All of them, those in power, and those who want the power, would pamper us, if we agreed to overlook their crookedness by wilfully restricting our activities.
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Defections by older members and publicity given a legal battle over control of hundreds of millions of dollars are believed to be cutting into the membership of the Church of Scientology.
The church, which has a headquarters in Clearwater, is described by its leaders as a religion and by its critics as a highly profitable business with cult-like overtones.
The church claims a worldwide membership of 6-million, although former officials say the number of adherents is probably fewer than 700,000.
According to dissident members, former Scientology officials and allegations in court documents, the church is currently controlled by a cadre of former servants of the organization’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, whose 1950 book Dianetics became the cornerstone of its program. The takeover by these members, who are in their 20s, has led to the expulsion or resignation of more than 150 senior members in the past year.
FACED WITH the loss of millions of dollars in income, the expelled operators of several regional Scientology franchises have set up their own organizations based on Hubbard’s teachings.
Meanwhile, the oldest son of Hubbard, Ronald E. DeWolf, has contended in a lawsuit that his father is either dead or being held captive by the former servants. He is suing to gain control of his father’s estate, which he says is worth more than $100-million.
In interviews and affidavits, some former church officials and other dissident members have contended the church is a lucrative business enterprise that systematically suppresses dissent. And more than 20 suits have been brought against the church by former members, represented by Michael Flynn, a Boston lawyer.
Spokesmen for the church have denied the accusations, including assertions of fraud and contentions that the church does not represent a bona fide religion.
“It’s a con — it was a fraud from the beginning,” Gerald Armstrong, formerly a close aide to Hubbard and the church’s archivist, said of the organization. He said he left the church a year ago after gaining access to records that he asserted indicated a long pattern of deception and fraud.
ACCORDING TO estimates by some former church officials, the organization, much of whose income is tax-exempt. has assets of more than $300-million around the world, much of it in bank accounts in Switzerland and the Caribbean. And each week, the former members said, it takes in more than $2-million at more than 100 branches in this country and abroad.
Former officials estimate that the Clearwater facility alone takes in upwards of $1-million a week.
Much of the current strife in the organization, former members say, began in the spring of 1980, when, without warning, a number of new people appeared in the church’s upper echelons and began demanding more money and less independence from the regional franchise owners.
The majority of them were members of a group called the “Commodore Messenger Organization” This designation stemmed from a period in the 1970s when Hubbard ran the church from a 300-foot yacht, the Apollo, and referred to himself as the “Commodore.” Some Scientologists took their children to live with them on the ship, and older children were designated personal aides to hubbard.
ON THE SHIP, and later, when Hubbard moved the headquarters to a 500-acre resort called Gilman Hot Springs that the church bought in the desert near Palm Springs, Calif., the status of the teen-agers was raised.
According to the dissidents, they were taught to obey Hubbard explicitly, to mimic his voice and to inform on members who criticized him. Not long after moving to the desert facility, former church members say, Hubbard retreated increasingly into seclusion and usually saw only members of the messenger corps, who were granted the right to discipline adult church members.
Many of the former messengers are said to wear the naval uniform of an elite church branch called the “Sea Organization.” The dissident members say that a half-dozen or so of them appear to be controlling the church and its assets through the Religious Technology Center, a corporation established in January 1982.
“It’s like the Lord of the Flies,” said a former franchise holder who spoke with the understanding that he not be identified. “The children have taken over.”
THE CENTRAL figure in the corporation is David Miscavige, 22, who has told franchise holders that Hubbard had granted the corporation exclusive rights to the Scientology trademarks and the copyrights of his books.
According to the former officials, the new leadership group has demanded that franchise owners send their clients to the church-owned counseling centers rather than continuing to profit from them at the missions.
At an Oct. 17 meeting at the San Francisco Hilton, members of the new leadership group informed the franchise owners that the church had been reorganized “to make the whole structure impregnable, especially in regards to the IRS.”
According to a transcript of that meetings, one of the former messengers said, “The fact of the matter is you have a new breed of management in the church. They’re tough, they’re ruthless, they are on Source.” The term “Source” refers to the teachings of Hubbard.