He said Scientologists once managed to get inside a downtown Los Angeles banquet room before guests arrived for a dinner celebrating the Neuropsychiatric Institute's 25th anniversary. On each plate, West said, was placed "an obscenely vicious diatribe" against him and the institute--neatly tied with a pink ribbon.
These former members accuse others in the church of culling confessional folders for information that can be used to embarrass, discredit or blackmail hostile defectors--a practice once called "repugnant and outrageous" by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge. Some of these former members say they themselves took part in the practice.
The confidential folders contain the parishioners' most intimate secrets, disclosed during one-on-one counseling sessions that are supposed to help devotees unburden their spirits. The church retains the folders even after a member leaves.
Last year, former church attorney Yanny said in a sworn declaration that he was fed information from confessional folders to help him question former members during pretrial proceedings. Yanny said he complained but was informed by two Scientology executives that it was "standard practice."
Church executives have steadfastly denied that the confidentiality of the folders has been breached. They maintain that "auditors"--Scientologists who counsel other members--must abide by a code of conduct in which they promise never to divulge secrets revealed to them "for punishment or personal gain."
"And that trust," the code states, "is sacred and never to be betrayed."
Often, those who buck the church say their lives are suddenly troubled by unexplained and untraceable events, ranging from hang-up telephone calls to the mysterious deaths of pets.
Los Angeles attorney Leta Schlosser, for one, said someone developed "an unusual interest" in her car trunk while she was part of the legal team in the Wollersheim suit against Scientology. She said it was broken into at least seven times.
She said her co-counsel, O'Reilly, discovered a tape recorder, wired to his telephone line, hidden beneath some bushes outside his home.
Then there is the British author, Russell Miller. After his biography of Hubbard was published, an anonymous caller to police implicated him in the unsolved ax-slaying of a South London private eye.
Miller was interrogated by two detectives, who concluded that he was innocent. Det. Sgt. Malcolm Davidson of Scotland Yard told the Los Angeles Times that the caller "caused us to waste a lot of time investigating" and "caused Mr. Miller some embarrassment."
There is no evidence that ties the church to any of these incidents, and Scientology officials deny involvement in clandestine harassment or illegal activities. They suggest that church foes may themselves be responsible as part of an effort to discredit Scientology.
Today, the Scientology movement is engaged in a sweeping effort to gain influence across a broad swath of society, from schools to businesses, in hopes of winning converts and creating a hospitable environment for church expansion.
And Hubbard's followers apparently consider his theology of combat an important component.
In 1987, they elevated to high doctrine a warning he wrote two decades ago in a Scientology newspaper, addressed to "people who seek to stop us."
"If you oppose Scientology we promptly look up--and will find and expose--your crimes," he wrote. "If you leave us alone we will leave you alone. It's very simple. Even a fool can grasp that.
"And don't underrate our ability to carry it out. . . . Those who try to make life difficult for us are at once at risk."