On March 8, Mark and Nicole Peet, residents of upstate New York, sent their son to the Rainbow Canyon Retreat, a Narconon drug rehab center that relies on the teachings of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. The young man was back home by May 13. In the lawsuit they filed in Nevada on November 21, the Peets allege that their son (whose name we’re withholding because of his age) went through disturbing mistreatment at the hands of older patients, including “branding” him with a hot iron.
The Peets are suing to get back the $39,000 they paid Rainbow Canyon, and are also asking for punitive damages, alleging that their son was so affected by his experience at the facility, it led to his attempting suicide on September 5.
Yesterday, we spoke briefly with the Nevada attorney for the Peet family, Richard Sears, as well as the Peets themselves. Other than confirming that the lawsuit was genuine and active, they said the case was in a “sensitive” stage and didn’t want to elaborate on its allegations.
But there is much in the lawsuit itself that not only details the experiences of their son, but echo the allegations contained in other recent lawsuits against Narconon centers.
As we’ve established in the past, local Narconon centers play down their relationship to Scientology, and when pressed about it claim that they are independent of the church. But extensive records going back decades show how Scientology maintains control of the Narconon facilities through its elite Sea Org, which staffs Narconon’s umbrella organization, the Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE). And a former president of Narconon’s flagship operation in Oklahoma, Lucas Catton, has come forward not only explaining the level of control by Scientology, but also that Narconon’s program contains little drug counseling, and instead consists of the same training beginning church members go through in Scientology itself.
The Peet family was completely unaware of this when they sent their son to Rainbow Canyon last March and he became its youngest patient.
Just three days after he arrived, their son went through a harrowing sort of hazing.
“While he was sleeping, several other residents branded his arm with a piece of metal from a bedspring. When [he] awakened in pain, they forcibly held him down until he sustained a disfiguring wound,” the lawsuit alleges.
The incident was just one example of bullying and harassment their son went through, the Peets claim, and they provide other examples of the facility failing to make good on specific promises that had been made to them about his care.
They had been assured, for example, that their son would be segregated from older patients. However, when two of his roommates left the program, he suddenly found himself sharing his room with a 27-year-old. Even after this was brought to the attention of the staff, they say, the older man was not removed until his program ended.
Another 27-year-old, they say, beat up their son, leaving him with a neck laceration and a bloody lip, but his parents were never notified.
Numerous lawsuits against Narconon centers allege that drug abuse is actually quite common at the facilities. The Peets make the same complaint, writing in their lawsuit that not only did weekly Saturday trips to town turn into drug-hunting expeditions for patients, but their son was actually instructed in how to use Facebook to get drugs mailed into the facility by an employee of the Narconon center. (Typically, Narconon uses low-paid former patients for some of its staff.)
In April, the lawsuit alleges, their son witnessed another patient shooting up heroin at the facility.
“[He] was offered Heroin consistently by other patients thereafter, and subsequently gave in. [He] shot up heroin for the first time while at the Rainbow Canyon Retreat,” the lawsuit says.
Their son, soon after his arrival, also began his training in Scientology methods.
“During the pre-admission programs, staff assured Mark and Nicole that no brainwashing or attempts to convert [their son] to the philosophical teachings of L. Ron Hubbard would occur. An L. Ron Hubbard book was placed on [his] nightstand, and [he] was forced to attend ‘classes’ that involved staring at other students for hours at a time.”
Besides staring exercises, Hubbard’s unscientific sauna treatment was used, and the Peets allege that their son reacted badly to it.
“[He] was forced to endure saunas for five hours at a time with only short breaks. [He] endured twenty four (24) consecutive days of saunas that lasted three hours and forty minutes apiece. [He] sustained daily scalding from the heat. On each day [he] was forced to take a sauna, he was also forced to take Niacin. He was started on 100 mg. per day and was worked up to 1000 mg. per day. He was forced to take the Niacin in spite of the fact that the Niacin caused a severe reaction in [his] body.”
(Hubbard theorized that drugs were stored in fat cells for up to years after their use, and could be “flushed” from the body through the intense sauna-and-Niacin regimen. Experts have repeatedly said there is no science to back up this assertion.)
Finally, the Peets allege that their son fainted and was taken to a hospital on May 11. His parents were not notified and received no followup calls from Rainbow Canyon employees.
After learning all of the things that had been happening with their son, the Peets asked for a refund of their $39,000 and were refused. So they have filed their lawsuit.
We called Rainbow Center yesterday, but were told no one there knew about the lawsuit and couldn’t talk to us about it if they did.
The facility is in a sparsely populated part of Nevada about 150 miles north of Las Vegas. In November, Nathan Baca, a reporter for the Las Vegas news station KLAS-TV, did a two part story about Rainbow Canyon, talking to other former patients who had largely the same complaints about the facility.
Baca’s investigation showed that Nevada state government has almost no regulatory authority over the facility.
In Georgia, state officials are attempting to shut down a Narconon center in the Atlanta area after documents in a wrongful death lawsuit showed that the Scientologists operating the center were also running an unlicensed housing facility and lying to a Florida state court about it. Narconon’s own documents, unearthed in that case, show that drug use in the housing facility was rampant and involved the center’s own employees.
Three deaths at Narconon’s flagship facility in eastern Oklahoma over just a nine month period have spawned several lawsuits as that center is being investigated by local and state agencies. In those cases, similar stories have been documented which tell of parents being deceived about what goes on at Narconon centers, about the Scientology content in the program, and about rampant drug use among patients and employees.
Richard Sears, the Peet family attorney, told us that he would be more interested in talking about the case later, but for now the lawsuit was in a “sensitive” stage. (To our ears, that implied that Narconon was actually in a negotiating mood, which seems unusual so early in the life of this lawsuit. Perhaps with so much else going on, however, Scientology wants to cut its losses.)
We told Sears that we were hoping to get one question answered right away — was the young man all right? The lawsuit alleges that because of his experience, the youngster attempted suicide on September 5.
“He’s not OK. There are obviously still problems,” Sears answered. But he did not want to go into detail.
We hope to follow up with him soon.
Women Who Left Scientology Talk About Their Families Ripped Apart by the Church
Here’s a five-minute excerpt of yesterday’s three-hour web radio show that we told you about. For the full show, go here.
Links of Note
Will wonders never cease? Two mentions of Scientology in the New York Times in only a week? Wow. Sure, this second one only has a short portion about the church, but it’s good to see our old friend Hugh Urban get his due.
Posted by Tony Ortega on January 5, 2013 at 07:00