Irish Times, Feb. 5, 2003
A man photographed while making a “noisy investigation” of a woman who has sued the Church of Scientology was similar to a man in another photograph taken outside a meeting of Families Under Scientology Stress (FUSS), the High Court heard yesterday.
Mr Richard Woods was giving evidence in the continuing action by Ms Mary Johnston against the church and three members of its Dublin Mission – Mr John Keane, Mr Tom Cunningham and Mr Gerard Ryan. Ms Johnston, who operates a sports equipment centre at Westwood, Foxrock, Dublin, is suing for damages. She was involved with the church from 1990 to 1994.
Mr Woods told the court he and his wife were involved in a UK organisation, Escape, which was concerned since 1992 with helping people involved in scientology. They had helped abut 700 parents.
In 1994/95 he was attending a meeting of FUSS in London when he saw a man standing outside the door of the building with a clipboard and pen in his hand. He looked like a member of the Church of Scientology because of the way he dressed.
Because of litigation with the church lasting seven years, Mr Woods’s solicitor had advised him to carry a camera and he had taken a photograph of the man, Mr Woods said. The man had said he was collecting names and addresses.
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Mr Woods said the man in this photograph was obviously similar to the picture of a man who had been making a “noisy investigation” of Ms Johnston and was photographed at Westwood, Dublin, in February 2001.
When Mr Woods had suggested that the man was a member of the Church of Scientology, the man had asked: “What has my religion got to do with anything?”
Cross-examined by Mr Michael Collins SC, for the church, Mr Woods agreed that the fact the photograph had turned up in his home while Ms Johnston was visiting was like the work of a magician.
It had been in a shoe box but had been put into a drawer at his home, he said. His wife had got the photograph out after she had heard Ms Johnston talking about the man concerned and when the photograph was put on the table, Ms Johnston had said, “that is the man”, according to Mr Woods.
Mr Woods also agreed with Mr Collins that he was engaged in a spiritual war against the forces of Satan which, he said, included the scientology religion.
Earlier, Mr Paul O’Kelly, a brother in-law of Ms Johnston, said he believed she had become almost fixated by scientology while she was involved with it. In continuing cross- examination, Mr O’Kelly, said that, in an ordinary situation with family or friends, she would have great difficulties.
In a family situation, with four or five people at dinner, Ms Johnston would suddenly become very belligerent about a neutral issue. Mr O’Kelly’s wife and others present would feel very uncomfortable. She was increasingly ineffectual interacting with people.
Ms Johnston had subsequently agreed not to contact her former scientology associates but, having done so, she spoke of some distress about the nature of calls she was receiving.
Mr O’Kelly said one of the defendants, Mr Gerard Ryan, had contacted him by phone. Mr O’Kelly said he told Mr Ryan he had no business with him and asked Mr Ryan to leave his sister-in-law alone.
Mr O’Kelly said he had the impression Ms Johnston was behaving like somebody who was brainwashed.
The hearing continues today.