Scientology ties to drug program probed

Associated Press/June 18, 2004

California's schools superintendent has ordered an investigation into a school antidrug program with ties to the Church of Scientology.

The popular program, called Narconon Drug Prevention and Education, has been used by schools nationwide for the past two decades. Hollywood-based Narconon has provided instruction in at least 20 school districts in California, including the Los Angeles Unified School District. Many teachers and students have praised the program.

But leading drug-addiction experts say some of Narconon's medical theories are irresponsible and have no basis in fact.

For example, the program teaches that drugs accumulate in body fat and can cause drug cravings and flashbacks for years; that saunas can sweat drugs out of the body; and that colored ooze is released when drugs leave the body.

Superintendent Jack O'Connell said he learned about the antidrug program when the San Francisco Chronicle published articles in early June that detailed links between Narconon's instruction and the Church of Scientology's religious teachings.

O'Connell said Wednesday that the state's investigation could lead to an order barring Narconon from providing instruction in California schools.

"We have an obligation to inform school districts of potentially inaccurate and misleading information being distributed," O'Connell said.

Narconon officials defended the scientific accuracy of its medical claims. They acknowledge that Scientologists support the program and that Narconon administrators and lecturers are Scientologists. But they insist that the program is legally and financially separate from the Church of Scientology.

The LAUSD is the largest district in the state to host Narconon education. A district spokeswoman said the program was being reviewed by the district's health department, while the president of the district's teachers union expressed concern.

"We're not interested in thinly disguised religion being put upon the students," John Perez said. "The schools are a secular institution, and there has to be a wall of separation between religion and public schools."

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