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Church of Scientology founder dies

Associated Press
Constitution Tribune
Chillicothe, Missouri
28 January 1986

LOS ANGELES (AP) — L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer whose often embattled Church of Scientology has grown to at least 2 million members during its 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.

Hubbard's ashes were scattered at sea Sunday, after his body was examined by the San Luis Obispo County coroner's office, Scientology officials said.

Associated Press calls to the coroner's office late Monday were answered by a tape recording.

Hubbard's eldest son, Ronald E. DeWolf, in a lawsuit filed in 1962, 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 achieves "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.

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 religious freedom.

In 1980, 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 1964, the court decided against the Church of Scientology, ordering payment of back taxes and penalties.

Hubbard left most of his "substantial" estate to Scientology, said Earle Cooley, the group's chief counsel, without specifying an amount.

No plans were announced for a memorial service.

Further reading: L. Ron Hubbard's death