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55 of 88 students listed drug histories // Classes link Scientology, Narconon

Title: 55 of 88 students listed drug histories // Classes link Scientology, Narconon
Date: Friday, 19 October 1973
Publisher: El Paso Herald-Post
Main source: link (319 KiB)

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Narconon has been trying to make a name for itself since opening offices at 101 Montana avenue in June. It is described as a program to help drug addicts overcome the habit and to help prevent drug addiction.

The executive director, Brent Davis, has been speaking to civic clubs to acquaint them with Narconon's efforts. PTAs and similar groups that have not yet heard the message have been offered speakers.

THE OFFICE and classroom were donated for Narconon's use by the building owner, Richard Telles, according to Rick Pendery, deputy director of Narconon for Texas. He hosted a recent Herald-Post reporter's visit there. In the office was a display of books by L. Ron Hubbard, who adapted his philosophy for Narconon instructional purposes, Pendery said. Hubbard's work was very popular in the 1950s as Dianetics.

That was followed by Scientology which became a recognized church. It suffered a bad press after difficulties in Australia, England and the United States. (Hubbard himself was banned from England, headquarters for his movement, in 1968.)

THE CLASSROOM had eight students involved in various activities that are part of the first course offered at Narconon, communications. One couple, a middle-aged man and a young woman, simply faced each other and stared into each others' eyes.

This is a basic exercise in Scientology known as confrontation. A second pair was involved in a variation in which the young woman asked a question about birds and the young man facing her gave replies intended to break her concentration on the question. A third young woman tried to focus her attention while a young man tried to distract her by mussing her hair and other diversions.

One man studied a textbook, Pendery said the man's partner, described as a teaching nun, was absent that day. He added that the man recently had withdrawn from drugs. Another student sat at a table working with clay, constructing objects designed to illustrate points in the lesson he studied.

CHARTS on the wall were students' ratings of their own progress in the course, explained Pendery. One poster admonished the students not to discuss phenomena they may experience in TR-0 (training routine zero) in which some see hallucinations. A large poster gave a scale of emotional levels.

Pendery said two people cannot communicate with each other if they are too far removed from each other in emotional levels as indicated on the chart. For example, a person experiencing grief cannot reach a satisfactory meeting of minds with one who is exhilarated.

The first course, communications, costs $75, Pendery said. Narconon-El Paso had counted 88 students since June, with emphasis on training people to become supervisors. That means that after taking the basic course, the student continues in a supervisory course to qualify for teaching. The communication course averages 50 to 100 hours, with some students needing less time than others to master the material, he continued.

THE SECOND course is objective orientation, designed to stabilize work of the first course, and takes three times as along. A supervisory training course is available after it, too.

Classes meet in three-hour sessions and are offered Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A student may attend two classes per day; some attend three per week.

Pendery said 55 of the 88 who attended El Paso classes had drug histories. He said another 25 students were at La Tuna Correctional Institution, 30 at Bel Air High School and 12 at Jesus and Mary High School.

IF A STUDENT doesn't have $75 to enroll in the first course, said Pendery, he may earn the fee by selling flowers.

The organization has a staff of 10, he said, with volunteers also helping.

"We work with anyone who wants to come in and get off drugs, anyone who wants to train as a supervisor," he added.

Frank Lozito, chief adult probation officer for El Paso County, said 22 persons had been referred to Narconon with drug problems, of whom nine dropped the program and seven continued, with six considered marginal cases. He said they were not charged a fee. Some case workers indicated they were satisfied with progress of individuals in the program and others reserved opinion until enough time had passed for better evaluation.

THE ORGANIZATION was granted a 60-day solicitation permit by the City on June 13, after it was found a proposed fundraising activity conflicted with state lottery laws. Under the permit, checks obtained through solicitation are to be written to Narconon-Texas whose account is in the Austin National Bank. The fundraising goal was given as $25,000 at a cost estimated at $200.

Of money raised locally, the application said, 10 per cent would be sent to the national office, 10 per cent to the state office, and 80 per cent would be retained locally. Fundraisers were described as volunteers.

Principal officers are listed as Davis, 1506 Upson drive, executive director; Fred Salas, 1922 Rio Grande Avenue, deputy director, and Marsha Williams of Austin, treasurer.

DAVIS HAS BEEN making a big hit with many community leaders. One of them who agreed to serve on his board told The Herald-Post he felt the record of success with drug abuse cases — given as 86 per cent by Pendery — convinced him the program was worthwhile. He said he had not visited a class or looked at the study materials, nor had the board held a meeting as yet.

Asked whether there were a connection between Narconon and Hubbard's Dianetics and Scientology, Pendery said his program uses materials "similar to Scientology that were developed by Hubbard for Narconon use."

Scientology last year operated a local office in the same location now used by Narconon, offering a communications course for $25.

THE CHURCH of Scientology's Los Angeles Public Relations Bureau has described Narconon as a program that originated in 1966 with an imprisoned former drug addict. The Church of Scientology took over official sponsorship in 1968, lending both financial and material support toward its growth.

The church has described itself as "subjected to the most virulent forms of covert and evil-intending propaganda" as a result of various lawsuits. The question of religious freedom became an issue in 1963 when the Food and Drug Administration seized materials from the church in Washington, D.C. One result was that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed the nature of Scientology as a recognized religion in 1969.

A CHURCH SPOKESMAN has described as "unparalleled" the success in rehabilitation of drug abusers. County Attorney George Rodriguez has taken exception to the claim of effectiveness. In a speech before the Jaycees last month he said he felt the Aliviane program was better because its treatment involves physicians and registered nurses, and Narconon's does not.

A local medical doctor who discussed Narconon with Davis came away unimpressed. "When you thump them, they don't ring true," he observed. He based his opinion on his own experience in drug prevention programs over a period of years.

THE SCIENTOLOGY approach has drawn criticism in the past for its tendency to delve into delicate psychological problems with insufficiently trained personnel. This same criticism has been leveled at Narconon in its efforts to help drug addicts.

Narconon poses many questions. Is it Scientology under another name, just out to peddle $75 courses? Or are the people who like the courses sincerely convinced that they are able to help others through them? Is it an arm of a church ? (A Herald-Post query to the Church of Scientology is awaiting a reply.) Or is it another group trying to compete for available government funds for a drug abuse program?

[Picture / Caption: NARCONON CLASS — This class was meeting at Narconon-El Paso when The Herald-Post visited the headquarters at 101 Montana avenue recently. The instructor is Steve Medlock. Behind him on the wall are a "Tone Scale" referring to emotions and charts students make of their own progress. The first course, communications, costs $75.]