April 9, 2003
Marci A. Hamilton
Professor of Law
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
55 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10003-4391
By E-mail: hamilton02[at]aol.com
Dear Professor Hamilton:
I read with great interest your recent article “Why the U.S.'s International Religious Freedom Commission Is Harming Its Status In the World.” http://writ.news.findlaw.com/hamilton/20030130.html
My situation with the Scientology organization, which necessarily involves U.S. courts and the U.S. Government, can hopefully contribute to the discussion and evolution of the religious liberty issue. A number of documents relating to my Scientology legal proceedings and long history with the organization are webbed at http://www.gerryarmstrong.org/50grand/legal/index.html
Perhaps the best document for a history of my legal involvement with Scientology up to 1996 is my opening brief in the California Court of Appeal in an appeal I took from a judgment enforcing a “settlement agreement” I was pressured and tricked into signing. http://www.gerryarmstrong.org/50grand/legal/a4/appeal/aob-a075027.html I’m not a lawyer obviously, and the brief undoubtedly lacks a lawyer’s professionalism, but the facts stated and all quotes provided are accurate. Scientology was able to get the appeal dismissed, arguing that because I had left the U.S. (due to its threats) I was barred from using the courts by the fugitive disentitlement doctrine. To understand what has transpired since the judgment, a good place to start would be my website introduction. http://www.gerryarmstrong.org/50grand/introduction.html
My case, I believe, demonstrates that what the U.S. is exporting as “religious freedom,” and condemning other countries for not gladly importing, is in reality a form of religious slavery. This condemnation, as you say, is rooted in, or rationalized by, the U.S.’s historical interpretation of the Constitution as preventing any determination, or, for that matter, discernment, by government of what is and is not “religion.” Thus, as in essence you also say, under U.S. Law, an organization practicing religious slavery is considered, “for religious liberty purposes,” just as much a “religion” as a religious organization that does not enslave or abuse people. The slaver organization’s income is equally tax-exempt, and its enslavement policies and practices are equally protected “religious expression,” which equally may not be questioned or debated by government.
The IRFC states that “The U.S. Government has maintained consistently that the determination that any organization is religious is for the organization itself.” http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/irf/irf_rpt/irf_germany.html. Thus potentially a commercial enterprise or an intelligence agency can avoid taxes and avoid governmental discussion of its policies and practices simply by declaring itself to be a “religion.” The IRFC and the U.S. Government would then be bound to condemn any country that sought to curtail or even to criticize the self-declared religion’s commercial, espionage, antisocial or anti-democratic writings and activities. By this condemnation, the U.S. supports the spread of what is most irreligious in religion, and rewards and reinforces the use of a “religious image” to cloak the activities of the foxes in the hen houses of God.
A response I wrote last month to an application by Scientology to have me prosecuted criminally on false charges in Russia contains a discussion of the cult as a human rights destroyer and intelligence organization and why, in my opinion, the U.S. Government now so strongly supports it. http://www.gerryarmstrong.org/50grand/writings/armstrong-response-scn-app-2002-03-19.html It is probable that the U.S. stopped opposing Scientology, after acquiring knowledge of its anti-government criminal activities and intelligence apparatus, and granted it “religion” status (in part by reversing the decades-long rejection of its demand for tax exemption) just because it is an intelligence organization.
In another recent article, “The Catholic Church, the Insurance Carriers, and Why the First Amendment’s Religious Freedom Guarantees Provide No Defense in the Clergy Abuses Cases,” you touch on where, I believe, an answer can be found as to how the U.S. became a promoter and exporter of religious slavery. You write that “both individuals and institutions have the right to the free exercise of their religion…. First Amendment routinely has been applied to individuals and organizations, not only individuals.” http://writ.news.findlaw.com/hamilton/20030116.html I believe that the way in which the right of free religious exercise has been applied to institutions, especially commercial, intelligence or slaver organizations such as Scientology, which has pronounced itself to be a religion, has resulted in the loss of rights by individuals, and even resulted in a modern day form of slavery.
As I know you are aware, the concept of religious freedom in Europe (France and Germany certainly) emphasizes individual liberty over organizational liberty, and tends to provide greater protection for the individual against organization predations, than the U.S. concept of religious freedom provides. Thus the French law you mention that seeks to restrain activities of “religious” organizations that damage individuals in fact enhances religious freedom. Scientology could not operate a Rehabilitation Project Force gulag in France or Germany as it does in the U.S., nor silence people about their “religious experiences” and “religious beliefs” and have them jailed if they mention their experiences or beliefs, as the cult is doing with me. (I hope you find it a little funny that for writing you this letter from Germany discussing “religious freedom” I must, in the U.S., pay the Scientology cult $50,000 and be jailed.)
In my opinion, there have been two main factors in the U.S. that have contributed to the present condition in which “religious freedom” has come to mean in many instances the freedom of the “religious” corporation to destroy the freedoms of its members, or even, as my case shows, the freedoms of its opponents. The first factor is expressed in this age’s senior maxim of U.S. jurisprudence: money buys injustice. The “religious organization” usually has the money to “legally” bury almost any individual whom the organization has abused or stripped of his rights when that individual seeks redress in court. The individual has also usually been impoverished by the organization, which uses his own money and the private information extracted from him during his time inside to further abuse him during the legal process.
Scientology has an enormous and well financed litigation machine in place, retains the most powerfully connected lawyers, supports its legal battles with a massive invisible intelligence network, a similar visible PR army and a multitude of drilled and obedient witnesses, and employs a cynical and probably unlawful “legal” philosophy, policy and practice (a part of its “scriptures”) of “using the law to harass and ruin utterly” its designated targets. The cult employs the same legal machinery and tactics to increase its corporate “religious freedom” to destroy individual rights, bolstered by lobbying, celebrity exploitation and legislation influencing. No individual has the requisite wealth, war machine, manpower, intelligence network, etc. to fight for the individual rights Scientology-like organizations seek to destroy.
The second factor that, in my opinion, has led to the triumph of the “religious organizations” over individuals’ religious rights in the U.S. is a strategic decision by the government. Since the individual has always lacked the wealth and power to individually stand up to the corporation, religious or otherwise, the U.S. Government, its arms and agencies balanced the playing field against the corporation by supporting the individual’s Constitutional rights. Now, clearly in the case of Scientology, the U.S. has added its weight to the corporate side, in effect betraying the individuals who need governmental protection from the cult’s organized “religious” persecution.
Obviously it may never be known what exactly brought about the U.S.’s sudden embracing of Scientology and desertion of its Scientology-persecuted citizens, simply because it involves intelligence, and may even be considered “a matter of national security.” It is known that before that shift federal government personnel had been targets of Scientology intelligence. See, e.g., http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/Cowen/essays/nytimes.html It has been reported that Scientology or its personnel had filed over 2000 lawsuits against the IRS, each of which, of course, required Justice Department lawyers, money and time to defend. It is also reasonable to conclude that by granting this U.S.-based “private” intelligence organization a “religion” license, the Government not only lost a pesky resource-consuming opponent, but conceivably gained an intelligence asset.
The ridiculous thing for people like me is that the U.S. Government, having made this strategic decision to support Scientology and forsake its victims, would also want to justify the decision, to have it shown through time to be a wise one. Frighteningly, this could mean the U.S.’s invalidation, marginalization or even elimination of people like me who may be perceived as threats to the Government’s decisional wisdom. My case, because I have not been, as Scientology policy mandates, shuddered into silence, cannot help but be an embarrassment to some people in Government as they campaign to promote the organization internationally. Officials involved in this campaign have known for years about Scientology’s “religious” persecution of me and my citizens’ class. http://www.gerryarmstrong.org/50grand/writings/armstrong-ltr-1997-10-18.html
I have been put in the absurd position of having to fight not only Scientology but also the U.S. Government for my basic human rights, even the right to defend myself.
You say that the U.S. “need[s] to learn when to speak, when not to speak, and when to speak only softly and subtly on that most delicate of issues: religious liberty.” I agree. And I think that a great deal of speaking is needed, where presently there is none and where nonsensically none is permitted. I think that the U.S. Government must publicly discuss the nature, policies, practices, products and personnel of self-determined “religions” if the Government is going to publicly support them or publicly criticize any country that opposes those “religions.” That Congress debates the condemnation of countries for standing up to Scientology’s totalitarianism and criminality without debating what it is those countries are objecting to is wrong.
If the U.S. were exporting a toxic chemical as a soft drink, it would be expected that other countries with brains to think would oppose that chemical’s importation. If the U.S. condemned those countries for their opposition to the poisonous beverage without any debate of the nature of the poison being objected to, it would demonstrate that the U.S. didn’t have the brains to think or that the U.S. willfully intended evil. This refusal of the U.S. to debate an export’s dangers should give any thinking country all the more reason to reject the export.
The Scientology organization is filled with toxic policies and practices, the dangers of which the U.S. says it will not and cannot debate because its exporters have declared it a “religion.” For this reason alone every country is justified in rejecting the export and ignoring any criticism of that rejection from U.S. agencies such as the IRFC or the State Department. Surely that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, does not mean that Congress cannot discuss religion. Perhaps the balance to religious self-declaration may be the acceptance of open, public debate of the nature, policies and practices of the “religion.” There really is no freedom of religion if there is no freedom to debate and even criticize religion.
The case of Scientology shows that Government can no longer blind itself to accept an organization’s pronouncement that it is a religion and then cover its ears so as not hear the protests of the seeing people who perceive what’s going on. Any legitimate religion, or religious organization, I believe, would welcome a Governmental debate of its nature, policies and practices, even its scriptures and beliefs. Conversely, perhaps any “religion” opposing or obstructing such a debate or discussion could be considered illegitimate and Government would not support its activities. The drafters of the First Amendment possibly didn’t imagine a Church of Scientology.
Thank you for this opportunity to tell you about my situation. I hope it can be useful in the work you do on legal and religious liberty issues. I would be very grateful for any suggestions you might have to help me resolve this very threatening situation. And I am happy to answer any questions you have.
Please feel free to forward this e-mail to anyone you wish.
[former address deleted]