Ministry of Fear - 1983-01-24
At the best of times, the Church of Scientology has been controversial. The "church" has no definable theology beyond an adherence to Hubbard's principle that everybody on earth should be "cleared"-i.e., successfully put through a course of Dianetics training. A spectacular moneymaker, the cult has assets estimated at $1 billion, including a massive estate in Gilman Hot Springs, Calif., a Clearwater, Fla. hotel complex and the former Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles, now its headquarters. At its peak, the sect claimed a membership of 6.5 million in 17 countries, and it has numbered such celebrities as John Travolta and Cathy Lee Crosby among its devotees. Yet critics have long accused Scientologists of harassing opponents with groundless lawsuits and even physical threats; defectors allege that the church's real reason for existence has always been simply to make money.
Now Scientology faces the greatest crisis of its history. Its leader is in hiding, its governance is in disarray, the U.S. Tax Court is reviewing its tax-exempt status based on 1970-72 IRS audits, and it is under sharp legal attack. According to disaffected church members, the church is crumbling from within. Bent Corydon, a former leader of a Riverside, Calif. "mission"-or local church-which recently broke away from the main body, says, "We've got a very bad image to overcome. Over the last two years we've lost 80 percent of our older members, and recruiting is half what it used to be."