Court Passes on Scientology Libel Case

The Associated Press/October 1, 2001

Washington -- 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.

Scientology, founded by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, requires members to take classes and counseling that can cost thousands of dollars.

The May 1991 article entitled, "Scientology: The Cult of Greed," said Scientology 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.

"While in the past certain church officials concededly committed improper acts ... most of the allegations of past misconduct were false and distorted, the result of the misunderstanding, suspicion and prejudice that typically greet a new religion," the church told the Supreme Court.

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

The church told the Supreme Court that the rulings "rather than encouraging the search for truth, provide a safe harbor for biased journalism."

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

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