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Oct. 1, 2001 - Supreme Court refuses to reinstate Scientology's suit

Ten years after Time magazine ran an award-winning article portraying the Church of Scientology as a greedy cult, the Supreme Court refused Monday to consider reinstating the church's libel case.

Time Warner Inc. had steadfastly defended the 10-page article and said it refused to be ''intimidated by the church's apparently limitless legal resources.''

The church contended that the writer was biased and only interviewed critics.

The May 1991 article entitled, Scientology: The Cult of Greed,'' said that the so-called religion is ''really a ruthless global scam.''

Time said the cover story was awarded the Gerald Loeb Award for distinguished business and financial journalism, the Worth Bingham Prize and the Conscience in Media Awards from the American Society of Journalists and Authors.

The church had said the story had multiple defamatory comments.

A judge had dismissed the lawsuit and the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Time was not guilty of writing the report with actual malice, which is the standard for libel cases involving public groups or people.

The case is Church of Scientology International v. Time Warner Inc., 00-1683.

Jan. 13, 2001 - Time wins approval of libel suit dismissal

Time Inc. and another unit of AOL Time Warner Inc. have persuaded a federal appeals panel to uphold the dismissal of a libel suit brought by the Church of Scientology International. The lawsuit stemmed from a 1991 cover story in Time magazine titled ''Scientology: The Cult of Greed,'' which called Scientology ''a ruthless global scam.'' The 7,500-word story by journalist Richard Behar said the church survives by ''intimidating members and critics in a Mafia-like manner,'' and called Scientology a ''ruthless . . . terroristic'' cult. The church sued Behar, Time and Time Warner for libel, claiming that these and other statements were defamatory.
[...entire relevant section...]
Time wins approval of libel suit dismissal, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Jan. 13, 2001

The above news items was noted in the Jan. 13, 2001 edition of Religion News Report.

In a libel lawsuit, the Church of Scientology failed to show actual malice by a writer for Time magazine, which published an exposé of the organization in 1991, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has held.

The appeals court, in a suit filed over the Time cover story ''Scientology: The Cult of Greed,'' also said that no reasonable jury could find that reporter Richard Behar published allegations about a stock scam and murder-suicide involving members of the church ''with purposeful avoidance of the truth.''

The court's decision in Church of Scientology International v. Behar, 98-9522, affirmed the ruling of Southern District Judge Peter K. Leisure, who after two and a half years of discovery, dismissed the libel complaint.

Because the church had conceded it was a public figure, Judge Leisure had ruled that it could not meet the heightened standard for showing actual malice under libel law.

Behar's 10-page article criticized Scientology as a ''ruthless global scam'' posing as a religion that survived ''by intimidating members and critics in a 'Mafia-like' manner.''

One allegation in the story, denied by the church, was that church member Steven Fishman stole stock confirmation slips in order to join dozens of successful securities class action lawsuits. Behar reported that Fishman spent almost a third of the million dollars he made from the stock scam on Scientology books and tapes, and when he was caught, was instructed by the church to kill a psychiatrist that he had confided in, Dr. Uwe Geertz, and then kill himself.

The 2nd Circuit agreed with Judge Leisure that the church could not make a showing of actual malice in publishing either the stock scam or murder-suicide allegations, which were included in the story after interviews with the participants, including Fishman and Geertz.
Dismissal of Scientology Libel Suit Upheld, New York Law Journal, Jan. 16, 2001

Cathy Norman, of the Church of Scientology of Texas (and a member of OSA - the Scientology department charged with, among other things, handling the media and general PR), posted the following statement to the AR-talk mailing list:

The Church of Scientology International statement concerning this court
decision is as follows:

''The recent decision in the Church of Scientology International vs.
Time, Inc. libel case was based on legal technicalities, not on findings
of truth or falsity of the statements in the article. The article this
case was based on resulted in five other lawsuits against Time or its
sources, which were resolved in favor of the plaintiffs.

The Church will likely take this case to the Supreme Court as the real
issue is of broad public interest: whether or not a public figure can
ever obtain relief against false statements in the media.''

Cathy Norman
Church of Scientology of Texas
[AR-talk] Scientology/Time libel suit dismissal- Church statement, Cathy Norman, Jan. 15, 2001

What follows is the text of my reply, as posted to AR-talk on Jan. 15, 2001 (meanwhile edited for HTML, and expanded as and when necessary):

On Mon, 15 Jan 2001 12:44:18 -0600 Cathy Norman wrote:

The recent decision in the Church of Scientology International vs. Time, Inc. libel case was based on legal technicalities, not on findings of truth or falsity of the statements in the article.
[AR-talk] Scientology/Time libel suit dismissal- Church statement, Cathy Norman, Jan. 15, 2001

Ah, I see it's TIME for the rest of the story.

Let's start with the actual judgment:

Scientology's lawsuit against TIME dismissed
Judge Leisure's Opinion and Order (issued July 16, 1996)

That decision is the one the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has now upheld:

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
Docket Nos. 98-9522(L), 99-7332(CON)

The original, July, 1996 decision was reported as follows:

The Church of Scientology's lawsuit against TIME Magazine over the 1991 cover story `Scientology: The Cult of Greed,` was dismissed today.

Judge Peter K. Leisure of the United States District Court, Southern District of New York dismissed the case in its entirety, putting to an end the Church's of Scientology's $416 million lawsuit against TIME. In two previous decisions, Judge Leisure had dismissed all but one libel claim against the magazine. The remaining unresolved claim was dismissed today, ending the suit.

`Today's ruling brings to an end a long, intensely fought legal battle, which should never have been started in the first place,` said Floyd Abrams, counsel to TIME in the case. `Scientology's efforts to punish TIME for reporting about it have failed because of the First Amendment, and because of TIME's willingness to defend its article and not be intimidated by the Church's apparently limitless legal resources.`

The May 6, 1991 cover story garnered numerous awards and accolades for reporter Richard Behar, including the 1992 Gerald Loeb Award for distinguished business and financial journalism, the Worth Bingham Prize, and the Conscience in Media Award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors.
Judge dismisses Church of Scientology $416 million lawsuit against TIME magazine, Business Wire, July 16, 1996

A federal judge has thrown out the remaining part of a $415 million lawsuit brought by the Church of Scientology against Time Warner Inc. The suit charged that Time magazine maliciously libeled the church in a 1992 article that called it a ''cult of greed.''

Most of the case was thrown out last year. The judge conducted a hearing to decide if the last piece of the lawsuit should go as well.

The article was unusually tough and opinionated, even according to Time's own lawyer. It charged Scientology was a ''ruthless global scam'' posing as a religion. It said it was not a religion but an organization obsessed with making money.

Time magazine issued a statement saying the suit should never have been brought in the first place.

''Scientology's efforts to punish Time for reporting about it have failed because of the First Amendment, and because of Time's willingness to defend its article and not be intimidated by the Church's apparently limitless legal resources.''

In defending its right to publish its opinion, Time magazine reportedly wound up spending 7 million dollars in legal fees.

The Church of Scientology is no stranger to American courts. Its propensity to sue is well known and Time's attorney, Floyd Abrams fears that may intimidate some journalists.

''I know that there are some publications, including some very well-financed ones, that give Scientology a wide berth,'' Abrams said. ''That's one of the effects of being viewed as a credible threat. And they are credible in terms of suing.''

The federal court never heard testimony concerning the accuracy of the magazine article. The church first had to prove Time acted with actual malice. After ruling that the church had failed to do so, the judge dismissed the case.
Judge rules Time can't be sued for calling Scientology ''cult of greed,'' CNN, July 17, 1996

For reference, see the TIME magazine article, as well as Scientology's official rebuttal:

Richard Behar wrote an article in TIME magazine about the Church of Scientology. The Church's official rebuttal is a masterpiece of dead agenting.

In their May 27th issue, TIME reported that they had already received some 400 letters in response to their article. About 25 percent were in favor of Scientology and 75 percent opposed the Church (p. 13).

Significantly, at least ten percent asked that their names not be printed. Some of theses no doubt in fear of retaliation. The public should be grateful for the courage expressed by TIME, Richard Behar, and others who have risked almost certain attack to speak what they see to be the truth about Scientology.

Incidentally, Scientology also threathened Watchman Fellowship with legal action:
Scientology Threatens Watchman with "OT" Lawsuit
Scientologists Threaten WF With Another Lawsuit

But such harassment tactics have never stopped WF from publishing accurate information about the cult. E.g.:

Scientology: A History of Terror and Abuse

Anyway, back to the TIME story. True to its nature, the Church of Scientology applied its eye-for-an eye tactics:

(...) On May 6 of this year, Time magazine published a cover story on Scientology. It had even fewer good things to say, and now the church has responded with an even more aggressive counterattack. Scientology's campaign of daily full-page, full-color ads about Time in USA Today could, according to a story in that newspaper, cost Scientology as much as $3 million.

Then last week, as the first Scientology ad appeared--accusing Time of being soft on Hitler--California magazine hit the stands with a cover story discussing actor Tom Cruise's involvement with Scientology . A church spokesman said no retaliation is planned.

On May 28, the church launched its series of ads, which are scheduled to run in each issue at least until June 14, when the newspaper will include a special advertising supplement on Time paid for by the church. Each of the ads to date asks the question: ''What magazine got it wrong in 1991?'' The answer, the ads say, is Time, and they go on to list alleged errors of judgment the magazine has committed throughout its history.

In addition to the ads and the coming advertising supplement, Scientology published an 80-page booklet that purported to correct the ''falsehoods'' contained in the Time article.

The chief complaint in the booklet is that Time's Behar was biased against Scientology, as evidenced, the booklet contends, by a scathing Forbes article on Scientology Behar wrote in 1986 and his reported sympathy for the Cult Awareness Network, a national group that monitors the activities of what it calls ''destructive cults.''

In a phone interview, the Rev. Heber Jentzsch, Church of Scientology president, called Behar's article ''hatched job journalism.'' The anti-Time advertisements were prompted he said, by ''the absolute arrogance of the executives at Time Inc.'' who refused to be swayed by Scientology's argument that Behar was an inappropriate reporter for the story and who then refused to correct what Jentzch calls a major discrepancy in the story concerning church finances.

Using Behar on the story, he said, was ''like sending out Saddam Hussein to do an interview on Jews.'' Behar could not be reached for comment.

But the magazine has yet to give an inch on its story. "The article was very thoroughly reported, very thoroughly checked before publication, and nothing we've heard since makes us have any less confidence in its accuracy and balance," said Richard Duncan, an executive editor at Time.

Like others at the magazine, Duncan was reluctant to comment extensively on the campaign. He said he would prefer that readers study Time's articles and the Scientology advertisements and make their own decisions as to which is more credible.

''The story explains that the Scientologists have a long history of attacking their perceived enemies, and we're obviously now in that category,'' Duncan said.

Jentzch said Time is part of a ''vested-interest assault on our religion.'' The church's latest ads are about drug manufacturer Eli Lilly & Co. and the rebuttal hints that the church will attempt to establish some sort of conspiracy between Time and Lilly, the makers of Prozac.
In Battle Against Time, Scientologists Put Money on Ads, Los Angeles Times, June 6, 1991

Cathy Norman further wrote:

The Church will likely take this case to the Supreme Court as the real issue is of broad public interest: whether or not a public figure can ever obtain relief against false statements in the media. ''
[AR-talk] Scientology/Time libel suit dismissal- Church statement, Cathy Norman, Jan. 15, 2001

No surprises there.

''This is the correct procedure:

Spot who is attacking us.

Start investigating them promptly for FELONIES or worse using our own professionals, not outside agencies.

Double curve our reply by saying we welcome an investigation of them. Start feeding lurid, blood sex crime actual evidence on the attackers to the press.''

Don't ever tamely submit to an investigation of us. Make it rough, rough on attackers all the way.

The purpose of the suit is to harass and discourage rather than to win. The law can be used very easily to harass, and enough harassment on somebody who is simply on the thin edge anyway, well knowing that he is not authorized, will generally be sufficient to cause his professional decease. If possible, of course, ruin him utterly.
L. Ron Hubbard, A Manual on the Dissemination of Material, 1955, Quoted at the Apologetics Index page on Scientology harassment practices

There is ample documentation that Scientologists put their master's suggestions into action:

Note this sidebar to Behar's TIME story:

The Scientologists and Me by Richard Behar

Here is how Scientology is reported to have dealt with other journalists:

1990-1991, New York: Scientology used at least 10 lawyers and six private detectives to ''threaten, harass and discredit'' Time magazine writer Richard Behar, who wrote an article titled "Scientology: the Cult of Greed."
Church of Scientology probes Herald reporter - Investigation follows pattern of harassment, Boston Globe, March 19, 1998

VO: Today, when you call the Cult Awareness Network, a Scientologist answers the phone.

[outside Scn church; cover of Time magazine ''Scientology: The Cult of Greed'' issue; first page of Time magazine Scn article; Richard Behar walking outside Time-Life building]

VO [Voice Over]: CAN is not the only outside institution that has taken on the church only to face its wrath. In 1991 Time magazine published this cover story written by Richard Behar, which remains one of the most scathing pieces ever published about Scientology. In the aftermath, the church brought a $415 million libel suit, and, according to Behar, dispatched as many as ten private investigators to follow him, contact his family and friends and illegally obtain his credit report.

RICHARD BEHAR: It's been a chilling effect for the media. I know that when reporters and media companies consider writing about this subject, they're often afraid to do it in an in-depth way.

[Richard Behar walking down street]

VO: Scientology's lawsuit against Time was dismissed. While the church denies most of Behar's allegations, they do not deny investigating him.

MIKE RINDER: There were certainly investigators looking into what was it that motivated his--um, what was it that motivated his campaign.

TOM JARRIEL: Were the investigators authorized to trail him, to phone him, to spread literature in the building where he worked, to dig through his garbage and that type of thing?

MIKE RINDER: The investigators were authorized to do whatever was within the law to investigate and find the motives behind Richard Behar.

Cathy Norman wrote:

The article this case was based on resulted in five other lawsuits against Time or its sources, which were resolved in favor of the plaintiffs.
[AR-talk] Scientology/Time libel suit dismissal- Church statement, Cathy Norman, Jan. 15, 2001

Such harassment is standard practice for the Scientology organization:

When Time magazine published a cover story about Scientology last May 6, Time Associate Editor Richard Behar wrote that ''at least 10 attorneys and six private detectives were unleashed by Scientology and its followers in an effort to threaten, harass, and discredit me.'' Behar said that a copy of his personal credit xport with detailed information about his bank accounts, home mortgage, credit-card payments, home address, and Social Security number had been illegally retrieved from a national credit bureau. Private investigators contacted his acquaintances and neighbors. He was subpoenaed by one attomey and he said another falsely suggested that he might own shares in a company he was reporting about.

A Miami private investigator, working for Scientology attorneys, posed as a woman whose niece was a Scientologist and sought advice on how to deal with her and the church.

''They have unleashed private eyes on most of the sources that were named in the story,'' Behar said in an interview.

Scientology has also relentlessly pursued critics in the Cult Awareness Network and at Time magazine.

Scientology filed a libel lawsuit against Time after the publication of ''Scientology: Thriving cult of greed and power'' in 1991. Time spent more than $7.3-million defending itself against the lawsuit before it was dismissed in 1996. In addition to suing the magazine, Scientology also sued several of those quoted in the Time article, which labeled Scientology as a big business hiding behind First Amendment protections. The church also tried to subpoena Time reporter Richard Behar into an IRS lawsuit and accused a federal magistrate of leaking information to Behar.

Behar, now a senior writer for Fortune magazine, filed a counterclaim against Scientology alleging the church used private investigators to harass him, illegally obtained copies of his credit report and telephone records and contacted his friends and neighbors to ask about his health, whether he had trouble with the IRS and whether he had ever taken drugs.

Behar said he was subjected to more than 190 hours of questioning over 30 days while Scientology lawyers grilled him in the libel case. The questions included some about life inside his parents' home while he was still in his mother's womb; Scientology teaches that some problems can be traced to bad prenatal experiences.

''I felt it was extremely excessive," Behar said as he described the questioning. "They were asking questions that were often far afield. They were on some major fishing expeditions with me.''

For examples of Scientology's harassment of other writers see:

Scientology: The Amoral Cult

More information about Scientology's ''Dead Agenting'' practices

Richard Behar is assigned to TIME's New York bureau, but he is best known for his investigative reporting, including a 1993 cover story on the World Trade Center bombing and his May 6, 1991 TIME cover story ''Scientology: The Cult of Greed.'' The stinging expose received several prizes for reporting, including a 1992 Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism and a Conscience-in-Media from the Society of Journalists and Authors. Behar has also reported and written extensively about organized crime as well as business backgrounds for politicians for TIME.
Bio, Richar Behar. TIME

Ruined lives. Lost fortunes. Federal crimes. Scientology poses as a religion but really is a ruthless global scam -- and aiming for the mainstream.
Richard Behar, Scientology: The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power, Time, May 6, 1991

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First posted: Jan. 15, 2001
Last Updated: Oct. 1, 2001
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