SPY VS. SCI: The Latest Scientology Protest

Source: Willamette Week
Date: July 15, 2008

by Hannah Hultine

"They'll probably tell you they have a 50 percent attendance rate—that is important for them to tell you because that helps them keep their brand as the fastest growing minority religion," Jacob Mercy told WW Saturday morning. "This brand makes numbers seem so large people wouldn't possibly think it could be a cult."

Mercy was talking to WW at the sixth monthly Anonymous protest in front of Portland's Church of Scientology. As at previous protests, some of the 20-odd participants wore Guy Fawkes masks like those in the movie V for Vendetta, while others wore bandannas or, like ringleader Mercy, went unmasked.

Mercy is a Portlander in the process of writing a book on the rise of Anonymous or "Anons", the international group launched after Tom Cruise's January YouTube debacle (in which the church tried - ultimately unsuccessfully - to suppress a video of prominent Scientologist Cruise waxing fruitloopy about his faith) and dedicated to stopping Scientology practices via peaceful means.

The protesters, a mixed bag of twenty- to fortysomethings, convened at Pioneer Square in the late morning for a quick rundown on the legalities of a peaceful protest. An Anon member reminded the group, "Remember, they are well-informed in the court system - if we slip up, we'll end up in court."

With that the group tromped off, clad with accusatory signs ("Scientology Kills," "The Church of Scientology is a Criminal Organization"), blank name-tags and spirits driven by conspiracy theory, the group marched off to Portland's Church of Scientology building on Southwest Salmon Street. Apart from a police warning to one protest-crasher (below) who kept wandering into the street, the event saw little confrontation.

The mission of this month's protest: Bring Scientology's "Operation Snow White" to the public eye.

"Under the [Snow White] operation," says Mercy, "Scientology operatives, committed the largest infiltration of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service in History." Anonymous members cite the documented case U.S. v. Mary Sue Hubbard, which they say, exposed an elaborate scam complete with wiretapping and theft of documents from government offices in order to rid the government of unfavorable information on Scientology and discover tax exemption data. In the 1979 case, Mary Sue Hubbard, Scientology founder Ron Hubbard's wife, was convicted along with other Scientologists and sentenced to 5 years in prison (she died in 2002).

Portland Anons say they are avid in exposing the operation to the public because it also sheds light on what protesters called the "Guardian's Office," or the Scientologists' Operations of Special Affairs. According to Mercy, those found guilty in US. v. Mary Sue Hubbard were part of this spy group.

"Guardians are covert operatives, responsible for monitoring anti-Scientology affairs and defectors," said Mercy, who said the Scientologists have a history of following protesters - many of them former Scientologists - to their homes and heckling them. The personal retribution, he explains, is a major reason protesters wear masks to hide their identities.

(full article, with photos, at Willamette Week<)