Today, the fate of Narconon’s proposed drug rehabilitation center at Trout Run may be decided, but the controversy about the center’s association with the Church of Scientology will not be.
The County Council is set to vote on whether the 40-acre Trout Run campus in the forest of the Catoctin Mountains is so historically significant that it should be listed on the Frederick County Register of Historic Places. If it is, Narconon could move forward with its plan to open a substance abuse treatment center on the site.
Opposition to Narconon’s plan has mostly focused on the program’s association with Scientology and its performance record. The property belongs to Social Betterment Properties International, the real estate arm of the Church of Scientology, but ownership and use are not supposed to factor into the council’s decision to designate the property historic or not.
If Narconon gets permission to open the facility, it will be one of more than 100 Narconon centers in 15 countries. Marc Miller, formerly of Frederick, says Narconon programs have saved his life, and did not come between him and his Christianity.
The Narconon program, which his parents found for him in 1999, was a gift from Jesus, Miller said in a telephone interview from his current home in Kentucky. He compared Narconon with “betterment” programs such as 12-step programs and Christian groups.
He said a lack of understanding may lead to opposition.
Yvonne Rodgers, Narconon’s East U.S. executive director, wrote in an email that the 40-year-old rehabilitation program has no specific religious component, although it “is based on the writings, procedures, and techniques of L. Ron Hubbard. … Mr. Hubbard discovered the effects of drugs on human beings and developed an effective means for freeing people from their harmful effects, which he made available to anyone who wished to benefit from them.”
Scientology does not condone use of prescription drugs or psychiatry and psychology as a means of behavioral therapy.
“Psychiatry and psychology in particular treat man as a ‘thing’ to be conditioned, not as a spiritual being who can yet find answers to life’s problems and who can improve enormously,” according to the Scientology website.
Medical staff are on hand, and the centers have affiliations with hospitals that can take patients who need to medically withdraw from such substances as heroin or alcohol, Rodgers said.
Miller said he knew Hubbard’s findings underpinned Narconon, but Scientology was not referenced in materials he studied in the program.
“Narconon is grateful for the tremendous support we have received from the Church of Scientology and many Scientologists,” Rodgers wrote. “Narconon itself, however, is not part of the church.”
The Church of Scientology is essential to the program, according to “Scientology: Theology and Practice of A Contemporary Religion,” referenced by Sylvia Stanard, deputy director of the church’s national affairs office.
Sylvia Stanard is the wife of John Stanard, national director for Social Betterment Programs and Policy.
The principles that Scientologists learn that form the foundation of Scientology scripture can be adapted for use in the areas of drug rehabilitation and education, and have become the “cardinal points of extensive social benefit programs of churches of Scientology and individual Scientologists,” according to the reference work. “One of the most widely known of these social benefit programs is the residential drug rehabilitation and public education program conducted under the name ‘Narconon.’”
Miller first completed the program in 1999 in Oklahoma, and after his graduation, he had a contract for several years to be a carpenter for Narconon. Then, he moved to Kentucky and started his own carpentry business.
The program required him to confront the aspects of his life that led him to use cocaine and other drugs and to admit the harm he had done to others and himself as an addict in Frederick for two decades, he said. He relapsed a year ago in Kentucky because he had not adequately addressed all the areas of his life he should have during his first time in the program, he said.
Three out of four participants stay clean and sober long term, Rodgers said.
Miller said his second time in the program, he spent five months in rehab in Louisiana, working part time at Narconon and paying $12,000 for the program.
“Through the education and experience I have received through Narconon and from the grace and the forgiveness from God, I am able to help myself and others,” Miller wrote in a letter.
Scientology techniques and principles used in Narconon “address causes and effects of drug addiction and help participants become contributing members of society,” according to the reference work. “These program components include helping participants learn how to communicate, cope with the pressures of life and regain higher standards of self-esteem and honesty.”
The Church of Scientology has no set dogma concerning God. Scientology does not ask individuals to accept anything on faith alone.
“Salvation” in Scientology “has to do with making man ‘safe’ or ‘whole’ in his present life,” according to “Scientology: Theology and Practice of a Contemporary Religion.”
Miller, the Stanards and Rodgers said program participants do not have to become Scientologists as they complete the detoxification and behavior therapy. Miller said he was able to attend church on Sundays, and Rodgers said the center would make arrangements with Frederick area churches so participants could attend services.
Previously, Frederick County Councilman Billy Shreve said he was ready to vote on the property’s historic designation and did not consider Narconon or Scientology.
“It doesn’t matter what religion it is, someone’s against it,” Shreve said in a telephone interview.
His view is that there were no data to refute the expert testimony in favor of the historic designation that would allow the treatment center to open.
“You have to believe the experts or be sued,” Shreve said.