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Miami Scientologists seek drug programs in prisons

Title: Miami Scientologists seek drug programs in prisons
Date: Saturday, 28 August 1971
Publisher: Miami News
Author: Bob Wilcox
Main source:

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Representatives of the Miami Scientology Church, aderents of a controversial but growing religion, are to meet with state drug abuse officials soon. They want to put a Scientology rehabilitation program into the state's prisons.

The subject of much criticism since its founding in the 1950s, the church has recently gained official status as a religion from the courts, and along with it permission to use a crude lie-detector device in its psychiatric counseling.

Counseling is at the heart of Scientology. Scientologists believe that man is essentially a spirit, but that he is hindered in realizing this by trouble spots in his subconscious. [?]

Trouble spots are called 'engrams'

The Scientologist calls these trouble spots "engrams," and like the couch psychiatrist, believes they are usually associated with previous unpleasant experiences.

Through the use of counseling he trys to root these engrams out, thus permitting the individual to lead a happier life here and, most importantly, strive for higher spiritual realization.

Professional medical groups have been Scientology's leading critics. They point angrily to the fact that Scientologists are not qualified to give psychiatric counseling.

Eight years ago the federal Food and Drug Administration said Scientology's use of a crude lie-detector was a hazard to mental health and took the church to court. Used in counseling, the device, called an "E-meter," reportedly helps a counselor know when he is nearing an engram of the person he's counseling.

In a long-awaited appeal decision this summer, a federal judge in Washington ruled that Scientology was indeed a bona fide religion, contrary to what some of its critics had charged, and as such is entitled to use the instrument as part of its religious practice.

The object is to be a 'clear'

In the language of Scientology, a person rid of his engrams is a "clear," free to go o nin his quest for spiritual awareness. This involves more but less serious counseling.

The "clear" becomes socially conscious, says Allan Norwitz, head of the Miami Scientology church, 985 SW 1st St. This, says Norwitz, is because once freed of his hangups, he's able to relate to the world better — he likes people better.

Consequently, Scientologists are involved in social reform. Primarily (and some have said for reasons other than reform), Scientologists have crusaded for changes in the field of mental health. They are as opposed to psychiatrists and psychologists as the two groups are opposed to them.

Recently, Scientologists have been active in the field of drug rehabilitation. They are pushing a program tailed "Narconon," based on Scientology principles.

Basically, Narconon attacks the psychological and emotional roots of addiction (like many new drug rehabilitation programs), rather than the physical addiction. It has enjoyed success — and in a rough setting.

Started by a former drug addict and convict, the pilot Narconon program was launched at Arizona State Penitentiary with 20 addict-convicts. It has spread to two California prisons and those enrolled in it now number over 100.

Norwitz would like to see Narconon in Raiford.

"I am to have a meeting with Frank Nelson, head of the state's recently created Drug Abuse Office," he said.

"A year ago, one of the state's prison rehabilitation men asked me about Narconon while I was at a corrections convention. We didn't have enough personnel then. Now we've got the people."

Norwitz, 31, said the church is growing steadily. He said the Miami church, which is actually the church for Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and the Caribbean area, has approximately 1,500 members, counting a mission in Puerto Rico which will soon become another church.

"We've probably doubled in the last few years," he said. "The public's reaction to Scientology has changed tremendously. It's being recognized as a legitimate thing."

In addition to 10 churches in large cities in the U.S. Scientology literature, which Scientologists give out liberally, says there are also churches in England, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Rhodesia, Denmark, France, Sweden and Scotland.

Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard is a former science-fiction writer, explorer and retired naval officer who started to become a millionaire in 1950 with a book called "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mind." It was a compilation of Oriental and Occidental thought (Hubbard had toured the Far East as a youth) and it quickly became a best seller.

Today, he cruises the Mediterranean in a 300-foot converted ocean liner and is administratively disassociated with the church. His dianetics however, is still basic to Scientology doctrine. The counseling stems from it. And he is regarded as something akin to a god.

Norwitz, who studied under Hubbard several years ago, says the church refers "preclears" to physicians if, in any way, it appears that the engram seems strictly physical.

"If a guy comes in with a severe headache and wants to be cured we'll send him to a doctor to make sure we don't treat him for spiritual trouble when he has a brain tumor. He can get 'audited' (counseled) later."

Another criticism of Scientology is that the church is money motivated. It costs $25 to begin and a person must pay $35 an hour for counseling. Ministers need about $2,000 worth of Scientology to be ordained and a non-minister must spend $5,000 to attain the highest level of spiritual awareness.

One woman took the church to court because she said her husband spent $25,000 seeking enlightenment.

"But a person can get the training for nothing," says Norwitz. "by becoming a staff member. Basically the church wants people to contribute, either their time or their money. The organization itself has to survive."

In addition, says Norwitz, the church guarantees results.

"If a person doesn't feel better able to cope with life, if he isn't better able to communicate and handle problems, we'll give him his money back."

Scientologists begin their argument for the worth of their religion by stating simply "it works."

Scientologists come from many different faiths. Norwitz says Scientology definitely believes in God but stresses dianetic techniques rather than spiritual doctrine.

John Brodie, San Francisco 49er quarterback, is a Scientologist and credits its techniques with improving his throwing arm.