The war between the Church of Scientology and the group that calls itself Anonymous is heating up.
New York City has become one of the chief battlefronts. Critics of the church - which counts John Travolta and Tom Cruise among its members - have staged at least nine protests here in the last year.
Last Saturday, Anonymous members picketed the Scientology Center on W. 46th. Many came dressed as nurses and doctors to lampoon what one protester tells us is "the unfounded and unscientific 'medical advice' that the church dispenses."
The protester says church officials posted brawny security guards outside and videotaped demonstrators (many of whom hid their faces behind surgical and Guy Fawkes/"V for Vendetta" masks).
Graham Berry, an attorney for Anonymous, says New York cops have been cool about the protesters. "Members say the NYPD finds the pickets fun," says Berry.
Los Angeles is a different story, says Berry, who has written to LAPD police chief Bill Bratton, charging that Scientologists on his force and in the city attorney's office are impinging on Anonymous members' freedom of speech.
Berry says members have been unable to demonstrate outside the church's Pacific Area Command center because L. Ron Hubbard Way "has unlawfully been closed weekend after weekend." He has also filed complaints with the Department of Justice, charging that "the church has suppressed our First Amendment and civil rights."
Church officials have called Anonymous a "terrorist" organization. But, says Berry, "Despite sensational allegations of nitroglycerine bombs and anthrax, there has been no evidence ... and certainly no prosecutions." Says Berry, "Scientology has a long record of fabricating evidence."
Meanwhile, notorious Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano may be seeking to burnish his reputation by styling himself as a crusader against the sect.
Recently, an investigator working for Peter Letterese, a former Scientologist who filed a racketeering suit against the Church, asked for help from Pellicano, who's serving time for wiretapping, computer fraud and racketeering.
In a letter (provided to us by Backstreet Investigations' Paul Barresi), Pellicano replies that he's unable to help Letterese, since "all of my records have been destroyed." But he adds, "I had battled Scientology since the early '70s."