Scientology Critical Information Directory

This site is best viewed using a highly standards-compliant browser

Seized church papers returned Scientology members hail 'win' in 9-year fight

Title: Seized church papers returned Scientology members hail 'win' in 9-year fight
Date: Tuesday, 28 January 1992
Publisher: Toronto Star (Canada)
Author: Tracy Tyler
Main source:

Disclaimer: This archive is presented strictly in the public interest for research purposes. All the copyrights of materials reproduced here are the properties of their respective owners.

Nine years, several sledgehammers and one battering ram later, it was time for a massive celebration at the Church of Scientology's Yonge St. headquarters.

Hundreds of jubilant church members, clutching sparklers and blowing noisemakers, spilled on to the sidewalk and cheered yesterday as a rented truck pulled up with a delivery from Ontario Provincial Police headquarters.

Inside the truck were more than 2 million church documents seized from Scientology's Toronto offices on March 3, 1983, in the largest police raid in Ontario history.

Mr. Justice James Southey of Ontario Court, general division, has imposed a publication ban on the pre-trial proceedings, and the reason for the documents' return can't be written about or broadcast.

At the time of the raid, about 100 officers wearing orange armbands and carrying a battering ram, sledgehammers and axes charged out of three chartered buses.

While several officers and chartered accountants swept through the building, other officers stood guard outside.

By the time they were finished — 20 hours later — some 854 boxes of church files and an entire filing cabinet had been carted away, although no members were charged with anything.

Several months later, though, the OPP charged 19 church members with various offences, including theft, breach of trust and possession of stolen documents.

Ten members currently stand charged, while two of the original 19 have since died.

Because of several legal challenges, the trial has yet to begin.

"This is just a real celebration," Al Buttnor, a church spokesperson, said as members from across Canada jumped up on the truck and formed a human chain to pass the boxes into the chapel.

It took about an hour, with a Metro police cruiser sealing off St. Mary St. to traffic.

Most of the boxes had the word "READ" written in marker on the side.

"We've waited so long for these to be returned," Buttnor said. "It's just a shaft of shining light."

Yesterday, it seemed that Scientologists were optimistic about the upcoming trial.

A huge banner reading "Scientology Wins after 9-year Battle" was fastened to the side of the seven-storey building that was decorated with pink, yellow and green balloons for the occasion.

Church members popped sparkling wine, linked arms and sang before the truck went back to the police warehouse in Mississauga to pick up a second load.

Buttnor said the seized documents included books, religious artefacts, management files and "confessional folders" — the latter being of particular concern to church officials because they contain intimate details about members that had been shared in counselling sessions known as "auditing."

Church lawyer Clayton Ruby later described some aspects of the search as "spiritual rape."

During the raid, one church member present in the headquarters had documents taken from her purse, Buttnor said.

He added that Ruby has estimated that the crown's cost of prosecuting church members now stands at some $14 million.

Barbara Krever, a spokesperson for the attorney-general's ministry, said no cost estimate is available.

[Picture / Caption: Star photo (Bull): Church of Scientology members unload cartons of documents seized by police.]

Copyright 1992 Toronto Star, All Rights Reserved.