The Church of Scientology has launched a new legal challenge in a bid to set up a rehabilitation centre built in the rural town of Yarramalong Valley on the NSW Central Coast.
Residents in the area have overwhelmingly rejected the development and the church's plan to implement their controversial Narconon program at the site.
Locals managed to put a stop to the development after lodging complaints with Wyong Shire Council, which rejected the church's permit application for the treatment facility in April last year, citing risks associated with its flood-affected site.
But the Scientologists have not given up the fight, launching a new challenge which is now before the courts.
The church has bought a homestead in Yarramalonog, which they plan to convert into a drug rehabilitation centre.
March 05, 2015: The war being waged in the suburbs between families and the Church of Scientology. At issue, the controversial church's march into residential areas and community campaigns against it.
But former scientologist Paul Schofield, who used to work on the Narconon program says there is no scientific basis to it.
"It doesn’t' work, pure as that," he told A Current Affair.
"It's not a drug rehab program as much as it is a scientology indoctrination program."
He says the program involves a strange and dangerous religious ritual, requiring students to spend up to five hours in a hot sauna, and taking high doses of vitamins.
A person who goes through the Narconon program is then allegedly indoctrinated into Scientology, where they are encouraged to do continuous courses amounting to thousands of dollars, A Current Affair reports.
"There is going to people in there who are in need of help, in need of professional help, who won't be getting it," local resident John told A Current Affair.
Yarramalong Valley residents are looking to Warburton in Victoria for hope, where locals recently won a similar battle against the church.
The rehabilitation program lost a bid to operate in Warburton in the face of community opposition.
The church appealed the decision, which was later dismissed.
"Residents have just had a win in Warburton, where I would have thought the objections weren't as strong as ours, and they've managed to have an eight-nil victory in the local council," local Ron told A Current Affair.
Meanwhile, at Chatswood in Sydney's north, the church has reportedly paid $37 million for a former national acoustics laboratory, to now be used as the Australian headquarters for the religion.
The church is seeking to expand with reports suggesting they are desperate for new recruits.
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