hen Julie Christofferson's parents finally succeeded in locking her up, she wanted to kill them.
She was trapped in the house she grew up in, surrounded by her family and friends, people she had known all her life. She thought they had all gone crazy.
She wasn't locked in a room. The locks on all the outside doors had been turned around so the whole house was locked up from the outside. No one could get out without a key.
Her ethics officer in the Church of Scientology had told her that her parents were "suppressive," and that suppressive persons do strange and crazy things. She had been told it was contagious, that other people can catch it. She was sure her parents had ruined the whole town.
She tried to call the police, but her parents had taken the mouthpiece off the phone. She had already noticed there were no razor blades or scissors in the bathroom but hadn't given it much thought at the time.
The actions confirmed everything she had been told. She knew she was in for something now.
She thought, Why didn't I bring a gun with me? I would just kill these people.
That was April 1976 in Eureka, Montana, when Julie was 18 years old. The attempt to deprogram her had begun.
* * * * *
Since then, Julie Christofferson has sued the Church of Scientology. It was an unprecedented legal action, the first time a church has been sued for failing to deliver on its promises. She also claimed emotional distress and harassment by the church after she left it. In August this year a jury in Portland, Oregon, awarded her damages of more than $2 million.
The decision has sparked off arguments that the Christofferson case is a threat to the freedom of all religions in the United States. An appeal has already been lodged and it could be another two or three years before the case is finally resolved.
By the time the case came to court Julie was 22 and married. She is a slim, pretty girl with long wavy brown hair and a pale complexion.
She presents her thoughts very clearly. As she gathers confidence she stitches lots of incidental detail into the general pattern. Her head dips and bobs when she gets carried away with what she is saying.
Her demeanour is quiet and serious with a cautious, guarded quality to it. Deep inside she is always on guard, watching. She rarely relaxes fully but when she does, briefly, her attractive smile breaks out like the sun.
Her husband, Bob Tichbourne, is a jazz guitarist now working on a construction site. He flirted briefly with Scientology once but dropped it a few days later.
After the 21-day trial the jury deliberated more than 14 hours before returning a verdict that Scientology was guilty of fraud and outrageous conduct. It awarded damages to Christofferson totalling $2,067,000.20.
Scientology reacted by claiming it was an attack on religious freedom and a conspiracy against its church. It announced: "This decision is a blow to all who cherish the right to practise their religion free from the harassment of psychiatrists and 'deprogrammers' who have appointed themselves inquisitors.
" 'Deprogramming'," it said, "is nothing more than brainwashing, the same kind of brainwashing used against American soldiers by the North Korean communists."
Scientology was founded by L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer, in England in 1954. Since then he has written a total of more than 25 million words about it, and about dianetics, which he called the science of the mind.
The church, which has survived legal investigations in the United States, a conviction for fraud in France, and highly critical parliamentary inquiries in Britain and Australia, now claims a worldwide membership of four million people. The Christofferson case is an illustration of how efficiently it can operate.
* * * * *
Julie came to Portland in the summer of 1975 to find out more about her interests - civil engineering and architecture. She had two scholarships in engineering from the University of Montana and wanted a summer job in engineering to find out what was involved. She was 17, smart, lively, naive and idealistic. It was her first time in a big city.
She was attracted to Scientology by its offer of a two-week course in communications for $50. At first she was a little concerned at the church side of it because she had been brought up as a Lutheran. But they told her it wasn't a church, in that it didn't have beliefs. They said Fr Pat Flanaghan of Boystown had taken the course (a claim they later admitted was not true). They said it was called a church because it was a group of people gathered together. They said the course would help with her college work and give her more knowledge of the mind than any psychiatrist or psychologist.
She thought about it, and decided communication was a pretty good skill to have at her fingertips. And with a money-back guarantee, what could she lose?
Julie had graduated on July 12, 1975. By August 17 she had given the church all her money, had borrowed heavily, and decided not to return home or go to the university.
The course involved a series of drills in which Julie had to clear her mind of all thoughts. It wasn't easy, but she was a quick and willing learner.
After a few hours they moved on to the next step, the "bull bait." This was the same drill with harassment added. Her coach told her jokes, made fun of her, picked on her weaknesses, and sometimes physically distracted her by touching her on the knee.
Through all this she had to keep her mind empty of all thought.
Other drills were introduced to train her to reinforce her intention. She had to ask two questions - "Do fish swim?" and "Do birds fly?" - until she forced her coach to answer. She had to command an ashtray to rise up and go down. In fact she had to move it herself, but she had to believe it was her commands that were making it move.
She did every drill for several hours until she reached the goal of doing them "without reservation or limitation." The idea was to increase her power of concentration and the forcefulness of her personality. She says the end result was quite the opposite.
"It teaches you not to think or to associate or to compare different ideas. You reach a point where you just listen to what they say and it goes into your head and you don't really think about it. And that's the point I reached when the registrar approached me and talked me into Scientology."
Even then, it took a lot of persuasion. The registrar, the Rev. Laird Caruthers, went through all the reasons why Julie should stay with them and do more courses. He said L. Ron Hubbard, who was a civil engineer and a nuclear physicist (a claim proved false during the trial), had developed a science of the mind called dianetics, which was provable physically and chemically.
He told her about "auditing" and the E-meter. This is a simple galvanometer connected to two tin cans held in the hands. Scientologists say it measures the electrical resistance in a person's body. The auditor asks questions designed to reveal everything about a person's past life. The answers are written down.
When a person feels stress the needle is supposed to show increased resistance. The auditor explores these areas of stress, the theory being that the stress can be resolved and the person made happier and healthier.
Caruthers said auditing would develop Julie's creativity, cure illnesses and depression, and improve eyesight. He claimed she would gain more knowledge of her body than any doctor.
And he told her the cost. In 1975 auditing cost $40 an hour. (It is now  $150 an hour.) But if she bought 50 hours in advance it would cost her only $37.50 an hour.
At first she said she didn't have that kind of money, but after a series of meetings, some lasting for two or three hours, she was convinced it was worth it.
Then he coached her how to borrow money. She rang up her friends in Montana. All the calls were made late at night, at least three of them after midnight. One of her friends worked in a shift starting at 4:30 in the morning. Julie asked him to put $300 in her cheque account.
All the time Caruthers was sitting opposite her. He would write suggestions down on a piece of paper and pass them to her while she was talking on the phone.
He asked her about her relatives, which ones had money, what she might inherit. She rang up people she didn't even know.
He would say, "Well now, who else? You must know someone else. List your friends at school, what are they doing now?"
Julie says Caruthers "made me feel very guilty. He knew a lot about me, from the drills he knew what my weak points were."
Julie signed over all her money to the church. In 18 days she became completely dependent on them and went heavily into debt to pay them $3,000.
"They always worked it out so it would use all your money," she says. "They'd say you have to buy a certain number of auditing hours, we can't take you halfway through and just leave you there."
She adds drily: "It's funny how it always turned out to use up all the money you could pay and borrow."
Caruthers testified at the trial that in a two-year period he sold courses and counselling worth half a million dollars.
The Rev Ken Hoden, a national spokesman for the Church of Scientology, has a different story. "A person doesn't have to buy it," he says. "Most people don't even do it that way. They can read up the books and do it themselves."
But he admits, "It does take more than a year to learn how to do this."
Evidence at the trial showed that the combined operations of Scientology in Portland and nearby Sheridan had accumulated a net worth of more than $2.25 million, most of it in the last five years. Because it is registered as a religion, Scientology pays no tax.
The church also took Julie's labour as well. She didn't have enough money to go to the university and could no longer hold down her job as a draughtsman. Her work had deteriorated so much that her boss said he couldn't afford to keep her on.
Then Caruthers told her that the Delphian Foundation in Sheridan, a branch of Scientology about an hour's drive from Portland, was working on a procedure to become an accredited university. He said it had almost been accredited the previous spring but there were still a couple of things lacking, they were still working on those.
But, he told her, you could see the building plans, see them being built and help out there.
This fell in remarkably well with Julie's goals in life and with her new-found goals in Scientology.
When she got to the Delphian Foundation she was assigned to mopping floors, heavy gardening and looking after the children. In return she was fed "soya beans, spaghetti, water ... that's about it."
At the time Julie didn't worry about the discrepancy between the promises and the reality. In fact the menial work gave her a childish pride. And she wasn't worried about her backache, she was convinced that auditing would cure that.
Her mother came on a visit once. Julie wasn't welcoming. Her mother embarrassed her and made her feel ashamed because her mother criticised Scientology. "I said I might come home for Christmas, but I'd probably never see her again."
* * * * *
The Church of Scientology usually reserves its most colourful language for the deprogrammers it claims are conspiring against it. Ken Hoden, in a telephone interview, had this version of Julie Christofferson's deprogramming.
"Julie had no intention of leaving the church," he said. "She went home to visit her parents. We encouraged her to go home. A person can't make very good progress if their parents are upset.
"When she got home she was shoved in a room. The doorknobs were taken off, the windows were barred and she was deprogrammed for several days. We don't know how long she was there."
Hoden then suggested what sort of things might have happened.
"A manual we have received from the American Civil Liberties Union written by deprogrammers shows [the subjects] get no food, only water. The deprogrammers keep them awake by taping ice cubes under their armpits, they strip them naked, they yell and scream at them, poke fun at their body, and even have sex with them.
"The test of whether they have been deprogrammed or not is to defecate on a picture of the former religious leader."
Hoden went on, "Julie says she can't even remember what went on during most of her deprogramming, but she did say she thought about committing suicide."
He paused, "I personally have no animosity towards her, she's an unfortunate victim of what happened. But to do that to people in a country where we have freedom of religion. ..."
The Portland office of the American Civil Liberties Union denies that its organisation issues the manual or stands by its authenticity. And Julie Christofferson denies ever feeling suicidal. Her version is somewhat different.
She says she travelled the 1,000 kilometres home from Portland to Eureka for only one reason. She wanted her parents to sign a piece of paper that they would not sue, attack or harm Scientology in any way. The Scientologists were nervous because they had found out Julie's mother had already talked with an attorney to find legal ways of breaking the hold the church had on her.
If her parents did not sign, Julie planned to officially "disconnect" from them. She would have done so before, but her ethics officer said no, get the paper signed first.
She knew her parents might try something, they'd already botched one attempt. So with the help of fellow Scientologists she worked out a plan. She wrote to her best friend in Eureka, Patricia Brock, saying she was coming home. If Julie didn't contact her within two days, Patricia was to find out why.
The plan nearly worked. Julie was locked in the house for three days before Patricia came around. In that time she was able to walk around and she had plenty of food and plenty of sleep. Her family and one or two local people were always there too.
A deprogrammer called Reid Hellar flew up from Texas to Montana to talk with her. Hellar was an ex-Moonist recommended to the family by Ted Patrick, a deprogrammer in San Diego.
At first she ignored Hellar. She practised the training drills Scientology taught her. She sat and stared into space all day and emptied her mind of all thoughts. When that didn't seem to work too well, she started to answer his questions about Scientology.
"The main thing he tried to do was get me to think," she says. "Because I'd been doing these drills for so long, clearing my mind of all thought, I had forgotten how to think and to compare different ideologies."
By the time Patricia arrived, Julie was beginning to feel the depth of people's concern for her. When Patricia supported her friend and insisted the doors be unlocked, Hellar said to Julie, "You've given them nine months, give me two weeks. We'll unlock the doors, you're free to go wherever you want. Just keep your agreement with me."
Julie said to her mother, "After two weeks, will you sign the paper?"
Her mother said yes.
Julie thought, there's so many people who are concerned about me. I'll just stay to show them that everything's OK. I can talk them out of this silliness.
She says now she's very grateful that her parents locked her up. Despite her self-control she shows deep emotion every time she describes the confrontation with her parents. Her voice has a tiny tremor in it and tears start glistening in her eyes.
"I'd been programmed that my parents were suppressive persons and if they said anything to me that was against Scientology, I was supposed to leave. And I would have left."
The debate between Julie and Hellar was sometimes joined by her parents. They would talk for a couple of hours, then talk about other things. Sometimes Hellar would play his guitar.
Julie says, "He started to ask me deeper questions and I realised that there were no deeper answers, that it was all on the surface type of thing."
She gives an example. "I'd say communication is ARC, affinity, reality and connection. He'd ask me, What do you really mean? And I would try to get behind this.
"I remember thinking, What bulletin do I recite from now? Then I started to realise something was wrong.
"With Reid Hellar I was able to break the spell. All deprogramming is, is trying to make you think. Thinking had become alien to me by that time. Someone gives you a question and you have this programmed response. Everyone has the same answers."
She sits still, thinking back to that time. Then she burst out, giving a glimpse of the doubt and distress hidden deep within her - "I felt so terrible about having thought I wanted to kill my parents. How could Scientology do this to me? What did they do to my mind?"
* * * * *
The Church of Scientology is concerned about the growing number of lawsuits against it. As Hoden put it, "There is a religion of psychology growing in America. We now have courts with psychiatrists who work for them. These psychiatrists testify that this religion is fine and good for you, but this other one is bad and must be suppressed."
He says there is a conspiracy against Scientology by psychologists and deprogrammers, "by people trying to make a quick dollar by using the emotions of parents about their children."
Scientology now faces serious charges in Washington DC, as well as in Los Angeles.
A US attorney in Washington, Ray Banoun, says two Scientologists were apprehended in a federal courthouse without authority in Washington in 1976. One of them turned state's evidence, saying the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service had been infiltrated, records had been stolen and recording devices had been planted.
In July 1977 a group of 130 FBI agents swarmed all over Scientology's headquarters in Los Angeles under a court-approved search warrant allowing them to seize any or all documents that were evidence of crime. Newspaper reports say the agents read nearly one million documents during the search to determine what to seize. The reports say the FBI confiscated 90,000 pages of material, claiming that it found about 100 documents with various security classifications that had been stolen from the Government.
Banoun says 11 of Scientology's leaders have been indicted for conspiracy to burgle and steal government documents, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy to commit perjury. He says the indictments cover a period between 1974 and 1977. One of the 11 is L. Ron Hubbard's wife, while two others in Britain have appealed against an extradition order.
The church has claimed the search was illegal, that the agents read confidential correspondence and papers of a "confessional" nature, and that most of the government documents in the church's possession were obtained legally. An appeals court ruled that the FBI search was legal.
The church has a suit pending in the civil courts against the Government for $750 million in damages.
It has also filed a suit against Julie Christofferson. It is suing her for libel as a result of a press conference she held with five other ex-Scientologists and ex-Moonists during which they denounced their former religions. And a former friend of hers in Scientology has filed a suit of wrongful imprisonment against her, claiming Julie kept her prisoner for several hours while trying to deprogramme her.
But if the case she has just won survives the appeals, Scientology will undoubtedly be faced with many more suits from former church members.
Its strongest legal argument in the appeal against her appears to be its claim of immunity to practise and promulgate its religious beliefs under both state and federal constitutions guaranteeing religious freedom.
Gary Zimmer, one of the attorneys retained to defend Scientology, says, "One of the critical issues is that the first amendment [of the federal constitution] prohibits inquiry into the truth or falsity of one's beliefs.
"It's critical because ... the jury wouldn't understand fully the legal principles involved. There are thousands of ways of interpreting the constitution."
In illustration Zimmer paraphrases the words of a juror interviewed on television after the trial. The juror said they deliberated a long time about whether or not Scientology was a religion without reaching a conclusion. Finally they decided that, religion or not, no one had the right to defraud others.
Before the jury retired, Judge Robert P. Jones gave careful instructions on this issue. He said there were three conditions which had to be fulfilled if the religious immunity defence was to hold. The acts and representations complained of had to be religious in nature, held out as such, and held by the defendants (Scientology) in good faith.
Zimmer says the judge in effect allowed the jury to decide whether or not Scientology is a religion. "It's legally improper to have the jury decide this issue," he claims. "The judge should have decided it."
He quotes what will no doubt become the classic example: "Take the Catholic Church. They say doing good deeds can get you to heaven. One of the good deeds you can do is give money to the church. If you give them money they'll say prayers for the good of your soul or for a dead person. Try and prove that to the satisfaction of a jury.
"Or they say a piece of bread you eat on Sunday is the body and blood of Christ. Try and prove that."
And in answer to the charge the Scientology's behaviour was outrageous in nature, Zimmer says some religious practices are outrageous. "There's an Eastern Indian religion where you have to drink your own urine. It probably has more followers than any religion in Western Europe. The problem is, where do you draw the line?"
Zimmer makes Scientology's position quite clear - the line must be drawn right at the very beginning.
"There's a lot at stake," he says. "Not only for Scientology but for all religions. I don't think any religion is now safe."
Both sides are willing to fight the case all the way to the Supreme Court if they have to. In the interview Hoden said, "Whether the award is for $10, $2 million or $40 million, we would fight it all the way. If only $1 is paid out we would have a law established where we could be interfered with by the Government. The freedom of religion is gone."
The foreman of the jury, 72-year-old John L. Kekel, revealed the jury's attitude after the decision was announced. The local papers quoted him as saying all members of the jury "seemed to be of the same opinion, that she [Julie Christofferson] had been duped from the start."
Kekel added, "A lot of us felt that some of the defence witnesses ... maybe didn't lie, but they evaded the point. They knew nothing about their own book of ethics or their own philosophy and they said certain things were taken out of context. But they chose the paragraph that they wanted to talk about.
"We hear about brainwashing. After seeing the E-meter [in a visit to Scientology's headquarters] we thought that there had been some brainwashing."
Julie has her own opinion on the religious issue. "My Lutheran faith was just that," she says. "It was beliefs based on faith, faith in god. There were doctrines of love and morality and honour your parents, that type of thing.
"In Scientology they were material beliefs. L. Rob Hubbard is a civil engineer and a nuclear scientist. He developed a science of the mind. [He claims] if you have 50 hours of auditing your eyesight will be improved, your IQ will be raised, your creativity will be developed.
"I don't think [the two approaches] are even comparable."
* * * * *
Julie initiated the lawsuit because she felt cheated, ripped off. There was also the underlying motive of making public what had happened to her so that others would know.
She says, "It's taken me this long [1976 to 1979] to get back to a point where I am 17 years old again. I don't want that to happen to anyone else."
She's now preparing to go back to university to do the civil engineering degree she planned so long ago.
She says Scientology destroyed all her old relationships with her family and friends because it replaced her vocabulary and all her beliefs.
"You can't come back, there's nothing there. It's an awful rock-bottom feeling. I would just grope for feelings. Every day something would happen and I would realise I hadn't had emotions when I was in Scientology, just a low scope of emotions."
The townspeople of Eureka gathered round and gave her a lot of support. They took her to lunches and away on trips. They gave her things to do, helped her to sell her macrame work.
She says she'll never be the person she was before. "Things are going really well for me now, but I have to fight every step of the way."
And she thinks she'll always be afraid of Scientology. For the first time her voice falters. "If I were to meet a Scientologist on the street ... my knees would turn to water and I'd start shaking because I ... they do have a ['fair game'] policy that they can cheat, attack, lie to, sue or destroy a person that's doing something that's against their organisation."
At first Ken Hoden tried to suggest the policy meant something else. "Fair game means he's fair game to the justice system outside, to the Government," he said. "If he's arrested we go down to the police station and help him. If he leaves us he's fair game to the police."
Then he switched his tack and presented it as a policy used only as a last resort. "It's directed at people trying to attack and suppress the church. We're looking at someone who is looking at the church to destroy it. It's an extreme case we're talking about.
"I know of no one who's ever been destroyed."
The statement was utterly lacking in warmth or humanity.
, United States, 1979.