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It’s Halloween, and Narconon is Very, Very Afraid

This is an extended version of KWTV-Channel 9’s report which aired last night about Scientology’s drug rehab program in Oklahoma — Narconon Arrowhead — which is under investigation for three deaths that occurred there over a nine-month period.

Reporter Dana Hertneky interviews Robert Murphy, whose daughter Stacy Dawn Murphy died at the rehab center in July, and David Love, who worked at a Narconon facility in Quebec and then helped to get it shut down. But she also talked to Narconon Arrowhead CEO Gary Smith, who is suddenly talking to the CBS affiliate and other Oklahoma television stations after refusing to give interviews for months.

Smith is letting in cameras and trying his best to look calm and relaxed. But we can’t help thinking this new strategy has “desperation” written all over it.

Gary Smith: What, me worry?


Oklahoma’s television and print press have been all over the developing story as multiple local and state agencies have been investigating the deaths at the rehab center.

Smith (or rather, one of his Scientology bosses) decided to try to stem the bleeding by offering interviews to the local TV stations. One of them, KOTV’s “News on 6” largely gave Smith what he was looking for, presenting his statements without fact-checking them. But Hertneky and Channel 9 didn’t roll over that easily.

Smith is still trying to sell the idea that Narconon is not Scientology, and deliberately confuses the issue by saying that Narconon is not a “church.” Reporters tend to use weasel words like “Narconon is based on the teachings of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard,” when a little digging should prove to them that not only is Narconon controlled by Scientology, but its methods are literally the same training that beginning Scientologists get.

This is easy to double check if you just look through Narconon’s materials. (Channel 6 briefly displays those materials on screen, but apparently didn’t read or understand them.)

The deaths are alarming, but they are the catalyst that is bringing attention to the larger problem: Narconon uses deceptive advertising to convince unsuspecting parents that they are sending loved ones to a facility that will actually provide drug counseling from professionals with 24-hour care and the presence of medical personnel. The reality is very different. Patients actually get little or no drug counseling but instead are drilled with the same Scientology training that beginning members of the church go through, they are treated by staff who are not professionals but simply former patients, and if there is a medical director, he or she is almost never at the facility, which has been shown in court documents.

Increasingly, that reality is getting out in places like Oklahoma and Georgia, where patient deaths have produced lawsuits.

Scientology hates the press with a passion, so we have to interpret Smith’s sudden openness as a desperation move.

While he’s clearly terrified, we hope the rest of you are enjoying this Halloween with good cheer. The bunker survived the frankenstorm, the animals are doing fine, and let’s all use our theta powers to push away the rain so the kids can get out and harvest sweets. Trick or treat!

PS: Speaking of local reporters taking on Narconon, tomorrow night Nathan Baca will be revealing a three-year investigation of Narconon that he’s been preparing for the Las Vegas station he’s been working for.

Baca is well known in the Scientology watching community for the thorough and amazing series about Scientology’s International Base that he did for a Palm Springs station several years ago. His stuff was better than most national TV reporting on the subject, and we can’t wait to see what he has on tap tomorrow night.

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