LONDON — A Scientologist in Ireland has been ordered to pay damages for her “vitriolic and personalized” attack on the reputation of a man who dared to speak out against the religion.
When a former Scientologist gave a talk to boys at a school in Dublin about the dangers of joining the church, he might have guessed there would be blowback.
What Peter Griffiths wasn’t expecting was a series of highly personal emails to the school’s principal that accused him of criminal activity, hate-mongering and having links to porn movies featuring teenage boys. One of the emails included a picture of Griffiths totally naked apart from a mask held over his genitals.
The emails were sent by Zabrina Collins, whom the court heard was an Ethics Officer and Director of Special Affairs in the Church of Scientology. She claimed that she had targeted Griffiths because he was “an avid hate campaigner.”
The judge in a civil lawsuit ruled Monday that the emails “were largely untrue and grossly defamatory,” according to The Irish Independent. He ordered her to pay $5,600 in damages for the “vile attack.”
Judge O’Donohoe ruled against a further claim by Griffiths, who is gay, that Collins was also implying that he was a pedophile who might endanger the students if he were allowed to speak to the boys at the St. David’s Catholic school in the future.
The Irish Times reported that the judge said an email “describing Griffiths as not being a fit person to engage with students was ‘particularly distasteful,’ but had not gone far enough to brand him a pedophile either directly or by innuendo.”
Griffiths said there was “not a grain of truth” in any of the allegations made in the emails against him.
He did, however, admit that the naked photo was genuine. He explained that his boyfriend had taken it as he posed in solidarity with Prince Harry, who was caught on camera wearing no clothes during a lascivious vacation in Las Vegas in 2012.
In the weeks after TMZ published pictures of the royal behind, tens of thousands of social media show-offs—many of whom were also in the military—posted pictures supporting Harry “with a naked salute.”
Griffiths told the Dublin Circuit Civil Court that Collins had obtained one such image of him. His right arm is raised in salute, while the left holds a Guy Fawkes mask of the type popular with street demonstrators and the hacking group Anonymous.
Collins, a chiropractor, also alleged to the school that Griffiths was a member of the Irish branch of the hacking collective.
Griffith said all of these allegations had “lowered his reputation in the minds of right thinking people while holding him up to hatred, ridicule and contempt.”
On Monday, the judge agreed that the screeds had been “malicious in the extreme.”
Collins’s rage stemmed from the school lecture, which Griffiths had later posted online. During the court case, he admitted that he had used foul language—including the words bullshit and crap—in describing Scientology.
He told the boys that it was not a real religion; that they should not get involved with any kind of cult; and warned them that there were real “dangers out there” which could destroy their lives.
Collins sent the emails after hearing the recording, which was posted on YouTube. She admitted in court that she had overreacted.
“I could have dealt with it in a more temperate way,” she said.