The Church of Scientology

Questions and Answer about the Churchs' actions to uphold religious freedom, copyright law and trade secret protections on the Internet.

Church of Scientology organizations have filed suit against a number of individuals and organisations for copyright and trade secrets violations on the Internet. The following questions and answers explain why the Curch has found it necessary to take these actions and address specific questions which have been raised in some media about the issues of copyright infringement, trade secrets violations and religious freedom, as it applies to these cases.


bulletWhy does the Church of Scientology use copyright and trade secret law to protect its scriptures?
bulletWhy does the Church keep certain of its scriptures confidential?
bulletHow did these materials come into the hands of opponents of the Church?
bulletHow can the materials covering the most advanced levels of spiritual counseling legally be trade secrets?
bulletIs the Church of Scientology concerned that it would suffer economic harm if other groups or individuals started offering its confidential scriptures to the public?
bulletHow can it be a copyright and trade secrets violation to publish extracts from documents obtained from a court, as the Washington Post did?
bulletIs it not unusual for U.S. Marshals to conduct raids to enable private organizations to conduct seizures of copyrighted materials?
bulletAre the raids a violation of due process?
bulletAre not the raids an extreme form of action to handle a problem?
bulletWhat guarantee do the infringers have that non-infringing information on their disks won't be compromised?
bulletHow is this not a freedom speech issue?
bulletHow have the infringers responded to the Church's legal actions against them?
bulletBy filing these copyright suits, has not the Church publicized obscure posters who would otherwise have been ignored and eventually forgotten about?
bulletAccess providers are named in the ongoing suits. But how can an access provider monitor every message sent to a newsgroup?
bulletHow can a service provider or BBS tell whether a message is copyrighted or not and so make the decision not to forward it to the newsgroup?
bulletHow have other service providers responded when violations of the Church's copyrights by users of their systems were brought to their attention?
bulletWhat damage would be done if the advanced scriptures were broadly released?
bulletIs the Church's trade secret claim weakened because of its opponents' claim that parts of its confidential, unpublished scriptures had been exposed to the public before?
bulletDoes the Church disseminate any portion of its religious texts widely?
bulletWhat is the Church's viewpoint on anonymity on the Internet?
bulletDoes the Church support government regulation of the Internet to curb abuses?
bulletWhat is the Task Force for Responsibility and Freedom on the Internet?


(part 1)

Why does the Church use copyright and trade secret law to protect its scriptures?

While Scientologists respect the religious beliefs of others, the Scientology religion includes the core belief and practice that the spiritual destiny -- indeed, the very salvation of every man, woman, and child in the universe -- depends upon the precise application of Scientology religious technology exactly as set forth in Scientology scripture by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the religion.

Trade secret and copyright laws are the secular vehicle to protect the core religious precepts of the Church. When these trade secret rights and copyrights are violated, so are the First Amendment rights of all Scientologists.

The advanced scriptures of the Church have been confidential scriptures from the moment the information they contain was discovered and recorded in writing by Mr. Hubbard (see "Why does the Church keep certain of its scriptures confidential?"). Mr. Hubbard created these works for religious use by a few advanced Scientology churches and their parishioners, only when those parishioners had attained a specific level of spiritual progress.

It is not at all uncommon for religious organizations to copyright their texts in order to protect them from alteration and misuse. For example, the Gideon Bible found in almost every hotel room in the United States carries a copyright notice. In the preface to the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, you will find the following:

"Because of unhappy experience with unauthorized publication in the two decades between 1881 and 1901, which tampered with the text of the English Revised Version in the supposed interest of the American public, the American Standard Version was copyrighted, to protect the text from unauthorized changes."

The Church of Scientology has the same motive for copyrighting its own religious works: to safeguard the integrity of its scriptures.

It is also far from unprecedented for religious organizations to go to court to defend the purity of their message and materials. Among religions which have done so are the Methodist Church, the Church of Christ, Scientist and the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

As far back as the early 1940s, bishops of the Methodist Church, acting on behalf of themselves and the Church, brought suit against certain former members who had set up a rival Church organization and were claiming the right to the property and to th e use of the name of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (the previous name of the Methodist Church prior to a union with two other Methodist Churches).

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found in favor of the Methodist Church, ruling that:

"The constitutional right of men to worship God does not give them the right in doing so to make use of a name which will enable them to appropriate goodwill which has been built up by a religious society with which they are no longer connected."

And, in a 1986 case involving the First Church of Christ, Scientist, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia noted that "Religious works are eligible for protection under general copyright laws, and for decades Science and Health [the central theological text of the Christian Science faith] was unproblematically the beneficiary of that security, as more than thirty editions and translations of the Bible currently are."

Why does the Church keep certain of its scriptures confidential?

Although the vast majority of Scientology literature is available to be read and studied by anyone, the materials covering the most advanced levels of religious counseling are restricted to those who have already attained certain specified, earlier levels in their spiritual progression.

The belief and practice of preserving the confidentiality of these scriptures is as fundamental to Scientology as the belief in the Resurrection is to Protestants, as a literal interpretation of the Bible is to Fundamentalist Christianity, as strict adherence to the dietary laws of the Torah is to certain Jewish groups or as the belief in the absolute sanctity of life -- including fetal life -- is to a devout Catholic.

It is a central belief of all Scientologists that people must be properly prepared -- spiritually and ethically -- to receive these materials and that premature exposure would impede the spiritual development of individuals so exposed, an outcome that is inimical to the goal of Scientology -- the achievement of spiritual freedom for everyone living on this planet.

To gain access to these materials, more is expected of a Scientologist than spiritual advancement. Access is not automatic, nor is it dependent solely upon donations . It is by invitation only. That invitation is extended to parishioners who have demonstrated a high level of ethical responsibility as well as completed certain prior steps of spiritual attainment. This is so that people of ill-will with motives antipathetic to Scientology cannot use the materials for purposes contrary to the goal of spiritual freedom which proper use of these religious works brings about.

As religious scholars have pointed out, the Church's practice of keeping a segment of its materials confidential has well-established precedents in other religions.

According to Dr. M. Darrol Bryant at the University of Waterloo in Ontario:

"The distinction between 'esoteric knowledge' available only to initiates, and 'exoteric knowledge' available to all, has long been part of the religious life of humankind. The distinction is commonly based on the belief that only those initiated in a particular tradition or having achieved a certain level of spiritual development should have access to the esoteric or higher teachings."

Dr. Lonnie Kliever of Southern Methodist University also finds this distinction in religions and cites in particular ancient Judaism, early Christianity, some forms of Hinduism, Zen Buddhism and Gnostic groups. Dr. Kliever characterizes the Church of Scientology as having "a [] religious duty and legal right" to keep some of its materials confidential.

Rev. Dean Kelley of the National Council of Churches in the U.S.A. quotes examples from the Bible to illustrate the principle of keeping advanced spiritual knowledge from adherents who are not yet ready to understand or utilize it. Two biblical quotes which he used are:

"But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as babes in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready, for you are still of the flesh (I Corinthians 3:1-2, Revised Standard Version)."

"For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of God's word. You need milk, not solid food; for every one who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil (Hebrews 5:12-14, Revised Standard Version).

Dr. Bryan Wilson, Reader Emeritus in Sociology at Oxford University in England and one of the world's most distinguished students of religion, points to numerous historical examples of religions which maintain scriptures that are accessible only to selected initiates. He interprets this practice as "a broad educational principle of not exposing to advanced ideas those who have not yet demonstrated their mastery of elementary principles." Dr . Wilson concludes that to introduce advanced Scientology materials prematurely to the Scientology student would be "disruptive of his progress in attaining the enlightened consciousness towards which all his endeavours are directed."

Dr. Jeffrey K. Hadden, author of numerous books on religion and Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia, has explained that a religion's right to keep certain of its scriptures confidential is constitutionally protected:

"To deny a religious group the right to protect its esoteric knowledge, indeed its most sacred texts, runs contrary to history and the American experience. It constitutes a denial of that group the protection of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States."

Many other treatises, authored by similarly distinguished experts in religion, portray numerous religions throughout the ages which have maintained confidential scriptures that were revealed only after specific stages of religious learning had been completed.

How did these materials comes into the hands of opponents of the Church?

By theft. The Church has never published its advanced religious scriptures or allowed them to leave its custody and copies of any part of them that exist outside the Church were obtained illicitly.

More than a decade ago, a few people conspired to steal and did steal some of the materials as part of a plan to start a competitive church. The Church took immediate action. The stolen materials were seized. The leader of this band of thieves was later arrested in Denmark, where the theft had taken place. He was convicted for the theft and, after serving time in prison, was deported. The same result -- prison -- awaits the other thieves should they ever return to Denmark.

However, before such arrest and prosecution occurred, the thieves had transmitted copies of the stolen materials to a group of apostates in the United States. From time to time, these thieves and their associates have attempted to disseminate these materials, but have been prevented from doing so by the Church. The outcome has included raids, seizures and also judgements affirming that the confidential, unpublished scriptures are protected by copyright and trade secrets laws.

Eventually, this tiny clique of apostates connived to dump a small portion of the materials into a court file and later posted this portion to the Internet. (See also "How can it be a copyright and trade secrets violation to publish extracts from documents obtained from a court, as the Washington Post did?" and "Is the Church's trade secret claim weakened because of its opponents' claim that parts of the confidential, unpublished scriptures had been exposed to the public before?").

Law and justice require that these thieves be enjoined from using or distributing the materials that they have stolen and that these materials be returned to their rightful owner, the Church. These individuals are exactly the kind of people who would not be given access by the Church to these materials because they are spiritually unprepared and ethically unworthy. Religious practices are the exclusive province of the faithful and of ecclesiastical precepts, not of apostates and criminals who declare war on religion.

How can the materials covering the most advanced levels of spiritual counseling in Scientology legally be trade secrets?

According to The Uniform Trade Secrets Act:

"'Trade Secret' means information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process, that:

"1) Derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from being generally known to the public or to other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use; and

"2) Is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy."

The Church considers its advanced levels of religious counseling confidential and has obtained rulings in federal court that they are to be afforded trade secret status.

In May 1993, the US District Court in San Diego, in a case in which three Church of Scientology organizations brought suit against an individual who had misappropriated Scientology materials, held that, "information contained in religious organizations' materials was trade secret... [and] was disclosed only to those who had acquired requisite level of spiritual training.... The court finds that as a matter of law, plaintiffs' 'Advanced Technology' qualifies as a trade secret, and that no factual dispute exists regarding defendant's misappropriation of these works through the courses offered to her students."

The court also found that the Church had taken all reasonable steps to keep the materials secure.

That judgment is now final.

Furthermore, in a separate case in 1985, Judge Mariana Pfaelzer of the United States District Court of the Central District of California stated that, "the body of material that is at issue here clearly meets the definition of a trade secret and of a set of trade secrets, and I don't have any trouble finding definitions in the Ninth Circuit that would clearly make it a trade secret."

Is the Church of Scientology concerned that it would suffer economic harm if other groups or individuals started offering its confidential scriptures to the public?

Like any other religious, non-profit group, to maintain its operations the Church must receive funds, which come in the form of donations for services and materials. The small group of apostates who have illegally posted a portion of the Church's advanced scriptures to the Internet are trying to render the value of the secret scriptures nil by making them easily and readily available in an out of context fashion in a manner intended to hold the content of these materials up to derision. Their aim is to discourage people from seeking to learn this material according to procedures mandated by Church scriptures.
Further, competing churches have arisen in the past, and while each was ultimately a failure, the apostates who fail to live up to the Church's standards but still crave its teaching will attempt to compete again. It was just such an effort to create a competing church that led to the theft of these materials in 1983 and the imprisonment of one of the thieves.

Financial considerations are one of the issues. The Church is also interested in: a) protecting its intellectual property rights, b) maintaining the purity and workability of Scientology religious materials and c) protecting parishioners.

The Church encourages the widest possible dissemination of Scientology publications containing all the Scientology scriptures other than its confidential, unpublished materials, which comprise a small fraction of the scriptures of the religion. In addition to the many public information actions described later, we have donated thousands of copies of Scientology books and materials to public libraries. This has been done to make it possible for individuals with limited financial means to learn and apply Scientology principles to their lives without having to pay anything. Our library donation program has proved extremely successful. In fact, it has been calculated that every 29.5 seconds, somewhere in the world, a erson checks out a Scientology book from a library.

How can it be a copyright and trade secrets violation to publish extracts from documents obtained from a court, as the Washington Post did?

As the copyright expert quoted by the Post itself stated, just because a document is filed in court does not mean that it loses copyright protection. If John Grisham's latest novel is filed in a court case, for example, he does not thereby lose the copyright.

The same principle applies to trade secrets. There is no "fair use" of trade secrets. In fact, in 1984, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled against the Washington Post when the paper sought to obtain confidential materials from a court file. In Tavoulareas v. The Washington Post Co, the court ruled that:

"Public dissemination of confidential discovery materials not used at trial cannot be justified by a common law or constitutional right of access or by First Amendment right of free speech or free press."

The document that the Post obtained containing the Church's protected materials had been dumped into the court file after the case was dismissed, solely as a tactical maneuvre to make it accessible to the media as a "public document" and so pressurise the Church into "paying off" the other side, to prejudice the judge against the Church in the post-trial fees and costs determinations and probably to inflame other members of the judiciary . These materials played no part in any judicial decision in the case and the judge expressly excluded consideration of them on the post-trial issues. The mere presence of the documents in a court file provided no basis whatsoever for their copying. As soon as the judge was informed that the Post had obtained copies of the materials, he sealed the file.

Is it not unusual for U.S. Marshals to conduct raids to enable private organizations to conduct seizures of copyrighted materials?

No, not at all. Copyright law specifically and routinely allows such orders imposed on an infringer who has violated copyrights and has refused all requests to cease and desist.

Last year, for example, Microsoft Corporation announced that as a result of raids in California, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Texas and Virginia, more than 13,000 counterfeit packages and numerous components were seized. In 1995, Microsoft's seizures of bootleg copies of their software have continued and in April, U.S. Marshals seized computers, modems, a satellite dish and various databases in a raid on a pirate bulletin board.

In 1994, after the Business Software Alliance (BSA), representing companies such as Aldus, Lotus and Word Perfect, obtained an order for a raid by federal marshals on the Colorado Free University (CFU) in Denver for software piracy, the CFU paid $60, 000 to settle the case.

The BSA says it has filed more than 400 suits and conducted hundreds of raids against suspected copyright infringers. The potential damages can reach $100,000 for each willful copyright infringement. In criminal cases, the offender may face charges carrying penalties up to $250,000 and a prison term of up to five years.

In 1992, the Software Publishers Association (SPA) filed 175 suits and recovered $3.4 million in settlements. Currently the SPA is investigating 1,600 cases of suspected copyright infringement.

And, it is not just software manufacturers who have resorted to seizures to protect their rights. Disney, Reebok, Harley Davidson, Warner Brothers and many other companies have also done so.

Are the raids a violation of due process?

Not in the least. Copyright law is part of the United States Constitution and predates the Bill of Rights and the Amendments. The Constitution authorizes Congress:

To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.

The raids have been carried out precisely according to copyright law and in accordance with the orders signed by the judges in each case. Copyrighted material seized in these raids is not the property of the infringers but has been unlawfully obtained by them, and belongs to the Church. Any non-infringing material is returned to its owner.

Where further infringements seem likely, a temporary restraining order is imposed to prevent these until a hearing can be held to determine the propriety of injunctive relief, whether temporary or permanent.

Answers part 2

Overview of Questions