Church of Scientology sues critic, seizes computer over copyright claim
VIRGINIA–The Church of Scientology in mid-August sued a former member who posted church documents on the Internet, and convinced a federal District Court judge in Alexandria to allow U.S. marshals to seize the man’s computer equipment.
The church’s Religious Technologies Center, which filed the suit, said the information was confidential and copyrighted, and only available to members who donate funds and seek one-on-one counselling. The church said that it supports itself through donations for these services, and the former member was engaged in “copyright terrorism.”
Arnaldo Lerma, who describes himself as a vocal critic of church practices, told The Washington Post that the information he posted came from an affidavit in a California suit against the church. Lerma said marshals removed a computer, four computer hard drives, a scanner and 400 disks.
The suit also named a company that provided Internet access to Lerma, who left the church 15 years ago, and was later expanded to include The Washington Post and two of its reporters, who had printed excerpts of some of the documents. The Post said the suit is “meritless” and that the documents were obtained from a public court file. The church sought to restraint the Post from republishing any of the information, but in late August the court held that the church’s commercial interests were insufficient to justify a prior restraint on publication by the Post. (Religious Technologies Center v. Lerma, et al.; Media Counsel: Mary Ann Werner, Washington, D.C.)