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The New York Times

Scientology's Expensive Wisdom Now Comes Free

August 20, 1995

By MIKE ALLEN


    To reach what the Church of Scientology calls the seventh level of Spirituality, the church's scriptures intruct followers to go to zoos and parks to communicate with plants and animals and go to train stations to put thoughts in the mind of strangers.

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

    The scriptures had been entered as an affidavit in a court case in Los Angeles. Arnaldo P. Lerma of Arlington, Va., a former 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 scienbtology 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 disks. Computer experts hired by the church tried to purge all the bootleg gospels from his system. And the judge in Los Angeles sealed the file. But computer dissidents say the texts are still available at Internet sites on several continents.

    In the purloined scripture, Scientologists warn that unauthorized readers can die of pneumonia. No epidemic has been reported. - MIKE ALLEN

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