When Scientology takes the offensive, L. Ron Hubbard's writings provide the inspiration. Here is a sampling of what Hubbard wrote:
"If attacked on some vulnerable point by anyone or anything or any organization, always find or manufacture enough threat against them to cause them to sue for peace. . . . Don't ever defend. Always attack."
"We do not want Scientology to be reported in the press, anywhere else than on the religious pages of newspapers. . . . Therefore, we should be very alert to sue for slander at the slightest chance so as to discourage the public presses from mentioning Scientology."
"NEVER agree to an investigation of Scientology. Only agree to an investigation of the attackers. . . . Start feeding lurid, blood, sex crime, actual evidence on the attack to the press. Don't ever tamely submit to an investigation of us. Make it rough, rough on attackers all the way."
Obedience to these rules is not discretionary. They are scripture and, as such, have guided a succession of church leaders in their responses to perceived attacks.
Ironically, Hubbard's doctrinal dictums have often served only to escalate conflicts and reinforce the cultish image the church has been trying to shake.
In the early 1970s, British lawmaker Sir John Foster offered a seemingly timeless observation on Scientology in a report to his government.
He wrote that "anyone whose attitude is such as Mr. Hubbard displays in his writings cannot be too surprised if the world treats him with suspicion rather than affection."
Defeating its antagonists is considered so vital to the religion's survival that the church has a unit whose mandate is to bring "hostile philosophies or societies into a state of complete compliance with the goals of Scientology."
Called the Office of Special Affairs, its duties include developing legal strategy and countering outside threats.
Its predecessor was the Guardian Office, whose members became so overzealous that Hubbard's wife and 10 other Scientologists were jailed for bugging and burglarizing U.S. government agencies in the 1970s.
Now, Scientology spokesmen say, attorneys are hired to handle conflicts with church adversaries to ensure that history does not repeat itself. The attorneys, they say, employ private detectives to help prepare court cases--a role that, in the past, would have been filled by Scientologists from the Guardian Office.
But some former Scientologists contend that the private detectives have simply replaced church members as agents of intimidation. The detectives are especially valued because they insulate the church from deceptive and potentially embarrassing investigative tactics that the church in fact endorses, according to this view.
One of the first private detectives hired by the church was Richard Bast of Washington, D.C.
In 1980, he investigated the sex life of U.S. District Judge James Richey, who was presiding over the criminal trial of Hubbard's wife and the 10 other Scientologists. Richey had issued rulings unfavorable to them.
Bast's investigators found a prostitute at the Brentwood Holiday Inn who claimed that Richey had purchased her services while staying at the hotel during trips to Los Angeles. Bast's men gave her a lie detector test and videotaped her account.
That and other information obtained by Bast's investigators was leaked to columnist Jack Anderson, and appeared in newspapers across the country. Soon after, Richey resigned from the case, citing health reasons.
In 1982, Bast surfaced again, this time in Clearwater, Fla., where the church's secretive methods of operating had stirred community anxiety.