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Scientologists Commemorate That Time They Emptied All the WW Boxes

By now, you've doubtless heard about last weekend's Scientology shindig on Portland's Southwest Oak street.

A crowd (though maybe not so big a crowd as the allegedly photoshopped press release suggests) gathered in front of a stage that looked remarkably like Mickey Mouse's birthday party at Disneyland, in order to celebrate the grand opening of a new "Ideal Org"—which is essentially the Scientology equivalent of a megachurch, but without so much congregation.

But why Portland?

Newcomers and those with short, suppressive memories may not remember that Portland is something akin to a holy city for Scientologists. That's thanks to a two-month protest in 1985 of a Multnomah County circuit court jury finding the church guilty of defrauding a defector named Julie Christofferson Titchbourne. Scientologists from across the country turned the verdict into a referendum on religious freedom, and the court declared a mistrial.

The posters advertising last weekend's party make that connection clear—calling Portland "the first Scientology city" and showing a photo of 1985-vintage protesters attaching theses to the Multnomah County Courthouse, Martin Luther-style.

"Church members who had been in Portland would always feel an ecstatic sense of kinship," writes Lawrence Wright in his new book on the religion, Going Clear. And little wonder. As Wright explains:

One strategy in the Battle of Portland? Destroying copies of Willamette Week.

WW's cover story on May 30, 1985 was entitled "Scientology on Trial." It's very long, and has been excerpted by an anti-Scientology website, but the subtitle provides a pretty clear indication of where it's going: "Why a Portland jury awarded $39 million in damages against one of the world's most profitable cults."

The following week, Mark L. Zusman opened the paper with a letter from the editor. Here is that letter in full.

Let this be a warning to you, Gizmodo: However many Scientologists are in Portland, they will wreck you.