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Media Articles - 1990s

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3 December 2002
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Newkirk, Oklahoma Fighting A Mind-Control Cult

CBS Morning News
November 18, 1991

Giselle Fernandez, co-anchor:

In Newkirk, Oklahoma, local residents are fighting to keep an alleged mind-control cult from opening up a huge drug treatment center in their small town. The locals claim the clinic is just a front to recruit vulnerable members into the fold. Scott Pelley has the story.

Scott Pelley reporting:

Newkirk, Oklahoma, is the heart of the Heartland, wheat country, where the biggest commotion used to be the 10:00 freight. That was before Narconon announced it would turn the nearby abandoned Indian College into a huge drug treatment center. Narconon was welcomed until the local newspaper editor, Bob Lobsinger, discovered its connection to scientology.

Lobsinger: This is our first story here. (showing the article to Pelley)

Pelley: Lobsinger quickly found scientology was widely accused of being a mind-control cult that charges followers thousands of dollars to learn the secrets of the universe.

Lobsinger: We don't need these people around here.

Pelley: What really began to unnerve some of the people here in Newkirk was the arrival of the private detectives. A couple of strangers came to town and started asking a lot of questions about Narconon's critics. The mayor says one of the detectives even started following his children.

Lobsinger: He came up--poking around, asking about my wife and kids and...

Pelley: Asking about your wife and kids?

Lobsinger: Oh, yes. And then went on over to the sheriff's office and tried to find, you know, if my kids had had a bunch of speeding tickets or if they were--had ever been in on a dope charge.

Unidentified Man #1: Scientology. (reading the headline on a newspaper article)

Pelley: Many in Newkirk now question scientology and the drug program.Scientology's founder, the late L. Ron Hubbard, developed the drug treatment, consisting of large doses of vitamins and sweating in a sauna, supposedly good for everything from heroin addiction to radiation exposure.

Is the program licensed in any state?

Gary Smith (Narconon President): Sure. It's certified in California. It's--it's certified in--in Florida.

Pelley: You're certified in California by whom?

Smith: By the--the state of California Mental Health Department.

Pelley: California Mental Health officials say Narconon is not certified. Critics say the program is a scam.

Cynthia Kisser (Cult Awareness Network): It's a fund-raising endeavor. It's a potential source of recruits.

Pelley: Narconon insists it is effective and provided us with two patients.

Unidentified Man #1: I'm going to leave the place in better shape than I've been in 20 years.

Pelley: Narconon's leaders say drug pushers and pharmaceutical companies are behind the attacks on the program.

Smith: I feel that there's some people in--in Newkirk that have been victimized by some individuals with a lot of power and a lot of money that have something to profit from people being on drugs, whether that be substitute prescription drugs or whether that be drug pushers in influential places.

Pelley: If this isn't a legitimate drug program, what is it?

Lobsinger: It's just simply a way to get raw meat into the Church of Scientology.

Pelley: Narconon is applying for a permanent state license, but many in town are now fighting the application in hopes of driving Narconon out of rural Oklahoma. Scott Pelley, CBS News, Newkirk, Oklahoma.