Casey Hill and the Church of Scientology.

AuthorBowal, Peter
PositionFamous Cases

Freedom of speech, like the other fundamental freedoms, is freedom under the law, and over the years the law has maintained a balance between, on the one hand, the right of the individual ... whether he is in public life or not, to his unsullied reputation if he deserves it, and on the other hand ... the right of the public ... to express their views honestly and fearlessly on matters of public interest, even though that involves strong criticism of the conduct of public people.

Silkin v. Beaverbrook Newspapers Ltd., [1958] 1 W.L.R. 743, per Lord Diplock at pp. 745-46


It has never been easier for anyone to speak to the world than it is today. A single word can tear through the Internet and become publicly accessible. A slower, slightly less global world 30 years ago, however, was the setting for the 1995 case of Hill v. Church of Scientology.

The Backstory

In 1983, the Ontario Provincial Police obtained a search warrant and searched premises occupied by Scientology. Approximately 250,000 documents in 900 boxes--over two million pages of material--were seized. Scientology promptly sought to invalidate the search warrant and secure the return of the seized documents. One and a half years later, a judge ordered 232 of the documents to remain sealed.

At about the same time, Scientology was challenging the Ontario government's denial of a licence to perform marriages to Scientology's president Earl Smith. A government official concluded that her decision would benefit by examining the seized documents. Hill was contacted and he advised her to apply to a judge through the Crown's office. Access to these sealed documents was granted without notice to Scientology.

Upon learning of this, Clayton Ruby, a lawyer for Scientology, wrote letters to the Ontario government and to Hill stating that what had happened was "disgraceful and shocking" and that it had made a "mockery of the courts."

As it turned out, Scientology had Hill in its crosshairs long before 1983. The court found that:

Hill had become a target of Scientology's enmity. Over the years, he had been involved in a number of matters concerning Scientology's affairs. As a result, it kept a file on him. This was only discovered ... during the course of this action. The file disclosed that from approximately 1977 until at least 1981, Scientology closely monitored and tracked Casey Hill and had labelled him an "Enemy Canada". Casey Hill testified that from his experience, persons...

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