Angry Scientology Leaders Blast Hubbard Death Controversy
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Church of Scientology leaders say they are angered by suggestions that the reported death of founder L. Ron Hubbard was a hoax designed to end an Internal Revenue Service investigation.
″I am chagrined, I am angered, I am incensed, that an individual, and those backing him, would attempt in any way to denigrate the founder of this church,″ Heber Jentzsch, president of Church of Scientology International, said Wednesday.
He and Scientology general counsel John Peterson said longtime Scientology foe Michael Flynn had created a controversy over Hubbard’s death.
Flynn is the lead attorney in several lawsuits seeking a total of $1.2 billion from the organization. Most of the suits were brought by former Scientologists.
Peterson denied that any IRS investigations were under way. IRS officials refused to confirm or deny a probe.
Meanwhile, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff-Coroner George Whiting on Wednesday confirmed Hubbard’s death Friday at a ranch outside San Luis Obispo. Fingerprints taken from the body were verified as Hubbard’s by the FBI, the Department of Justice in Sacramento and another source, Whiting said.
The sheriff said he had the fingerprints checked to allay any doubts, but said Hubbard died in the presence of a physician and as far as Whiting is concerned, ″the case is closed.″
Hubbard, 74, was cremated Saturday and his ashes were scattered at sea Sunday, said Scientology officials who announced his death.
Flynn has alleged that Hubbard skimmed millions of dollars from the church and stashed it in Swiss bank accounts.
″The church has brought 14 suits against me, of which 13 have been dismissed,″ he said Wednesday night. ″It’s them that are after me. It’s ridiculous.″
Hubbard’s personal physician, Dr. Eugene Denk, has said the Scientology founder suffered a brain hemorrhage several days before dying on a ranch in Creston, about 30 miles from San Luis Obispo.
The church Hubbard founded in 1954 has been called a brainwashing cult by many former members and critics, and has waged a continual legal battle with federal authorities over taxes.
Church members hail Hubbard as a hero, a savior who pioneered new frontiers of the mind.
Hubbard’s 1950 book, ″Dianetics, The Modern Science of Mental Health,″ outlines his techniques for achieving a ″clear state.″
The techniques involve a lie detector-like device called an ″E-Meter″ coupled with exercises and counseling to enable members to eliminate negative mental images.
The church’s assets are estimated at more than $280 million. Church officials say there are 6 million members, but detractors have said it has only 2 million. At its peak, the church was earning about $100 million a year.