Sunday, 17 November 2013

On this day...

Over the side go the erring Scientologists

(Sunday Times, 17 Nov 1968)

By Alexander Mitchell
Corfu, Saturday

Homer records that when the Greek warrior Ulysses was shipwrecked on the island of Corfu, his ship turned to stone. He struggled ashore naked and met Princess Nausicaa. She took him to the court of her father, King Alcinous, who lavished hospitality upon the adventurer before he sailed for his homeland, Ithaca.

The was in mythological days. Now in 1968 a new Odyssey is being played out in the waters of Corfu.
The latter-day Ulysses is Lafayette Ron Hubbard, one-time science fiction writer, now full-time saviour of the world and head of his own religion, the Church of Scientology.

AT TEN O'CLOCK yesterday morning 24 Scientologists left the good ship Royal Scotman in Corfu harbour, marched half-a-mile along the quayside and then returned to quarters.

Although it was pouring with rain the Zombie-like marchers, who were in military step, did not wear raincoats. A dockworker shook his head and waved his armed to convey with great clarity what he thought of the faithful: "They are crazy."

And this is how most of the citizens view the Scientologists who dropped anchor here five months ago. But though he Greeks laugh privately at the eccentricity of the Scientologists, they are happy with the fat wads of dollars abeing injected into the island's economy. (Ron's PR man in Britain, David Gaiman, was fond of saying: "Our critics have never done one thing and that's accused Ron of poverty.")

To be blunt, the length of the Scientologists' Greek honeymoon will depend on the power of the almighty dollar, not the almighty Ron.

Those who have reservations about the Scientologists include the local police. Two weeks ago, a woman with two children ran screaming down the gangway. Before she could reach the roadway fellow-Scientologists caught her and returned her to the ship.

Action by shore police was prevented by the Harbourmaster, Mr. Marius Kalogeras, a firm friend of Scientology, who said he saw no reason for an investigation.

The Government authorities are concerned about another aspect of Mr. Hubbard's presence in Corfu. The 4,000-ton Royal Scotman arrived in the harbour wearing Sierra Leone colours. This week, however, the foremer Scottish cattle boat was renamed Apollo (a nationalistic sop to the colonels?) and the flag of Panama was hoisted aloft.

The ship and its legal status has also aroused the suspicions of the British consul, Major John Forte, who recently refused to legalise a bill of sale which indicated the sale took place in Libya in September 1967.

The major has had other problems too. In September the Home Office asked him to deliver to Ron Hubbard an order to the effect that he would not be permitted to return to England.

After being greeted at the gangway by someone called "Supercargo," Major Forte handed over his letter and left. Four weeks later the document was returned with a note stating that Hubbard could not be found.

According to the locals, however, Hubbard is aboard the ship - but never shows himself.

Ron's routine is curious. He sleeps during the day and rises at six p.m. to being his meditation and writing.

Tradesmen on the ship are asked to work quietly so they do not disturb him.

The incredible security arrangements surrounding the ship have led to conflicting stories about its purpose. Some say it is an American spy ship watching nearby Albania; others believe it is a hell-ship full of religious fanatics.

One impromptu ceremony upsets the local people. Scientologists who break ship's regulations are thrown overboard as punishment. Sometimes the victims are children of eight and nine.

Discipline on the ship - and throughout the scientology movement - is severe. Members of the crew can be officers one day and swabbing decks the next. Status is conferred by Boy Scout-like decoration: a white neck-tie is for students, brown for petty officers, yellow for officers, and blue for Hubbard's personal staff.

A Corfu businessman told me the sad humiliation of a wealthy Californian who was sporting an immaculate officer's uniform when he first arrived on Corfu. For being late back from shore leave he was given smelly blue overalls and confined to navvy work in the galley.

What is Ron up to in Corfu? First of all in his own inimitable way he has become a figure of total mystery. No one in the town can prove he is really on the boat. The 250-odd Scientologists on the floating college rarely make trips ashore and never discuss their affairs.

("Code of Scientology, commandment number one: to hear or speak no word od disparagement to the Press or public concerning any fellow Scientologists, the professional organisation or those whose names are closely connected to this science.")

Their passion for secrecy often causes bizarre events. Recently the crew decided to paint the inside of the water tanks. Unwilling to give the job to local contractors the Scientologists did it themselves - only to find that when they next used their taps the water was polluted with paint.

Although many of the crew are engaged in menial duties, the real work and the real importance of the ship is informing the international movement of the thoughts of Ron. And despite reports to the contrary, Hubbard is clearly running the organisation.

A direct Telex link with St. Hill Manor, East Grinstead, Los Angeles, Malta and Tunis keeps the Church expanding, and the local post office has never had such a boom. About 500 letters and parcels go from the ship to the post office each day.

But Hubbard has bigger plans for Corfu. He is at present negotiating with local businessmen to buy the Delphinia Hotel in the remote south of this island to give him a land base to control the church.

On the face of it the prospects of this deal are good. He has money which is an all important factor in a country suffering from the effects of economic blockade. Anxious for dollars the colonels may ignore Ron's social blemishes.

None of the island's traders complain about the 50,000 drachma (about £700) which the Scientologists spend daily for provisions and repairs to their giant yacht.

But the dealings are all carried out in a clandestine way; all goods are purchased by a local agent who is given a daily shopping list by the ship's quartermaster.

Barrow traders have also found a lucrative trade by wheeling their wars from the quayside where Scientologists dart furtively away from the gangway to buy trinkets, ice creams or sweets.

Although he has been kicked out of two States of Australia, Britain, and his name is black in the United States and Rhodesia, Hubbard like Ulysses may have found a haven to regain his strength.

Last updated 13 January 1997
Chris Owen (

Over the side go the erring Scientologists

A dangerous precedent over scientology? // Nigel Lawson examines the use of arbitrary powers against members of the cult and asks why the Foster Report is still unpublished
Date: Wednesday, 17 November 1971
Publisher: The Times (UK)
Main source: link (174 KiB)

In reply to a written question in the of Commons a few days ago, the Secretary of State for Social Services, Sir Keith Joseph, declared that he would be making an announcement about the publication of the Foster Report on Scientology "soon".

However soon "soon" may be, he has certainly taken time about it. For the report, which was commissioned by his predecessor, Mr Richard Crossman, in January, 1969, has now been in his hands for the best part of eight months.

The most likely explanation for the delay must be the Department of Health and Social Security is not at all happy with the report. It is by all accounts a massive document, but unlike most such reports it is the work of a single individual, Sir John Foster, the Tory MP, QC, and fellow of All Souls who took the somewhat idiosyncratic (if understandable) course of accepting nothing but written evidence.

Moreover, as a man of pronounced libertarian beliefs, Sir John is hardly likely to have approved of the continuing use of the aliens order to forbid the entry into this country of foreign "students" of scientology.

It is the existence of this ban that presents the Government with its most obvious headache. Imposed in August, 1968, by the then Minister of Health, Mr Kenneth Robinson, in response to growing disquiet both in and out of Parliament at the activities of the scientologists, it has been maintained by the present Government pending the findings of the Foster Report.

Mr Robinson obviously hoped that the ban might persuade the so-called "Church of Scientology" to remove its world headquarters from East Grinstead to some less inhospitable country. But without the fruits of any government inquiry to justify it, the use of the Home Office's arbitrary powers in this blunt and blanket fashion set a most undesirable precedent.

Moreover, it has failed in its purpose. Scientology in Britain shows no sign of decline and the world headquarters of the movement remains at East Grinstead. Yet to end the ban now would be widely seen (certainly if the scientologists have anything to do with it) not as a reassertion of liberties, but as a vindication of Scientology — if not of its tenets — at least of its harmlessness — and a repudiation of its critics.

This is hardly the impression the Government can wish to convey. A year ago, for example, the scientologists brought an action for libel against Mr Geoffrey Johnson-Smith, MP, for having implied in a BBC television programme that Scientology was a harmful organization: the jury found that this implication was substantially true and the action failed.

The Government's difficulty, therefore, is primarily one of deciding what balancing action it might take to control the activities of scientologists in this country, some action which might be both desirable in itself and an offset to the impact to the effect of removing the Robinson ban.

After all, there are many organizations in this country that might well be considered harmful, yet that in itself is not a sufficient reason for legislating against them.

It seems likely that the Foster Report will suggest, as the only possible field for government action, an amendment to the medical Acts. It is virtually impossible to define what Scientology is largely because 90 per cent of its literature is obscure, to say the least. But although it claims to be a church, a religion and a philosophy, it takes a very keen interest in mental health, Dianetics ("the Modern Science of Mental Health") is one of the cult's key texts, treatment of mental illness (which it holds, is not really illness at all) is one of its main claims, and the conventional treatment of mental illness one of its principal targets of attack.

The connexion between religion and medicine is, of course, nothing unusual, as the age-old practice of faith healing testifies. But one option open to the Government is, clearly, to make it illegal for any medically unqualified person to claim to be able to cure mental illness.

There would be precedents for this. Anyone, in English law, provided he does not claim qualifications he does not possess, can put a brass plate up outside his house, call himself a doctor, and claim to cure any disease — with the two exceptions of cancer and VD. In theory, it would be possible to add mental illness to this select list.

It is however, difficult to imagine the Government doing this without at least some concerted representation from the medical profession that such a step was necessary; and this has not yet happened. Moreover, it is notoriously hard to define where mental illness begins and ends.

Nevertheless, there would seem to be a case for the appointment of a further committee, this time of medical men, to report on the desirability and practicability of some such legislation. While a ban on so called fringe medicine in general would be a thoroughly retrograde step, a strong case can be made for taking special care where mental health is concerned.

However, so long as the churches continue to move away from religion and towards social work, it is probably inevitable that movements like scientology will flourish simply by filling the vacuum. But there is one way in which the conventional religions may yet be able to score off the scientologists.

Churches, like political parties, are outside the ambit of the Trade Descriptions Act, because they do not take money for the benefits they claim to confer. A commercial organisation like the Church of Scientology enjoys no such immunity. It would make an interesting test case.

[Picture / Caption: A leader of the scientology cult, Mr Ron Hubbard.]

Not on this day, but during the same period the erring Scientologists went over the side

This time El Ron riposted through his trusty Corfu organ with the front page headlines:

"The Scientology School of Dr. Hubbard will start operating within 2-3 weeks.

"In this school higher officers will graduate with the title of Professor for appointment to the 28 Hubbard schools scattered round the world.

"Already many students have arrived here. The school will be housed in Dallietos House near the Phoenix Cinema. The students will stay in hotels of the town.

"Directress of the School is Professor T. Van Staden."
The "Church" had in fact rented a derelict block of ex-local government offices at a rent of 50,000 drachmas (£750) per year and had been busy cleaning out and repairing these premises completely unaware that Foreign Secretary Pipinelis had now requested the British and Australian Governments for information regarding the status of scientology in their countries. The reply from these Governments was to spell curtains for Hubbard, though the noose had not yet fully tightened round his neck.
Indeed, whilst the Colonels are still weighing up the evidence and deliberating on their verdicts, friends Tony Dunleavy, Delwyn Sanderson and Hanna Eltringham are enjoying the historical sites of Ioannina, the headquarters of the Military High Command, where they have been bidden by Lt. Colonel Adrianos, Chief of Intelligence, to listen to an ecclesiastical eulogy on the Colonels' regime, completely oblivious that the fate of the 'Church' is about to be sealed.

To add to the tension now mounting in Corfu, a task force of units of the U.S. 6th Fleet suddenly arrives on the 6th March to join the battle of propaganda, comprising U.S.S. "Freemont", L.P.A., and the LST "Grant Country". Detachments of Marines quickly went ashore from their assault landing craft and made their way to the areas where the scientologists' ships were berthed. Sentries were placed at strategic points where they were in a position to prevent any U.S. navy personnel from coming into contact with the scientologists. (We have already seen what a blessing their arrival was for the detained Irish engineers Craig and Russell.)

These might, of course, have been normal precautions taken during the course of an ordinary routine visit. But, somehow, it seemed that this was a carefully planned Operation designed to bring forcibly home to the authorities the grave danger of contamination by this undesirable cult. If this was the aim of the exercise, then it was certainly one hundred per cent successful. The assault units were finally withdrawn from Corfu on 12th March.

El Ron countered by instructing his mouthpieces, the Corfu dailies "Kerkyraiki" and "Ephimeris ton Idisseon", to release the following front page news:

"Officials of the new School being established in Corfu have just informed us that students of Dr. Hubbard's Philosophy from Denmark, United Kingdom South Africa and Australia have heard of the new school in Corfu and have begun making the arrangements to come to Corfu. Eight students have written from Denmark during the short time since the opening of the school was announced, one has registered from the U.K., five from South Africa and one from Australia. It is reported that with each day more and more replies are coming in for the new school and that Corfu will surge economically and spiritually as a result of Mr. Hubbard’s school."
But this time it was the turn of Hubbard's media to be gagged and the Commodore must have wondered why what was to be his last press release from Corfu never made the light of day.
The scientology saga finally came to an abrupt and dramatic end in the early hours of the morning of 19th March when Commodore Hubbard sailed from Corfu in his flagship, "Apollo", escorted by the remainder of his flotilla, the trawler, "Athena", the yacht, "Diana" and the catamaran, "Nekambi", four and a half hours late after being given 24 hours notice by the Nomarch of Corfu to leave these shores.

The day of final departure was not without incident. From the moment of the issue of the Nomarch's injunction on the 18th March, the security authorities, taking a leaf out of the U.S. Marines' copybook, placed strong police guards and patrols all around the area of the harbour whilst patrol cars patrolled the town in radio communication with the harbour. The crowds of well wishers who had been bidden by the Hubbard Organisation, through its local agents, to come and say their farewells at 5 p.m. were all turned sadly away.

The 'Church's' first reaction to the order to quit was to hand a letter to the Nomarch, the Military Commander and the Naval Commander stating that they would endeavour to comply with the order but that the' "Apollo" was not in a ready state to sail, a plea which was supported by the Harbourmaster and was possibly genuine. But a special harbour committee, after a four hour inspection, decided that the ship was quite capable of making Venice for which port the Hubbard Organisation claimed they were bound. But some twenty of Hubbard's executives evidently did not share this view and elected to return to their homes by air.

Another deputation of the 'Church' flew to Athens to unsuccessfully petition Ministers for a stay of execution of sentence, rejoining the "Apollo" in a spectacular and dramatic link up at the small port of Igoumenitsa on the Epirus coast after their abortive mission.

The news of his expulsion does not appear to have been broken to the sleeping El Ron personally until late in the day and when he was rudely awakened, he was overcome by shock. The M.O. of the "Apollo", after doubtlessly diagnosing his patient (like Colin Craig, page 35) as "wobbly and weak," summoned local surgeon Andreas Sordinas who administered an injection which enabled the Commodore to make a brave appearance on the bridge as the "Apollo" steamed out of Corfu harbour some hours later.

 The Commodore & The Colonels - V. Exodus

* note* the Directress of the school was to be Jill van Staden and she was in Denmark.

The Commodore And The Colonels: John Forte: 9781848970045 ...

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