Church of Scientology Survived Decades of Battles With PM-Scientology Protest
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The Church of Scientology has battled with the Internal Revenue Service and fought lawsuits filed by former members in the two decades since it was founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard.
The wealthy church has claimed up to 6 million members worldwide since the height of the movement in the early to mid-1970s. Defectors put the number at closer to 2 million.
At its peak, the church reportedly earned $100 million annually.
The church, which has world headquarters in Los Angeles, has battled continously with the IRS over taxes. And it has survived a leadership struggle that had pitted young members against their elders after Hubbard vanished from public view in 1980.
According to Hubbard, Scientology is ″an applied religious philosophy, a combination of both Eastern and Western religions.″ Of the 30 separately incorporated Scientology organizations in the United States, 14 have tax exemptions granted by the IRS, said Scientology spokeswoman Kathleen Gorgon.
Hubbard laid the groundwork for the church when he penned the first draft of ″Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health″ in 1948. The book lays out Hubbard’s concepts of mental health through which members can achieve a ″clear state.″
The techniques involve a lie detector-like ″E-Meter″ coupled with exercises and counseling to enable Scientologists to eliminate negative mental images.
″It’s mental technology to improve communication, intelligence, and give people the ability to be happy human beings,″ the Rev. Ken Hoden, president of the Church of Scientology of Los Angeles, said Monday in a telephone interview from Portland, Ore.
Thousands of Scientologists gathered there Monday to protest the $39 million fraud judgment against the church won by a woman who maintained the church fraudulently claimed it could improve her eyesight, intelligence and creativity.
Hoden said about 6 million people either belong to or take courses and counseling at about 600 Scientology churches and missions worldwide.
The church generated controversy as far back as the early ’60s with its criticism of psychiatric techniques, Hoden said.
″We feel that what psychiatry and psychology is doing is criminal,″ he said. ″We feel that lobotomies, electroshock and excessive druggings hurt. They turn people into mindless robots.″
Scientology members have gone directly to the public to counter what they perceive as unjust attacks on the church.
In recent years, the church has often been on the defensive.
- In 1979, Mary Sue Hubbard, the writer’s third wife, and 10 other scientologists were convicted of burglarizing and bugging government agencies, which church leaders claimed had harassed the church for decades.
- In 1980, the IRS took the church to U.S. Tax Court here because of the group’s tax exempt-status from 1970 through 1972. The IRS maintained the California branch of the church was not tax exempt and owed $1.4 million in income taxes for the period.
In 1984, the court decided against the Church of Scientology, ordering payment of back taxes and penalties.
- Hubbard’s eldest son and former scientologist, Ronald DeWolf, sought to be appointed trustee of his father’s financial affairs, claiming that Hubbard was either dead or mentally incompetent.
DeWolf, 50, claimed that Scientology officials were mismanaging Hubbard’s estate and had stolen millions of dollars worth of gems and securities, either directly from Hubbard or from his estate.
A judge ruled that Hubbard was alive and dismissed the probate case in 1983 after the church presented a letter, purportedly written by Hubbard, saying he was in seclusion by choice.
- Last year, a Superior Court judge characterized the church as paranoid and ruled that a former member was justified in taking thousands of documents belonging to Hubbard.
Through a civil suit, Mary Sue Hubbard sought to recover about 10,000 documents taken by former church archivist Gerald Armstrong. Armstrong said the documents proved Hubbard misrepresented his personal accomplishments, including his military background.
In a June 20 memo, Judge Paul G. Breckenridge declared that ″the organization clearly is schizophrenic and paranoid and this bizarre combination seems to be a reflection of its founder.″
Breckenridge added, ″The evidence portrays a man (Hubbard) who has been virtually a pathological liar when it comes to his history, background and achievements.″
Despite past battles, Hoden says the Portland ruling may pose the greatest threat to Scientology.
″Your talking about a thing that is very important to the freedoms of belief and religion,″ he said. ″What’s happened shows there’s been an erosion of the First Amendment. It’s going to affect every church in the country and that’s a fact.″