Stewart Lamont is a broadcaster and journalist specializing in religious affairs. He joined BBC Scotland as a radio producer in 1972 and since 1980 has worked as a freelance producer and presenter in radio and television, making programs for Channel 4, Yorkshire TV, Grampian TV, and Thames. He presents the daily morning current affairs program for BBC Scotland and is the Religious Affairs Correspondent of the Glasgow Herald, having also filled that position on the Sunday Times.

His previous books are “The Third Angle” (a thriller), “Is Anybody There?” (arising from the widely praised six film documentaries he made on the paranormal), and (with Peter Moss) “Religion and the Supernatural.”

He was born in Broughty Ferry, Scotland, in 1947 and was educated at Grove Academy and the University of St Andrews where he was President of the Union and obtained science and divinity degrees.

Following is the Prologue to Religion, Inc. by Stewart Lamont, 1986 (Full text is available here).


IT WASN’T a bad substitute for paradise: the rolling hills, the manicured landscape gardens, stitched into a lush patchwork by the long, straight, freshly painted white fences. The scrub which is a common feature of the hills south of Creston in Southern California had been meticulously cleared from the 160 acre ranch, designed originally for horse training. The quarter-mile track was still there, plus a grandstand painted white and an observation tower. Wild life abounded and in the hothouse corn stalks grew alongside orchids. The tri-level ranch house sat atop a hill overlooking a lake. A satellite dish and pool were perched beneath a patio and sun porch. The lord of this manor might have been forgiven for thinking he had found heaven on earth.

As the winter sun reached its highest point on Monday, 27 January 1986, two station-wagons turned slowly out of the ranch gates and drove up Donovan Road making for the port of San Luis Obispo, which lay a few miles away on the coast. There a boat was waiting to help the occupants perform their macabre and secret task.

In the front seat of the lead car were two lawyers: Earle Cooley and John Peterson. Cooley was a tall man of vast bulk who had weighed in on the side of the Church of Scientology in several court cases before becoming one of its most influential members. He had once spent a few hours cooling off in the cells for contempt of court when he had defended his clients too zealously. The previous Friday he had dashed the hundred and fifty miles north from Los Angeles as soon as he had heard the news. He had spent the weekend with his assistant, John Peterson, who was driving the station-wagon, seeing that everything went exactly to plan. There had been no autopsy on the deceased. But the sheriff of San Luis Obispo County and the coroner had been satisfied with the death certificates and the fingerprints and blood samples with which they had been furnished. They had managed to arrange a swift cremation that morning for the body. With the ashes scarcely cool, Cooley and Peterson and others were on their way to perform one final task before returning to Los Angeles to announce their secret to the world that very evening.

The small silver urn Cooley held between his knees contained the remains of a giant among men – the man he admired above anybody else who had lived. Behind Cooley and Peterson sat a large man with greying hair, his tinted glasses concealing soft and tearful eyes. Heber Jentzsch was an emotional man. A man with a big heart. As well as his personal grief was his regret that he had never met the man whose remains occupied the urn, yet in the eyes of the world Jentzsch was the man who represented the deceased when he disappeared six years previously. Beside Jentzsch sat his wife Karen, a dark-skinned woman who had known their dead leader. Gossip had it that she had been a night-club hostess before Scientology had given her a new career, one in which she had gone quickly and ruthlessly to the top before her marriage to the President of the Church of Scientology International.

The other station-wagon contained three people: two men and a woman. It drew ahead as they neared the jetty to meet the skipper of the large motor-boat which they had chartered for the morning. The man did not know that this was to be the ‘Commodore’s’ last voyage or that the funeral he was to witness that morning in the gentle calm of a bay in the Pacific Ocean on the Californian coast was that of a man who had started his life’s voyage as a Navy man in these very waters and ended it as a notorious recluse. Not for a moment did he suspect that the name of the bulky Caucasian whose ashes occupied the silver urn was Lafayette Ron Hubbard, science-fiction writer and founder of a religion which had millions of followers worldwide. Now only seven of those followers were present, as the sun glinted on the ocean around their small vessel, to say goodbye to Ron as they affectionately and devotedly knew him. There was a reason for the seclusion and the privacy. It was a very simple reason. Those millions of followers around the world did not know that Hubbard was dead. The seven secret mourners intended to keep it that way for at least a few more hours.

The youngest of the seven, a slim youth in his early twenties with a drooping moustache, was dressed in black trousers and a white short-sleeved shirt. The insignia and epaulettes he wore were not from the United States Navy, but the badges of the Sea Organization, the elite corps of Scientology. Commander David Miscavige opened a slim volume bound in maroon leather and began to read, his strong, deep voice trembling with emotion. ‘*The finely grist mill of time is spent in service such as yours*,’ he began. ‘*We gained from Ron, who gave to us from his past the ability to live and fare against the tides and storms of fate. Its true we’ve lost his shoulder up against the wheel and lost as well his counsel and his strength. But lost them only for a while*.’

As the blank verse from Scientology’s book of ceremonies was read, two mourners stood with their heads bowed, looking into the water. Pat and Annie Broeker were husband and wife and the only two people, apart from Miscavige, who knew where and how Ron Hubbard had lived these past three years. Pat Broeker was well suited to such clandestine activities, He had a voracious appetite for spy stories, fictional and factual, and had the nickname within Scientology of ‘007’. He was in his mid thirties, a High School graduate who had attended college but had been no high flier. His succession of posts within Scientology had resulted in his being ‘busted’ from every one except the last, which was as a financial courier to Hubbard himself. That post proved to be providential in 1980 when Hubbard learned that the authorities were about to force him into court. He disappeared and Pat and Annie Broeker became his only link with the outside world.

‘*We do not tremble faced with death – we know that living is not breath. Prevail! Go, Ron, and take the life that offers now, and live in good expectancy that we will do our part*.’

Annie Broeker let a tear glisten on her cheek. She was Pat Broeker’s third wife. But in this marriage Annie was the dominant partner. Now in her late twenties, she had fifteen years of service in the Sea Org and despite being ‘busted’ in 1979 from her post as deputy commanding officer of the organization by Hubbard’s wife, Mary Sue, with whom ‘bad blood’ still existed, she had survived. She was tough. 5′ 6″ in height, she stood 2″ higher than Miscavige and above her husband in the pecking order.

‘*Your debts are paid. This chapter of thy life is shut. Go now, dear Ron, and live once more in happier time and place. Thank you, Ron. And now here lift up your eyes and say to him goodbye*.’ David Miscavige was nearing the end of the funeral service written by Ron Hubbard, although seldom performed throughout the hundreds of Scientology churches scattered round the world. For twenty years now Ron had developed the doctrine of its ‘religious technology’ or ‘tech’ as he called it. He had administered it through memos and bulletins from the Hubbard Communications Office. If the tech was Scientology’s Bible, the HCOBs were its canon law. Neatly bound in green folders, they defined what to do, how to do it, and to whom to do it. Ron had even covered the present circumstances.

The Press, those ‘merchants of chaos’, and the Government, stacked full of ‘Suppressive Persons’, would have a field-day when they realized that Ron had ‘dropped the body’, Miscavige reflected. They would move in for the kill. It would lead to severe strain on the orgs. Where would the leadership come from? They had always relied on Ron’s word to settle policy matters. In recent years outsiders had been told that he had retired to devote himself to study and writing, but insiders knew that Ron was always there in memo or in spirit. Now they would not know where to turn. That was why David Miscavige had to keep his control. As Ron’s protege he had the task of ‘keeping the show on the road’ and ‘getting the stats up’.

‘*Come, friends, he is all right and he is gone. We have our work to do, and he has his. He will be welcome there*.’ Miscavige raised his hand in a spontaneous salute to the leader to whom he was devoted. The ocean air was not suited to his asthma. His enemies called him the ‘asthmatic dwarf’ behind his back. Those who had felt the lash of his tongue usually changed it to ‘poison dwarf’.

Despite his youth and his size, Miscavige had a reputation for getting things done. He had learned from Ron that if a little hysterical screaming and shouting was necessary to achieve something, you didn’t think twice – you shouted. He had used the technique to great effect at the Mission Holders’ Conference in San Francisco in 1982. It had been a tense time. The grasp on power which the founding documents of the Religious Technology Center had granted to him and his colleagues was incomplete until he was seen to be in control. The next task had been to remove those who might challenge that authority. Ron could not help him. He had been incapacitated by a severe stroke, far worse than the one he had suffered in 1975. As Ron lay dying, David Miscavige knew that the Religious Technology Center was the only thing that could save Scientology. It protected him from prosecution, it safeguarded the tech and the orgs and it gave him the authority he needed to get the job done. The body had been properly certified and all formalities had been completed. The ‘high crime’ would have been to stand by and watch the enemies of Scientology destroy the organization that had nurtured him since he was a small child. He was not ashamed to look on Ron as a father figure. To his enemies Scientology was a cult, a con, a corporation marketing false religion. To David Miscavige, it was all he knew.

What you have just read is mostly fictional. However, the characters are real. There *is* a ranch at San Luis Obispo in Southern California. L. Ron Hubbard mysteriously disappeared in 1980. The Religious Technology Center *does* own the Scientology trademarks which bring in millions of dollars per month worldwide. David Miscavige, a relatively inexperienced member of the full-time staff of the Church of Scientology, became within months its most influential figure. All that is documented and acknowledged. But six years after he disappeared and became a recluse, it was still not known whether Ron Hubbard was alive or dead.

Then on Monday night, 27 January 1986, Earle Cooley, Chief Counsel for the Church of Scientology, and Heber Jentzsch, President of the Church of Scientology International, made their fateful announcement. Hubbard was ‘officially’ dead. They explained that he had left the bulk of his multi-million dollar estate to the Church of Scientology. They revealed that his body had been cremated and its ashes scattered. No post mortem had been carried out, and although the coroner of San Luis Obispo County had received blood specimens and fingerprints, speculation inevitably arose that Hubbard did not die in January 1986 but had been dead for over two years. During the past six years since he had disappeared immense changes had taken place in the leadership of the organization he founded. During that time his followers were encouraged to believe that he was still keeping a watchful eye on matters from his secret retreat, now revealed to have been a ranch near San Luis Obispo, 150 miles north west of Los Angeles. His followers continued to act as if he were still alive. He was away studying for another book, they said. He was entitled to his privacy, they argued, when asked why he did not come out of seclusion to answer the charges made against him. He was no longer in charge of Scientology, they protested, and could not be brought to court to justify some of the malpractices of those who were.

His opponents took a different view. He was in hiding to avoid his crimes of tax avoidance, criminal conspiracy and fraud, they alleged. Far from his having retired from running Scientology, they produced documents which linked him to the burglary by his wife and nine others of Federal offices in 1977. He was laughing all the way to the bank, they said, as money continued to pour into the Scientology coffers in the early eighties. The banks were in Luxembourg and Switzerland.

There were others within Scientology who never lost their admiration for Hubbard. But in his absence several catastrophes befell the organization. His wife and her ten fellow conspirators were imprisoned. A cleansing of the Guardians’ Office followed in which the Church of Scientology was forced to admit that many criminal acts had been done in its name. There was a purge. However, the new leaders – Miscavige prominent among them – were resented. Longstanding Scientologists with a string of qualifications from the church were ‘busted’ from their posts and they left to form an independent movement, but retained their devotion to the ‘tech’ (the doctrine and practices of Scientology) and their personal loyalty to Hubbard. They were declared ‘Suppressive Persons’ by the church, ‘Declares’ (effectively ex-communication orders imposing a ban on associating with their former friends within the official church) began to pour forth. A bitter battle ensued with both movements fighting to win converts, the official church from outside its own ranks, and thus to bring fresh money into the rapidly emptying coffers. The independents lowered their prices for courses in Scientology and were accused by the official church of ‘squirrelling the tech’ – as great a crime in their eyes as heresy was to medieval theologians. If the penalty stopped somewhat short of that advocated by Aquinas for counterfeiters of the faith, the animosity was no less than that which the Inquisition felt for its victims. The church which had campaigned so virulently against psychiatrists and governments for ‘persecuting’ it, found itself conducting a crusade against its own adherents.

One result of this was that disaffected Scientologists began to campaign against the cult. They duplicated memos, disclosed confidential processes, vilified the official church and joined in lawsuits as prosecution witnesses. What emerged was a mountain of testimony, much of it unfavourable to Scientology. Journalists seized on these revelations but until now the inside information has not been collected and published in book form.

Another consequence was that the Church of Scientology realized that it had either to reform its ways or be subject to wholesale attack in the courts and in the media. I have benefited from this more open policy in that I have had the co-operation of the Church of Scientology in writing this book. I have also had the advantage of talking at length to dissident Scientologists, former members of the church who now repudiate it utterly, and the two men whom Scientology regards as its public enemies numbers one and two: Boston attorney Michael Flynn and Harvard psychiatrist Dr John Clark.

Faced with friendliness and co-operation from all these irreconcilable sources, my task was made more difficult, not easier. I originally wanted to write a book telling the story without offending anyone, but the more written material and personal evidence I gathered, the more I became convinced that despite my good intentions and those of many Scientologists, I could not avoid the verdict that Scientology does more harm than good and that its founder Ron Hubbard was more of an evil genius than an idol with feet of clay.

Read the rest … (Full text is available here).