Hate Merchant Tony Ortega Tries—and Fails—to Curtail STAND’s First Amendment Rights

Scientologists Taking Action Against Discrimination (STAND), a league of parishioners striving to end bigotry and working to protect every individual’s right to practice their chosen faith, recently came under attack by a failed-journalist-turned-blogger, Tony Ortega.

Ortega was the chief editor of Village Voice when it harbored Backpage.com, which, according to numerous media reports, was the nation’s leading facilitator for the sale of children for sex. Its three owners have been under U.S. Senate Subcommittee investigation.

Tony Ortega and his Backpage bosses
Failed-journalist-turned-blogger, Tony Ortega and Backpage.com executives - Michael Lacey, James Larkin and Carl Ferrer

Under Ortega’s editorship, Backpage.com included advertising connected to:

  • A 14-year-old pregnant girl beaten with a taser and forced to work as a prostitute in Atlanta.
  • In Minnesota a girl picked up days before her 14th birthday, held captive, raped and beaten and made to work as a prostitute.
  • A 16-year-old Illinois girl whose nose was broken by her pimp for refusing to see a john.
  • Another 13-year-old girl kicked down a stairwell as part of her ordeal in the sex trade.

Those constitute just a few of the many stories of abuse from dozens of reports about underage girls trafficked as sex slaves—all of them advertised in the online classified pages of Backpage.com.

As the top editor of Village Voice, Ortega exploited his position to defend the corrupt Backpage.com sex industry. In a July 2011 article, for example, he responded to a CNN exposé of Backpage.com and child prostitution by writing, “CNN leads the media’s mass paranoia.” He dismissed the grim reports in the exposé as “sensationalistic” and personally attacked the reporter who spoke on behalf of voiceless victims of child prostitution, claiming she was on a “semireligious crusade.”

After poisoning the Voice’s reputation, Ortega was fired and his career sank to ever-lower depths. He found a niche as a blogger pouring a stream of baseless hate which caused STAND members to ask questions about him and his corrupt activities.

Twitter found no basis for the flagging, and resurrected all STAND accounts immediately.

In response, in a recent attempt to squelch the First Amendment rights of STAND members, Ortega and a handful of underlings falsely flagged STAND member Twitter accounts as fake in an effort to get them closed down. Those acknowledged as being involved were Jeffrey Augustine, Marc Headley and Karen de la Carriere.

Twitter found no basis for the flagging, and resurrected all STAND accounts immediately.

And so, the First Amendment stands as strong and vital as ever, permitting individuals to report what they see and to stand up against cyber-bullying.

STAND members remain free to unearth and expose more of the sordid nature and motives of this hatemonger—and others of his ilk who baselessly attack people of faith.

Meanwhile, international membership in STAND is increasing rapidly, with a massive influx of new applicants.

The advent of STAND heralds a new era of calm, peace and tolerance. Through its work, and that of other like-minded groups and organizations active today, people of goodwill can make their voices heard above the shrillness of the bigot and the hater. Those who would poison public discourse and seek to destroy First Amendment values no longer have free rein as the decent and the honest—and they are many—stand ready to report the truth.

Edward Parkin, International Director STAND
As International Director for STAND, Edward Parkin oversees efforts in 58 nations aimed at combating bigotry toward Scientologists and the Scientology religion. A native of Great Britain and 38-year Scientologist, Mr. Parkin coordinates projects promoting and defending everyone’s right to practice their religion of choice.