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Oklahoma Rep. Jason Murphey on Scientology’s Lobbying: “It’s Some Spooky-Looking Stuff”

Jason_MurpheyA bill regulating drug rehab centers in Oklahoma that could spell big trouble for Scientology’s Narconon flagship operation there passed the state Senate 46-0 this week, and now it goes before the House.

Its House co-sponsor is Jason Murphey, a young Republican representative known for his commitment to modernizing government and ethics reform. We talked to him yesterday about the bill’s chances in the House, as well as what he’s seen from Scientology as lobbying efforts to prevent the bill from becoming law.

Like Senator Tom Ivester, a Democrat, Murphey was troubled last year by the news coming out of Scientology’s flagship drug rehab facility, Narconon Arrowhead, which is in the eastern part of the state. Three patients had died in a nine-month period, and multiple local and state investigations had been launched.

Ivester heard from state regulators, who told him they have long wanted to exert more oversight of Narconon’s activities, but weak state laws prevented them from doing so. Ivester announced publicly that he wanted to do something about that, and Murphey says the Democrat approached him after hearing that Murphey also wanted to do something for the victims’ families.

“After one of the news reports, I heard that Senator Ivester was doing something about it. I had wanted to do something too, so we just naturally formed a friendship on this,” Murphey says.

It’s an interesting partnership, between a Democratic senator and a conservative Republican representative. But now that Ivester has shepherded the bill through the Senate with a unanimous vote, Murphey says he’s feeling confident he can get similar House support in mid-March, when Senate bills are considered.


We told Rep. Murphey that some of our readers were concerned with the wording of the bill. Does it really close a loophole that allowed Scientology’s program to bypass certification by the state Board of Mental Health in the early 1990s?

“I think it would,” Murphey says, but he adds that rules state regulators develop after the bill becomes law will also be very important to how it is implemented.

Murphey adds that he thinks the bill is important because what Scientology is offering in its Narconon program is “not scientific,” and “people are not realizing what they’re getting into.”

“Hopefully, this will change that. We’ve been working very closely with mental health officials,” he says.

He then explained some of the complex rules that govern the passing of legislation, and said that because of the way Ivester sent the bill through, it has a chance to become law very quickly.

“What he sent over was a live round. If we don’t amend it, it won’t go back to the Senate. It will then go straight to the governor,” he says. And he adds that he’ll be doing his best to prevent amendments and get it through.

And will Governor Mary Fallin sign it?

“She won’t veto this, I don’t think,” he says, and credits the families of victims — Stacy Dawn Murphy, Gabriel Graves, and Hillary Holten, who all died at the Narconon facility — for keeping pressure on Oklahoma’s government. “The lopsided vote in the Senate says this bill has a lot of support.”

We asked if he’s been lobbied directly by the Church of Scientology over the bill. Senator Ivester had said that he’d met with Scientology attorneys multiple times, but Murphey says he hasn’t had direct contact yet.

“We have been getting an awful lot of mail from Scientology. I think the way they’ve handled it is absolutely wrong. It’s some spooky-looking stuff,” he says.


Posted by Tony Ortega on February 22, 2013 at 13:00


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