Following demonstrations on February 10 and March 15, Anonymous once again occupied the sidewalks across from 696 Yonge Street on Saturday. This time, however, the windowshades of Scientology’s Toronto outlet were drawn, its ground-level offices apparently vacant; with the exception of one lonely camera jockey, Hubbard’s loyal army of hyper-vigilant paparazzi were conspicuously absent.
Maybe they called their day on account of rain. By noon, April showers had made smeary messes of one or two signs, but the assembled faceless were undeterred. “It’s a cult!” they shouted, drawing long horn reports from sympathetic, rubbernecking motorists.
While past demonstrations have painted the fight against Scientology in somewhat broad strokes, Saturday’s rally was considerably more pointed in its focus. Subtly Rickrolling whatever Scientology faithful remained in the building, one placard in particular cleverly summed up Anonymous’ theme of the day: Scientologists: your families are never gonna give you up.
Among their indictments of the church, Anonymous calls out its so-called “Disconnection Policy” as one of the more disturbing. In short, the idea is that upwardly-mobile Scientologists are “encouraged” to avoid contact with anyone impeding their progress toward “total freedom.” The obstructive—i.e., the critical, skeptical, or otherwise concerned—are labeled “Suppressive Persons.” Those who haven’t lockstepped the Disconnection Policy then run the risk of being pegged “Potential Trouble Sources,” defined by the church as “a person who is in some way connected to and being adversely affected by a suppressive person.” Ominously, that individual is then considered “a lot of trouble to himself and to others.” While suppressive persons can be anyone—from teachers to journalists to Anons themselves—the influence of those closest to the would-be Thetan-free poses the greater threat. “It is our hope to not only spread information and awareness of the Disconnection Policy,” writes an anonymous Anon in correspondence with Torontoist, “but to also reconnect some of the families it has destroyed.”
In its efforts to defend itself, Scientology has often profiled the campaigns of Anonymous and venerable dissidents like Gregg Hagglund (pictured above) as on par with religious persecution. “Anonymous is not protesting religious belief,” our nameless informant continues. “We are demonstrating against the criminal and inhumane practices of the “Church” of Scientology, in particular their disconnection policy which forces families apart and isolates members inside the cult from the outside world.”
Anonymous cites the example of Stephanie Headley, a 33-year-old Scientology convert who, following her father’s success in liberating his son from the church, then “disconnected” from her family and has neither been seen nor heard from in three years. “I helped her brother escape Scientology,” Bernie Headley writes on his website, “and as soon as it was determined [that] he and his wife came to me, I was unable to reach her.” Scientology representatives, responding to repeated inquiries regarding her whereabouts, denied any knowledge of her. “I was told they didn’t even know who she was,” Mr. Headley writes. “I didn’t even know where she was for a couple of years, but have received information that she is currently in Toronto and recently got married.”
Scientology’s Disconnection Policy falls under the umbrella of Fair Game, the term used to describe the church’s aggressive, strong-arm tactics in defending its interests. “A Suppressive Person or group becomes fair game,” L. Rob Hubbard wrote in 1965 in his so-called “Fair Game Law.” “By FAIR GAME is meant [sic], may not be protected by the codes and disciplines or the rights of a Scientologist.” Later that year, Hubbard expanded his officious declaration to include non-Scientologists: “The homes, property, places and abodes of persons who have been active in attempting to: suppress Scientology or Scientologists are all beyond any protection of Scientology ethics.” Hubbard articulates further, threatening “suppressive non-Scientology wives and husbands and parents, or other family members or hostile groups or even close friends.”
In 1968, Hubbard distanced himself from his own alarming rhetoric, stating that “The practice of declaring people FAIR GAME will cease. FAIR GAME may not appear on any Ethics Order. It causes bad public relations.” In practice, however, Fair Game appears to be as vociferous as ever, particularly as experienced by families such as the Headleys and Hagglunds. After his pioneering demonstrations in 1997, the Toronto org included Hagglund’s wife in its threats of “fair game” retribution, writing, “As a certified public school teacher, Mrs. Hagglund is required to follow the professional standards established and overseen by the Ontario Teachers’ Federation and the College of Teachers…Accordingly, I will be petitioning the College of Teachers later this year to bring a charge of professional misconduct against Mrs. Hagglund.” Other threats included investigating past acquaintances of Hagglund, picketing near his property, and disseminating damaging literature to employers and neighbours.
As Anonymous returned the favour, Scientology representatives were unavailable for comment.
All photos by Miles Storey.