Son Says He Thinks Scientology Founder Died

Source: New York Times
Date: December 12, 1982

The son of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology, has asked to be named trustee of the religion's holdings.

"I think he's dead, or become as mentally incompetent as a cigarstore wooden Indian," Ronald E. DeWolf said of his father. "I've known for years that the person writing me and other members of my family, and sending presents, was not L. Ron Hubbard."

Mr. DeWolf, who is 48 years old, is an apartment manager in Carson City, Nev. He changed his name when he left his father's church in 1959.

In his petition to a Superior Court in Riverside, Calif., Mr. DeWolf contends that officials of the Church of Scientology are saying Mr. Hubbard is alive in order to maintain control of his assets. 'The only way he can contest all of this is to show up physically in court," Mr. DeWolf said of his father, who would be 71 this year. "But I expect he may have trouble doing that because I don't think he is alive." A hearing on Mr. DeWilf's petition is scheduled for Dec. 30. Petition Called 'a Joke'

Frizell Clegg, a spokesman at the church's headquarters in Los Angeles, called Mr. DeWolf's petition "crazy" and "a joke." "As far as the church is concerned," Mr. Clegg said, "he's alive. I've not seen him personally. His writings are pretty much what I'm going on."

Mary Sue Hubbard, Mr. Hubbard's wife, says she has not seen him since 1979 but, according to her lawyer, "hears from him on a regular basis and is comfortably supported by her husband on a monthly basis." Mrs. Hubbard has filed notice to try to stop her stepson's petition.

In 1954 Mr. Hubbard founded a faith that has spread to 55 countries and claims 2.5 million adherents. Current Scientology literature asserts that Mr. 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." 'New Bio Each Week'

Mr. DeWolf laughed when the passage was read to him. "I can say that 99 percent of what my father wrote about his past life was false," he said. "He and I used to joke that we would write a new bio each week."

Michael Flynn, a Boston lawyer involved in numerous lawsuits against the Scientologists, said that Mr. Hubbard "flunked out of schools left and right and was a failure until he wrote the book 'Dianetics,' on which Scientology is based," in 1950.

Mr. Hubbard's organization offers counseling, called "'auditing," to free its believers from harmful mental imprints, called "engrams." Anyone delivered of such illogical thoughts is called a "clear."

By November 1959, Scientology was under investigation in the United States, France, Britain and Australia, chiefly for saying that Scientology could heal ailments from cold sores to cancer, Mr. Flynn said. Church Leaders Convicted

In 1973, a criminal court in France sentenced Mr. Hubbard in absentia to four years in prison for fraudulent business practices. Three years ago, 11 church leaders, including Mrs. Hubbard, were convicted in California in connection with a plot to infiltrate Federal agencies and steal documents.

Today, Mr. Flynn alone is handling 27 suits involving Scientologists. There are two basic types of suits, he said: those filed by defectors from the church and countersuits filed by outside critics who have themselves been sued by the church.

In 1975, the church bought an aging hotel and other downtown property in Clearwater, Fla., as a land base for an elite corps called Sea Org.

Mr. Hubbard's last known residences, according to documents filed by Mr. DeWolf, were one in nearby Dunedin, Fla., and three in California. Defectors from the church say that while living at one ranch, Mr. Hubbard twice required hospital care and asked to be buried under the date palms.

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