Church of Scientology Founder Dies
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer whose often-embattled Church of Scientology has grown to at least 2 million members in three decades, has died at age 74, Scientology officials say.
Hubbard, who had not been seen in public since 1980, died of a stroke Friday at his ranch near San Luis Obispo, Heber Jentzsch, president of the Church of Scientology International, said Monday night.
His ashes were scattered at sea Sunday, after the body was examined by the San Luis Obispo County coroner’s office, Scientology officials said.
Church officials announced Hubbard’s death Monday to nearly 4,000 Scientologists gathered in Hollywood.
″We wanted to tell the Scientologists before we told anyone else,″ Jentzsch said. ″It was his wish.″
Hubbard left the church ″tens of millions of dollars,″ said Earle Cooley, the church’s chief counsel. ″It’s impossible to put out an assessment on the value of the estate because there are so many properties involved,″ he said.
An inventory of the estate will be conducted by Norman F. Starkey, executor and a longtime Scientologist, Cooley said. He refused to comment on which of Hubbard’s children were included in the will.
Hubbard’s eldest son, Ronald E. DeWolf, in a lawsuit filed in 1982, had claimed that Hubbard was either dead or mentally incompetent, but a judge ruled Hubbard was alive.
Hubbard and his third and surviving wife, Mary Sue Hubbard, founded the Church of Scientology in 1954. Its philosophy is based on Hubbard’s 1948 book ″Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health,″ which has sold millions of copies.
Through use of a so-called E-meter, somewhat like a lie detector, church members undergo exercises and counseling to eliminate negative mental images and achieve a ″clear state.″
″It’s mental technology to improve communication, intelligence, and give people the ability to be happy human beings,″ Ken Hoden, president of the Church of Scientology of Los Angeles, said last year.
The group has claimed up to 6 million members worldwide since the height of the movement in the 1970s. Defectors, however, have put the number at closer to 2 million. At its peak, it reportedly earned $100 million a year.
Hubbard, who was born in Tilden, Neb., and was raised in Helena, Mont., and Bremerton, Wash., did not control the organization and its corporations for the past few years, said Jentzsch.
Scientology literature boasted that Hubbard was, ″at various times, top sergeant in the Marines, radio crooner, newspaper reporter, gold miner in the West Indies and a movie director-explorer, having led a motion picture expedition into the South Seas aboard an ancient windjammer.″
DeWolf, who had changed his name from L. Ron Hubbard Jr., derided those claims in 1982, saying ″99 percent of what my father wrote about his past life was false.″
From 1968 to 1975, Hubbard reportedly lived chiefly aboard a huge yacht, the Apollo, drifting around the Mediterranean with a crew made up of members of the church’s elite corps, ″Sea Org.″
He also lived in Dunedin, Fla., and in California, on ranches near La Quinta and Hemet and at the resort of Gilman Hot Springs, according to court papers filed by DeWolf.
Jentzsch said Hubbard had been a ″very healthy man″ in his final years, writing and composing music and pursuing photography.
Court documents in a civil suit against the church revealed that the organization secretly teaches that Earth was called Teegeeach 75 million years ago and was among 90 planets ruled by Xemu, who spread his evil by thermonuclear bombs.
Xemu, attempting to solve overpopulation, destroyed selected inhabitants of the planets and implanted seeds of aberrant behavior to affect future generations of mankind.
Jentzsch said in November, when the documents were revealed, that news accounts of them were distorted.
The organization generated controversy as far back as the early 1960s by criticizing psychiatric techniques, Hoden said. It contended that ″lobotomies, electroshock and excessive druggings″ turned ″people into mindless robots.″
In 1973, a criminal court in France sentenced Hubbard in abstentia to four years in prison for fraudulent business practices.
In 1979, Mary Sue Hubbard and 10 other Scientologists were convicted of burglarizing and bugging government agencies, which group leaders claimed had harassed the church for decades.
The following year, the IRS challenged the group’s tax-exempt status in U.S. Tax Court in Los Angeles, saying the California branch owed $1.4 million in income taxes from 1970 through 1972.
In 1984, the court decided against the Church of Scientology, ordering payment of back taxes and penalties.
DeWolf in his lawsuit sought to be appointed trustee of his father’s financial affairs, claiming Scientology officials were mismanaging Hubbard’s estate and had stolen millions of dollars worth of gems and securities.
A judge dismissed the probate case in 1983 after the group presented a letter, purportedly written by Hubbard, saying he was in seclusion by choice.
Last summer, a circuit jury in Portland, Ore., awarded $39 million to a former member of the group who alleged she had been defrauded by its claims that it could improve her intelligence, eyesight and creativity.
But after a week of protests by more than 1,000 Scientologists, including actor John Travolta, jazz musician Chick Corea and singer Melanie, a judge dismissed the award and ordered a new trial, saying courts must pay closer attention to religous freedom.
Jentzsch said the San Luis Obispo County coroner’s office performed an autopsy, but Cooley said no autopsy was performed, in accordance with Hubbard’s will. The coroner’s office took blood samples and Hubbard’s fingerprints, Cooley said.
San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s Sgt. Leon Cole confirmed that the coroner’s office was handling the case, but he could not provide any other details.
Henrietta DeWolf, DeWolf’s wife, said in Carson City, Nev., that her husband had heard of his father’s death Monday night.
″No matter what happened, one way or another, it’s still his father, and he feels a great loss accordingly,″ she said.
No plans were announced for a memorial service.
It was not immediately clear if there were any survivors other than DeWolf and Mary Sue Hubbard.