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A Reader's Digest senior editor, author of an article...

By DAVID E. ANDERSON

WASHINGTON -- A Reader's Digest senior editor, author of an article critical of the Church of Scientology, asked a federal court Tuesday to quash a church-sought subpoena aimed at compelling his testimony in a lawsuit.

'This Scientology action seeks to harass and vilify journalists who have published criticism of this criminal enterprise,' said lawyers for Eugene Methvin, a senior editor at the Digest, and Jane Denis Smith, a former researcher at the magazine, in their petition to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

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Scientology lawyers seek to compel Methvin's and Ms. Smith's testimony in a three-year old lawsuit they have brought aginst one of their harshest and most persistent critics, freelance writer Paulette Cooper, author of the 1971 book, 'The Scandal of Scientology.'

Methvin is the author of two Reader's Digest articles critical of the controversial Scientology movement, the most recent appearing in the current issue of the magaine.

He said he believes the group's effort to subpoena him as a witness for the Cooper trial is directly related to the current article and is aimed at harassing him and the Digest.

'Scientology documents, sworn testimony and court decisions all provide conclusive evidence that Scientology systematically abuses the legal process to harass and vilify its critics,' Methvin said in an affadavit filed with the court.

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He quoted L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the group, as saying members should 'be very alert to sue for slander at the slightest chance so as to discourage the public press from mentioning Scientology ... The purpose of the suit is to harass and discourage rather than to win.'

The group has already written Reader's Digest, charging the article in the current September issue of the magazine is libelous and demanding a retraction.

'It is beyond dispute that Scientology uses legal processes to harass and burden those who exercise their constitutional rights to criticize Scientology,' Methvin's lawyers, outlining legal actions the group took following publication of his first article.

'Scientology's initiation of legal processes by issuing subpoenas to Mr. Methvin and Ms. Smith when Reader's Digest is publishing a new article criticizing Scientology imposes an intolerable burden on First Amendment guarantees,' the lawyers said.

Scientology was founded as a religion by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in 1954. It uses highly controversial and costly counseling techniques aimed at 'clearing' and curing subjects of assorted troubles.

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