February 3, 2007

Anti-Scientology activist Keith Henson taken into custody

Keith Henson, an outspoken anti-Scientology activist, was arrested last night and is currently being held at the Prescott Detention Center in Arizona. His wife, Arel Lucas, says he was taken into custody on a 6-year old bench warrant issued by a Riverside County judge.

Henson's troubles began in 2001 when he was convicted of "interfering with a religion", a misdemeanor under California law, for picketing outside Scientology's facility in Hemet, CA. He eventually fled to Canada after receiving a number of death threats. He was deported in 2005 after his asylum bid was rejected.

Lucas strongly suspects that the Church of Scientology is involved in Henson's current incarceration and fears for both his life and her own. The death threats have been constant since 2001. Scientology's power and reach has become considerable in recent years, leading to accusations that it is not so much a cult as it is an organized crime outfit that disguises itself as a religious organization.

In addition to his anti-Scientology activism, Henson is a pioneer in the transhumanist and cryonics movements. After receiving word of Henson's incarceration, the transhumanist community quickly mobilized. The Prescott Detention Center has been inundated with calls from concerned supporters. Various media outlets have been alerted (including BoingBoing [who have to date failed to acknowledge the case]), and a number of Websites have already been set up to raise awareness in support of Henson's cause (including Free Keith Henson). The Extropy Institute has set up fund to help Henson with mounting costs.

Learn more about Keith Henson and his plight here, here, and here.


Bill said...

More Keith Henson info:

Mark Plus said...

I have no love for Scientology, and I wish no harm to come to Keith. But I have to point out that Keith gratuitously attacked a cult that had done nothing to him. He brought its wrath upon himself unnecessarily, and indirectly upon Alcor. Keith even had to resign from Alcor's board of directors when the Scientologist thugs started to poke into his cryonics background, potentially threatening Alcor's cryonauts.

Anonymous said...

Mark: I don't remember how that long story began, but I was under the impression that Keith started his activities because of what the CoS did to someone or persons he knew.
Keith is definitely a prankster, that's one of his personality characteristics that endear him to his friends and family. I question the 'gratutously attacked', however. That doesn't sound like the Keith I know.

Mark Plus said...

According to the Wiki article on Henson,

Henson entered the Scientology battle when it was at its most heated, in the mid-1990s. In 1996, many of Scientology's "secret writings" (see Scientology beliefs and practices) were released onto the Internet, and Scientology embarked on a massive worldwide campaign to keep them from being spread to the general public. Henson examined these writings, entitled New Era Dianetics (known as NOTS in Scientology, and to the organization's critics), and from his examination of these "secret" documents, he claimed that Scientology was committing medical fraud.

The NOTS documents, he said, contained detailed instructions for the treatment of physical ailments and illnesses through the use of Scientology practices. However, a Supreme Court decision in 1971 had declared that Scientology's writings were meant for "purely spiritual" purposes, and all Scientology books published since then have included disclaimers stating that Scientology's E-meter device "does nothing" and does not cure any physical ailments (United States v. Founding Church of Scientology et al., US District Court, District of Columbia 333 F. Supp. 357, July 30, 1971 [6]). The NOTS procedures, Henson claimed, were a violation of this decision. To prove his claim, Henson posted two pages from the NOTS documents onto the Usenet newsgroup alt.religion.scientology.

The Church of Scientology immediately threatened to sue Henson, but he did not back down from his claims. Immediately afterwards, Henson was served with a lawsuit by the church's legal arm, the Religious Technology Center, (RTC). Henson defended himself in order to avoid the massive legal costs incurred in a Scientology lawsuit (see Scientology and the Legal System). After a lengthy court battle involving massive amounts of paperwork, Henson was found guilty of copyright infringement. He was ordered to pay $75,000 in fines, an amount trumpeted by the church as the largest copyright damages award ever levied against an individual. (Critics of Scientology estimate that the organization spent a total of about $2 million in litigation against Henson.)

Henson declared bankruptcy in response to the judgement, though the church dogged him through every step of the filing process. Henson began protesting Scientology regularly, standing outside of Scientology's film studio, the Gold Base, with a picket sign. The organization sought assistance from the authorities, and finally Henson was arrested and brought on trial for criminal charges.

As we say in Oklahoma, What dog did Keith have in this fight? I don't see where, exactly, Scientology harmed Keith personally to justify his campaign against it. His behavior towards a cult that ignored him (and cryonics) until he pissed it off indicates a lack of good judgment to me.

Anonymous said...

Mark: It's called altruism. Many people have reportedly been harmed by Scientology -- mostly financially, but also physically, mentally, and emotionally -- and Keith was doing what he felt was the right thing by bringing attention to the matter.

Mark Plus said...

Funny to hear about "altruism" from Keith's mostly Rand-influenced ilbertarian defenders. He could have shown more altruism towards his wife and daughter instead of recklessly dragging them into this nightmare.

amaragraps said...

Dear Mark: Now is not the best time to be criticizing Keith; he needs all of the support that he can get. I understand your perspective, but I think you are missing a context of the long and strange story. A recent fair and accurate shorter version of the story is here, but allow me to add something to that.

Both Keith Henson and Scientology have 'characters' like bulldogs, they cannot disengage once they have something in their jaws. All of this led to the story that followed that seems to have taken on a life of its own. Who could imagine that one old man who was convicted of a misdemeanor charge 5.5 years ago of picketing a religious organization would be now treated like a felon? But that's exactly the insanity that is happening now.

You sound very skeptical that Keith could have honorable reasons for his old Usenet alt.religion.scientology words and his picketing, however, I assert that he does. I am sure that his wife and children accept the situation, as horrendous as it is, because, if they didn't, then they would not accept the Keith that they love. According to Keith's own moral code, he can't let the CoS get away with their abuses of the law, the legal system, and their own members. The Wikipedia article you posted, in fact, described his effort to make a point about the First Amendment/free speech. His reasons for picketing the base were to protest the deaths of two young women at the Hemet base... one was a Scientologist who, although not an electrician, was nonetheless found electrocuted in an underground transformer vault; another was a motorist who collided with an earthmover that was operating on the public highway at night without proper lighting and signage, on a Scientology construction project.

The behavior of CoS against Keith can best be explained elsewhere. The behavior of the courts thus far is more difficult to explain. I suggest, if you can, to try to feel a little bit more compassion towards Keith, he's suffering alot more now than you are.

Anonymous said...

Make Scientology pay for what they did to Keith Henson!

Nobody should ever have to go through what Keith went through, and the fraudulently-christened Church of Scientology has to know that.

Keith is an enlightened individual, and Scientology just has to fight tooth-and-nail to step all over him!

This just comes to show how much of an inhuman humiliation to the human race Scientology really is.