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Scientology Myths - what is fact? what is fiction?
chapter: Snow White Program

Q: What is the "Snow White Program"?

The "Snow White Program" refers to a program written by Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard in 1973. The purpose of this program was to legally correct a number of false governmental reports about the Church of Scientology, its leaders and members. The program is sometimes falsely called "Operation Snow White". Such an operation did not exist.

This program intentionally gets mixed up by critics of the Church of Scientology with illegal activities of certain members of the Guardian's Office, an autonomous organization within the Church in the 1970's that was disbanded in 1983. More about that is in on the page about the Guardian's Office.

Snow White: Background

At the time L. Ron Hubbard wrote the Snow White Program the Church of Scientology's management bodies were on a ship with the name Apollo. As a result of false reports concerning the Church, mainly coming from England and Germany, the Apollo was meeting hostilities in certain European harbors, even though no direct contact with some of those countries and Scientology had ever taken place. It did not make sense and the hostile behavior of some authorities directly traced back to false information in their files (which they believed as true but that were not). The purpose of the Snow White Program was described as follows:

"To engage in various litigation in all countries affected so as to expose to view all such derogatory and false reports, to engage in further litigation in the countries originating such reports, to exhaust recourse in these countries and then finally to take the matter to the United Nations (that now being possible for an individual and a group) and to the European Commission on Human Rights, meanwhile uprooting and canceling all such files and reports wherever found."

One of the countries where the Apollo met hostilities was Portugal. Here, between 1969 and the first half of 1974, the Apollo frequently visited ports without problems. Then, in July 1973, a rumor was heard that the Apollo would be a "CIA ship." This same rumor had been heard earlier at ports in Spain in 1972. On October 3, 1974, when the Apollo was docked at the port of Funchal on the island of Madeira, Portugal, the ship and its crew and passengers were attacked by a large crowd throwing rocks, shouting: "CIA ship."
The local police and army stood by and watched, doing nothing to hold the crowd back. As a result, some Church staff aboard the ship were injured and property was damaged or destroyed. Cars and motorcycles belonging to the Church and Church staff were thrown off the dock into the bay. The ship crew had to fight off the attackers with fire hoses while the ship made an emergency departure to escape the violence, without being able to take on food, fuel or water. The Apollo and her crew were forced to wait miles offshore for over a day while order was restored so she could return to load fuel, food and water and sail to a safe country.

Documents obtained from the U.S. State Department through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as part of the Snow White Program traced the "CIA ship" rumor to a State Department telex in April of 1972 which was sent to various European countries and that contained numerous false reports. Following the Snow White Program procedure of locating and expunging false reports and seeking redress for religious persecution, the company that owned the Apollo, Operation Transport Corporation ("OTC"), filed suit in Lisbon against the government of Portugal seeking damages as a result of this riot. In June of 1985, the Administrative Court of Lisbon awarded damages to OTC, finding that the riot in October of 1974 had been sparked by the CIA ship rumor and that this rumor was false. These damages were upheld on appeal in 1987.

Based on decisions as above, and the Church's efforts to correct the false information in government files originally generated by the U.S. government, the Minister of Justice in Portugal officially authorized the registration of the Church of Scientology as a religious organization in Portugal in 1988, accomplishing the Snow White Program's objective for that country.

Similar activities took place in other European countries, to the effect that false information in government files was located and corrected.

The United States Snow White Program

The activities in the United States under the Snow White Program were to file Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with all Federal governmental agencies and public record requests at the state and local level, getting into litigation to enforce disclosure of records which were withheld, and the filing and prosecution of a large lawsuit in 1978 against a number of federal government agencies for the purpose of bringing to view and correcting all false reports on the Church and L. Ron Hubbard contained in their files.

As a result of these FOIA requests filed pursuant to the Snow White Program, the Church of Scientology obtained hundreds of thousands of pages of records from the files of government agencies concerning the Scientology religion, the Church of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology leaders and members. These records, which were full of false information show evidence that the concerns that led Hubbard to write the Snow White Program were completely justified. In later Congressional Oversight Hearings in the United States it was confirmed that Mr. Hubbard, the Church of Scientology and Scientology leaders were targeted for discriminatory treatment.

The Church has also used the FOIA to expose covert government programs that targeted citizens and communities for harmful biological and chemical testing.

The Washington Post reported about one of those scandals on March 11, 1980:

"Using documents made public under the Freedom of Information Act, primarily CIA financial records, the Scientologists said receipts for repairs and replacement parts indicated...[a] machine was steadily used for 13 years and may have produced hundreds of pounds of various biological agents and microorganisms.... Citing one invoice from the early 1960s, the Scientologists said there was evidence that at least two disease-causing agents, one that could touch off undulant fever and another that could bring on tularemia, were mass-produced."

In 1984 the Church found out that the U.S. Army had secretly sprayed potentially harmful bacteria in open-air tests in Washington, D.C.'s National Airport and in bus terminals in Washington, Chicago and San Francisco in 1964 and 1965. From the information found through FOIA these covert government actions were undertaken as part of a biological warfare experiment. The germ used to spray hundreds of unsuspecting American citizens has been found to cause symptoms of respiratory infections, blood poisoning and food poisoning.

In acknowledgement of these efforts, Quinlan J. Shea Jr., Director of the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Privacy and Information Appeals under Presidents Ford and Carter, credited the Church of Scientology, along with the American Civil Liberties Union and the Society of Professional Journalists, with having "endeavored to shine more light on government. They - and others - have issued publications on how to use the FOIA, have litigated in the courts and have testified before numerous congressional hearings calling for more openness."

Current affairs

The Snow White Program is not being executed today. It was a very specific program for a special state of affairs at the time it was written. The Church of Scientology however continues to use Freedom of Information Acts and similar laws all over the world to defend its right of non-discrimination and freedom for all.