Area Pastors challenge ties behind drug treatment facility4/27/2005Planned use of old Mountainside Hospital discussed at City Hall Meeting Tuesday at Jasper City Hall, Mayor John Weaver convened a group of citizens to ask questions to representatives of a drug treatment organization planning to open a facility in Jasper.Narconon Arrowhead is planning to purchase the old Mountainside Hospital on Highway 53 and turn it into a treatment facility that provides both in-patient and out-patient services,according to general discussion. Weaver said he called the meeting so that concerns of area pastors could be addressed by Narconon's staff, who approached him a month ago to discuss the possibility of opening a facility in the city."About a week after I met with Narconon, I got a phone call from someone who said Narconon is just a front for the Church of Scientology, and will only bring strife and grief to Pickens County, as it had to other communities," said Weaver at the beginning of the meeting.Mary Rieser, executive director of Narconon Georgia, said the program is not affiliated with the Church of Scientology. She said Narconon is secular and does not promote any one religion over others."We are secularized. You can come visit our facility anytime; you can stay all day long and you can look at the books," said Rieser. "It would be ridiculous for me to come up here, buy a hospital, and try to secretly bring another religion in here." She said Narconon has been looking for a new treatment center recently as they have had to upgrade their kitchen facilities at their center in another county. About 20 Pickens County citizens, mostly pastors, were at the meeting to express that in the course of their research in the last two weeks, they learned the exact opposite - Narconon is affiliated with the Church of Scientology, but they try to deny it whenever asked about the relationship, said some of the group's critics.The first question from the crowd was from Carol Hutchinson, who with her husband Tom Hutchinson later claimed to have been a victim of the Church of Scientology's tricky and fraudulent techniques to solve their marriage problems. She said over 20 years ago the church took $60,000 from the couple in a two-year timeframe, using indoctrination and lie detector therapy that "hypnotizes you" and slowly converts the patient to Scientology."Isn't the goal of Scientology to clear the planet of non-Scientologists and convert all non-Scientologists to Scientology? And isn't Narconon affiliated with the Church of Scientology?" asked Carol Hutchinson. Rieser said the claim is not true, and Narconon is associated with many different churches. "Other religions support Narconon," she said. She said the only connection between the two organizations is their common use of the ideas of the late L. Ron Hubbard, a researcher and writer of science fiction novels. She noted that Narconon's methods - such as the idea to sweat drugs out of the body in a sauna, and a "purification rundown" - are not religious, but are scientifically proven, and that studies have shown this.Steve Lowe of the Joy House, a Christian-centered home for troubled teens, read from a California newspaper article which noted that the California Medical Association had officially discredited Narconon. "At least we say up front that we're a Christian organization [with the Joy House and other groups represented], and if you don't want to be involved in a Christian organization, then don't participate. But you deny you are promoting a religion when it's quite true," said Lowe.Even if Narconon has a high success rate, Lowe later asked, "At what cost, when you give them something else that's going to hold them down?" The Rev. Ben Langley of Mt. Zion Baptist Church accused the group of using a "disguise" to present themselves as independent of Scientology. When Rieser said, "We're not here to push religion," laughter erupted from the crowd. A city employee had to ask audience members to speak one at a time when they began to bombard Rieser with questions and arguments.Rieser, who called the line of questioning and comments "vicious" after the meeting, said, "We're just here to try to help families. It's not fair if you come in here with closed minds." She also noted that many "sophisticated" doctors, scientists and researchers have approved and recommended Narconon."This is a program that works," said Rieser. "We're talking about people getting relief from suffering." After continued arguing for several minutes, and repeated denials from Rieser of a connection between the program and the church, city employee Charles Raisor noted a report in 1993 stating that the IRS and the Church of Scientology came to an agreement on the church's tax-exempt status.He said in that agreement, Narconon International is listed as one of the church's subsidiaries. Rieser said she was unaware of such an arrangement, and said she would call her attorney to confirm if it is true.Raisor also said, and Rieser acknowledged, that a portion of Narconon's income goes to the Church of Scientology as a franchise payment."If you can't see the money trail then someone has pulled the wool over your eyes," said Raisor to Rieser and Gordy Weinand, a Narconon founder who was also at the meeting in Jasper.The mayor noted that in his four terms in office he has "never had such a meeting" when a new business or church decides to buy property in town.Raisor later said, "You can't expect us to see something that is against everything we stand for and not come together as a group."But Rieser, a Scientologist, maintained that Narconon does not attempt to convert its participants to Scientology, and that "few" of those who complete the program come out Scientologists.When asked what Narconon's costs and success rate are, Rieser said a three to six-month program costs a drug addict $20,000. The success rate, which Rieser said has only been measured by Narconon itself, is "about 70 percent."She said just the "purification rundown" costs $5,000. Gordy Weinand, who has been off drugs for 39 years and is a Christian, said he feels it is unfortunate that people have such negative associations with a program that works."I feel my whole 39 years are being attacked," said Weinand at the meeting.Towards the end of the meeting, the Rev. Bob Self, another area pastor, said he would be less opposed if Narconon presented itself as a drug treatment program that also offered Scientology. But he pleaded with the Narconon representatives, "Please don't buy this facility, please do it somewhere else."The mayor closed the meeting by noting that while he cannot prevent anyone from purchasing private property in Jasper, "You're not going to be able to sneak something in on us."
Narconon not buying in Jasper5/18/2005Narconon Arrowhead, the drug treatment organization that has been the subject of local controversy, will not purchase the old Mountainside Medical Center in Jasper.Mary Rieser, executive director of Narconon of Georgia, said the organization chose not to buy the property because the area is not yet suitable to allow the expansion that Narconon expects for itself."Narconon is a huge international company," said Rieser. "We need to spend time on handling the problem of drug addiction in a place that's good for prosperity. Jasper is not the right place for a company that wants to expand."In April, Narconon had strongly considered buying the old hospital and turning it into an in-patient and out-patient drug treatment center. On Tuesday, Rieser said Narconon has decided to look for another location."We have helped a lot of people and we're going to continue to help a lot of people," said Rieser.At a meeting held by the city of Jasper last month, several local Christian pastors voiced their opposition to the group making a presence in Jasper. Specifically, they were appalled by Narconon's past affiliations with the Church of Scientology, a connection which Rieser denied at the meeting.Rieser did not indicate that the local opposition, which has also been voiced in the progress' recent and current letters to the editor, factored into Narconon's change of course. One of those who was most vocal in his resistance to Narconon, Steve Lowe, said he was "ecstatic" that the organization will not be active in Pickens County."I just don't think Narconon has the level of integrity they need to run that kind of a program, because they are disguising who they are," said Lowe.Lowe is the founder of the local Joy House, a Christian-based home for troubled teens, which has treated clients with drug problems.
Area Pastors challenge ties behind drug treatment facility 4/27/2005QuoteArea Pastors challenge ties behind drug treatment facility4/27/2005...snip..."We are secularized. You can come visit our facility anytime; you can stay all day long and you can look at the books," said Rieser.Wonder what would happen if we took a copy of the article, and went in to say we wanted to look at the books?
Area Pastors challenge ties behind drug treatment facility4/27/2005...snip..."We are secularized. You can come visit our facility anytime; you can stay all day long and you can look at the books," said Rieser.
Scientology tried to sneak into a small township in Bowdon, Georgia to set up one of their "Narconon" facilities. Once their true identity became known, local citizens launched an intensive local education campaign to cover what Scientology's history has been, and what their Narconon facility would really mean to local citizens.