In a September 10 posting on a tabloid website, anti-Scientology hate blogger Tony Ortega exploits the anniversary of 9/11 to forward his campaign of denigration and bigotry against Scientologists—in this case, the 800 Scientology Volunteer Ministers who worked at Ground Zero around the clock for weeks alongside emergency rescue teams in the wake of the World Trade Center collapse.
Twenty years after they received the New York City Police Department’s Medal of Valor for their efforts, Ortega attempts to dehumanize these Scientologists by challenging their “motives” in offering humanitarian help. He employs divisive, derogatory rhetoric to mischaracterize their volunteerism and spread misinformation about their religious beliefs.
“The Volunteer Ministers worked with great energy and great compassion at Ground Zero, helping to ease the physical burdens and mental strains of the rescue workers,” said the Police Chief of New York in his 2001 acknowledgment. “The organization, the caring, and the dedication of your Volunteer Ministers were exceptional, very much appreciated, and will long be remembered by those who received their help. I cannot thank the Volunteers enough.”
Ortega, for his part, has been described by former colleagues and associates as “twisted,” “abusive,” “demean[ing],” “disgusting” “despicable” and a “terrible guy” who has “done nothing but to create hatred and division between people.”
Twenty years after they received the New York City Police Department’s Medal of Valor for their efforts, Ortega attempts to dehumanize these Scientologists.
Ortega’s anti-Scientology extremism and hate provides the best illustration of these descriptors; Ortega has systematically harassed and spread bigotry against Scientologists for more than a decade. Referring to the religious beliefs of Scientologists as “fake news” and inferring all Scientologists are liars, Ortega has stalked and endeavored to “out” Scientologists in their personal and professional lives—contacting the bosses of Scientologists to “reveal” their religious affiliation and spread defamatory lies in an effort to place their jobs at risk. He has posted gleefully about recently deceased Scientologists, attempting to blame Scientology for their passing and mocking their family members for seeking comfort in the religion; used slander to try to deny corporate partners and sponsors to Scientologists engaging in humanitarian projects; and stalked Scientologists on social media, reposting their messages out of context to malign them, including a video posted by a 14-year-old girl.
Prior to his last nine years of unemployment, Ortega served the owners of Village Voice by defending Backpage.com, the Voice’s primary source of funding and a site that facilitated child sex trafficking. Backpage had become the largest online sex trafficking site before its seizure by federal law enforcement agencies in April 2018. Ortega’s former bosses, who he gloated were “smart enough to start Backpage,” were arrested and are currently standing criminal trial in federal district court in Arizona for facilitating prostitution and money laundering. Anti-trafficking advocates have campaigned for Ortega to be pulled into the Backpage trial.