Scientologists Want Book Banned To Gag Critics, Court Told

Source: Vancouver Sun
Date: December 2, 1987

A copyright challenge to a biography of L. Ron Hubbard, controversial founder of the Church of Scientology, is part of the church's policy of using the courts to harass its critics, a Federal Court hearing was told Tuesday.

Copenhagen-based New Era Publications, which says it has exclusive rights to Hubbard's works, is seeking a court injunction to prevent Key Porter Books Ltd. from publishing in Canada the book, Barefaced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard.

"This particular use of the court is an abuse and it has nothing to with copyright at all," David Potts, lawyer for Toronto-based Key Porter, told Mr. Justice Bud Cullen.

"It is an attempt to circumscribe the well-established principle you can't libel the dead or an attempt to suppress criticism in accordance with the edicts stated by Mr. Hubbard."

The book, written by British journalist Russell Miller, is already on sale in England after an unsuccessful lawsuit by the church there, Potts said.

He said the English suit was based on the allegation that Miller used various documents - previously unpublished diaries and letters Hubbard wrote as a young man - that were stolen from the church in California.

The attempt to get an injunction in Canada is simply a new tactic to stop an unfavorable book, Potts said.

It follows Hubbard's "fair game" policy that commands church members to use any means to attack or discourage a critic of the church, including a lawsuit, he said.

The reclusive Hubbard, a prolific and best-selling writer of science fiction novels, died last year at age 74. His book Dianetics outlines the doctrine of the church he founded in 1954 and which now claims six million members worldwide.

Potts quoted an English high court judge who, in a 1984 custody decision, called the church "immoral and socially obnoxious" and referred to Hubbard as a charlatan.

New Era lawyer Ken McKay told the court the company is planning its own biography of Hubbard and it would suffer "irreparable harm" if Miller's book, with the previously private material, was published first.

"The tenor of the book can do damage to any future biography by the complainant . . . (and) irreparable harm to the reputation of his (Hubbard's) works," McKay said.

The company also provided a list of excerpts from Hubbard's many books and articles it says Miller used without permission.

However, the use of such quotes constitutes "fair dealing" under the Copyright Act, which allows an author to examine and criticize his subject's philosophy, said Julian Porter, also representing Key Porter.

Porter said it would be ridiculous to write a biography of Hubbard without quoting him directly.

"In order to have a valid criticism of the works of L. Ron Hubbard, who (for example) could leave out the amazing statement that 'radiation is more of a mental than a physical problem and Scientology handles that."'

Since the book is already available from England, the only effect of an injunction would be harm to Key Porter, said the lawyer, husband of Key Porter publisher Anna Porter.

Arguments continue today. Potts said New Era has launched a similar court action in Australia.