Mail talks to Scientology man on his yacht in Bizerta
At the court of Ron Hubbard
From Peter Smith: Bizerta, Monday
Lafayette Ron Hubbard, the Boss of all the Scientologists, is alive and well and living in Bizerta, Tunisia.
He is living very well indeed in the luxury of his 3,300-ton yacht Royal Scotman and today, in an elegant wood-panelled cabin, he spoke freely for the first time about the British Government’s recent curb on Scientology.
He spoke for 2 1/2 hours into the early hours and covered, among other things, Health Minister Kenneth Robinson, Home Secretary James Callaghan, money and his visits to Heaven and Venus.
Mr. Hubbard demolished the possibility of a public inquiry into Scientology practices.
“Public inquiry? No, nonsense. Don’t you go saying I want a public inquiry.”
He chain-smoked menthol cigarettes, fidgeted nervously in a large black leather chair. He taped the conversation.
On his desk was a sextant; behind him 16 war service miniature medals in a glass case. He wore his commodore’s cap throughout, sipping Coke and lemon from glasses engraved with the crest of the New York Explorers’ Club.
Outside, Scientologists, some in uniform and some young children, stood rigidly to attention. Inside, a girl staff photographer took pictures of the private audience.
Mr. Hubbard’s mood ranged from the boastful — “You’d be fascinated how many friends of mine there are in the British Government” — to the menacing: “I get intelligence reports from England. You’d be surprised at the dirty washing I have got.”
Sometimes he was charming. “I appear to have trod on your buttons. I personally apologize.”
Sometimes he pleaded a kind of poverty: “Scientology owes me $13 million. It is the only thing I’ve gotten out of this.
“I’ve only got a very small amount in Switzerland, 100,000 francs. I don’t even know how much that is worth.”
Yes, he had sold his name to the Scientology movement for a “large amount,” but it has never been paid, he said.
£100,000? “About that.”
Throughout, Mr. Hubbard insisted he was no longer connected with Scientology despite the telex reports from the East Grinstead headquarters before him.
Mr. Robinson, the Health Minister, he said, would have more influence with Scientologists than he would.
He disputed Mr. Robinson’s claim of anti-social behaviour by Scientologists.
“Why hold me responsible for the aberrations of the modern world? I didn’t aberrate the world.”
He said: “Mr. Callaghan is costing the country millions of dollars keeping Scientologists out.”
But Mr. Hubbard would not deny the more specific allegations of the Daily Mail of Scientology orders splitting up husbands, wives and families. He said after a lengthy pause: “I haven’t got any real answer to that. If you say it’s true, it’s true.”
And on recruiting literature citing successes with mental patients: “If someone has released such a thing it is contrary to policy I laid down.”
As if in explanation, he added: “You cannot stop time. You cannot stop new ideas. What people do with my writing they do with my writing.”
Mr. Hubbard — “My name inspires public confidence. I’m persona grata everywhere” — has no immediate plans to return to Britain. He says he is abroad for health reasons and because “I was too many years in England.”
He is probably remaining in Bizerta for a few more weeks.
He insisted: “If I wanted to return to Britain, I’d walk in the front gate, and the Customs officer would say, ‘Hello, Mr. Hubbard.’ That’s how it’s always been, and it always will.”
Mr. Hubbard spoke more reluctantly of his trips farther afield, to Heaven, Venus and elsewhere in the Universe.
Of his trip to Venus he said, modestly: “Lots of people have seen Venus.”
He had discovered “Part of the genetic trace there.”
And on Heaven: “Like a bush garden in Pasadena,” he once reported. [Underground Bunker note: Hubbard actually wrote “Like Busch Gardens in Pasadena,” a specific theme park there in those days, which the Daily Mail might have been unfamiliar with.]
“My dear sir, you’re running the risk of boring me.” And then more sharply: “”They were never released, you know, these visits to Heaven. They were on confidential papers. They vanished from Saint Hill [the Scientology headquarters at East Grinstead].
“You can always find the bizarre in any subject. Any level of research contains the bizarre. But I haven’t said Scientology is bizarre.”
Mr. Hubbard said all documents in possession of the Daily Mail were forgeries, and as near to the truth as “describing a zebra in terms of a palm tree.”
He knew, he said, because he had seen them. He had spies or “friends” everywhere. He had looked through the files page by page, he said. No one was outside the scope of his intelligence network.
As he finished talking he shook hands and smiled broadly.
Outside in the corridor his followers were still there — still standing rigidly to attention.
A letter has been sent to Mr. Hubbard explaining why Mr. Callaghan will not let him back into Britain, the Home Office said yesterday.
More than 200 foreign Scientology students are being told by the Home Office to get out of Britain by the end of the month.
Hundreds more, mainly Americans, will be told to go over the next few weeks when they apply for extensions to their stay.
If they do not go, they will be deported.
The council at Croydon, Surrey, is to stand by its agreement to let Scientologists hold a three-day national congress at a municipal hall in the town.
A Dutch Scientologist, 42-year-old Evert Doeve, was ordered to leave Britain within seven days by East Grinstead magistrates yesterday. He pleaded guilty to staying in the country unlawfully after July 18. He was fined £20.