1544595 DATABASE: MI File 47 *Use Format 9 for FULL TEXT*
Ministry of fear; scandal rocks Scientology as the founder's wife goes to
prison and his son turns prosecution witness.
People v19 p84(5) Jan 24 1983
illustration; photograph; portrait
AVAILABILITY: FULL TEXT Online
LINE COUNT: 00160
NAMED PEOPLE: Hubard, L. Ron--cases; Hubbard, Mary Sue--cases; Flynn,
Michael--cases; DeWolf, Ronald--cases; Miscavige, David--management
DESCRIPTORS: Scientology--investigations; Dianetics--practice; Battlefiel
d Earth (book)--authorship
COPYRIGHT Time Inc. 1983
Last October in San Francisco, some 70 local leaders of the Church of
Scientology gathered to hear nine church executives harangue them about
their shortcomings. Styling themselves with titles that ranged from the
quasi-military ("Commander," "Warrant Officer") to the quasi-lunatic
("International Finance Dictator"), the men announced that they represented
the new hierarchy of the organization, and that they were bent on purging
deviatationists from the ranks. When they spoke of technical impurities in
the local missions' dogma and practice, they used a jargon so arcane that
outsiders needed a six-page, single-spaced glossary to read minuted of the
meeting. When they spoke of what would happen to their enemies, they made
themselves frighteningly clear: "That person's future is black," one
"Commander" ranted of anyone who might dare defy the church. "It is so
black I can't even describe it right now. I can't even find the words to
describe how black that person's future is. . . . I mean it is really
In Washington, D.C. this month, a federal judge sentenced Mary Sue
Hubbard to four years in prison and a $10,000 fine for conspiracy to
obstruct justice by covering up Scientology break-ins at federal offices.
Hubbard, 51, is the third wife of L. Ron Hubbard, the former writer for
Astounding Science Fiction Magazine who founded Scientology 28 years ago to
promulgate dianetics, the "science" of mental health Hubbard developed in
the 1940s. Mary Sue was the last of 11 Scientology leaders to be sentenced
for the conspiracy.
In Riverside, Calif., a judge has ordered L. Ron Hubbard himself to
appear in court next April. Hubbard, 71, has not been seen in public for
nearly three years. His son, who changed his name to Ron DeWolf in 1972,
claims that Hubbard Sr. is dead or incapacitated. He wants the court to
appoint a trustee, forcing the church to turn over copyrights to his
father's books and Scientology techniques worth $500 million by some
At the best of times, the Church of Scientology has been
controversial. The "church" has no definable theology beyond an adherence
to Hubbard's principle that everybody on earth should be "cleared"--i.e.,
successfully put through a course of Dainetics training. A spectacular
money-make, the cult has assets estimated at $1 billion, including a
massive estate in Gilman Hot Springs, Calif., a Clearwater, Fla. hotel
complex and the former Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles, now its
headquarters. At its peak, the sect claimed a membership of 6.5 million in
17 countries, and it has numbered such celebrities as John Travolta and
Cathy Lee Crosby among its devotees. Yet critics have long accused
Scientologists of harassing opponents with groundless lawsuits and even
physical threats; defectors allege that the church's real reason for
existance has always been simply to make money.
Now Scientology faces the greatest crisis of its history. Its leader
is in hiding, its governance is in disarray, the U.S. Tax Court is
reviewing its tax-exempt status based on 1970-72 IRS audits, and it is
under sharp legal attack. According to disaffect church members, the church
is crumbling from within. Bent Corydon, a former leader of a Riverside,
Calif. "Mission"--or local church--which recently broke away from the main
body, says, "We've got a very bad image to overcome. Over the last two
years we've lost 80 percent to our older members, and recruiting is half
what it used to be."
Scientology's troubles have become public knowledge largely through
the efforts of Michael Flynn, a Boston lawyer. Flynn started representing
ex-Scientologists in suits against the church three years ago and has
become Scientology's most vocal critic. "Outrageousness and personal abuse
permeate the organization," Flynn claims--and he has filed charges against
the church and its officers for 32 clients in 22 cases across the country.
His most explosive case developed two years ago, when he met Ronald
DeWolf. Now 48 and working as the manager of a Carson City, Nev. Apartment
complex, DeWolf is Hubbard's son by his first wife, the late Margaret
Louise Grubb. From 1950 until 1959 he was second in command of Hubbard's
cult. The father and son gradually became estranged, and the younger Ron
went off with his wife in 1959 to live in obscurity--until now.
Papers Flynn filed to support DeWolf's suit make a startling series
of allegations, many subsequently dismissed by the judge as irrelevant.
Denouncing his father as a paranoid schizophrenic, DeWolf charges that
Hubbard dabbled in black magic and practiced ritual abortion on his wife,
Margaret. In addition to these allegations, DeWolf says that his father is
"one of the biggest con men of the century" and once ordered him to steal
an atomic bomb as part of a plot to take over the world. Hubbard's
followers believe that their leader spent 30 years researching the theory
of Scientology; DeWolf says that Ron Sr., author of Dianetics, the
best-selling bible of Scientology, wrote his books "off the top of his
head" while tripping on drugs like mescaline and cocaine throughout the
1950s. "One of the most difficult things to deal with," says DeWolf, "is
that it sounds like a soap opera, but it's all true."
In DeWolf's account, based on his own experiences and reports from
former members, his father is an eccentric who lived in fear of germs and
dust and ordered his followers to wash his clothes 13 times in spring water
before he would put them on. Long a recluse, Hubbard Sr. dropped entirely
from sight in March of 1980--and that disappearance is the basis for
DeWolf's attempt to have his father declared dead or incompetent by the
court. Scientology officials point to the publication last year of
Hubbard's latest science fiction novel, Battlefield Earth, and his taped
New Year's greeting as proof that he is still alive. But one of Hubbard's
former intimates backs up the theory that something is drastically wrong
with the aging guru. Gerry Armstrong, a member from 1971 to 1981 who was
compiling Hubbard's papers for an official biography and is now suing the
church through Flynn, remembers the last time he saw the leader. "In 1980,"
Armstrong says, "Hubbard was physically weak and deteriorating mentally. He
lashed out irrationally at whoever was around him in mad screaming fits.
His paranoia grew progressively worse. He traveled incognito in the back of
a black panel van. He was obsessed about cleanliness. His messengers
preceded him everywhere wearing white gloves to check for dust. He was an
embarrassment to me, this person who had been revered as a god."
The best evidence that Hubbard is at least incapacitated is the rapid
decay of his organization. DeWolf's court petition suggests a fierce
struggle for control of the cult between old-line Scientologists and a
handful of members in their early 20s who were brought up in the sect. With
Hubbard absent, and his wife sentenced and other Scientology leaders
serving prison terms, these people have apparently moved into a power
vacuum. The offspring of Scientologists, they are members of the "Sea
Organization"--youngsters who served as personal attendants aboard
Hubbard's yacht, Apollo, during the 1970s, when Hubard used the converted
English Channel steamer as a floating mansion-headquarters. Like the
prisoners in Plato's cave, the Sea Org staff has never really known the
outside world. They speak an ear-jarring mixture of computerese and Star
Trek terminology, rambling on about such things as being "on
Source"--following Hubbard doctrine--and "squirreling tech"--using
unapproved versions of Dianetics.
Chief among these hierarchs may be David Miscavige, 22, a "Commander"
who presided at the San Francisco conference with local church leaders.
"The 'anything goes' days are over," he railed at them. Warned a Miscavige
cohort: "You have a new breed of management in the church. They're tough,
they're ruthless, they are on Source."
Larry Heller, a church attorney, announced at the meeting that the
Religious Technology Center, a private corporation of which Miscavige was
an incorporator and initial trustee, now owns all of Hubbard's copyrights.
Flynn and DeWolf charge that the copyright assignment is a scheme to milk
hundreds of millions of dollars which belong to the Hubbard estate.
Already, says Flynn, Scientology officials have made more than $100 million
from the copyrights. According to DeWolf's affidavit, there was an attempt
last June to withdraw $2 million with a forged check from an account in
Hubbard's name that contained copyright proceeds. "If you have control of
the copyrights, you have control of everything," Flynn observes. At
Scientology's world headquarters in L.A., Heber Jentzsch, the cult's
titular president--who claims that Miscavige is merely an employee--says
the copyright move was just a matter of reorganization: "We wanted to show
that Scientology technology will be preserved in its pure state forever and
the church will be preserved for the next 5,000 years," he says.
Scientology technology is simple. Basically, it is the use of a
crude, liedetector-type device called an "E-Meter" to diagnose an
individual's emotional state, followed by lengthy and expensive Dianetics
counseling sessions to deal with "problems" the meter detects--and it is
the basis of the church's wealth. DeWolf and Flynn stand to profit greatly
if they win the copyrights. But both claim that they have suffered greatly
as well. DeWolf says that he, his wife, Henrietta, and their five children
have been harassed by Scientologists under his father's 1967 "Fair Game"
doctrine, which holds that any enemy of the church is open to harassment
and attack. DeWolf alleges that he was assaulted once in his own home, and
that the wheel nuts on his car were twice loosened in an attempt to cause
an accident. "You don't say goodbye to L.Ron Hubbard," he says.
Flynn and DeWolf see themselves as locked in mortal struggle with
Scientology--and Hubbard, if he is alive. Claiming that his father has an
IQ of 200, DeWolf says, "It was a deadly combination, paranoia and that
IQ." In DeWolf's telling, Hubbard is a mad genius who, among other deceits,
fabricated his war record; he claimed that he had twice been declared dead
but brought himself back to life through Dianetics. DeWolf asserts that
records indicate he merely suffered from ulcers. DeWolf says Hubbard also
passed himself off as an expert on nuclear physics and psychology--though
according to DeWolf his father had no training in either. Gerry Armstrong
supports this by stating that Hubbard once attempted to buy himself a Nobel
In an affidavit submitted in connection with his suits, Flynn has
detailed a church operation (which he says was codenamed "Juggernaut")
aimed at putting an end to Flynn's lawsuits--and perhaps to the lawyer
himself. Partially substantiated by some of the defectors frosm the cult
whom he represents, Flynn says that Juggernaut included hundreds of abusive
phone calls, a mailed murder threat, theft of documents from his office,
nine complaints against him filed with the Massachusetts Bar
Association--all dismissed--and even a telephone call to a friend of
Flynn's in which the lawyer was falsely accused of murdering a client's
husband. What may have been Juggernaut's most sinister operation may never
be proved, however. In October 1979, while Flynn was piloting his private
plane on a trip to South Bend, Ind., the engine failed. According to his
afvit, Flynn made an emergency landing, and mechanics discovered that
both fuel tanks had been contaminated with water. Flynn cannot prove who
sabotaged the plane, but he has his suspicions.
The revolver that Michael Flynn now keeps in his desk drawer shows
that he is not unscarred by his brush with Scientology. Withal, he remains
confident of ultimate vindication. California Superior Court Judge J. David
Hennigan has openly challenged Hubbard to appear in his courtroom--and has
indicated that he may turn the copyrights over to an independent trustee if
Hubbard does not. "The only way they can defeat us is by producing
Hubbard--and they can't," Flynn says. "If he's not dead, he's old, sick and
degenerate. His appearance would puncture forever the church myth about his
being the perfect man."