Procter & Gamble Sues Paper on Satanic Link

Times Staff Writer

A newsletter that circulates among 140 residents of a mobile home park here has been hit with a $1-million libel suit for publishing a story connecting Procter & Gamble Co. with devil worship.

The 72-year-old editor of the newsletter said Friday that he was taken aback by the suit and that he did not intend the article to be taken seriously.

The suit, filed Thursday in Santa Clara County Superior Court, charges that the editors of the River Glen Park News intended to do the company financial harm when they reprinted an article stating that Procter & Gamble’s moon and stars logo was a satanic symbol. The story also states that the firm’s president said on the “Phil Donahue Show” that most of their profits go to the Church of Satan. Those assertions are false, the lawsuit says.

“I wish I hadn’t put it in,” said Don Cheney, 72, one of the editors named in the suit, along with the editor and park manager, Mary Ellen Allen. Also named as defendant was Mobile Home Board Printing of Sunnyvale, which prints the news letter.


From Church Bulletin

Cheney said one of the 140 residents of the mobile home park dropped the story, reprinted from a church bulletin in Washington, in his mailbox, and he decided to print it as a joke.

Cheney titled the piece “The Devil You Say” and prefaced it: “Here is an interesting bit of info gathered from the Christian Church in Centralia, Wash. A concerned resident has asked that it be included in this edition of the Park News.”

Cheney said the story was “so ridiculous and preposterous” that no one would believe it. But Cheney said he has now heard that one of the park residents wrote to the company questioning the validity of the claim.

Procter & Gamble, makers of food and household products such as Ivory soap, Folger’s coffee and Crest toothpaste, states in the suit that the entire article is false and that they “do not now and never have had any connection, relationship or association with satanism or devil worship.” The suit also states that the company “has suffered harm in its business affairs” because of the article.

10 Such Suits Since ’82

The Cincinnati-based firm has filed about 10 similar suits since 1982 trying to dispel rumors of satanism, said spokeswoman Linda Ulrey. Those suits have been settled out of court, often with the court ordering the defendant to publicly acknowledge that the Procter & Gamble does not have any ties to satanism and that they will cease from disseminating such information, Ulrey said.

Cheney said that he will print anything Procter & Gamble sends him to counteract the story.

“If they want to mail me any materials, I’ll be very happy to distribute them to every coach on this park,” he said.

Ulrey said that the suit may appear to be a “David-and-Goliath thing” but that the company is prepared to sue anyone in order to put the rumors to rest.

“This lawsuit underscores our seriousness about stopping the false and malicious rumors that have been spread,” she said.

Cheney said he hopes that the case is settled out of court.

“I’d even go down to the store and buy an extra tube of toothpaste. I still have my teeth,” Cheney said.