Scott Pilutik

I am an attorney and consultant living and working in Manhattan, focusing primarily on church/state constitutional law. I'm a recognized expert on the Church of Scientology organization. I also have strong interests in intellectual property law where it intersects with emerging media, and free speech.

I support the efforts of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the National Lawyers Guild, the ACLU, Creative Commons, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I am a member of the New York County Lawyers Association and the New York State Bar Association. I also enjoy (watching) hockey and (doing) photograhy.

Online I can be found on Facebook, Twitter. My resume can be viewed here. I can be reached by phone at 212.645.6241 or by e-mail at pilutik[at]gmail.com.

Hard evidence of Scientology’s illegal e-meter policy

Not long ago I posted about Scientology’s abuse of eBay’s VeRO program, which permits intellectual property holders to determine what constitutes an infringement and thus unchecked permission to remove sale listings. eBay’s VeRO program thus encourages overreaching by rightsholders.

One of the most notorious VeRO overreachers has been the Church of Scientology, which predicates its routine removal of e-meter listings on vague and specious intellectual property bases such as patent and trademark law. 

Scientology does this in order to control the secondary market for used e-meters for both economic reasons—if used e-meters were more available, Scientology would have a difficult time selling new ones for thousands of dollars; and cultish reasons—by making itself the sole sales source for e-meters, Scientology imbues the e-meter with a religious mystique, albeit an unwarranted one, as the device is basically a crudely designed lie-detector.

If there were any doubt about the illegitimacy of Scientology’s intellectual property claims with regard to the e-meter sales on eBay, the following letter should put that to rest. Ruth Lorenzen is a recently departed ex-member of Scientology, and her departure was somewhat acrimonious—she was declared a suppressive person and even her business partner (a Scientologist) was instructed to cease communicating with her. They also sent her the following letter pertaining to the e-meter Ruth purchased during her time as a Scientologist [PDF here from Ruth’s site, my transcription below, with my emphasis added]:

[FLAG LOGO]
Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization
PO Box 31751
Tampa, Florida 33631-3751, U.S.A.
(727) 467-5000, email: flagserviceorg@flag.org

[Ruth's personal address withheld]

9 August 2007

Dear Ruth,

Have you now completed a review of the documents you have?

You had mentioned a meter earlier. What org did you get this from? It cannot be sold in any other way than back to an org. Please see the qualifying tag on the meter regarding ministers.* It is a separate matter to doing the Claims Verification Board routing form but it does need to be handled.

It has been since the 1st of July that you wrote to the Claims Verification Board Secretrary [sic] and this matter should be resolved by now.

Do let me know by return communication what has to be done to complete this cycle.

Sincerely,

[Signature]
Bob Bolger
FSO

This letter demonstrates how Scientology views its ex-members as being so beneath contempt that their right to resell goods is somehow magically nullified by a tag on the item. Like so much else in Scientology, the language on the tag is legal bluster meant to intimidate and is without much legal weight, if any. The unfortunate part is that legal bluffs are somewhat effective, especially against cult members, and even ex-members.

A similar legal bluff Scientology employs is what Professor Dave Touretzky has accurately termed the “Lisa Clause”—a broadly worded waiver of every personal and procedural right Scientology’s lawyers could imagine, intended to shield itself from the sort of liability that arose in the case of Lisa McPherson. If challenged, their proposed release form (which every Scientologist is forced to sign) would crumble fast on any number of bases (adhesion, unconscionability, lack of consideration are the first things that come to mind), but these agreements are rarely challenged, and it’s likely that Scientology even knows that. But the purpose of the Lisa Clause is identical in form to the e-meter tag: it’s not intended to withstand a challenge, only prevent challenges from arising in the first place.

* Tag language is as follows: "By itself, this meter does nothing. It is solely for the guide of Ministers of the Church in Confessionals and pastoral counseling. The Electrometer is not medically or scientifically capable of improving the health or bodily function of anyone and is for religious use by students and Ministers of the Church of Scientology only."

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