All that Ethics is for . . . is simply that additional tool necessary to make it possible to apply the technology of Scientology. Man does not have that purpose for his law or his justice. He wants to squash people who are giving him trouble.
- L. RON HUBBARD, Introduction to Scientology Ethics
Scientology At Law
The law can be used very easily to harass, and enough harassment on somebody who is simply on the thin edge anyway... will generally be sufficient to cause his professional decease. If possible, of course, ruin him utterly.
- L. RON HUBBARD, The Scientologist, March 1955
The litigious nature of the Church of Scientology is well-known. It has waged a twenty-year battle against the Internal Revenue Service in the United States. The IRS insists that the profits of Scientology have accrued to the benefit of a private individual, namely L. Ron Hubbard. There was a ten-year battle against the Food and Drug Administration. The Courts upheld the FDA's assertion that the E-meter was improperly labeled. But the Church did manage to overturn a ruling that material seized from them be destroyed. So the Church claims victory. In the 1970s in France, Hubbard was sentenced in absentia to a prison term for fraud.
In the 1970s, the Church fought to prevent the sale of books critical of Scientology. They failed in this attempt, but caused authors George Malko, Paulette Cooper, Cyril Vosper and Robert Kaufman considerable difficulty (not only from the law suits: Roy Wallis, in his Salvation and Protest, described the harassment he received after writing about Scientology). In 1982, Paulette Cooper, author of The Scandal of Scientology testified that the Church had brought eighteen suits against her. More recently Russell Miller has defended against attempts to prevent distribution of his Bare-Faced Messiah in England, Canada, Australia and the United States.
In 1983, the Legal office of the Church admitted that it did not know how many suits were outstanding in England alone. So many writs had been issued for libel it had lost track. In 1968, thirty-eight libel suits were dropped by the Church in England. Cases which continued were uniformly lost by the Church.
Boston attorney Michael Flynn won fourteen of the sixteen complaints brought against him by the Church, the remaining two being withdrawn. The Church has from time to time filed suits against the FBI, the IRS, the Justice Department, Interpol and even against Henry Kissinger (for $800 million).
Scientology has filed hundreds of cases over the years. Most have been withdrawn before trial, but in Britain suits against a former Police Commissioner and against Member of Parliament Geoffrey Johnson-Smith were both lost by the Church. In return, there have been hundreds of suits filed against Scientology. The Church was forced to pay substantial damages to former Health Minister, Kenneth Robinson, and withdraw their allegations that he had instigated "death camps," likened by the Church to Belsen and Auschwitz. 1
Also in the legal arena are the reports of the many Commissions of Inquiry, and of several U.S. grand jury investigations. These run to tens of thousands of pages. Two books have been written about the attempt made by the Guardian's Office to take over the National Association of Mental Health in the U.K. in the late 1960s, which also ended in a ruling against Scientology in the English High Court.
Of all the court cases, two stand out. Their verdicts came down within a month of each other: one in Los Angeles, the other in London. The first, and perhaps the most revealing to date, was the case brought by the Scientologists against Gerald Armstrong. Armstrong had joined the Sea Org in 1971. Over the years he held various positions close to Hubbard. During the trial he gave detailed testimony of these periods, and of his time in the Rehabilitation Project Force. His accounts highlighted the extreme duress of life in the Sea Org.
Armstrong saved over twenty boxes of Hubbard letters, diaries and photographs from the shredder at Gilman Hot Springs. On January 8, 1980, he wrote to Hubbard asking permission to collect material for a biography. A few years earlier Hubbard had lamented that no biography could be written because his personal documents had been stolen, and the great Conspiracy against him would by now have altered all public records.
Far from being stolen by the Russians in the early 1950s, as Hubbard had claimed, his personal archive had quite remarkably been preserved. When the Hubbards left Washington for Saint Hill, in spring 1959, the boxes had been put into storage, where they stayed until the late 1970s. Somehow they had been shipped to La Quinta, and thence to Gilman. Armstrong was excited by the discovery, as it would no longer be necessary to rely on the supposedly corrupted government records, with Hubbard's personal documents in hand.
Hubbard approved Armstrong's request only days before he went into deep hiding. Armstrong was titled "L. Ron Hubbard Personal Public Relations Office Researcher," and he collected over half a million pages of material by the end of 1981.
Omar Garrison, who had already written two books favorable to Scientology, was contracted to write the biography in October 1980, and the Archives were made available to him. Armstrong became Garrison's research assistant, copying tens of thousands of the most relevant documents for Garrison's use.
In his judgment in the Scientologists' case against Armstrong, Judge Breckenridge explained the gradual erosion of Armstrong's faith in Hubbard:
During 1980 Defendant Armstrong remained convinced of Hubbard's honesty and integrity and believed that the representations he had made about himself in various publications were truthful. Defendant Armstrong was devoted to Hubbard and was convinced that any information which he discovered to be unflattering of Hubbard or contradictory to what Hubbard has said about himself, was a lie being spread by Hubbard's enemies. Even when Defendant Armstrong located documents in Hubbard's Archives which indicated that representations made by Hubbard and the Organization were untrue, Defendant Armstrong would find some means to "explain away" the contradictory information.
Slowly, however, throughout 1981, Defendant Armstrong began to see that Hubbard and the Organization had continuously lied about Hubbard's past, his credentials, and his accomplishments.
Armstrong began a campaign to correct the numerous misrepresentations, but met with considerable resistance. In November 1981, he was ordered back to Gilman from Los Angeles. He was told by senior Church official Norman Starkey that he was to be Security-checked. There was no desire to correct Hubbard's biography. To this day, Scientology Orgs sell books which contain the very biographies which Armstrong had proved false; Hubbard's Mission into Time is the worst example of many.
On November 25, 1981, Armstrong wrote to Commodore's Messenger Cirrus Slevin:
If we present inaccuracies, hyperbole or downright lies as fact or truth, it doesn't matter what slant we give them, if disproved the man will look, to outsiders at least, like a charlatan. This is what I'm trying to prevent and what I've been working on the past year and a half.
A few weeks later, Armstrong decided to leave the Church. Before leaving, he worked desperately hard to ensure that Omar Garrison had all of the documents necessary for an honest biography. After leaving, he maintained contact with the Biography Project, even helping to find documents in the Archives when the new Archivist was unable to do so, for two months following his departure. Judge Breckenridge's opinion continues:
On February 18, 1982, the Church of Scientology International issued a "Suppressive Person Declare Gerry Armstrong," which is an official Scientology document issued against individuals who are considered enemies of the Organization . . .
Defendant Armstrong was unaware of said Suppressive Person Declare until April of 1982. At that time a revised Declare was issued on April 22, 1982. Said Declare charged Defendant Armstrong with eighteen different "Crimes and High Crimes and Suppressive Acts Against the Church." The charges included theft, juggling accounts, obtaining loans on [sic] money under false pretenses, promulgating false information about the Church, its founder, and members, and other untruthful allegations designed to make Defendant Armstrong an appropriate subject of the Scientology "Fair Game Doctrine." Said Doctrine allows any suppressive person to be "tricked, cheated, lied to, sued, or destroyed."
. . . from his extensive knowledge of the covert and intelligence operations carried out by the Church of Scientology of California against its enemies (suppressive persons), Defendant Armstrong became terrified and feared that his life and the life of his wife were in danger, and he also feared he would be the target of costly and harassing lawsuits. In addition, Mr. Garrison became afraid for the security of the documents and believed that the intelligence network of the Church of Scientology would break and enter his home to retrieve them. Thus Defendant Armstrong made copies of certain documents for Mr. Garrison and maintained them in a separate location.
Armstrong, with Garrison's permission, made copies of about 10,000 pages of these documents, and deposited them with attorneys for safe keeping. Michael Flynn was one of these attorneys. On August 2, 1982, the Church of Scientology of California filed suit against Gerald Armstrong for Conversion (a form of theft); breach of fiduciary duty (breach of trust); and breach of confidence. Mary Sue Hubbard joined the suit against Armstrong as an "intervenor," and added a charge of "Invasion of Privacy" to the suit. Judge Breckenridge's opinion continues:
After the within suit was filed . . . Defendant Armstrong was the subject of harassment, including being followed and surveilled by individuals who admitted employment by Plaintiff; being assaulted by one of these individuals; being struck bodily by a car driven by one of these individuals; having two attempts made by said individuals apparently to involve Defendant Armstrong in a freeway automobile accident; having said individuals come onto Defendant Armstrong's property, spy in his windows, create disturbances, and upset his neighbors. During trial when it appeared that Howard Schomer (a former Scientologist) might be called as a defense witness, the Church engaged in a somewhat sophisticated effort to suppress his testimony.
After hearing four weeks of testimony, and deliberating for two weeks, Judge Breckenridge ruled that Gerald Armstrong was entitled to judgment and costs. The preceding quotations come from a fifteen-page appendix to the opinion. The main body of the decision is one of the most forceful statements ever made against the Church of Scientology. Of the Founder and his Church, Judge Breckenridge wrote:
In addition to violating and abusing its own members' civil rights, the organization over the years with its "Fair Game" doctrine has harassed and abused those persons not in the Church whom it perceives as enemies. The organization clearly is schizophrenic and paranoid, and this bizarre combination seems to be a reflection of its founder LRH.
The evidence portrays a man who has been virtually a pathological liar when it comes to his history, background, and achievements. The writings and documents in evidence additionally reflect his egoism, greed, avarice, lust for power, and vindictiveness and aggressiveness against persons perceived by him to be disloyal or hostile.
At the same time it appears that he is charismatic and highly capable of motivating, organizing, controlling, manipulating, and inspiring his adherents. He has been referred to during the trial as a "genius," a "revered person," a man who was "viewed by his followers in awe." Obviously, he is and has been a very complex person, and that complexity is further reflected in his alter ego, the Church of Scientology. Notwithstanding protestations to the contrary, this court is satisfied that LRH runs the Church in all ways through the Sea Organization, his role of Commodore, and the Commodore's Messengers. He has, of course, chosen to go into "seclusion," but he maintains contact and control through the top messengers. Seclusion has its light and dark side too. It adds to his mystique, and yet shields him from accountability and subpoena or service of summons.
LRH's wife, Mary Sue Hubbard is also a plaintiff herein. On the one hand she certainly appeared to be a pathetic individual. She was forced from her post as Controller, convicted and imprisoned as a felon, and deserted by her husband. On the other hand her credibility leaves much to be desired. She struck the familiar pose of not seeing, hearing, or knowing any evil. Yet she was the head of the Guardian Office for years and among other things, authored the infamous order "GO [Guardian's Order] 121669" which directed culling of supposedly confidential P.C. [Preclear] files/folders for the purposes of internal security. In her testimony she expressed the feelings that defendant by delivering the documents, writings, letters to his attorneys, subjected her to mental rape .... The court is satisfied that he [Armstrong] did not unreasonably intrude upon Mrs. Hubbard's privacy under the circumstances. . . . It is, of course, rather ironic that the person who authorized G.O. order 121669 should complain about an invasion of privacy. The practice of culling supposedly confidential "P.C. folders or files" to obtain information for purposes of intimidation and/or harassment is repugnant and outrageous. The Guardian's Office, which plaintiff headed, was no respector of anyone's civil rights, particularly that of privacy.
The documents involved in the case were extensive. They included copies of letters from Hubbard to his father, to his first two wives, and to the children of his first marriage. They also included Hubbard's teenage diaries, his Boy Scout records, poems, and the manuscript of an unpublished book called Positive Mental Therapy. Also included were Hubbard's letters to Mary Sue Hubbard over the years, where he said exactly what he was doing while researching the "Technology" of Scientology. For example, there are letters sent from North Africa in late 1966, to Mary Sue at Saint Hill, which give details of the drugs Hubbard was taking to "research" the most secret of Scientology's levels, OT3.
During the course of the trial, the judge heard testimony from Armstrong; his wife Jocelyn; Laurel Sullivan, who had been Armstrong's senior on the Biography Project; the proposed author Omar Garrison; Hubbard's nurse Kima Douglas (who left Hubbard in January 1980); and former Author Services Incorporated Treasury Secretary Howard Schomer.
Omar Garrison, who had been commissioned to write the biography, had this to say of the documentation Armstrong provided:
The inconsistencies were implicit in various documents which Mr. Armstrong provided me with respect to Mr. Hubbard's curriculum vitae, with respect to his Navy career, with respect to almost every aspect of his life. These undeniable and documented facts did not coincide with the official published biography that the church had promulgated.
Garrison intended to complete the biography, and continued with this work through 1982. In June 1983, he agreed to a settlement with the Church. The Church wanted to be absolutely sure that the manuscript wasn't made public. Garrison reluctantly agreed. He too had been followed by private detectives, "bumper to bumper." However, Garrison retained copies of documents from the Hubbard archives to ensure the church's good behavior.
Jocelyn Armstrong testified that she had worked on a project where Mission Holders were to sign backdated contracts, Board minutes and resignations.
Kima Douglas was Hubbard's personal Medical Officer from 1975 until her departure on January 16, 1980. From 1977, she was with Hubbard on a daily basis. She was also the head of no less than fourteen Scientology corporations, and had written undated resignations from each. Among these was the Religious Research Foundation, which was used to channel monies from the Flagship, and later the Flag Land Base, into non-Church accounts controlled by Hubbard.
Douglas testified that she was with Hubbard when he approved Armstrong's request to collect material for a biography. She had also been present when Hubbard had ordered that supposedly confidential counselling folders should be "culled" for admissions of crimes, and anti-social or immoral actions, for future use. Douglas admitted that she had seen Hubbard display "irrational and abusive" behavior, to the extent of striking someone. She also revealed the extent of Hubbard's ill health throughout the years she served him.
The myth of L. Ron Hubbard was badly fractured. It seemed that his mesmeric hold over Scientologists, whether Church members or Independents, was slipping. The trance could only be maintained through a stubborn refusal to consider the material now available.
The Judgment in the Armstrong case was filed on June 22, 1984, just as Justice Latey was preparing to hear a child custody case in London.
Principal source: Memorandum of Intended Decision in Church of Scientology of California vs. Gerald Armstrong, Superior Court, Los Angeles County, case no. C 420153.
1. The Times, London, 4 September 1973; Evening News, 5 June 1973