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Scientologists take on Reader's Digest

Title: Scientologists take on Reader's Digest
Date: Friday, 18 April 1980
Publisher: St. Petersburg Times (Florida)
Author: Craig Roberton
Main source:

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The Church of Scientology is apparently pulling out all the stops in a worldwide effort to block publication of a forthcoming Reader's Digest article critical of the church.

Fearful that such an article in an 18-million circulation magazine would be damaging to Scientology, church officials have:

* Instituted legal action against Reader's Digest in South Africa and reportedly in West Germany in an effort to block distribution of the may issue in those countries.

* Threatened to sue Reader's Digest offices in London and Paris on Thursday.

* Hired a private investigator to question sources used in the Digest article.

The article will appear in the May issue of Reader's Digest, which goes on sale at news stands on April 29.

Eugene Methvin, a senior editor at Reader's Digest and author of the six-page article, said church officials have been "hammering on our doors and ringing our telephones" in an effort to block publication.

Methvin said the Digest began receiving calls from church officials shortly after a local newspaper reported his presence at an anti-Scientology rally in Clearwater in December.

IN THE ensuing weeks, Methvin said, it became apparent to him that the church officials had a good idea of the contents of the article, even though it had been under "tight security."

"By some means, they obtained a copy or good briefing about the article's contents . . . It's clear they have a fair idea of the article," Methvin said.

Indeed, a statement by the church indicates they have a detailed knowledge of the article's contents.

"The article has no less than 20 outright lies in it," church spokesman Hugh Wilhere said in a prepared statement Thursday night, "which the church many times attempted to correct with documentation. But the Digest intended no fair presentation and has provoked us to legal recourse for which we have no apologies."

WILHERE SAID church official have notified Reader's Digest of its intention to sue if the article is published.

Methvin said it is "absolutely false" that he and Reader's Digest "intended no fair presentation." He said he met twice with church officials in Washington, spending a totoal of several hours with them.

Methvin said Digest officials received word Thursday that Scientlogists were picketing its offices in London and Paris, which Wilhere could not confirm.

"It's both funny and pitiful," Methvin said, adding later, "they have even compared me to Hitler and Stalin."

Asked what the article contains, Methvin would say only that it is "critical" of Scientology.

"IT IS definitely not the view of Scientology that (church founder) L. Ron Hubbard would want to appear on the religion page," Methvin said.

Wilhere characterized the article as "one of the worst abuses of First Amendment freedom of the press in this century."

In an eight-page report entitled "Readers Indigestion? Anatomy of a Misguided Magazine," the church lambasts the Digest, claiming it was sympathetic to Stalin and Hitler and accusing Methvin of surrounding himself with "ne'er-do-wells and miscreants as sources."

"Like the hot dog, Reader's Digest has long been a basic staple of the American middleclass diet," the report says. "However, like the popular frankfurter, the Digest is not as nutritious as its appearance. In fact it has been found to be filled with literary additives and journalistic 'meat substitute.' "