Before L. Ron Hubbard founded Scientology, he wrote what he considered his masterpiece. Hubbard claimed the novella, titled Excalibur or sometimes Dark Sword, was so good that its early readers went insane or killed themselves.
In actuality, little evidence of the sword-titled book exists, leading commentators to speculate that Hubbard (famous for his tall tales) never wrote it. But 33 years after Hubbard’s death, Scientology has a new sword death problem. People with swords or very large knives keep getting involved in killings at Scientology centers.
It happened again on Wednesday.
An unidentified man parked a white Bentley outside the front doors of the Church of Scientology in Inglewood, California on Wednesday afternoon and entered the center with a samurai sword, where he started “acting crazy,” one witness told KTLA.
Two police officers arrived on the scene and opened fire on the man, striking him in the head. He later died in the hospital. Details of the killing are sparse.
But the death wasn’t even the only samurai sword-related Scientology slaying within a dozen miles.
In November 2008, 48-year-old Mario Majorski entered Scientology’s famous Hollywood “Celebrity Center,” some 12 miles north of Inglewood. Brandishing a samurai sword in each hand, Majorski attempted to attack people inside the center until a security guard shot and killed him.
Majorski had a complicated history with the controversial group, a trajectory shared by other former members. He’d been a Scientologist in the early 1990s, the group told media at the time. While involved in Scientology, Majorski took up the group’s aggressive stance against critics. In 1993, he attempted to sue a UCLA professor who criticized Scientology. One of his attorneys in the case was longtime Scientology lawyer Kendrick Moxon, court records show.
The case was dismissed for lack of standing. But Moxon’s involvement ties the suit to a decades-long pattern of aggressive legal action against Scientology’s critics.
Scientology has been the subject of skepticism before it technically even existed as a religion. Hubbard, originally a science-fiction author, began claiming otherworldly enlightenment after a supposed near-death experience in a dentist’s office in 1938. His alleged brush with the afterlife inspired him to write Excalibur, the title of which references the legendary sword King Arthur pulled from a stone. A gifted self-promoter, if not a particularly gifted writer, Hubbard boasted about the book for decades without ever publishing it. (He claimed early readers had lost their minds or died.) Instead, he reworked some of the supposed book’s themes into Dianetics, a pseudoscientific self-help book that became a national sensation in the 1950s, despite debunkings by medical professionals.
That criticism continued when Hubbard made Dianetics the foundational text in the religion of Scientology, which preaches that humans are actually just bodies occupied by ancient, soul-like beings called “thetans” which, with the right amount of pricey Scientology training, can work miracles and exercise supernatural powers.
The church has been accused of financially exploiting and physically abusing members in prison-like conditions aboard ships and inside Scientology buildings, allegations the group denies. After one early denial, in 1968, the church began targeting critic Paulette Cooper, suing her at least 19 times over a book she wrote on Scientology. The organization also planned an elaborate harassment campaign against Cooper, which was revealed in documents seized by FBI agents in a 1977 raid over Scientologists’ infiltration of more than 100 government agencies. (Eleven high-level church officials, including Hubbard’s wife, were convicted in the conspiracy to infiltrate the government and sanitize records about the church and Hubbard.)
Moxon, the lawyer who represented Majorski in his suit against the UCLA professor, was named an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the infiltration conspiracy case, and was not charged. But Majorski did not stay with the group. He left sometime in the ’90s, Scientology officials say, and was accused of a series of attacks with obscure weapons. In 2007, he allegedly tried to attack a judge with a sharpened railroad spike, and in 2008 used an ax handle to threaten an AAA representative who helped him when his car was stranded.
During those years of estrangement from Scientology, Majorski sent the church threatening faxes and phone calls, the group’s representatives said.
Scientology suffered a third stabbing incident this past January, when a 16-year-old carried a nine-inch knife into a Sydney, Australia center. The teenager was believed to have attended the church with his mother, who was undergoing one of Scientology’s “purification ceremonies.” He allegedly became involved in a domestic dispute inside the building.
When Scientology staff tried to eject the teen from the building, he allegedly drew the knife on them, injuring one and killing another.
Scientology blamed its critics for the murder. In a letter to the A+E television network, which aired an award-winning expose of the church, Scientology accused network executives of having “blood on your hands.”
“Week after week, month after month, and now year after year, this series has poisoned the airwaves in an avowed effort to create hatred against the Scientology religion and Scientologists,” the email read. “Now, somebody is dead. You paid for the hate that caused his murder.”