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Scientologists carry protest to Capitol

Title: Scientologists carry protest to Capitol
Date: Wednesday, 22 May 1985
Publisher: The Oregonian (Portland)
Main source: link (440 KiB)

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2,000 march through Salem in attempt to see governor

[Picture / Caption: ON THEIR WAY — Scientologists loaded up several school buses in downtown Portland Tuesday morning to head for Salem, where they said they planned to march around the state Capitol to protest last week's decision against the Church of Scientology.]

A 38-bus caravan of Church of Scientology members arrived in Salem from Portland early Tuesday afternoon for a demonstration to show their displeasure with the $39-million verdict issued last week against their church by a Multnomah County jury.

About 2,000 Scientologists got off the buses at the State Fairgrounds and began a march to the Capitol. John Carmichael, president of the Portland Scientology mission, said the protesters wanted "to see Gov. Vic Atiyeh and some legislators."

The purpose, Carmichael said, was "to tell them what's going on and ask them to do all in their power to restore religious freedom."

While en route from Portland, each of the Scientologists wrote letters to Atiyeh and President Reagan urging that they do what they could to enforce the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing religious freedom.

Atiyeh said he had no plans to meet with the demonstrators.

"The trial turned into a heresy trial," Carmichael said. "The Scientology religion was put on trial and that is outrageous. We intend to take that message to all that we can. If a group is willing to fight for its rights, it will gain support even from people who may not agree with that particular religion."

An estimated 6,000-7,000 Scientologists have flocked to Portland from around the world to participate in the protests. A few hundred were served breakfast at Tom McCall Waterfront Park Tuesday before boarding the buses for Salem.

The protests are in response to a verdict handed down Friday in which a Multnomah County Circuit Court jury awarded $39 million in punitive damages to former church member Julie Christofferson Titchbourne, 27. The jury decided after a 10-week trial that the church made fraudulent misrepresentations to her.

Two jurors who were interviewed Monday said the jury's decision was based on long discussions and detailed review of many of the more than 500 exhibits entered into evidence at the trial.

The jurors, both of whom agreed to talk about the deliberations only if their names were not used, said the biggest single factor in the case was L. Ron Hubbard, the church's founder, and the documents he wrote that were admitted as evidence.

"The most compelling thing was L. Ron Hubbard himself and how the whole organization is geared to exactly what he wants to do and how he wants them to do it," one juror said.

About 2,000 Scientologists and music lovers gathered Monday night at Portland's Tom McCall Waterfront Park for a free concert that was billed as part of a crusade for religious freedom.

Piano virtuoso Chick Corea and rock musician Frank Stallone performed.