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Explain your vote, judge tells Maryland county that denied Scientology rehab

JudgeNicklas

[Judge William R. Nicklas Jr., photo source]

We were out on the road all day yesterday and so missed some of the drama happening down in Frederick County, Maryland. Our regular readers know that we’ve been following the action as Scientology struggles to put in a new drug rehab “Narconon” center there with a cute maneuver involving an aging fish camp and some complex local zoning rules.

A couple of years ago, Scientology, through its real estate arm, Social Betterment Properties International, plunked down $4.85 million on a parcel of land that included the lodge for a fish camp. The property, known as Trout Run, had once stood in for Camp David in scenes for The West Wing. Scientology had learned that although the current zoning didn’t allow a rehab center, if it could get the parcel put on the county’s register of historic places, it would qualify for a zoning exception that would allow renovation of the place for a 20-bed Narconon center.

The Narconon program is steeped in controversy, with patient deaths and unhappy former customers producing dozens of lawsuits around the country in recent years. Increasingly, word is out that Narconon is simply a Scientology front that doesn’t really deliver drug counseling at all but instead drills addicts on the same kinds of exercises that beginning Scientologists go through. Scientology leader David Miscavige has announced plans for even more of the rehab centers around the world as he tightens his grip on them.

On June 2, the county council voted 6-1 to deny putting Trout Run on its list of historic places, going against the recommendation of its own Historic Preservation Commission, something it had never done before. Scientology filed a legal appeal in county district court, claiming that the council, which claimed that it denied the petition simply because Trout Run really wasn’t historic, was actually swayed by what it had heard at public meetings about Scientology, and was practicing religious discrimination.

Judge William R. Nicklas Jr held a hearing earlier this month, and then this week came out with a ruling that seems to have confused nearly everyone. Researcher Mary McConnell declared that it was good for the county council, the local NBC station announced that it was a clear win for Scientology, and even more expert local observers don’t really explain whether this is good for one side or the other.

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We’re posting the judge’s order so you can see it and judge for yourself. What he did was “remand” the matter back to the council, telling the council that he can’t render a decision in the matter because the council hasn’t provided enough information.

Nicklas argues that when the council made its vote on June 2, it was acting like a court — making a “quasi-judicial” decision after holding hearings and hearing evidence. Asked to render a decision whether to uphold or reverse that vote, Nicklas says he can’t do so until the council more fully explains why it voted the way it did and what facts and which laws it relied on to do so.

Is that good for Scientology? Its attorney, not surprisingly, said so, and NBC agreed. We’d like to hear from our legal experts about their own assessments of where this now stands.

By having to explain itself, will the county council then make it easier for Judge Nicklas to declare that Scientology was discriminated against? Or will it give Judge Nicklas the facts he needs to affirm the council’s vote? We really don’t know, and we think it’s premature to declare victory for either side.

Here’s the judge’s ruling. Tell us what you think…

SBPI v. Frederick County: Judge remands to council

 
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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on January 15, 2016 at 07:00

E-mail 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. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated 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 L.A. 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

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | 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 | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | 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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