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Scientology cries religious discrimination in appeal brief filed in Maryland zoning fight

TroutRunIn June, Scientology suffered an embarrassing defeat courtesy of the Frederick County Council in Maryland. You probably remember the drama as the council denied Scientology’s request that a 40-acre parcel of land it had purchased in 2013, known as “Trout Run,” be put on the county’s list of historic places. Why did Scientology care that a decrepit fish camp in rural Maryland be designated a historic site? Because it wants to turn the place into a tiny, 20-bed drug rehab group home for its Narconon network, and the only way it can get the zoning it needs is through the parcel being put on the list of historic locations.

But in a 6-1 vote, the council decided that Trout Run wasn’t so historic, and left it off the list.

Scientology notified the county that it was going to appeal the decision by petitioning for a judicial review of that shellacking by the county council, and now we have the appeal brief that Scientology’s attorneys recently submitted. We’re looking forward to you giving us your thoughts on this intriguing document.

Scientology, through one of its front groups, Social Betterment Properties International, forked over $4.85 million to purchase Trout Run in September 2013. As we pointed out in our story in June, this purchase came at an interesting time. For several years, Narconon’s problems had been mounting, with three patient deaths at its flagship Oklahoma location in 2011 and 2012, and an embarrassing NBC Rock Center report in April 2013. Also, lawsuits against the network of drug rehabs have been proliferating simply because its business model is so deceptive. As we said in June…

Not only had Narconon hid its connection to Scientology when it felt it needed to, but its essential pitch to prospective patients made it vulnerable to fraud lawsuits. Why? Well, itโ€™s pretty simple: Narconon promises drug counseling delivered by medical professionals in a safe environment, but instead, it delivers Scientology training by recently dried out addicts, and in facilities rife with drug use.

Characteristically, Scientology leader David Miscavige has reacted to Narconon’s numerous problems by putting his foot down on the gas pedal. Rather than retreat, he’s planned to open a whole new set of “Ideal” Narconons around the world, and some of them clearly are meant to be more about public relations than serving the public. In California, Miscavige purchased Larry Hagman’s spectacular estate in Ojai and is turning it into a special drunk tank for celebrities. At the same time, he bought the parcel in Maryland, not far from Washington DC, and similarly planned to open a boutique-sized, 20-bed facility, probably for other VIPs who needed to dry out.

But around the world, Miscavige’s plan has run into trouble as locals, more greatly informed about Narconon after years of bad press, have fought back. Scientology has lost zoning fights in Australia, Canada, and Maryland as local groups sprung up to oppose what probably would have been unopposed zoning applications in the past.

In Maryland, Frederick County council members heard from vocal activists who wanted them to know that it was Scientology trying to move into Trout Run, and that they were voting for much more than simply whether an old fish camp was historic.

But when it came time for the June vote itself, the council members who spoke out against the historic designation were very careful not to mention either Narconon or Scientology. They said they had simply been unconvinced that the parcel was special, even after hearing expert testimony to the contrary.

Now, Scientology is fighting back, saying that it was clear those council members were swayed by activists warning them about Scientology, and that basing their decision on that testimony was discriminatory.

The Council inappropriately considered “evidence” outside and within the Record that consisted of nothing more than irrelevant and discriminatory testimony about [SBPI’s] relationship with the Church of Scientology, gossip and rumors about the Church of Scientology’s religious beliefs, and unsubstantiated claims about the effectiveness of the Narconon drug and alcohol rehabilitation program.

Looking at the entire document as a whole, Scientology is arguing that the council members had no right to exercise their own personal judgment. The experts the council had heard from told them that Trout Run was an historic property, so the council should have followed that suggestion. They should have rubber-stamped it, in other words.

At the June 2 hearing, however, council members said they weren’t convinced that it was historic, and the reasons they gave appeared relevant to the question at hand — one council member, for example, said it really wasn’t rare to find a private campsite in the area. None of the council members who voted against the measure said anything about Scientology. But can Scientology convince the county circuit court that its 6-1 loss was unfair?

We’re looking forward to your thoughts on the arguments advanced by Scientology in this brief.

Trout Run: Petition for Judicial Review Part 1

Trout Run: Petition for Judicial Review, Part 2



We didnโ€™t get a chance to include photos in our book, so weโ€™ve posted them at a dedicated page. Reader Sookie put together a complete index and we’re hosting it here on the website. Copies of the paperback version of ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ are on sale at Amazon. The Kindle edition is also available, and shipping instantly.

Tony Ortega’s upcoming appearances (and check out the interactive map to our ongoing tour)…

Oct 28: Adelaide, Wheatsheaf Hotel, 7 pm (with Sen. Nick Xenophon and Bryan Seymour)

Oct 30: Perth, Collins Street Centre, Collins St and Shaftesbury St, South Perth, 7 pm (with Bryan Seymour)

Past dates: Santa Barbara (5/16), Hollywood (5/17), Orange County (5/17), San Diego (5/20), San Francisco (5/22), New York (6/11), Chicago (6/20), Toronto (6/22), Clearwater (6/28), Washington DC (7/12), Hartford (7/14), Denver (7/17), Dallas (7/20), Houston (7/22), San Antonio (7/24), Austin (7/25), Paris (7/29), London (8/4), Boston (8/24), Phoenix (9/15), Cleveland (9/23), Minneapolis (9/24), Portland (9/27), Seattle (9/28), Vancouver BC (9/29), Sydney (10/23), Melbourne (10/25)


Posted by Tony Ortega on October 26, 2015 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of LA attorney and former church member Vance Woodward

UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield


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  • TonyOrtega

    Adelaide, I am in you.

    • sugarplumfairy

      I hope Adelaide took precautions..

    • Dave In Ajax

      ahhh, so her name is adelaide

    • TheMirrorThetan

      You might have driven past my house near the airport. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • what’sup

        I love Adelaide airport, well not the airport so much as the service station there that sells cartons 24/7.

    • romanesco

      If she has to be notified of that verbally, I’d say she’s had one or nine too many cocktails.

      • what’sup

        Love your work.

    • Ella Raitch

      Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls sing Adelaide

  • Frodis73

    I saw the commercial for Leah’s 2020 interview a bit ago. I’m sure ABC is getting flooded with letters from the church. If they back down again, I will be livid (as will Dan Harris). We all know they can be editing the thing a couple/few hours before it airs.

  • Belgian trial, day one:

    Much fun was had before the beginning, being interview by two different TV journalists. Saying I was very excited to see what use the court would make of the files that they had confiscated from the criminal organisation known as the “church” of $cientology.

    I was only disappointed very briefly when the first accused was heard. She was allowed to waffle on about how she had a difficult family life in her late teens and how the criminal organisation known as the “church” of $cientology was somehow to thank for her still being alive(!). (Hey, if they cured her of suicidal tendencies, that sounds like they practised medicine – is their license up to that?)

    With that out of the way, the judge got stuck into her work as a “financial officer.” They went over the basic bOrg finances, with fixed percentages going off the top to Copenhagen and to Los Angeles and how staff was sometimes paid and sometimes not.

    Things got interesting when the judge started asking questions about a convoluted situation involving a member who was allowed to borrow money to start courses but then made to pay in cash for a PTS/SP course. Cue lovely interlude about PTS/SP. (I could have gotten the detail wrong here, but the link between conditions and paying for a PTS/SP course was in there.)

    When the judge started asking questions of the “ethics” officer, things got interesting. The “ethics officer” did repeat the lovely claim that people could be “$cientologists” without spending a lot of money, “L Ron Hubbard defines a $cientologist as someone who ….” Question: “OK, how can a person do this without buying courses and books?” Anwer: “Well, say a person found a book in a library – the $cientology church has donated complete set of L Ron Hubbard books to all libraries in Belgium – a person could read about a solution to a problem that someone else has and then use that to help others, and let me remind you how L Ron Hubbard defines a $cientologist: someone who …”

    So, I’m sure the judge was delighted to be treated to a proper word cleared waffle, but he has the “ethics” folders and it sounds like he’s going to use them.


    I had to sidle out from the afternoon’s hearing to go say Helloooo!! to the bOrg, so I missed the second half of the afternoon where the judge apparently got well into it ๐Ÿ™‚

    The flash-raid was notable mainly by the one clam handler – the DSA? – and his videographer beating a hasty retreat when they were told about Xenu and the DC8s. I haven’t experienced that in years – the Co$ must real;ly nt have expected this raid. Good.

    The police showed and talked with the DSA (twice), but they didn’t do a thing other than observe from where they were parked. It must suck to be the DSA. But, yeah, that’s pretty much the condition of any victim of the mind-fuck perpetrated by the Co$.

    • just added you to my blog post today

    • Graham

      “Well, say a person found a book in a library…”. So at last it’s official. Anyone who even just stumbles across a book in a library is considered to be a Scientologist. Using that criterion their much-quoted figure of 12 million could well be an under-estimate!

      • Andrea ‘i-Betty’ Garner

        Exceedingly good point ๐Ÿ™‚

    • romanesco

      Oh, really, Mr. Ethics Officer? And what is it they call people who practice Scientology outside of the control of the organization?

    • Juicer77

      Thank you for this ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Andrea ‘i-Betty’ Garner

      Thanks so much, Jens, this was great!

  • on topic Enty blind item….


    • Frodis73

      I hope it’s true. I wonder which SP she was with tho.

      • most people guessing Leah

        • Missionary Kid

          One can hope, but whoever it is, she’s sure to get sec checked over it. I hope it has the same result it did for Leah.

          • Graham

            Hopefully without the $30k Sec Check bill.

            • Missionary Kid

              Leah’s bill was 10 times that!

            • Graham

              Wow. Scientology- always worse than you think.

        • Ella Raitch

          Maybe she’s running an OSA program to get to goods on Leah *removes tin foil hat *

    • sugarplumfairy

      Let’s hope another co$ celeb is waking up and smelling the rice and beans..

      • ‘not’ smelling, surely

        • sugarplumfairy

          Yes, much better..

  • scottmercer

    Star Trek = cult = Scientology (starting at 7:00 in the video…from a few years ago)

    • scottmercer

      (Just watching YouTube videos at random, and Scientology jokes pop up constantly…)

    • Juicer77

      Scien-whatnow? XD

  • Pierrot

    *** RED X +โ€“+ Reminder +โ€“+ RED X *** Tuesday, 27 October 2015.

    Good morning Night Owls and Early Birds,

    Friday 23rd : NO SCORE
    Saturday 24th : SFBay & NY scraped in and saved the day
    Sunday 25th : NY saved the day with a couple of hits (Thanks to Salin and her crew)
    Monday 26th: Dallas scrapped in, BUT Los Angeles has 5 โ€œdeleted by its authorโ€

    RedX tips & Complaints procedure are included in the google doc under the RedXTips tab.
    Flag the lies, whack a few bait & switch ads :

    F5โ€ฆ Tri Fi by Hoon enhanced by DodoTheLaser for RedX, flickred by Aeger Primo

    • Robert Eckert

      “deleted by author” may mean they were close to getting flagged out and the author does not want more “removed” on his account’s history (too many can lead to account deletion)

  • Narapoid
  • Tom Reynolds

    What Maryland is doing to CoS is an outrage . . . even you haters should be able to see what this is: a WITCHHUNT

    • Frodis73

      I know. Isn’t it an outrage? Poor scientology they are always getting a raw deal.

    • Enturbulated Masterbator

      The problem with your argument is that a witch hunt is uninvited. In this case, the “church” sought a ruling from the government. And disagreement does not indicate a motivation of hate.

    • $cnMonkeyNut$

      I love the sound of whiny butthurt in the morning (with apologies to Apocalypse Now!) ๐Ÿ™‚

    • TheMirrorThetan

      Yes it certainly is an outrage. And when I get my give-a-fuck fixed, I will give a fuck, until then speshul snowflake, I cant seem to get very worked up about the subject. Sorry about that.

    • anoni81b4u

      I like to think of it as an alien hunt!

    • romanesco

      More of a statute hunt on the part of Scientology. The zoning exception for historical sites was not made to enable commercial enterprises, including random sketchy outfits, to set up shop in areas otherwise unfit.

      There’s a flaw in the statute. Not to mention a fly in the ointment.

    • Snippy_X

      1. The site is not historic.

      2. Witches could get more people *safely* off drugs than Scientology’s cash cow Narconon ever would.

      3. Scientology already has amassed too much tax free money in off shore accounts, so it’s hard to picture your crooks as victims.

    • pluvo

      Who are the haters?

      “Enemy. SP Order. Fair game. May be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.”

      โ€œThe purpose of the suit is to harass and discourage rather than to win. The law can be used very easily to harass, and enough harassment on somebody who is simply on the thin edge anyway, well knowing that he is not authorized, will generally be sufficient to cause his professional decease. If possible, of course, ruin him utterly.โ€

    • kemist

      You’re funny.

      This is satire, right ? Right ?

      I can’t tell anymore…

    • anoni81b4u

      No hunting allowed!
      We just laugh when the house falls on them!

    • Frodis73

      Btw, maybe your “church” shouldn’t have bought that property in the first place as it wasn’t zoned for a rehab and they knew that when they bought it. Now they are stuck with 4 properties that they cannot use because their bribery, blackmail and lies don’t seem to work any more.

    • Douglas D. Douglas

      Haters? Where?!?

      I hate them…!

    • Douglas D. Douglas

      Found her.

      Can we all go home now?

    • Susan B.

      Hi Tom.

      Ya know what I hate? People who treat mentally ill folks like they are sub-human and out to destroy the world. People who treat young children like trash and prevent them from developing healthy relationships with their parents. People who force those children to live like slaves working long, long hours with very little pay if any and depriving them of the sleep their young bodies esp. nervous systems need. I hate fundamentalists who are addicted to their dogma and perceived the world outside of them as wrong, wrong, wrong.

      Take some deep breaths, Tom, be with yourself, relax. Do some mirror work. Go sit in front of a mirror and look at yourself in the eye. Keep breathing. Look at yourself and have compassion for yourself. Keep taking relaxing breaths. Keep looking at yourself in the mirror. See what happens.

      Have a beautiful day!


  • Eivol Ekdal

    New Post Up!

    • Susan B.

      Hi. What do you mean by New Post Up? And since I’m asking what does “F5” refer to? Much obliged if you’d enlighten me. : ) Susan

      • Joy Lover (Ex-CS)

        ‘New Post Up’ means that Tony has put up a new story. ‘F5’ means to refresh the page so you can see the photo attached. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Bert Allen

    This morning I had a thought about the potential significance of the Petition filed by Narcanon and set out above. After quickly scanning the petition I found at least two places where the Petitioner (Narconon) admits its affiliation with the COS. This could be significant for the attorneys suing Narconon, because it provides evidence to “pierce the corporate veil” of Narconon, and potentially reach other COS entities money for damages. In jurisdictions without caps on punitive damages, this can allow for discovery of assets to determine how much is needed to truly punish the defendant. Does anyone know to which COS entity Narconon reports or funnels its revenues?

    • Paul V. Tupointeau

      It’s A.B.L.E., if I remember correctly.

      • Bert Allen


  • Bob Crouch

    My favorite quote is on page 21, where it refers to the residents of Frederick County exercising a “mob mentality of constituents with stated religious bias against the Church of Scientology.” It must feel nice to be appreciated by those who want to be your new neighbors!
    Of course, once these new neighbors infest Frederick County, they will disavow the church that was the alleged reason for discrimination and will offer “secular” “treatment” (two lies merit two separate quotation marks!)

    • romanesco

      They’ll give ’em the treatment, all right.

  • State of Maryland Resident

    As a resident of the State of Maryland – I am relieved that this stupid request was not granted – I do not want this type of cult like religion in my state. My fear is they will find a way – since Scientology always gets it way – stay strong Frederick County – please do not let this group “disease” our state. I have read the books – watched the movies “old and new” and have done my own research – we need to stop this group!!!!!!

    • Missionary Kid


  • WOW Why Frederick? (I mean I used to live there its a great place ) Could it be due to its proximity to Camp David?