Scientology Pickets Carnegie Mellon

by Dave Touretzky

This is Wean Hall, home of the CMU Computer Science Department. Scientologists are on the left; CMU counter-picketers on the right.

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Date: December 17, 1998. My university was picketed by Scientologists today. The Friends of Religious Liberty (not a real organization, just a silly name the Scientologists picked for themselves), no doubt having important business elsewhere on the east coast, appear to have made a side trip to Pittsburgh to picket me in front of my building here at Carnegie Mellon.

Their timing was off. Exams were over last week, so most of the undergrads were gone. The campus newspaper had already put out its final issue until next term. And worst of all, they showed up at 11:00 AM; I am never on campus that early. So I missed my own picket. On the other hand, just the day before, I had made a posting to an internal university newsgroup mentioning that I was shown on the A&E Scientology special picketing next to Xenu the space alien. So it was kind of cool to have real live Scientologists show up on campus the very next day. Several colleagues sent me congratulatory email. Pity the picketers couldn't stay longer; I would have liked to have met them.

The university sent over a police officer to make sure everyone played nicely together. (Sorry his photo came out so poorly; he was in shadow.) Picketers are allowed on campus, and the Scientologists could even go into the building to use the bathroom, but they weren't allowed anywhere near my office.

There were six of them, reportedly well-behaved. They look normal in the photographs. My secretary went down and talked to them for a while, but when she asked them what Scientologists believe in, they wouldn't give her a straight answer. She was too polite to bring up the subject of Xenu, which she already knew about from helping me put together a poster presentation on Scientology's belief system that I gave at the Society for Neuroscience meeting last month.

The FRL's signs reportedly said "Dave Touretzky is a Religious Bigot" and "Your Neighbor Dave Touretzky Protects Pornography". Also something about a list of aliases I supposedly use, but nobody bothered to write those down.

Some of our grad students, bored and looking for amusement, decided to have fun with the picketers. They made up picket signs of their own and joined in. Several candidate slogans were discussed, including "Unix is not Xenu", but in the end they went with:

``Mom Send Money''
``Open Source Tibet``
``Xenu, Warrior Princess``
``Will Protest for Food``
``Ceci N'est Pas Une Pipe``
``Remember Byron``
``Legalize (maple leaf) Canada''

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The guy in the foreground with the white jacket is a Mechanical Engineering professor who took great delight in tweaking the Scientologists. Directly behind him is one of the Scientology picketers who agreed to pose with the grad students.

Professor H addressing the troops. A Scientologist stands off to the right.

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It was cold outside. After speaking with the Scientologists for a while, the grad students decided they were too stupid and boring to merit further attention. So they went off to find better amusement elsewhere, scratching their heads and asking "what were they thinking, picketing a CS department before noon?"

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After picketing for an hour, the Scientologists departed without incident. They had a white, unmarked van with no license plate waiting in the parking lot. There was also another large vehicle with markings indicating it belonged to a security company. I don't know what that was for; maybe they were afraid they'd end up in a cage in one of our psych labs if they didn't bring their own security to protect them.

This is Tim Lomas, and was the DSA (Director of Special Affairs) of the Church of Scientology of Philadelphia. The DSA is the local representative of OSA, the Office of Special Affairs: Scientology's intelligence and dirty tricks squad. Mr. Lomas also picketed the home of Charlotte Kates, a college student, again carrying a camera. He has since joined the Sea Org and become a full-fledged member of OSA.

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This guy carried two picket signs! I'm told his name is Bill Reed, and he's a "public" (as opposed to staff) Scientologist at the Philadelphia Org. When he's not picketing enemies of Scientology, Mr. Reed runs a carpet cleaning business in New Jersey.

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This was the youngest of the bunch.

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There were no flyers handed out. Some folks asked the Scientologists to explain why they were doing this, and got answers like "he keeps going into our churches". (I've visited several Scientology facilities but have always been polite while on the premises and have never been asked to leave.) The picketers also claimed that I was misinforming the public about their religious beliefs, which they couldn't discuss. Since virtually everyone at CMU already knows about Xenu, this didn't garner them any sympathy.

Dave Touretzky
Last modified: Wed Nov 19 02:26:42 EST 2003