The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that, after once being banned from classrooms, Scientology is back in California classroom spreading its controversial theories on drug use. The program is run by Narconon, an organization that was created by the Church and founded on the theories of L. Ron Hubbard. Narconon offers the lessons for free, but experts say that the theories are not only unfounded but directly connected to the religious organization that some accused of being a cult or criminal enterprise. Scientology has long objected to what it views as discrimination directed against it while ignoring mainstream religions. It also insists that Narconon is a successful and independent and secular organization.
In 2005, medical and educational experts studies the Narconon material and sessions and concluded that they were not based on actual science but unfounded and wrong concepts founded in Hubbard’s teachings. Those findings led to the removal of Narconon from the schools, but now a decade later Scientology has found its way back into classrooms — offering its materials and instruction for free to school officials. Many teachers who are trained by Narconon were not aware that they were in a Scientology offshoot.
Scientology insists that its materials have been rewritten and that there is separation between Scientology church affairs and the work of Narconon.
Hubbard, a former Science Fiction writer, created the futuristic theories of Scientology and its aggressive (and controversial) recruitment system. The Church opposes drugs and alcohol, which the Church says are impediments to achieving a state of mental purity called “Clear.”
Narconon’s lessons include such debunked theories that drugs reside in body fat for years and can cause people to feel high during times of stress. It also teaches that drugs burn up vitamins and nutrients, resulting in pain and relapse. It claims that the “munchies” resulting from marijuana use is due to a loss of vitamins and nutrients. All of these theories by Hubbard have been ridiculed by experts as ridiculous. (By the way, there is an excellent science piece in the Smithsonian on the real reason for munchies here).
After the study in 2005, Jack O’Connell, then the state superintendent of public instruction, sent out a letter on Feb. 24, 2005 that warned “Narconon’s drug prevention program does not reflect accurate, widely-accepted medical and scientific evidence.” However, the department does not have the authority to ban such programs, a decision which must be made by school districts. Some did so, however, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, which concluded their own expert reviews of the materials and theories.
However, the Chronicle found Narconon workings in other school districts including thirteen in the bay area alone, including Fremont, Los Altos, Morgan Hill, San Jose, San Ramon, Santa Clara and Santa Rosa.
The newspaper found copyrighted material being distributed in schools that directly incorporate religious Scientology concepts like “tone scale,” a Scientology doctrine dealing with emotions. It is a concept created by Hubbard who encouraged his followers to “just draw a horizontal line on the page. Put the people who are less alive on the bottom and the people who are more alive on the top.” The theory is explained in Hubbard’s 1951 book Science of Survival that a “tone” has many manifestations including appearance, chronic emotion, the way the person handles other people, how well the person can pass on a communication given to them, and other characteristics.
Scientologist and President of Narconon International Clark Carr has publicly claimed that “[i]n the last couple of years, the number of youth who heard the anti-drug message have increased from 11,000 to 22,000” and says that “Narconon has been responding to increasing demand from schools in Northern California.” He adds that “Narconon provides this program as a public service at no charge, funded entirely by Narconon centers.”
In fairness to Scientology, there is often little objection to other churches being incorporated into government programs. President Obama fulfilled his pledge to not only continue President Bush’s faith-based programs but to expand them. For those who believe in strict separation of church and state, this line has long been blurred by those who want to see public money go to religious institution for vouchers and educational programs. What is interesting about this controversy however is that the underlying theories have been debunked by experts. However, the free program clearly appeals to cash-strapped school districts.