CLEARWATER, Fla. (CN) – For the second time in a week, the Church of Scientology lost its bid to restrain members of a nebulous Internet group called Anonymous from protesting this weekend as Scientologists celebrate the birthday of founder L. Ron Hubbard. The church claims to have received 8,139 harassing phone calls, 3.6 million “malicious” e-mails, bomb threats and death threats. more
The Church of Scientology filed two lawsuits, on Tuesday and Wednesday, seeking an injunction to stop Anonymous members from coming within 500 feet of Scientology buildings.
Clearwater police recently had to evacuate the area around Scientology’s Life Improvement Center in St. Petersburg after a church employee found a suspicious-looking suitcase in an alley behind the center. The Tampa bomb squad arrived and discovered that the brown suitcase contained only clothing, personal items and a Bible.
Scientologists said the injunction is necessary because they “fear for the safety of ourselves and our parishioners.”
Judge Douglas Baird of Pinellas County sympathized with the organization’s apprehension, but ultimately rejected the petition because the church could not pin any of the 26 alleged Anonymous members to specific threats.
“This court is mindful of the anxiety that may be caused by anonymous threats of violence, or as a series of seemingly unconnected incidents, be they on the Internet or otherwise,” Baird wrote. “However, the jurisdiction of the court must only be exercised to specifically restrain those known individuals that are shown to have some reasonable nexus to the actual threats complained of in the petition.”
The church’s filing late Tuesday accused Anonymous members of hacking into Scientologists’ Web sites, posting pornographic material, crashing the official Scientology site, and threatening “extreme acts of physical violence,” including a “formal declaration of war” and a threat to assassinate Rev. Heber Jentzsch, president of the Church of Scientology International.
Judge Linda R. Allan denied the church’s first request, leading to the second petition and its denial.
Anonymous’ vocal opposition to the alleged cult gained traction after a church video of Tom Cruise talking about Scientology was leaked to the media, and the church tried to remove the videos from several sites by threatening to sue for copyright infringement. Anonymous responded with a video of its own, addressed directly to the organization.
In the video, a mechanized voice says: “Hello, Scientology. We are Anonymous. Over the years, we have been watching you – your campaigns of misinformation, your suppression of dissent, your litigious nature – all of these things have caught our eye. With the leakage of your latest propaganda video into mainstream circulation, the extent of your malign influence over those who trust you, who call you leader, has been made clear to us. Anonymous has therefore decided that your organization should be destroyed … we shall expel you from the Internet and systematically dismantle the Church of Scientology in its present form.”
Anonymous called for its members to protest in front of Scientology buildings on certain dates, including this weekend. Many demonstrators show up in masks or other forms of disguise.
The St. Petersburg Times reportedly received a statement from someone claiming to be Anonymous, stating that the group was not behind any acts or threats of violence. Anonymous allegedly called for peaceful protests this weekend.