Woman accused of hate campaign wins damages from Scientologists
Wednesday 09 June 1999
Bonnie Woods, 49, an American, said she was "absolutely delighted" with the settlement, which also included a rare apology from the church and payment of an undisclosed figure for costs.
In a statement read at the High Court, Michael Tugendhat QC, her counsel, said she had become a member of the Church of Scientology while living in the US in the 1970s, but left in 1982. After moving to Britain with her husband, Richard, she converted to Christianity in 1991 and later began offering advice and operating a help line for families and friends of Scientologists.
She publicly criticised the church and gave media interviews about her experiences as a member. She also attended vigils outside its bookshop in East Grinstead, West Sussex, handing out a pamphlet highly critical of the church.
In 1993 the church produced a leaflet, showing a photograph of Mrs Woods above the words "Hate Campaigner Comes to Town", which was delivered to neighbours living on the same road and distributed on East Grinstead High Street. It suggested she was motivated by hatred and religious intolerance and described her as a "deprogrammer" who tried to force people from their chosen faith, said Mr Tugendhat. It also cast doubts on her claim to be a born-again Christian.
"The publication of the allegations to her friends and neighbours in the local community was deeply distressing to Mrs Woods," he said. In 1993 she sued the church for libel. The Scientologists countersued with two writs, in 1994 and 1996, which were dropped last year after the church refused to disclose secret documents.
Scientology was created in the early 1950s by the late science-fiction writer L Ron Hubbard, and claims to have 100,000 members in Britain. In the US these include Hollywood stars such as Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman and John Travolta. New members undergo extensive personality tests and are offered self-improvement courses, which can cost thousands of pounds.
Mrs Woods said demonstrators paraded outside the couple's home and the house was watched. A private detective working for the Scientologists encouraged a creditor to pursue a claim against her and she was declared bankrupt.
After the hearing Mrs Woods, wearing a gold and diamante "Jesus" brooch, called her ordeal a "Job experience", adding: "You learn to live at a level of harassment that most people would find intolerable. But we have a deep faith and sometimes you can learn from suffering."
- 2 Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
- 3 General Election 2015: 14-year-old boy asks Nick Clegg – 'can you kill Katie Hopkins?'
- 4 University student in court for allegedly covering housemates' food in window cleaner and spit
- 5 Ryan Gosling posts tribute to 'Ryan Gosling Won't Eat His Cereal' creator Ryan McHenry
Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
Who should I vote for? The Independent quiz matches best political party for undecided voters ahead of the general election
Mysterious 'X-Files' sounds heard miles above the Earth
Garland shooting: Isis claims attack on Prophet Mohamed cartoon contest in Texas as its first action on US soil
Met Gala 2015: Beyoncé manages to out-skimp Rihanna, Miley and Kim Kardashian combined with near-naked ensemble
In defence of liberal democracy
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...
£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...
£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...