One More Step In Legal Battle Taken By Church Of Scientology

Source: Globe and Mail
Date: October 30, 1984

The Church of Scientology went another round in court yesterday in its marathon fight against Ontario's legal establishment.

The case, and another scheduled for this morning before a panel of three judges of the Court of Appeal, aren't by themselves particularly noteworthy. But they form part of a long trail of litigation left by the church since a massive police raid on its Toronto headquarters in March, 1983.

The legal battle has cost more than $250,000 amd "thousands of man-hours" of church workers' time, said Earl Smith, the Scientologists' Toronto president.

In the raid, more than 100 Ontario Provincial Police officers, some armed with sledgehammers and fire extinguishers, took away more than 200,000 documents in 900 boxes. The police were looking for evidence in their two-year investigation into tax exemptions claimed by the Scientologists.

The police alleged that the church and several employees defrauded the public by making fraudulent representations about several church courses and a device called an E-meter, which the church claims is used in its confessional.

No charges have yet been laid as a result of the raid.

Yesterday, the Ontario Government sought to quash an appeal by the Scientologists involving the release of documents seized in the raid to the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations. Judgment in the case was reserved.

And today, lawyers for the church and province will clash over a minor matter involving subpoenas used in a contempt-of-court trial scheduled to begin next Monday in the Supreme Court of Ontario.

The church is asking the court to find a Crown prosecutor and a Consumer Ministry lawyer in contempt of court over release of the documents.

Both cases arise from the use of documents seized in the raid that were later sealed while the church contested the legality of the search warrant used by the OPP. (The church, which claims an active membership of about 5,000 in Metro Toronto, is not recognized as a church in Ontario and cannot perform marriages.) Last August, a Supreme Court judge released several documents to the Consumer Ministry, which is considering a request from the church that it be allowed to perform marriages.

But the battle over release of the documents is only one of the skirmishes that have kept lawyers busy for the past 20 months.

Last June, the Supreme Court of Ontario rejected a church claim that a privilege of priest-penitent existed in relation to many of the seized documents. The argument was used in an attempt to quash the search warrant that was used to raid its headquarters.

The church is still contesting the warrant on other legal grounds. The hearing, before Mr. Justice John Osler, is expected to resume after the contempt-of-court matter is settled.

Mr. Smith said that in addition to the sizeable legal bills faced by the church, as many as half a dozen church employees are working nearly full-time to sift through the seized documents - the church has access to the documents held by police - and do other work to help prepare legal cases.

He said the continuing legal battle has occupied much of his time. "I'd rather spend my time doing something more along my true calling as a minister," he said.