Melissa Harris-Perry has been under right wing attack for making the really unremarkable statement that we all are responsible for children and that

"we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to their communities."

Over the past few weeks I have read a half dozen books on Scientology and spent hours surfing the net and reading blogs such as Tony Ortega's Scientology Blog, The Underground Bunker. The most affecting blog was the one run by Jenna Micavige Hill, Astra Woodcraft and Kendra Wiseman called Ex-Scientology Kids.

We feel that growing up in the Scientology environment is a unique experience that’s almost impossible to comprehend unless you’ve lived it yourself. For what it’s worth, we offer non-judgmental support for those who are still in Scientology, discussion and debate for those who’ve already left, and a plethora of easy-to-understand references for the curious.
Reading the stories on that blog, and the memoir written by one of the founders only emphasizes the claims that Melissa Harris-Perry makes. Children are not property. Not of their parents. Not of their family. And definitely not of their parent's church.

Upon the death of L. Ron Hubbard, the running of the cult church was taken over by David Miscavige, who had been Chairman of the Board of the Religious Technology Center responsible for licensing the church's intellectual property. His niece, Jenna Miscavige Hill, was raised occasionally looked after by her Scientology parents who, like David Miscavige were members of the Sea Org, the volunteers/ministers/employees who run Scientology.

Due to her parents busy schedules, she was sent, at six years old, to the Ranch located near the International Management Headquarters, known as Int Base, in Hemet. She was put to work cleaning up and rehabbing the quarters so that they would be fit to live in. At seven she signed a Billion Year Contract of servitude to the church. She had very limited contact with her parents and was finally forced to disconnect from them.

Her story, Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape, is told with a refreshing candor and clear prose by her co-author Lisa Pulitzer, a former journalist who now specializes in stories of women breaking free from religious cults. (Her latest work, Banished, was co-authored with Lauren Drain, the former Westboro Baptist Church member.) In the book Jenna Hill outlines her daily life growing up in a church that valued conformity and control more than integrity and creativity. Her school lessons were those developed by L. Ron Hubbard and that are now being peddled to schools across the country, even though they left her, and others like her, lacking in basic knowledge. (An illuminating discussion of Scientology's Study Tech, co-authored by Dr. David S. Touretzky of the Carnegie Mellon University and Chris Owen, MBE, of Rotherhithe, London, can be found here).  

The most important question the book raises in the mind of a reader is what kind of church puts its children to hard labor, separates them from their parents, provides minimal schooling and subjects them to frequent security checks (first question: What has someone told you not to tell?)? Fox News may have gone crazy recently over Melissa Harris Perry's suggestion that society does have a responsibility to its children, but we do have that shared duty to protect children. It is one of the reasons that societies form.

Blown For Good: Behind the Iron Curtain of Scientology was written by Marc Headley. Raised a Scientologist, he was recruited as a teenager to become a member of the SeaOrg. Marty Rathburn, a former high ranking Scientologist, explains why teens like Mark were recruited in the forward that he wrote for Headley's book.
"After all, over the past thirty years Scientology’s numbers of new members had been dwindling. The Sea Organization had increasingly relied on recruiting the teenaged kids of long-term Scientologists in order to keep its ranks filled."
Which is not really a good sign.

Marc Headley's work is not as polished as Beyond Belief. It is clear that he had no professional co-author. But that only makes his tale a bit rawer, and closer to the source. And as sure a condemnation of the Study Tech that is used in place of education for the children of Scientology as any you will read. Blown for Good is a biting indictment of the church and its head, David Miscavige.

Born to a woman who adopted Scientology, Marc Headley was sent to Scientology-based schools for most of his education which stopped early when he simply quit going. He joined the SeaOrg as a teen, and spent 15 years in the church's Int Base which is also called Gold Base in recognition of the Golden Era Production company that is based there. It was for the production company that Headley worked, and much of his account contains descriptions of what he did there and his relations with the leader, Miscavige.

His escape from the organization's compound in Hemet involved an attempt by Scientology's security forces to run him off the road and a police escort to protect him as he made his way into the town. His wife had her own harrowing escape from the church as well, after finding herself once again pregnant and not wishing to undergo another forced abortion.

There was a time, if you Googled "drug rehab", you would find a list of facilities, usually starting with Narconon and then independent websites where you could find information about the different facilities. What most people didn't know, was that many of those independent websites were run by Scientologists like Lucas Cannon, a former President of Narconon Arrowhead in Oklahoma.

If the name of Narconon Arrowhead sounds familiar, it has been much in the news lately. The facility had three deaths onsite within nine months, and another one in a nearby hospital. The national accredidation for counselors, which was accepted by the state of OK in lieu of state accreditation, revoked the certificate for the counsellors at Arrowhead, including the one issued to the current head of the rehab center located in Pittsburg County, OK. Five lawsuits have been filed, claiming fraud, false representation, breach of contract, non-disclosure and civil conspiracy. And according to Tony Ortega, the total of lawsuits now stands at eleven.

And then, NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams, followed up on its August 2012 exposè with a new segment on Narconon Arrowhead during its April 5th show.

All in all, not a good time for Narconon. But a very good time for past President Lucas Catton to publish his book about his twelve years with Narconon, as a student (all non-staff residents are called students instead of clients or patients), counselor, President and owner of websites pushing the drug rehab center.

In Have You Told All?, Catton recounts his wild lifestyle when at 20 years old, lacking any direction in his life, he drank heavily, had dropped out of college, and had no job. His parents finally stepped in and sent him to Narconon Chilocco in Oklahoma.

He outlines the treatment that he received, which very much resembles the first steps on the Bridge to Total Freedom of Scientology. Books written by L. Ron Hubbard are used as course material and the same basic Training Routines are practiced. The students are put through Hubbard's sauna therapy which was the subject of his book, Clear Body, Clear Mind.
The concept, developed around 1978, was to rid the body of unwanted stored toxic residues. In Scientology it is supposed to be a spiritual practice, while in Narconon propaganda it is said to eliminate cravings for drugs. Despite some basic studies of toxic metabolites in the body, there have been zero studies to agree with the principles or condone the procedures that Hubbard developed for his sauna cleansing procedure other than those that were funded by or connected to Scientology and Narconon that I am aware of. On the flip side, there are multiple medical evaluations done by doctors to indicate that the sauna program is not only ineffective, but potentially very dangerous.

A regular day in the sauna program includes weighing in and then getting your blood pressure and heart rate recorded. This is followed by consuming niacin (B3) just prior to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise such as running on a treadmill. Niacin levels start at 100 mg and can go up to 5,000 mg in some cases. Niacin can create a heavy flush and itching sensation and high doses have been said to be at risk of causing liver damage. After the exercise comes another four and a half hours of sweating in a dry-heat sauna in roughly ten to fifteen minute increments, taking a break to cool down or take a cold shower.

During this entire time salt and potassium tablets are taken and a lot of water is consumed. At the end of the sweating process your weight and blood pressure are recorded again. You also take very large amounts of other vitamins and oils and drink a mixture of calcium and magnesium powder dissolved in vinegar and water. This is called Cal-Mag.

After completing his treatment, Lucas leaves, returns to his former lifestyle, contemplates suicide and is readmitted to Narconon (discount for returnees). He then spent a year on the outside, doing Scientology auditing, before joining the staff at Narconon, eventually rising to the Presidency of the flagship Arrowhead facility.

While with the organization he married a fellow Scientologist and together they had a child. He left the Narconon staff and started up websites to provide positive recommendations for the drug rehab facility while his wife continued to take Scientology courses at the Flag Headquarters in Clearwater, FL.

And he made a good living with those websites, which he needed for Scientology courses, because bottom line, Narconon is all about making money. But, then, so is the church.

Here is a video of the original Rock Center presentation.

And finally, according to Talking Points Memo, Scientology is now offering their treatment to victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam.

Many medical experts regard the treatment — a 25-day vitamin and sauna regime — as junk medicine or even dangerous. But for now at least, it has found fertile ground here.

The Vietnamese advocacy group overseeing the program in Thai Binh province wants to offer it to all 20,000 people suffering from ailments blamed on dioxins in Agent Orange. U.S. airplanes sprayed up to 12 million gallons of the defoliant over the country during the Vietnam War to strip away vegetation used as cover by Vietnamese soldiers.

The advocacy group, which has the implicit support of the government, has almost completed a two-story accommodation block for patients and is raising funds for a much larger complex, with 15 more saunas than the five it currently has.

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Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 08:30 AM PDT.

Also republished by Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter and Street Prophets .

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