An Oklahoma State Senator Just Introduced Legislation That Would Stop a Scientology-Based Drug Rehab Center

In Oklahoma, the Board of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services certifies private facilities that offer treatment/counseling services.

As it turns out, there’s a private facility in the state called Narconon that focuses on drug rehabilitation (recovery) which used to be outside the scope of the Board’s oversight.

So what’s the big deal?

Narconon is a “Scientology front group” (see this report from Rock Center with Brian Williams) and it promotes treatment that is unscientific, based on the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard. In fact, a number of people have died over the past year due to their treatment.

Yet, they’re still “certified” by a private third party and that’s why they’re allowed to exist in Oklahoma.

Now, State Senator Tom Ivester is trying to fix this. He just introduced legislation (PDF) that would broaden the scope of what the Board of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services can do.

State Senator Tom Ivester

In short, the current law would be amended so that the Board could also certify recovery centers… like Narconon (though, obviously, that organization isn’t named in the bill).

His bill would, sadly, also exempt faith-based recovery centers from the Board’s oversight… but since Narconon says they’re not a religiously-affiliated group, they don’t get to be exempt.

Clever move.

The blogger at Odd Oklahoma, the site that first brought this bill to my attention, writes:

Originally, it was the Board that had denied Narconon their certification and nearly shut them down in the 1990s. It was only by getting outside certification that they were able to stay open. This would end that exemption. Expect there to be legal battles between Narconon and the State of Oklahoma over the next several years as they try to get certified.

My best guess is that this bill is specifically worded to avoid banning any of the other current treatment facilities that already exist in Oklahoma, while still targeting Narconon. Those two exemptions probably allowed those existing groups to keep operating.

The same blogger also points out a problem with Ivester’s bill: Secular drug/alcohol recovery groups may be under the Board’s oversight while religious-based recovery programs wouldn’t be — and that could lead to legal battles in the future. But there’s still time to fix that.

In the meantime, though, this is a strong move to rid the state of a recovery center that is really just a front to recruit more people into Scientology.

(Thanks to @Calvyn82 for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Footnote: Narconon is a Scientology front group. Narcotics Anonymous is not.

    • http://twitter.com/TychaBrahe TychaBrahe

      And Narcotics Anonymous goes by NA as a result.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

      it may not be about scientology, but iirc it still uses the “higher power will cure you of your problem” logic.

      i suppose i’m starting a flame war with this, but i find the whole structure of AA-style “recovery” groups to be ridiculous.

      you can’t cure an addiction thru self-flaggilation and prayer to a nonexistent entity. it’s a medical problem and should be dealt with like any other medical problem: with science.

      • http://twitter.com/TychaBrahe TychaBrahe

        12 step programs have their own issues, but it’s rare for people to actually die while undergoing them.

        People interested in the topic might want to check out Ken Ragge’s More Revealed. You start looking at AA and similar programs in a different light when you learn that AA wasn’t started to break people’s addiction to alcohol, but in order to bring the drunks to Jesus.

      • Karen

        There are non-12-step recovery programs available too; Rational Recovery, SMART Recovery, and others. You have to look around to find them, while there’s an AA meeting on damn near every corner. They teach changing your thinking (about your own life, as well as your desire for alcohol/drugs) to give you practical, secular tools to fight your addiction.

  • Smiles

    What is to stop them from switching sides? If faith-based recovery centers are exempt and Narconon “promotes treatment that [are] unscientific, based on the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard,” then wouldn’t it be easy for them to openly admit they are faith-based and continue to be exempt?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Clayton-Flesher/17103977 Clayton Flesher

      They avoid being explicitly associated, because people don’t want to send a family member to a Scientology rehab center.

      People interviewed about Arrowhead often don’t find out about the Scientology ties until they’ve already payed.

      • JohnnieCanuck

        Uh oh. We have a fairly high profile Arrowhead group here in our little backwater town. Never once during their campaign, which ended up in their getting a public building refurbished with public donations and taxpayer funds, was it mentioned that they were shills for Scientology.

        An anti-psychiatry, brain-washing bunch of con-men is given access to vulnerable people because the mental health system doesn’t have any money? That’s awful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1351473675 Matthew Baker

    Do you have time to fill out this personality survey and hold on to these two tin cans? Not sure what they has to do with your drug problem neither do we.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      In my local mall the personality test was, for a short time, replaced with the “balance and flexibility” test. At least the latter only soaks you for $39.95.

      • JohnnieCanuck

        Think of it as a low, low, low introductory price.

  • ruth

    I’m reading Going Clear, the book that just came out on Scientology by Lawrence Wright. It is very meticulous and dispassionate. Scary stuff. Anyway, religious or not religious all the programs should be subject to the same standards. Off with the kid gloves.

  • Scott Braden

    This isn’t a strong move at all. All Narconon has to do is officially affiliate itself witht he Church of Scientology and then it will be able to squeeze through the “faith based” loophole. While you and I may believe scientology isn’t a legitimate religious faith, it is under the eyes of the law and could thus meet the exception.
    Narconon already admits its practices are rooted in scientology, so it’s not like it’s a huge leap for it to change its policy statement to say it’s now a religious based entity. It would make it no different than the myriad of christian drug rehabs that think that biblical prinicples and praying are adequate measures to combat drug drug and alcohol addiction.


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