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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, it’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 didn’t get a chance to include photos in our book, so we’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

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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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