Can’t-hide Dep’t

Sharron Angle wants to cure prisoners of drug addiction with saunas – pardon me, “disintoxification” – and vitamins. But don’t worry. It’s not a Scientology program at all: just a program of “natural homeopathic medicine” – invented by L. Ron Hubbard.

I understand Sharron Angle’s press strategy: since her positions are completely crazy, she needs to stay away from real reporters who might ask her about them. So she’s talking only to fellow wingnuts, such as John Gizzi at Human Events.

But Houston, we have a problem: Angle is so at odds with consensus reality that a reporter doesn’t have to ask hard follow-up questions to make her sound like a loon. For example, Gizzi tries to help her deny some damaging revelations in a Washington Post story:

The same Post story claimed that as a legislator, Angle had supported “a prison rehabilitation program promoted by the Church of Scientology and involving massage and saunas.”

Seeking to “clear the record,” Angle told us “I am not even sure that the Church of Scientology fits into it at all. You have to make some quantum leaps here.”

She noted “the program itself is a multifaceted program, and it had two protocols: one in the area of withdrawals, and it was a natural withdrawal system. As s you know, that can have some severe physical side effects and the cramping that was involved there required that other people be taught how to relieve the cramping. So that is where it said that people were being massaged.”

“The second protocol was what they called the ‘disintoxification,’ which was actually sweating the drug out of one’s system so that there were no longer any cravings for the drug. This is a very intense potassium, calcium, vitamin, mineral regimen, with a hot rock sauna that sweats the toxins out. Those two protocols were developed by [the late Church of Scientology founder] L. Ron Hubbard, and they had to give him credit. But it is not Scientology, but rather natural homeopathic medicine.”

All right, then. As long as that’s clear. The bogus drug-treatment program Angle endorses, and wants to impose on prisoners at taxpayer expense, isn’t a Scientology program; it’s just a program of “natural homeopathic medicine” invented by the pulp science-fiction writer who founded Scientology. Because we all know that “disintoxification” is a sure cure for drug addiction.

Update A reader writes to clarify:

Since Sharon Angle obviously won’t say, and probably doesn’t know, it might be useful to clarify the relationship between the program she supported and Scientology, which is in fact quite direct.

The detoxification program being described was created by Hubbard about 1980 for the Church of Scientology, which still sells it as the Purification Rundown. It consists of brief periods of exercise daily, followed by sustained sweating in a sauna. The purpose of the sweating, for 5 hours a day, is to flush out remains of drugs and toxic chemicals which Hubbard believed were lodged in fat. Along with these elements, it involves large doses, with daily increases, of calcium, magnesium, niacin, and various other vitamins. The program sold by the Church of Scientology affiliates Narconon (drug rehabilitation) and Criminon (criminal rehabilitation) is normally called the Detoxification Program. The Scientology phrase, Purification Rundown is never used by these officially secular groups. However, it is exactly the same program.

It has been claimed ( that the program is dangerous. However, it should be noted that many thousands of individuals (including me) have done this program in the past 30 years, and I’m unable to find any documented case of significant harm. Although I actually found the experience quite positive, objectively documented evidence of real benefits seems to be equally scarce.

The reference to ‘massages’ in descriptions of the program at first confused me, since massage isn’t part of the program. But actually, it seems to be a reference to a Scientology procedure known as touch assists, which really aren’t massages in any plausible sense of the word. In Scientology, the process is always referred to as detoxification, which unlike ‘disintoxification’ is at least a real word. In no sense at all is it homeopathy or in any way related to homeopathy, another instance of Angle’s ignorance.

The structure of the Church of Scientology is extremely complex, but the following points are relevant: In practice, there is one extremely unified and hierarchic organization controlled by a single person, David Miscavige. But what most people don’t know is that on paper the picture is very different. Legally, there are at least 150 distinct corporations in the US alone which constitute the Church. Miscavige controls the Board of Directors of all of the different corporations, and it is reported that he has on file undated resignations for every board member of every corporation, giving him the ability to remove any person at will, or even to retroactively remove a board which has acted against his wishes, by backdating their resignations. In practice, I doubt he has ever had to do this; in fact the various boards in most cases never meet. The directors just sign off on the board’s ‘actions’ as dictated by attorneys. This is the structure of
Narconon, Criminon, and ABLE (the umbrella group which includes both of these and several other formally non-religious organizations).

Two corporations are atop the pyramid. One, the Religious Technology Center (RTC), controls the trademarks Scientology, Hubbard, Dianetics, and hundreds of other terms. Since a number of these terms are used by Criminon, all Criminon groups must be licensed by RTC, and pay a licensing fee set by RTC. (They also must agree to inspections by RTC to insure the trademarks are correctly used, which RTC performs at its own discretion and bills at rates it sets.) Miscavige is the Chairman of the Board. The other is Author Services International (ASI). This is officially, unlike the rest, a for profit corporation in which Miscavige is CEO and Chairman of the Board. It is a literary agency with only one client, the estate of L Ron Hubbard. All materials used by the Church of Scientology and the ABLE groups are copyright by Hubbard, regardless of who actually wrote them. Since all Scientology groups must use Hubbard’s copyrighted works, ASI is able to
charge any fees it chooses for that use. And since it is for profit, there are no restrictions on how much is paid to Miscavige personally. (Not a penny goes to any of Hubbard’s surviving children.)

Between ASI and RTC, a very large proportion of any funds, including taxpayer funds, paid to Criminon or any similar group – I believe over 25%, but I don’t actually know – goes directly to the Church of Scientology, with a significant cut going to Miscavige personally.

So to summarize: the organization which delivers the detox program is under the absolute control of the Church of Scientology (or at least of the same person who controls the Church of Scientology), the methods used are exactly those of Scientology with only the names changed, the senior staff are all members of the Church of Scientology Sea Organization, and large chunks of the income are skimmed off the top by Scientology. And Ms Angle is “not even sure that the Church of Scientology fits into it at all”.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

12 thoughts on “Can’t-hide Dep’t”

  1. If your point is that our political culture needs to be ruthlessly purged of everyone stupid enough to get entangled with Scientology, I might agree with you. It's not just a marker for stupidity, letting Scientology's victims get into positions of power is dangerous, as they're all subject to blackmail by the 'church'. (Not really a church, just a criminal conspiracy which finds pretending to be a church really convenient.) It's like letting people mixed up with the Mafia get into public office.

    But I suspect it's just partisan, and you've got no interest in Scientologists who happen to be Democrats…

  2. I'm not sure which is worse: Scientology or homeopathy. At least Scientologists believe in antibiotics, right?

  3. Brett, Angle isn't a Scientologist; merely a world-class fool. If you have names of any Democrats involved with Hubbardism, I'd be interested.

    Yes, I tend to think that Republican politicians are more likely to be taken in by Scientology scams than are Democratic politicians: the disdain for science, authoritarian mindset, willingness to employ criminal means, and pathological lying that characterize Hubbardism have strong parallels in Bushism. But I'm open to evidence.

  4. The Scientology-internal version of the prison detox program is called "The Purification Rundown", and is required of Scientologists at various times. The doses of niacin administered may be hepatoxic. This is the regime with which Scienotology recruiters nearly killed Michael Jackson when he was entangled with Lisa Marie Presley. It is pure quackery — Hubbard's hypothesized mechanism is that profuse sweating cleanses the body of "drug residues", and that the skin flush produced by high doses of niacin is a sign of "radiation" leaving the body. (Hubbard claimed that radiation exposure in past lives is a key source of people's problems in their current lives. Really. He wrote a book about it, All About Radiation, despite his apparent ignorance of what radiation might be — he confuses it with fallout — and the fact that he failed out of freshman physics at GWU.)

    Brett, name any Scientologists who are Democrats, or Democrats who support Scientology in any way,

    and I'll happily denounce them. Standing offer.

    While I'm waiting, allow me to remark that Greta van Susteren and her husband have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to be convinced that their bodies are inhabited by the somnolent spirits of millions of dead space aliens — that is to say, they have been initiated at the "Operating Thetan" level of the Scientology gnossos. And that Mary Bono did some Scientology work with Sonny before his death, and maintains ties to the cult.

    And yes, the use of shameless and dishonest propaganda and the strict message discipline coupled with policy prescriptions that do not produce the advertised outcome are points of commonality between Hubbard's UFO cult and the current national Republican party.

  5. Let me add my name to the list of those who will denounce any Democratic idiot who'd get involved with Scientology. (I've already condemned the choice of Tom Harkin as head of the Senate Committee behind health care because of his history of seeking funding for various Alternative Treatment Modalities and Procedures — I don't call them 'alternative nmedicine' because they aren't/ And at least one liberal here can tell the time he — inadvertently — accepted an article in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons thinking it was an authoratative journal rather than a quack-supporting, racist, anti-immigrant right wing journal — and how I corrected him.

  6. This reminded me of our email conversation about Hythiam a few years ago. Now I don't actually know the politics of the HYTM folks but my recollection is that it was essentially the Haight Ashbury worldview brought up to date. With some help from old Drexel dudes. So it's possible that liberals can be chumps for the easy fix (to addiction) just as much as Reps. BTW HYTM is now bumping along at the bottom. Nice idea to dress up hypernutrition as something new. Worked for them. For a while.

  7. One problem is that the aggressively ignorant people who make up the far-right wackaloon base can't tell the difference between mumbo-jumbo utterances of someone like Hubbard, and actual scientific language. In fact, when you talk real science to them, it's exactly indistinguishable to their minds from new age cult-speak: A lot of fabricated-sounded Latinesque terminology that normal people don't talk. So Angle's "explanation" doesn't sound weird to them — or at least, it seems no weirder to them than a brief technical summary of (say) how global warming works.

  8. And if Brett had any names of Democratic Scientologists, he'll be able to provide them PDQ – with at least some evidence to back those claims up.

  9. Yeah, they even misspelled "Politicians" in the title. Also, the "facts" presented on the site should likely be double-checked before being taken as gospel.

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