The New York Times, Sunday, August 20, 1995. ("Week in Review" section, p. 2.)

Internet Gospel


Scientology's Expensive Wisdom Now Comes Free

To read what the Church of Scientology calls the seventh level of spirituality, the church's scriptures instruct followers to go to zoos and parks and communicate with plants and animals and go to train stations to put thoughts in the minds of strangers.

Advice like that doesn't come cheap. Scientologists pay tens of thousands of dollars for such spiritual teachings. Now, to the church's dismay, they're free with an Internet account.

The scriptures have been entered as an affidavit in a court case in Los Angeles. Arnaldo P. Lerma of Arlington VA., a former church employee who is part of a band of on-line dissidents fighting Scientology, posted a copy of the affidavit on the Internet. Copies of the scriptures were then downloaded around the world. In China, the operator of a computer bulletin board said demand for the Scientology documents was slowing network access for the whole country.

The church sued Mr. Lerma, charging copyright infringement, and United States marshals seized his computer and 400 discs. Computer experts hired by the church tried to purge all the bootleg gospels from his system. And the judge in the Los Angeles case sealed the file. But computer dissidents say the texts are still available at Internet sites on several continents. In the purloined scriptures, Scientologists warn that unauthorized readers can die of pneumonia. No epidemic has been reported.