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Omaha World-Herald

February 5, 1983

Omaha Church of Scientology Breaks off Ties

by Lynn Zerschling

Omaha's Church of Scientology has severed all ties to the mother church, some of whose leaders have been convicted of burglarizing and spying on government agencies.

"What does this have to do with religion - burglary, espionage? How does that better mankind?" asked Scott Duncan, executive director of the 80-to-100 member congregation at 5016 California St.

Duncan said the church cut all legal ties to the Church of Scientology last October - the first congregation in the country to make that move. Since then, Duncan said, four congregations in California have broken off.

He said the Omaha congregation, which renamed itself the Church of Scio Logos, has been maintaining a low profile because of feared harassment from the Church of Scientology leaders.

Precautionary Measures

"We have put in a lot of precautionary measures," Duncan said.

Telephone calls are screened. A receptionist doesn't identify the church to callers.

In recent weeks, Duncan said, about two dozen members of his congregation have been receiving what he termed harassing telephone calls from Church of Scientology members. He said the members were told if they didn't rejoin the Mother church, "your eternity will be black."

Duncan said "spies" from the Church of Scientology have tried to infiltrate his congregation.

"You feel threatened. There is an implied threat if you go against them," said Duncan, 28, who has headed the local church for three years.

Because of a concern about retribution, he said, he only recently has discussed the reasons for his church's break.

Terrible Mix-up

"We're not hiding anything," he said. "There's been a terrible mix-up between the philosophy (of Scientology) and the irrational, illegal, criminal actions of the Church of Scientology."

According to news accounts, those activities have included:

- the disappearance of the Church of Scientology's founder, L. Ron Hubbard, 71, a Tilden, Neb. native, science fiction writer and millionaire who was last seen in 1980. Hubbard's third wife, Mary Sue, and some leaders claim to have heard from Hubbard. Hubbard's estranged son said he thinks his father is ill and mentally incompetent. Others said Hubbard is dead.

- In Hubbard's absence, some of his young followers have taken over control of the church, purging longtime leaders.

- The Internal Revenue Service is demanding $6 million in back taxes and penalties.

- About two dozen civil suits have been filed against the church by former members who claimed to have been swindled, harassed or kidnapped.

- On Jan. 7 Mrs. Hubbard, 51, was sentenced by a federal judge to serve four years in prison for her role in directing a conspiracy to steal government documents about the church.

Infiltrate Agencies

- Other church leaders have been convicted on charges stemming from a church-directed program to burglarize, bug and infiltrate various federal agencies that the church considered its "enemies." Those agencies included the IRS, Federal Trade Commission, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Labor, Justice and Treasury Departments.

- Under Hubbard's direction, a paramilitary organization was formed that included secret police and a group to spy on the secret police.

Since it was founded 14 years ago, the Omaha Church of Scientology has always gone its own way, Duncan said.

"L. Ron Hubbard is not some kind of guru that we're following blindly," Duncan said. "That's not the case, at least for members of this church. The rest of the church went into a kind of blind following. My view of him is that he discovered something."

He said Scientology's aim is a world without insanity, criminals and war.

Series of Courses

In reaching those goals, Duncan said, church members take a series of courses to obtain levels of spiritual attainment.

The Church of Scientology "charged an arm and a leg" for those courses, Duncan said.

The average church member spends between $10,000 and $20,000, he said. The total program would cost about $100,000, he estimated.

While Duncan called the teachings "priceless" and crucial to his spiritual development, he said, "I think it's wrong to charge that much... Scientology has been a business disguised as a church."