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.