Authorities feared his opposition crossed line, threatened violence
The arrest of a member of an anti-Scientology group on terrorism-related charges last month thrust Las Vegas into the forefront of a worldwide dispute between the group and the celebrity-laden church.
Metro SWAT officers and counterterrorism detectives stormed the southwest Las Vegas Valley home of Colby Schoolcraft in the middle of the night Oct. 15 and seized a cache of weapons and ammunition, including an AK-47 assault rifle.
Authorities say they believed acts of violence were about to be committed against the local Scientology church, which is creating a new 36,845-square-foot center on Eastern Avenue to cater to celebrities.
Schoolcraft, 23, is a member of “Anonymous,” an Internet-fueled group that has thousands of members who organize protests against Scientology around the world. Members wear masks when they demonstrate, to minimize church retaliation, they say. They denounce the church’s use of what they allege are cultlike techniques of control over millions of followers.
Anonymous also is dedicated to getting the Internal Revenue Service to revoke Scientology’s tax-exempt status as a religious organization, something the Los Angeles-based church regained in 1993 after a bitter 26-year fight with the IRS.
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Anonymous does not advocate violence. But in recent months some members elsewhere have been charged with cyber crimes against the church. There also have been media reports of members harassing Scientologist actor Tom Cruise.
Scientology’s longtime lead counsel, Kendrick Moxon, had tipped off police to threats of potential violence against the local church that Schoolcraft allegedly made on an Anonymous Web site. A photo of Scientology leader David Miscavige with several bullet holes also appeared on the site, police said.
Schoolcraft’s lawyer, Chris Rasmussen, said his client, was not planning any violence against the Scientologists, and was merely exercising his right to speak out against them.
[FBI Supervisor Rod] Swanson said authorities were concerned that Schoolcraft might be acting as a “lone wolf,” beyond the normal boundaries set by his group.
“In an abundance of caution, we were working with Metro to ensure that we did not have a threat to members … or the church itself,” he said.
Anonymous has posted a video on YouTube that, in a computer-generated voice, accuses Moxon of working with Metro Police to try to frame Schoolcraft in an attempt to “neutralize” a church opponent.