Maybe it was "Defy Evil Bushism" or "Christmas Is No Fun
in Fallujah." Or it may have been one of the other not-so-subtle references
to President George W. Bush posted on the sign next to his law office; perhaps
"Vote the Thug Out." Or was it the sight of the American flag
suspended upside down from that same sign, in protest of the outcome of
last November's election?
Ford Greene isn't quite sure what sent his opponents over the edge with
respect to the giant marquee that hangs from the side of his two-story combination
law office and residence along busy Sir Frances Drake Boulevard in San Anselmo.
His "Freedom Sign," as he refers to it, has been there for more
than a year. Every few weeks, or whenever the spirit moves him, Greene rearranges
the moveable lettering to vent his liberal spleen.
Who knew that a few conservative zealots would take offense? Or that
the town's elected officials, citing an obscure law, would move to power
down the attorney and self-proclaimed anti-cult crusader's public musings?
A showdown looms later this month, with Greene, who has already gone to
court to protect the sign, threatening to do so again.
It's a minor brouhaha that wouldn't ordinarily garner attention beyond
the borders of the affluent Marin County community in which it's playing
out. Except that, in their campaign against the controversial cult-busting
lawyer's Freedom Sign, Greene's opponents appear to have received some unsolicited
help from someone who seems to have some kind of connection to the Church
An outspoken ex-Moonie-turned-cult-deprogrammer-turned-lawyer, Ford Greene
has cultivated a reputation that has earned him the ire of Scientologists
(who follow the teachings of the late science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard),
the Unification Church (founded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who claims to
have met Jesus on a Korean mountainside in 1935), and other so-called new
To the dozens of people he has helped "deprogram" from supposed
indoctrination they received in these so-called cults, Greene's a bona fide
hero, unafraid to stand up to threats and harassment. Others, including
one of his own sisters -- whom he once helped to kidnap in a failed attempt
to bring her out of the Unification Church -- view him as a misguided soul
who lacks respect for religious freedom. "There's no middle ground
when it comes to Ford," says longtime friend and attorney Ed Caldwell.
"Having enemies is a natural consequence of the mission he's chosen
Perhaps chief among those enemies is the Church of Scientology, which
over the years has gained a reputation for relentless litigation and other
tactics -- including picketing the homes and workplaces of detractors --
aimed at thwarting its critics. That reputation stems, in part, from a 1960s
Hubbard edict proclaiming that persons interfering with Scientology were
"fair game" for church efforts to discredit them.
Greene believes that he became fair game in 1989 after signing on to
represent the church's former head of worldwide security and his wife, who
at the time were the highest-ranking officials ever to bolt the Los Angeles-based
organization, which is perhaps best known for its celebrity adherents, including
Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Since then, he claims, he's been spied on,
his home and office have been broken into, and he's been the subject of
smear campaigns targeting his neighbors, clients, and associates.
Greene isn't the only person who has made such claims.
In a 1992 deposition taken in a Scientology lawsuit against two former
church members -- a lawsuit in which Greene was not involved -- former Scientologist
Gary Scarff related how he posed as a friend to infiltrate Greene's office
and rifle through Greene's Rolodex and confidential legal records. Among
the more extreme measures that Scarff claimed Scientology officials had
discussed in his presence -- and that church officials later denied -- were
the possibility of having Greene arrested on drug charges, spreading a rumor
that he had AIDS, or tampering with the brakes on his car.
Now Greene is convinced that the church is at it again.
After the tiff over the anti-Bush postings on his office sign erupted
last year, a site with anonymous sponsors who bill themselves as the "Friends
of San Anselmo" suddenly appeared on the Internet. It delves into Greene's
private life in excruciating detail.
It quickly created a buzz in San Anselmo, with whoever is behind the
site even leafleting the town to make sure residents saw it.