Battling Scientology

By CHRIS FARAONE  |  October 23, 2008

With plans to protest at the Beacon Street CoS the next morning, Housh says he began receiving word on the evening of February 9 that Anons were already showing up in other cities. “First there were six people in New Zealand,” he recalls. “Then Sydney, Australia, happened, and there were 250 people there. Then Perth, Adelaide, and Melbourne — they all had over 100 people — we broke 1000 before we left Australia. There was even one guy in Tokyo with balls of steel who went and picketed by himself. I love that guy.”

When Housh finally met up in Back Bay with other local Anons, throngs of protesters were already outside churches in Hamburg, Berlin, Tel-Aviv, and London. In Boston, Housh filed a protest permit with the transportation department for 100–125 people — by day’s end, he claims, there were about 280 masked Anons. (For events held since April in Boston, that number has thinned to a steady 40 or 50. Anonymous claims that, across the globe, approximately 10,000 people participated in the first, February 10 event. CoS attorney LaCasse claims those numbers are inflated.) Making good on the “Message” pledge to fight long and hard, Housh courted to keep the Anon community for future events. “At the first protest, we were handing out flyers for the next one, so that way, when everybody went home, they knew it wasn’t done,” says Housh. “You can’t lose them for a second — we needed to keep everyone’s attention.”

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UNEASY READERS: Anonymous — which claims its goal is to expose “the illegal and immoral behavior of the Church of Scientology” — has taken aim at former science-fiction author and Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, with slogans such as “Ron Is Gone but the Con Lives On.”

Anonymous no longer
Certainly Housh managed to get the Scientologists’ attention. On March 1, he joined some other Anons to distribute flyers throughout Boston. At around noon, his masked team approached the Beacon Street CoS, where they walked through the front door and, according to Housh, non-threateningly hand-delivered literature to parishioners. LaCasse and church member Gerard Renna viewed things very differently. Nine days later, they filed an application for a criminal complaint with the Boston Police Department claiming, according to the report, that Housh and “nine followers entered the Church of Scientology and disrupted church services by alarming the church members who were there to worship.” Renna and LaCasse, who obtained Housh’s identity from the February 10 protest permit, also told police they would seek criminal complaints in the Boston Municipal Court — a promise they kept on March 12. Three days later, Housh still joined Anonymous for its second planned protest, at which people ate cake and wore paper hats to mock Hubbard’s March 13 birthday.

Initially, two complaints — trespassing and criminal harassment — were filed against Housh in what Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly described as “an unusual case pitting First Amendment free-speech protections against an individual’s right to practice religion without harassment.” CoS complainants presented the Suffolk County District Attorney with evidence that labeled Anonymous as a terrorist group, and alleged that members crossed the line between free speech and harassment by hiding their faces.

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