The global war on Scientology has erupted right here in Australia.
Sydney and Melbourne have hosted the first of a series of worldwide protests by a group calling itself Anonymous, who accuse Scientology of brainwashing and charging people for the privilege.
Scientology has hit back, labelling the group terrorists and criminals.
In Sydney, protesters chanted and bowed to one of their number wearing an alien costume, in apparent homage to "Xenu", the alien it is believed Scientologists revere as the being who altered human DNA millions of years ago to create us.
More than 200 people turned out in central Sydney yesterday to join the first wave in a global, peaceful protest against Scientology.
"Scientology kills and it should not be tax exempt in Australia," yelled a protester on camera.
A similar protest in Melbourne was followed by protests in Adelaide, Asia, London and Europe and across the US. The largest was staged at the Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre in Hollywood, used by Scientology's high profile parishioners including Tom Cruise, Kirstie Alley, Juliette Lewis, Nancy Cartwright, John Travolta, and Kelly Preston.
"Anonymous, we do not disobey laws," a protester shouted into a megaphone, attempting to organise the rally. "We must break up at one o'clock and go on our way, if we are to avoid being demonised by these people."
But that will not be easy. The Church of Scientology has ramped up the offensive against Anonymous, accusing the group of religious bigotry and claiming they are sick, twisted souls.
Anyone can claim to be a member of Anonymous. It has no leader or meeting house.
But we secured the only Australian interview with a spokesperson from the group, based in America, who explained what Anonymous actually is and how it began online.
"Whenever you made a post on one of the threads it would say 'posted by Anonymous' and so people just started taking that up, well, we are Anonymous," she said.
"It wasn't 'let's start this group Anonymous', it just sort of happened in a weird sort of sense and people have been joining and leaving and joining and leaving.
"There's no Anonymous headquarters, there's no website that's the central website of Anonymous," she said. "Any further attacks that may happen that are malicious in nature we don't really have control over that because anonymous has no leaders."
Back outside the Sydney protest, no-one from the Church of Scientology would speak to Today Tonight on camera, but in a statement the church described Anonymous as 'a group of cyber terrorists', accusing them of 'violence and hate crimes'.
They then accused Today Tonight of being anti-Scientology. Of course, we're not - newspapers and networks here and overseas have run similar stories to ours, which just goes to reinforce a key belief of Scientology: you're either for them or you're against them.
As Tom Cruise put it: "My opinion is either you're on board, or you're not on board."
Our reporter was accused by both sides of belonging to the other side.
"Your cult is a lie!" the protesters chanted.
But Scientology does have a leader. He is named David Miscaviage and has rallied his followers for the fight ahead:
"And the only slim chance this planet has rests on a few slim shoulders, overworked, underpaid and fought: the Scientologist," Miscaviage said.
Story LinksAnonymous Scientology Protests: www.xenu.net
Church of Scientology: www.scientology.org
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