Judge dismisses wrongful-death lawsuit against Scientology

Tampa Bay Times/December 22, 2011

A wrongful-death lawsuit filed against the Church of Scientology and three church parishioners after the apparent suicide of a 20-year-old Virginia man who died in Clearwater while visiting his Scientologist father has been dismissed by a Tampa federal judge.

Clearwater police determined Kyle Brennan of Charlottesville took his own life on Feb. 16, 2007, using a gun he found in his father's downtown apartment. Thomas Brennan later found his son.

A federal lawsuit filed in 2009 by Kyle Brennan's mother, Victoria Britton, on behalf of her son, contended Brennan's death was the result of improper actions by his father and two other church members.

It alleged Thomas Brennan hid his son's antidepression medicine, Lexapro, after conferring with his church counselor, Denise Gentile, who is the sister of Scientology's leader, David Miscavige.

Scientology strenuously opposes psychiatry and the use of psychotropic drugs.

Kyle Brennan, who was not a Scientologist, had traveled throughout the country for two months before visiting his father.

He took Lexapro for depression.

The suit named as defendants Brennan, Gentile and her husband, Gerald Gentile, both of Clearwater, as well as Scientology's Clearwater-based Flag Service Organization.

U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday dismissed the action earlier this month, citing a lack of evidence that Brennan took away his son's medicine.

He also ruled the plaintiff failed to support the claim that Scientologists were complicit in the death.

Britton, who is not a Scientologist, had no comment Wednesday night about the dismissal.

Church spokeswoman Pat Harney said in a statement that Merryday found none of the defendants responsible.

"The unequivocal language of the summary judgment order establishes that the Brennan lawsuit never had any factual or legal basis," she said. "The church expresses its condolences to both of Kyle Brennan's parents.

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