector and executive director of FACTNet. Partly through that electronic bulletin board, library and archive, Wollersheim and a group of ex-Scientologists have worked to counter the controversial church's influence.

Calling Kane's decision "biased," church spokeswoman Gail Armstrong said the appeals court "failed to see that Judge Kane's decision is fraught with prejudice against the Scientologist religion and we're now in the same disadvantaged position that the blacks of the South were in until Martin Luther King and other honest individuals ended the injustice."

A legal battle over the church's charges the two men violated copyright and trade secret laws by possessing and possibly distributing the materials is expected to continue in a federal trial that lawyers from both sides say still is several months away.