Scientology Suit Says Secret Spa Was Labor Camp

Source: Associated Press
Date: April 14, 1980

Defector says Scientology now based near Hemet

A disillusioned former official of the Church of Scientology says sect founder L. Ron Hubbard has been secretly running the organization from a spa 80 miles east of Los Angeles.

In an interview with the Riverside Press-Enterprise, the defector, Sylvana Garritano, 25, described the Scientology enclave as "part insane asylum, part forced labor camp" ruled by the 69-year-old Hubbard and a dozen teen-age servants called "Commodore Messengers."

Ms. Garritano is one of 11 church defectors who have filed a $200 million class-action lawsuit against Scientology in U.S. District Court in Boston.

The defectors' sworn affidavits in the Boston court paint a picture of Hubbard as a man who has adopted Howard Hughes-type eccentricities, maintains absolute control of the people around him and is given to violent outbursts.

Ms. Garritano, who says she signed a "billion-year contract" to serve Hubbard and the church in 1977, said she spent nine months last year working at the spa, Gilman Hot Springs, as Hubbard's marketing secretary.

She claimed that some 200 Scientologists at Gilman labor throughout the night under Hubbard's direction, sending telegraph messages to their churches and missions throughout the world.

Church officials say Hubbard retired 12 years ago from active direction of church business. The Rev. Heber Jentzsch, a spokesman for Scientology's headquarters church in Los Angeles, said he did not know where Hubbard was.

The church has consistently denied any involvement at the site eight miles north of Hemet, despite admissions by the trustee of the property that Scientologists work there.

The Garritano document is the first indication Hubbard has moved the church's headquarters from Clearwater, Fla., to the San Jacinto Valley.

When the church initially moved to Clearwater several years ago, Scientologists sought to conceal their identity and activities, her affidavit says, by changing names, switching license plates to conceal car ownerships and putting up phony office signs.

Scientology was developed by Hubbard after the success of a best-selling book he wrote in the 1950s titled, "Dianetics, the Modern Science of Mental Health."

Claiming to be a blend of Eastern religions, the stated goal of Scientology is to free man from painful experiences in this life and in previous lives the practitioners believe they have had.

Ms. Garritano said, "Hubbard never talked about Scientology as a religion. All Hubbard ever talked about was making money. I can attest that Scientology was run as a money- making enterprise."

She said the "Commodore Messengers" range in age from 13 to 19, wait on Hubbard hand and foot, mimic his voice when delivering his orders, and have the authority to mete out punishments and demote adult members of the organization.