The Church of Scientology is facing renewed allegations of abusive and cult-like conditions of followers. A string of psychiatric facilities run by the Church of Scientology in Cannon County, Tenn. have been closed after police reportedly found that patients there were being held against their will in crude trailers and cabins in the woods. Former Scientologists have accused the Church of holding people against their will and adopting bizarre remedies for mental illnesses due to their founder’s opposition to psychiatry. Marc Vallieres, the operator of the facilities, was charged with two felony counts of facilitation of kidnapping and two other men working at the facility pled guilty to misdemeanors.
A man recently was able to call 911 and police found him locked in a cabin. After taking him to the hospital, they returned with a warrant and said that Scientologists were hurriedly carting away material and had removed the locks. They found that many patients had been removed but found a woman who was also taken to the hospital.
Founder L. Ron Hubbard was given psychiatric treatment and found to be mentally ill. He then became a lifelong opponent of psychiatry and psychology. The Church has been accused of abuses in the past. His wife Sara tried to get him into treatment due to violent and unstable behavior and later accused him of kidnapping her. She eventually divorced him.
One of the most notorious past cases involved Lisa McPherson who joined Scientology at age 18. She moved to Clearwater, Florida where the Church is headquartered. After a minor auto accident, she acted erratically and stripped off her clothes. While the medical staff asked that she remained to go under psychiatric evaluation, Scientologist came and removed her. She was put into a Scientology unit for “isolation watch.” In this cabana shwe was kept under 24 watch. She became more and more serious in her conduct in hitting and cutting herself and not eating. David Minkoff, a Scientologist medical doctor twice prescribed Valium and chloral hydrate without examining McPherson. Scientologists delayed taking her to the hopstial and passed by four before arriving at a hospital 45 minutes away from Clearwater. She was declared dead. The coroner’s report showed multiple bruises, an abrasion on the nose, and lesions. It also showed what appeared to be cockroach bites.
The highly secretive organization has been declared a criminal enterprise in some countries. This type of case could lead to probing questions about its operations with members deemed unstable. It is not clear if authorities will follow the available evidence to determine whether these conditions and practices were approved or known to the Church leadership.