A lawsuit against the Washington Post by the Church of Scientology
has been dismissed by a federal judge, who ordered the church
to pay all attorney fees in the suit.
U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema said the church had no
grounds to prohibit The Post from printing brief excerpts from
religious texts that the church has tried to conceal from the
public. The excerpts were published in a Style section story
on litigation between the church and former members who have put
the disputed texts on the Internet.
In her ruling, filed yesterday, Brinkema said The Post's quotations
from copyrighted church texts were brief and fell within the
fair-use doctrine, which allows publications to quote some copyrighted
materials in covering matters of public interest.
"The court finds the motivation of plaintiff in filing this
lawsuit against The Post is reprehensible," Brinkema wrote.
"Although the [Religious Technology Center, an arm of the
Scientology Church] brought the complaint under traditional secular
concepts of copyright and trade secret law, it has become clear
that a much broader motivation prevailed - the stifling of criticism
and dissent of the religious practices of Scientology and the
destruction of its opponents."
Mary Ann Werner, vice president and counsel for The Post, said:
"Obviously, we're very pleased with the judge's decision.
The fact that she awarded us attorney's fees is a very strong
indication that she thought we had done nothing wrong."
Helena Kobrin, attorney for the Religious Technology Center, called
Brinkema's ruling "another nail in the coffin of American
Justice. We brought this suit to protect our religious rights,
but the judge defiled them when she bought into the propaganda
of the Internet anarchists. The essential fact is that our sacred
scriptures were stolen in the first place, and this theft and
rape of our copyrighted property has been completely buried under
Scientology officials said they had not decided whether to appeal.
Brinkema has yet to rule on Scientology suits against Arnaldo
Lerma, a former member from Arlington who published church texts
on the Internet, or against Digital Gateway Systems, the company
that gave Lerna access to the Internet.
The church has filed three federal suits nationally seeking to
prevent dissidents from publishing its texts electronically.
On Monday, a federal judge in San Jose denied attempts by a California
bulletin board service to have another Scientology suit dismissed.
The church has argued that trade-secrecy and copyright laws prohibit
news publications, church members and bulletin board services
from disseminating church texts. It said the texts are confidential
instructional materials for advanced members.
In helping to prepare the Aug. 19 article, written by staff writer
Marc Fisher, a Post researcher obtained 69 pages of advanced training
material filed in a federal libel case against a former church
member in Los Angeles.
According to church beliefs outlined in the material, a galactic
federation leader solved an overpopulation problem 75 million
years ago by transporting excess people to Earth, where they were
chained to a volcano and exploded by hydrogen bomb.
Church officials help students achieve awareness by re-creating
that experience, according to the text.
Post lawyers argued that the article adhered to the fair-use doctrine.
They also said the materials no longer were trade secrets, because
they were available on the Internet and in public court files.
Brinkema said that although people can be sued for putting business
secrets on the Internet, trade-secrecy laws do not prevent Internet
users from downloading such material. "once a trade secret
is posted on the Internet, it is effectively part of the public
domain," she wrote.