British diplomats exposed the academic qualifications obtained by L. Ron Hubbard - the controversial founder of Scientology - as a fraud 30 years ago, as part of UK government efforts to thwart a potential lawsuit by the Church of Scientology, it has emerged.
The British government made a decision to block pilgrimages to Scientology’s world headquarters in East Grinstead, West Sussex, as a valid reason for obtaining a visa to visit the UK in 1968, The Times reports. The decision prompted a threat by Scientologists (never shy about calling in the lawyers) some years later to sue the UK government for libel.
The threat prompted the UK government to draw up a dossier on Hubbard and the Church of Scientology, designed to discredit its accusers and justify its actions.
British diplomats established that Hubbard awarded himself a doctorate from a bogus "diploma mill" college that the former science-fiction writer controlled.
Hubbard was awarded an honorary Ph.D. in Philosophy by Sequoia University, California, "in recognition of his outstanding work and contributions in the fields of Dianetics and Scientology" back in 1953. The impressive sounding Sequoia University was never properly accredited and was closed by the California courts for offering mail-order degrees, British diplomats discovered.
No lawsuit against the British government ever materialised, so the information remained secret and was only due to be released in full in 2019. However, documents relating to the case were released early following a successful Freedom of Information Act request by The Times.
The documents include a statement by a former senior Scientologist, familiar with how Hubbard and his cohorts plotted to award themselves fake academic qualifications.
"L. Ron Hubbard [and others] acquired premises somewhere in Los Angeles which they had registered as a university called Sequoia and immediately awarded each other doctorates," former Scientologist John McMaster said.
In response to confidential queries, staff at the British consulate at Los Angeles also suggested that Scientologists posing as doctors, on the basis of fake degrees, sought to discredit investigators acting against the organisation, including an unnamed Californian Deputy Attorney General.
A newly-released diplomatic telegraph from 1977 states: "Deputy Attorney General dealing with them was taken ill and after seeing some 'doctors' was retired 'due to his mental health'. My very incensed informant in the California Department of Education is convinced that the ‘doctors’ were Scientologists who hypnotised him into mental ill-health and he feels very bitter but can do nothing about it."
A spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology dismissed the allegation, which she told The Times was a reflection on the paranoia of US Internal Revenue Services, then leading an investigation against the organisation.
A fuller run-down of diplomatic intrigue and the British government's investigation against Scientology can be found in The Times story here. ®