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Church of Scientology responds to protest plans

Editor's note: The Church of Scientology sent this letter to the St. Petersburg Times in response to a request for comment about Sunday's planned protest.

By Statement from Church of Scientology
Published February 7, 2008


Response from the Church of Scientology regarding Sunday's protest:

This weekend we do anticipate that some members of this group "Anonymous" will turn up, as they have announced.

We take this seriously because of the nature of the threats this group has made publicly. We will take every step necessary to protect our parishioners and staff as well as members of the community, in coordination with the local authorities.

As to our knowledge of the organizers of the event, they are cyberterrorists who hide their identities behind masks and computer anonymity.

Long before selecting Scientology as its latest target, "Anonymous" hackers crashed the Fox Web site and issued a perverse manifesto in a July 2007 video message on the Internet:

We are the face of chaos... We ruin the lives of other people simply because we can ... Hundreds die in a plane crash. We laugh. The nation mourns over school shooting, we laugh. We're the embodiment of humanity with no remorse, no caring, no love, or no sense of morality.

"Anonymous" is perpetrating religious hate crimes against churches of Scientology and individual Scientologists for no reason other than religious bigotry. "Anonymous" initially justified its attacks by claiming that the church's requests to some Web sites to remove a stolen video of an internal church event somehow constituted an affront to free speech. In fact, the church, as would any copyright owner, had simply sent notices that the video constituted a copyright violation. Similar notices are sent daily by the television and recording industries, as well as the media to those who display pirated, copyrighted works.

"Anonymous" alleged "free speech" justification is belied by the fact that the video in question has been seen by millions. It is "Anonymous" that has repeatedly attempted to suppress free speech through illegal assaults on church Web sites so as to prevent Internet users from obtaining information from the church. They have also engaged in other harassment, including threats of violence in telephone calls, fax transmissions and e-mails, not to mention the Anonymous mailing of white powder to dozens of our churches, requiring the services of law enforcement.

"Anonymous" claims of altruistic purposes are no different than those heard from any terrorist or hate group. We are not the first to be targeted. Using Scientology's prominence, "Anonymous" hopes to garner more attention. "Anonymous" has publicly proclaimed its guiding materials to be the Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf. Quite obviously, this group is not just anti-Scientology, it is anti-freedom of religion, anti-free speech and anti-American.

Religious bigotry of any nature is deplorable and profoundly affects the entire community. The hate crimes of "Anonymous" should be condemned.

Anyone desiring information about the church of Scientology or the context of the pirated video should visit the church Web site at www.scientology.org to form their own opinions.