V is for Viral Anti-Scientology Protests

This weekend marked yet another protest on Westheimer by a nationwide anti-Scientology group. Once again, the group, who call themselves Anonymous, gathered outside the Houston branch of the Church of Scientology (which happens to be the oldest Scientology mission in the United States), located at Fondren and Westheimer, on the evening of July 12th to protest against what they perceive as a “dangerous cult” with a non-legitimate tax exempt status.

Wearing their traditional Guy Fawkes masks and holding posters decrying the church’s motives and teachings, the group of 15 to 20 Anonymous protestors held court at the corner of Fondren and Westheimer for several hours on Saturday evening. This was not the first time that Anonymous protestors have appeared in Houston, however. On Feburary 10, 2008, a worldwide effort saw Anonymous groups in dozens of cities across the globe participating in synchronized protests outside local branches of the Church of Scientology, including the one in Houston. These worldwide protests saw over 9,000 Anonymous members in 50 different cities march to commemorate the death of Lisa McPherson, a “victim” of the church’s “Introspection Rundown” procedure.

The group, which has received national and international attention, operates through the internet, without any central leadership, and communicates with its members through both grass-roots efforts and more high-tech, sometimes questionable practices such as Google-bombing to make the Church of Scientology the first result when Googling “dangerous cult” and posting anti-propaganda videos to YouTube.