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An arm of the Church of Scientology has sued The Washington Post and two of its reporters in an attempt to prevent publication of copyrighted information that belongs to the church.

In an amendment to a suit filed against an Arlington, Va., man Aug. 11, in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., the Religious Technology Center asks that the newspaper return certain documents and refrain from publishing information that the church claims is confidential scriptures protected by federal laws.The church originally sued Arlington resident Arnaldo Lerma, who allegedly disseminated anti-church information and church documents via the Internet. On Aug. 12, federal marshals seized computer equipment and files from Lerma's home, under an order from District Judge Leonie Brinkema. The revised suit seeks an injunction against the Post and reporters Richard Leiby and Marc Fisher, who allegedly obtained copyrighted information.

"The Post made a serious mistake in allowing themselves to be manipulated by a few maliciously motivated dissidents who want to use the Post to forward their religious hate campaign," said Earle C. Cooley, an attorney for the church.

Mary Ann Werner, an attorney for the newspaper, said the suit "is meritless. The documents at issue, which have been widely distributed over the Internet, were properly obtained by the Post from a public court file, a common and appropriate form of news-gathering. And the limited quotations included in the Post's story are well within the bounds of the `fair use' doctrine under copyright law."