e of the Church believe: That all men have inalienable rights to think freely, to talk freely, to write freely their own opinions and to counter or utter or write upon the opinions of others.
With these words, L. Ron Hubbard, author, humanitarian and founder of the Scientology religion, incorporated into the fundamental beliefs of Scientology a concept which has been deeply held by Americans for more than two centuries.
Consistent with that premise, and with Mr. Hubbards own lifelong human rights efforts, the Church and its members have worked tirelessly in all corners of the globe to preserve and, when necessary, to create the rights to freedom of speech and expression as a vehicle of sanity and truth.
As you will read in this edition of Freedom these efforts have led to important reforms and changed our lives for the better.
For example, in the 1970s, long before the anti-apartheid movement emerged from behind closed doors the Church exposed human rights atrocities committed against blacks in South Africa leading to Freedom being banned by the South African government then in power. Yet the public outcry which ensued paved the way to freedom from enslavement for thousands of Africans.
In Australia, Scientologists fought for more than a decade to expose atrocious human rights abuses in a psychiatric hospital in Chelmsford near Sydney. Their dogged persistence in the face of psychiatric opposition and official apathy brought about a thorough shake-up of mental health care and a mental health bill of rights.
Concerned at the gradual erosion of civil liberties in the United States and other countries, Scientologists have actively campaigned to protect and preserve our basic freedoms. Knowing that misinformation about individuals in government files can harm or ruin lives, the Church has spearheaded the rights of citizens to gain access to government documents about themselves. From its beginning, we have advocated widespread use of the Freedom of Information Act and campaigned against efforts to narrow its application. Shortly after the Act was passed, we published as a public service The Handbook on How to Use the Freedom of Information Act, which has enjoyed lasting popularity. Freedom of Information legislation in France, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Italy and Belgium came in large measure due to decisive roles played by members of the Church.
Through Freedom magazine, the Church has exposed many who sought to subvert fundamental rights, and also awarded and acknowledged numerous individuals who, often against substantial odds, helped preserve and strengthen our civil liberties. Among those honored by Freedom: human rights advocate Dr. Arthur A. Fletcher, then chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; syndicated columnist Jack Anderson, who has been relentless in his exposés of corruption in high places; former Congressman John Moss, father of the Freedom of Information Act, the statutory check on freedom from government excess; Congressman Don Edwards, longtime advocate of freedom of information; and Paul McMasters, journalist and advocate of freedom of speech and vice president of The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center.
In a recent issue on the Internet, Freedom covered the promise and the perils of the on-line world, describing the need for ethical and legal standards in cyberspace and stimulating widespread debate on the subject.
The Church was recently forced to use the legal system to deal with the theft and lawless misuse of its legally protected, sacred scriptures. If one does not assiduously protect intellectual property rights such as copyrights, one will lose the right to claim it as ones own. But our battles have not been solely on our own behalf. The ramifications of our case will ultimately aid all who create works for which they can claim copyright.
There is another aspect of these actions which is of equal importance to the public interest. Those who use freedom of speech as a justification for piracy pose a threat to freedom of speech itself. Such theft damages musicians, journalists, producers, programmers and a multitude of other professionals in many fields.
There is more at stake.
If freedom of speech is twisted into a freedom to steal or misappropriate, the lawlessness that will ensue will be followed by the traditional response of governments more laws and prohibitions intended to control the problem. Then we shall see censorship and curbs on free speech.
Similarly, if the theft of creative works is condoned, artists and originators will be less inclined to create.
And when courts sanction such conduct, these threats will become an actuality. I hope you enjoy this issue. Your response is welcome. E-mail to email@example.com.