Who Are the Scientologists?

IN THE PAST few weeks you may have noticed a series of ads in this newspaper paid for by the Founding Church of Scientology. Many businesses, public interest groups, politicians and charities advertise in our pages and they are free to write their own copy provided that it is not obscene and does not make false statements. The fact that we accept an ad does not, of course, imply that we agree with the message or endorse the product. But we do believe that we have a serious responsibility to provide access to these pages to groups whose message is controversial, even to those with whom we strongly disagree.

The Scientologists have claimed in their advertisements that they seek to combat abuses by the IRS, that they have developed effective treatment for drug abusers and that they can help your children "advance three grade levels in reading and mathematical skills in 20 to 40 hours." A recent ad consisted of endorsements by smiling attractive young people who attributed their success in sports, entertainment, business and education to the wonders of Scientology. But there is another side -- a dark side -- of the Scientology story, and as you read the testimonials you should have some facts:

* The movement was founded by a writer named L. Ron Hubbard who in the past has claimed to be able to cure many of life's problems by using a machine called an E-meter. It is, in fact, an adapted battery-powered galvanometer with a needle dial wired to two empty cans. This "treatment" is very expensive and has been denounced by medical experts as a dangerous hoax.

* Members of the "church" have engaged in vicious and serious harassment of persons and organizations who investigate or speak out against the group, such as the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the Los Animes, Readers' Digest, the Boston Globe, the St. Petersburg Times, Forbes Magazine, the American Medical Association, the Better Business Bureau and the American Psychiatric Association. Many individuals, including a federal judge, were also targeted.

* In 1979, nine leaders of the "church," including L. Ron Hubbard's third wife, Mary Sue, were convicted in federal court here of breaking into a number of government offices and photocopying documents, bugging the conference room of the main IRS building and planting Scientology agents in drug-control and intelligence agencies of the government. Two more were convicted of similar offenses the following year. All have been sent to prison. L. Ron Hubbard himself has not been seen in public since 1980.

* Last year, the U.S. Tax Court upheld the removal of tax-exempt status from the Church of Scientology of California -- ruling that it had "made a business out of selling religion" -- and ordered the payment of $1.4 million in back taxes.

* Individuals who have left the movement have claimed that personal information obtained from recruits is used later to blackmail them and members of their families. Sen. Thomas Eagleton, whose niece was a member of the "church," was a victim of this tactic and he revealed and denounced the blackmail attempt the day before the Missouri Democratic primary in 1980.

* Former members of the "church" and area parents, whose young adult children have been enticed into the movement, report that it is a vicious and threatening cult. The Cult Awareness Council, a grass-roots family support group, provides detailed information about the abuses of the movement.