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January 9, 2007

Ron amok

Crazed creationists aren’t the only thing British parents have to worry about. The even crazier Scientologists are also trying to infiltrate old world classrooms—aided and abetted by clueless school administrators:

Devotees of the Church of Scientology have gained access to thousands of British children through a charity that visits schools to lecture on the dangers of drugs. A Sunday Times investigation has found that Marlborough College [one of Britain’s top private schools] is one of more than 500 schools across Britain where the charity has taught.
Critics of the charity, Narconon, say it is a front to promote the teaching of Scientology — the controversial “religion” founded by L Ron Hubbard, the science fiction writer.
Schools contacted last week said they knew nothing about the charity’s links with Scientology. There is no apparent reference to the church in its drugs education literature.
Narconon’s UK website states that its work is based on Hubbard’s “drug rehabilitation technology” and displays his photograph; but it refers to him as an author rather than the founder of Scientology.
Narconon promotes a number of unorthodox theories and treatments — based on Hubbard’s work — which experts say are not backed by scientific evidence. In California, where Narconon has its international headquarters, the state department of education has advised schools against using the charity.
… An undercover reporter approached Narconon last week posing as a businessman interested in hiring the charity to work in a number of schools. Lucy Skirrow, the Narconon director dealing with schools, is a Scientologist from west London. She named Marlborough College — the Wiltshire school whose former pupils include Kate Middleton, Prince William’s girlfriend — as a reference to endorse Narconon’s work.
Skirrow said: “We lectured to about 56,000 students and teachers last year and we did 38,000 the year before . . . It has an effect . . . Kids say their viewpoints actually do change.” She went on to claim: “A lot of behaviour in kids is because they are not getting the right nutrition, then they might end up taking drugs. Then, of course, drugs destroy vitamins in the body and it becomes a worse thing.”
Her description of the charity’s philosophy appears in more detail on the Narconon website. Here it claims that drugs stay in a user’s fatty tissue for years but can be flushed away using a regime of vitamins and saunas. This is derived from the works of Hubbard and is hotly disputed by mainstream drug therapists and scientists.
Perhaps these unorthodox views — and Hubbard’s name on the website and in Narconon’s annual report — should have rung alarm bells with teachers at Marlborough and the other schools that pay the charity £140 a session to lecture their pupils. But it was not until this weekend — when contacted by The Sunday Times — that the schools appear to have become aware of how controversial Narconon is.
The charity, based in St Leonards, East Sussex, claims to be an independent organisation. But Professor Stephen Kent, a Canadian academic who is an authority on Scientology, said: “The connection between Narconon and Scientology is solid. Of course, Scientology tries to get non-Scientologists involved in the programme, but the engine behind the programme is Scientology.”
… Two years ago a panel of drug-abuse experts, including four doctors, were asked to examine Narconon’s work in schools by the state of California’s department of education. One of the panel, Steve Heilig, a director at the San Francisco Medical Society, said last week: “When we reviewed Narconon we all felt it did not reflect scientific knowledge or good educational approaches to this issue. There were a lot of problems with the science of it — there were claims made in there that drugs remain in your body forever unless you use these very specific techniques such as niacin and saunas.
“That’s where you start to get the red flags raised about this link to Scientology because those are the theories that come out of some of the writings of L Ron Hubbard, who was a science fiction writer.”
The British government expressed concern about Narconon as long as eight years ago. A 1998 memo from the Home Office’s drug strategy unit warned that the charity had its “roots in the Church of Scientology and (is) not in the mainstream of drug rehabilitation.”
… A spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology said that Narconon is separate organisation which is open to people of all religions. She said: “Narconon has a documented 75%–80% success rate with graduates (recovering addicts), which is the highest in the field.”

Of course. A swift, stimulating sauna and that pesky cocaine habit is gone forever. But then Scientologists are also convinced that:

75m years ago an evil galactic warlord called Xenu rounded up 13.5 trillion beings from an overpopulated corner of the galaxy, flew them to Earth and dumped them in volcanoes and vaporised them with nuclear bombs.
This scattered their radioactive souls, or thetans, which were then trapped and implanted with a number of false ideas — including the concepts of God, Christ and organised religion.
These entities attached themselves to human beings and are at the root of our personal and global problems today.

And as many as ten million people worldwide apparently believe this.

There are many books about Hubbard and his pseudo-religion, but by far the most entertaining is Russell Miller’s out-of-print (but still available) “Bare-Faced Messiah— The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard.”

Posted by Stephen at 12:05 PM in Education | Evolution | Religion + cults | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

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