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Keith Henson

Free Speech Activist or Stalker?

Scientology critics present Keith Henson as a free speech activist ruthlessly harassed and jailed by the evil Church of Scientology for speaking his mind. In 2001, Henson was convicted for "interfering with a religion", a hate crime under section 422.6 of the California Penal Code. Critics claim this conviction was a gross miscarriage of justice because the reason he was found guilty was for making threats through Usenet posts and for peacefully carrying a protest sign.

There are several myths here that need debunking.

  1. The main reason Henson was convicted was not as much due to his Usenet posts as it was for actively stalking Scientologists on the field. In fact, the charge of making threat to bomb Scientologists wasn't even retained by the jury.

  2. Henson didn't just "carry a sign". He followed CoS members from their work place to their home, wrote down their address which was then used by Arnie Lerma to send them unwanted mail, took their pictures, wrote down their plate numbers, followed them with signs accusing them of killing their own companions who died in a tragic accident, etc. In other words, he was actively stalking Scientologists for no better reasons than the fact they were Scientologists.

  3. I wouldn't exactly call someone who, like Henson, openly supports the forcible incarceration and forcible "treatment" of cult members a "free speech activist". Keith Henson has no problem either with the proposition to picket schools of Scientology children with insulting signs about their parent's religion, and a fellow dissident critic also complained that Henson had stalked him. As for his own daughter, she put up a web page vehemently accusing Henson to be a serial child molester. All in all a rather sick character and my personal impression of him through web forum was indeed that he was an attention freak who most of the time expressed himself through innuendoes.

  4. Critics who now rant about Henson "free speech" have demonstrated in my eyes that they are not able to abide by the main tenets of free speech themselves. On their IRC channel, they have effectively banned dissenters like Diane Richardson, lex, or myself, using the same kind of false "rationale" that was used in the Soviet USSR - "we are not banning dissenting opinion, only unacceptable behavior". Many of them also support discriminative measures taken by the German and French government against cults.

After his conviction on April 26, 2001, Henson flew to Canada where his request for asylum as a refugee of religious persecution was denied in 2004. He left the country in September 2005 and lived as a fugitive in Arizona until his arrested on February 2007.

As to the actual time Henson was finally sentenced and how much of it he made, I could not find reliable information at the time of this writing (Feb 24, 2008). As far as I know he should have been sentenced to six months following his conviction, and six months for evading justice. The Wikipedia page on Henson (obviously written by critics as it completely eludes the actual causes for which he was convicted) states that on August 11, 2007, Henson was jailed in California and released in early September 2007. However they provide no reference whatsoever to substantiate this last statement nor why he benefited from such an early release.

Even worst, the link they provide to substantiate the statement that he was jailed on August 11 is a July 7, 2007 article (!) claiming that he already purged two months of his sentence! This article also says that on that date he petitioned California Governor's office for pardon, though there is no subsequent news as to the result of this petition. The other Henson-dedicated websites I checked, hitherto so vocal in relating all the details about his dealing with the justice, had no information at all on these questions, something I found odd.

The latest news we have is from his daughter, who on her page made in January 2008 claims that "Keith eventually served his trivial prison sentence and is now out on probation and back in the science fiction/electronic freedom/hacker scene" - the reason by the way she put up that web page, because, being in the same field, she wants nothing to do with him.

Back in 2001, there was a very long debate in the alt.religion.scientology newsgroup in which critics tried to justify Henson's arrest through a variety of twisted rationales. The facts brought up by Diane Richardson to correct these distortions gives a good idea as to why exactly Henson was convicted.

Here is the post that triggered that debate:

referen@bway.net (Diane Richardson) Sat Jul 21 16:08:28 2001

From: referen@bway.net (Diane Richardson) Sat Jul 21 16:08:28 2001 (Formerly http://groups.google.com/groups?as_umsgid=%3C3b598a9c.8089010%40news1.bway.net%3E)

On Sat, 21 Jul 2001 03:00:45 -0700, Ted Mayett <ted-mayett@skylink.net> wrote:


>The essence of this case is 'violence', and in that I honestly do not believe you are guilty. This court case of yours could very well make all kinds of headlines and make for new laws or the changing of existing laws. Good luck sir.

No, the essence of this case -- which so many self-described critics refuse to acknowledge -- is that Henson stalked scientologists, following them to their residences, copying their license plate numbers, taking their photographs, etc.

Critics seem to be genuinely eager to push the "terrorism" charge, of which Keith Henson was not convicted. He was convicted for interfering with the rights of individuals to practice their religion.

Of course, it's so much sexier and attention-grabbing to lie and claim Henson fled from manufactured charges of terrorism, but he's a fugitive because he chose to harrass individuals whose only crime was belonging to the CoS.

What's happened to the critics? I thought the consensus opinion was the the organization of the CoS was fair game, but individual Scientologists didn't deserve to be harrassed.

It now looks like anything a self-proclaimed critic does to anyone who dares to identify himself as a scientologist will not only be defended but applauded on a.r.s.

Fair game comes full circle.

Diane Richardson


Here are a couple of significant posts from this thread:

Usenet post from the newsgroup alt.religion.scientology.

Source: HENSON SENTENCED (a call for action!)

referen@bway.net (Diane Richardson)

Mon Jul 23 09:07:26 2001

Message-ID: <3b5bc9eb.16037418@news1.bway.net>

On Sun, 22 Jul 2001 23:52:05 +0800, cdm@northwestern.edu (Colette Marine) wrote:

>In article <tln984hhmek278@corp.supernews.com>, gun_bunny_@hotmail.com wrote:

>> Remember he told the police he did and wrote things to make Scientologists paranoid, so that by itself is what this law addresses in the first place.

>If I find a hypothetical group of people who are totally freaked out by me wearing a purple t-shirt, is it illegal for me to wear a purple t-shirt?

No, but if you want to talk about hypothetical situations, try this one.

Say you wore that purple t-shit to picket an abortion clinic, carrying a fetus in a bottle and carrying a sign saying "BABY KILLERS"

Say that because you couldn't get any reaction picketing the clinic's boundary, you decided to begin following all the people who came out of the abortion clinic to their homes -- all the time wearing your purple t-shit, carrying the fetus in formaldehyde, waving your "BABY KILLERS" sign, and shouting "ABORTION KILLS" at them.

Say after you followed the people all the way back to their homes, you copied down the names and addresses on their mailboxes. Say you handed those names and addresses to a colleague, who printed up postcards saying "YOU ARE A MURDERER. STOP KIILLING BABIES. WE ARE WATCHING YOU AND WANT TO HELP YOU ESCAPE."

>Does it become illegal if I find their behavior amusing and comment on how incredibly powerful my t-shirt apparently makes me?

No, it makes you a fanatic wearing a purple t-shirt, holding a fetus in a jar, waving a "BABY KILLERS" sign and shouting at people who don't want to see or hear you.

You cross over the line when you stop picketing, get in your car, and follow people coming out of the abortion clinic to their homes.

You *really* cross that line when you copy down names and addresses, snap pictures, copy license plate numbers, etc.


>There must be some standard of *reasonable* threat. I don't believe that was met here by a longshot.

That threat was met when Henson stopped picketing and began following buses. It was met when he began copying names and addresses from mailboxes.

That's not informational picketing. That's not protected free speech. That's harrassment.

Diane Richardson


referen@bway.net (Diane Richardson)

Sat, 21 Jul 2001 08:02:29 -0700

From: referen@bway.net (Diane Richardson) Sat Jul 21 20:31:22 2001 (formerly http://groups.google.com/groups?as_umsgid=%3C3b59bad3.20434187%40news1.bway.net%3E)

On Sat, 21 Jul 2001 08:02:29 -0700, demystify@freedom.net wrote:

>On Sat, 21 Jul 2001 14:08:28 GMT, referen@bway.net (Diane Richardson) wrote:

>>No, the essence of this case -- which so many self-described critics refuse to acknowledge -- is that Henson stalked scientologists, following them to their residences, copying their license plate numbers, taking their photographs, etc.

>Do you take the same stand regarding Scientologists® who follow critics to their residences?

Indeed I do -- and I have expressed my outrage at such behavior numerous times.

>In Keith's case, he took license numbers of people who were following him, stalking him 24 hours a day, mostly to identify the stalkers and to try to insure that they were not breaking the law. After he started taking down plate numbers of the stalkers, they started running new vehicles without plates in order to try to hide illegal stalking.

Sorry, but that's not what I understand occurred. Henson followed buses from Golden Era to apartments in Hemet, copied down license plate numbers of cars parked at the apartment building, and verbally harrassed the people getting of the bus.

I don't believe I've ever seen anyone claim that Golden Era Studios employees were stalking Keith Henson.

>The "residences" he drove past were locked and guarded compounds where Scientologists® are kept from leaving.

Again, you are speaking from ignorance. Henson followed buses full of Golden Era Studio employees from the compound to an apartment building in the town of Hemet. I've never heard anyone claim that building was a "locked and guarded compound." Do you have anything to support your claim?

>Is that a case of "stalking residences", or of determining the level of control the cult takes to victimize their members?

It is a case of stalking employees of Golden Era Studios and harrassing them at their residences, the same behavior we used to condemn when it was done by scientologists against picketers.

>Checking out a cult owned compound

What "locked and guarded cult owned compound" are you talking about?

>is somewhat different than posting stalkers in a residential neighborhood and then using that to try to get Ida thrown out of her home by terrorizing the neighbors.

As I see it, Keith Henson's behavior was the same as that done by CoS private investigators. I condemn the behavior of both. Why are you willing to condemn such behavior when done by the CoS but defend such behavior when engaged in by Keith Henson?

>How do you feel about "taking pictures" of people? Is taking pictures of someone who is stalking you at your home different than taking hundreds of pictures of a citizen wherever he goes?

It is my understanding he took photographs of Golden Era Studio workers exiting the bus and entering their homes. Is this incorrect?

>>Critics seem to be genuinely eager to push the "terrorism" charge, of which Keith Henson was not convicted. He was convicted for interfering with the rights of individuals to practice their religion.

>The cult is calling it "terrorism". Do you feel that they are correct in this charge?

No. I think a better description of Keith Henson's behavior is "harrassment of individuals solely because of their religious affiliation."

>>Of course, it's so much sexier and  attention-grabbing to lie and claim Henson fled from manufactured charges of terrorism, but he's a fugitive because he chose to harrass individuals whose only crime was belonging to the CoS.

>Where do you find, in the record, that Keith harassed ANY individuals?

From: Keith Henson (hkhenson@netcom3.netcom.com)
Subject: Hemet again
Newsgroups: alt.religion.scientology
Date: 2000/08/02

I was out there at about 7:25 this morning. One of the buses was going into town and since I had a car they had not seen before, I followed the bus. I was hoping to find yet another bed of clams, but no luck. I think they are concentrated in the apartments on Fruitvale and the one which looks like a medium security prison on Kirby. (Why care? Address for the mail campaign.)


From: Keith Henson (hkhenson@netcom3.netcom.com)
Subject: Re: Back in Hemet
Newsgroups: alt.religion.scientology
Date: 2000/07/23

After a cold drink at a local entheta center (Jack in the Box) we were headed back to Ida's, going back through the cult compound and down Sanderson. But Brent wanted to see the cult apartments, so we turned around. That happened to put us behind one of the cult buses. I told Brent they would turn either east or west at Menlo because the apartments are to the east and west of State Street. They realized we were behind them because the bus didn't turn and went all the way to Florida (Hwy 74) before turning to the west. I think we got more PIs who were in a new black pickup. The bus started to turn up Kirby (where the cult apartments are which look like a medium security prison) but the turn signal went off and the bus went on down to Sanderson and then turned north. We were mainly going somewhere else, so we continued to down Florida. Later I took Brent by both sets of apartments, the one on Kirby twice. When we went by the Kirby apartments the second time, the same bus was loading parked over on Menlo pointed back toward the cult compound. I don't know what to make of this, since the bus normally loads inside the gates.


From hkhenson Mon Jul 3 23:10:56 2000
From: Keith Henson <hkhenson@netcom3.netcom.com>
Subject: Re: Gold base not dull
Newsgroups: alt.religion.scientology

This morning I got out there before 7am. I was not early enough to follow the buses back to the two clam apartments, but all four went by my picket signs within a ten minute period close to 7 am.

The buses make another run after this. I followed one of them over to the apartments on Kirby and found one at the Fruitvale Apartment as well. The first one tried to shake me off, hard to do in a bus, and stopped for a while at a gas station to call. They sure are paranoid. The Fruitvale apartments have a security guy playing hide and seek in the bushes with a radio. I offered him an OT3/Xenu flyer. It was somewhat like offering garlic to a vampire, but I could tell there was a certain degree of fascination--because otherwise he would never find out what OT3 was all about. Ah well, there are several Xenu flyers inside gold base, perhaps he will see one.


From hkhenson Wed Jul 12 21:21:24 2000
From: Keith Henson <hkhenson@netcom3.netcom.com>
Subject: Re: Picket, fun with thugs (gold base)
Newsgroups: alt.religion.scientology

After one pass to the east end of the complex, I stayed near the west end where the buses are parked. 5 pm and no movement, 5:30, still there, 6, 6:30, thug 2 gave up at 6:45 and Richardson followed 5 minutes later. 7 pm and the buses had not moved. Finally pity for those who had been there since 7 am got to me. (Though they might have moved them back to the apartments in the small vans.)

I think by preventing buses from operating this afternoon I equaled (but did not exceed) Bruce Pettycrew's SP powerz of hardening concrete in a wheelbarrow.

I have a hard time *imagining* what it must be like inside the cult's compound. The dwarf must be spitting fire in all directions at the complete mess *one* wog is causing. Of course, I have to give credit where credit is due to (*) for acting like a madman.

Sweet paranoid dreams Davie.

Keith Henson,
Reporting from the Hemet front.


From: Keith Henson <hkhenson@netcom3.netcom.com>
Subject: Re: Fifty Thousand "Clears"?
Newsgroups: alt.religion.scientology
References: <280f7466.4aaf6332@usw-ex0104-025.remarq.com>

Ok. I am more than willing to demonstrate the effect I have on gold base. You stand on the west overpass and just watch how the foot traffic under the road stops when I am any place close on the road.

Or watch a van back up wildly from the west gate if I show up.

> So what if two people or five people come out to talk to him?

Heck, for almost two weeks nobody would say boo. Then they brought out two thugs.

> Does that mean > he has enturbulated the whole place? NO! It means 2 people are out talking with him, if that is true.

You have to go from one side of the complex to the other. You either have to ride a van or get clearence to go under the road from some dude who knows where I am. It is *nuts*.

You should see what happens when I go to watch them load the buses. The bus just sits there.


From: hkhenson@pacbell.net (hkhenson@pacbell.net)
Subject: Re: Why does the IRS consider this charitable activity?
Newsgroups: alt.religion.scientology
Date: 2001-01-27 10:30:18 PST

Another example is their fear of me following, or even just driving behind their buses when traveling to the same place. They have pulled off the road to prevent me from following the buses to their two well known appartment locations in Hemet. (Kirby and Fruitvale.) Again, I suppose when you worry about being invaded from space, fearing that someone will force a bus off the road with an economy car is a downright reasonable fear.

Still, this is going to be an interesting arguement for the DA to put on the record before the whole world. The message will not be lost on the net, join scientology and become mentally damaged.

Keith Henson

>On the other hand, is there any indication that the cult singled out Keith as an individual to harass?

Indeed, there's quite a bit of information indicating they've singled Henson out as an individual to harrass. I don't believe that gives Keith Henson the right to harrass others.

>>What's happened to the critics? I thought the consensus opinion was the the organization of the CoS was fair game, but individual Scientologists didn't deserve to be harrassed.

>Where did Keith harass and individual Scientologist® (other than taking pictures of the ones who stalked HIM at his home or at places he was staying)? The people who complained in court about him were people he had never even heard of, complaining that they were afraid that he was going to "throw bombs" over the fence at Gold, while at the same time, they never took the "threat" seriously enough to even have his car checked for the "bombs" he was supposedly carrying.

I suspect these were the people Henson was harrassing by regularly stalking them from workplace to home. As you've stated above, none of these individuals had done *anything* to Henson, yet Henson was stalking them on an almost daily basis last summer.

>The only thing he "did" to them was to carry a sign.

No, he followed them from their workplace to their homes, reporting upon his stalking activities regularly on this newsgroup.

>>It now looks like anything a self-proclaimed critic does to anyone who dares to identify himself as a scientologist will not only be defended but applauded on a.r.s.

>>Fair game comes full circle.

As you can see from his posts excerpted above, Henson was expressing his delight and glee at creating anxiety and fear among Goldern Era Studio employees, none of whom he knew personally. The only reason he picked out these people to harrass and intimidate was because of their religious affiliation.

Diane Richardson


Even before this thread, some outsiders were being drawn in ARS to see what all this Henson business was about. Some of them very quickly made for themselves an idea when they saw the self-proclaimed "critics" at work:


Sat Jul 07 12:40:28 2001

From dur@dur.com Sat Jul 07 12:40:28 2001 (formerly http://groups.google.com/groups?as_umsgid=%3CzGB17.9%245f6.23973%40news.uswest.net%3E)

I wandered here after reading an article about a man being harassed by Scientologists. However, I can sincerely say I do not feel sorry for him. Go throw dogs off a roof, and expect PETA to not react. Scientology has about as much credibility as Christianity (read: none), however I don't see you marching outside your local church. Piss on someone's beliefs, and expect to get harassed.

The actions of people in here (anti-sci and pro- alike) are equal to that of 12-year-olds shouting and throwing rocks behind a building. No one wins, you're wasting energy, and acting childish in the process. Anyone here, that is bickering, has issues.

The answer to that was probably "we don't attack beliefs, only behavior", which is a classical anti-cult line and a lie, as at the end of the day, the kind of behavior displayed by Keith Henson really amounts to intolerance and ostracism towards the right of others to believe as they choose - which was the real point of him being charged by the jury and sentenced by the court.

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