The Gay Scientologist: Quentin Hubbard, 1954-1976
"It was a huge loss of face for 'the boss' having a gay son"
You might have seen free personality tests. They're offered by the organisation that calls itself a church in almost every country but this one (where this is not legally allowed) - Scientology. These are recruitment points for the organisation. They provide contact with the general public, where trained staff can help people examine their problems though the lens of 'Dianetics'. The problems Dianetics claims to solve include the 'illness' of 'sexual perversion', and that includes homosexuality.
Quentin had just such a 'problem'.
In the past Scientology has claimed to be able to cure you of your sexuality as part of making 'the able more able'. Why, then, did the founder's gay son kill himself?
If Scientology's process - dubbed Dianetics - works, then surely it should have worked fairly well for the author and his own family? Apart from Quentin, another Hubbard son (LRH junior) left the organisation, changing his name as he went. He was labelled mentally ill, as was Quentin. Dianetics: the Modern Science of the Mind could not help. In Quentin's case, neither could the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF), a work programme for members who are 'out-ethics' – supposedly rehabilitative facilities for 'deviant' members.
According to Dr Stephen A Kant, the RPF "put coerced participants through regimes of harsh physical punishment, forced self-confessions, social isolation, hard labour, and intense doctrinal study, all as part of leadership-designed efforts to regain members' ideological commitment. The confinement that participants experience, combined with forms of physical maltreatment, intensive ideological study, and forced confessions, allows social scientists to speak of the RPF as a 'brainwashing' program."
Anne Rosenblum, a former Scientologist, described her experience of the RPF: You are not allowed to speak to anyone outside the RPF without permission. You must run everywhere, not walk. Your mail is read, you are accompanied at all times, even to the toilet; you're not allowed any luxuries, and you are fed on rice and beans. In addition to this, you are subjected to hypnosis and forced to do hard labour for the organisation. Any member can be declared out-ethics, and "any law which applies to the behaviour of men and women applies to children".
Quentin Hubbard was sent there while a high-ranking member of his father's organisation, for attempting suicide. A couple of years later and no healthier mentally, he succeeded.
Your religion is your choice, of course. Nobody should be allowed to restrict your practice, whatever you believe. That does not mean that we should accept the right of the religious to abuse, however. People should be free to choose for themselves, and to do as they wish with their lives so long as they do not impede another's freedom to do the same.
So, was Quentin free? If so, why did he choose to die? Was his burgeoning sexuality a deal-breaker for his father's organisation? Did it lead to his death?
We can only guess what was going through his mind when he died, but it seems likely his father's attitude towards his sexuality was a pressing concern. "It was a huge loss of face for 'the boss' having a gay son," says Dennis Erlich, a former Scientology minister. According to the LA Times, LRH's first reaction when he heard of the death of Quentin was to express concern over publicity that could be used to discredit Scientology. According to the book Bare Faced Messiah, he said "that stupid f**king kid! That stupid f**king kid! Look what he's done to me!" "He thought Quentin was an embarrassment," says Laurel Sullivan, LRH's former personal public relations adviser. "[LRH] told me that several times."
With its current stated acceptance of homosexuality - member Keith Relkin ran a marathon carrying a pride flag, and says he has worked with the Church of Scientology for greater inclusion of gay people like himself – perhaps the horrific ordeal suffered by Quentin Hubbard could never be repeated. Perhaps LRH's organisation is not homophobic these days. To be fair, it is hard to find much conclusive information; at the time of writing there are only two hits for 'gay' on the Scientology site, both about Keith and his rainbow flag.
Scientology has been in the news again, and transparency has been an issue. Last month was Lisa McPherson's Birthday. She died in 1995 after 17 days being 'handled' by Scientologists in their home base of Clearwater, Florida. She has become a symbol of all those who decry the practices of the organisation. For her birthday and in her memory, a collection of people protested outside the Hubbard Academy of Personal Independence in Edinburgh. They shared the identity 'Anonymous' to remain safe from repercussions from an organisation with a history of taking extreme lengths to silence critics.
These were concerned citizens, as was evident from interviewing them that day. One man asked "How do I know they won't come after my kids?" - referring to the organisation's 'Fair Game' policy that has seen many lives ruined. He was not the only one to express concern for family members should his identity be revealed.
These anonymous protesters were out in force, in locations around the world besides Edinburgh, and they are planning to do it again for LRH's birthday on 15 March.
What this will mean to those worshippers who some say feel trapped in the 'church', only time will tell.
"I always thought he was homosexual. He was trying to get out of the Church."
- Kima Douglas, LRH's nurse, on the suicide of Quentin Hubbard
"The sexual pervert ([...] includes any and all forms of deviation in dynamic two such as homosexuality, lesbianism, sexual sadism, etc [...]) is actually quite ill physically."
- Lafayette Ronald Hubbard (LRH), in Dianetics Part 2, Chapter 5 (1950)