Alt.religion.scientology

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The newsgroup alt.religion.scientology (often abbreviated a.r.s or ARS) is a Usenet newsgroup started in 1991 to discuss the controversial beliefs of Scientology, as well as the Church of Scientology, which claims exclusive intellectual property rights thereto and is viewed by many as a dangerous cult. The newsgroup has become the focal point of an aggressive battle known as Scientology versus the Internet, which has taken place both online and in the courts.

Contents

Creation of the newsgroup

On July 17, 1991,[1] the alt.religion.scientology newsgroup was created by Scientology critic Scott Charles Goehring, who describes starting the newsgroup "because I felt Usenet needed a place to disseminate the truth about this half-assed religion" and in part as a joke.[2]

Additionally, Newsday reported that Goehring started the newsgroup to demonstrate the behaviour of Scientologists to his girlfriend.[3] The original Usenet newgroup message used to create the newsgroup was formatted in a manner to disguise the actual identity of the poster. A bogus email address, "miscaviage@flag.sea.org" (a misspelling of "David Miscavige", the current head of Scientology's Religious Technology Center), was inserted into the newsgroup creation message. Because of this, persons speaking in favor of Scientology frequently claim that "a forgery" was used to create the newsgroup. Scientology has used this argument in its requests to have the entire newsgroup removed from Usenet, but this argument has been nearly unanimously rejected by system administrators and ISPs alike.

Rmgroup controversy

The online "war" first came to the attention of Internet users in general when Scientology lawyer Helena Kobrin attempted to remove the entire newsgroup from Usenet. On January 11, 1995, an rmgroup message (a command designed to remove a newsgroup) was posted to Usenet containing the following statement:

This message was largely ignored (and openly protested) by system administrators who carried the newsgroup.[4] It also led to a declaration of war by hacker group Cult of the Dead Cow.[6] Rather than being removed from Usenet, the newsgroup exploded in popularity. For a period during the first half of 1995, the newsgroup was one of the most popular and active on the entire Internet, with message traffic greater than the vast majority of newsgroups.[citation needed]

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