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Media Articles - 1990s

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Scientologists Say Controversy Misrepresents Beliefs

By Pat Gilliland

Sunday Oklahoman
September 27, 1992

Controversy over the Narconon Chilocco drug-treatment facility near Newkirk and its ties to the Church of Scientology kept Oklahomans in the dark about the religion and its contributions to society, a leading Scientologist says.

Saying the smoke has cleared, the Rev. Heber Jentzsch, president of the Church of Scientology International, recently came to Oklahoma City to discuss and defend the religious philosophy founded 40 years ago by the late L. Ron Hubbard.

Jentzsch said that contrary to the perception held by some people in society and the media, the Church of Scientology is a positive force in communities.

As described in a booklet published by the church, Scientologists use Hubbard's "technology" to solve problems in their own lives, then reach out and use their skills to improve conditions around them, he said.

For instance, Narconon International, which Jentzsch said is part of a separate organization that is not religious but does use principles developed by Hubbard, has helped thousands of people free themselves of drug dependency.

Other organizations founded by Scientologists use Hubbard's principles to combat illiteracy and abuse of human rights by psychiatrists.

Jentzsch said the Church of Scientology is probably the largest fund-raiser for Narconon. But he denies the treatment center is a front for the church or a mechanism for recruiting church members.

That would be like saying Mother Teresa is a front for the Catholic Church, Jentzsch said.

"The main thing is, they get off drugs and they go back and they produce - they become part of the community. That's our purpose," Jentzsch said.

He said drug pushers and manufacturers are the only ones who get hurt when people get off drugs.

"The guy who comes off drugs and goes back into the community becomes a tax-paying citizen and puts his life together ... no one's injured by that," Jentzsch said.

Jentzsch blames much of the negative publicity about Scientology - including a May 1991 article in Time magazine - on the influence of psychiatrists and drug manufacturers.

The article described Scientology as a "cult of greed," and told of alleged ruined lives, lost fortunes and federal crimes by an organization that "poses as a religion but is really a ruthless global scam - and aiming for the mainstream."

Jentzsch came to Oklahoma City from the church's corporate headquarters in Los Angeles to meet with reporters and editors of The Oklahoman. Accompanying him were Gary Smith, president of Narconon Chilocco New Life Center; Sylvia Stanard, the church's national public affairs director based in Washington, D.C.; and Rena Weinberg, president of Association for Better Living and Education, a Los Angeles-based organization of which Narconon International is a part.

Smith, who has been through Narconon's treatment program, estimated only 5 percent to 7 percent of the people who go through the program become Scientologists.

However, he said successful rehabilitation includes a spiritual or religious aspect.

"At Narconon, we feel it is our responsibility to set that person up so that guy's back in control of his life and can actually make the ... decision that's going to be right for them on how they can deal with that spiritual aspect. Because the guys, one for one, that actually get rehab completely and don't return to drugs, they found what that (religious aspect) was for them," Smith said.

"And some people do choose to become Scientologists. And a lot of people don't. " Jentzsch said the Church of Scientology is actively involved in groups that promote religious freedom, and he spoke of ongoing dialogue and cooperation with representatives of the National Council of Churches, the U.S. Catholic Conference and other religious groups on a national and worldwide level.

But he acknowledged some people in the Bible Belt, including Oklahoma, have not been as open-minded. He said he thinks much of the opposition occurs because people are uninformed or misinformed.

"We believe in the threefold path of Christ, which is health, happiness, the seeking of immortality. That is the basis. We believe all three of those things are achievable and we work toward those points," Jentzsch said.

"Christ was who he was," Jentzsch added. "He was the son of God. There's no question about that. He achieved what he achieved. But he also said, Hey, you can do the same works I do, even greater works, because I go to my father. ' He left it open for everyone. He also said it wasn't just that it would be a totally Christian concept. He said, I have other sheep, that ye know yet not of.'" Jentzsch said Scientology is probably more Buddhist than Christian in its roots. He also said that, because Scientology leaves it up to individuals to determine the nature of their supreme being, a person can continue to be a practicing Buddhist, Christian or Jew and also be a Scientologist.

No churches of Scientology are located in Oklahoma. Jentzsch said computer records show about 300 Oklahomans are members of Scientologist churches in Dallas, Kansas City, St. Louis and other cities in the region. More than 3,000 other Oklahomans have purchased Hubbard's books, Jentzsch said.

Some of the churches, including those in Los Angeles and Dallas, are called "Celebrity Centres," which Jentzsch said reflects Hubbard's belief in the importance of artists to society. Among celebrity members of the Church of Scientology are actress Kirstie Alley and actors John Travolta and Tom Cruise.

Jentzsch said people can learn all about Scientology "without spending a dime" by borrowing Hubbard's books, including "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health" and "Scientology: The Fundamentals of Thought," from a public library.

Smith attributed much of the community opposition to Narconon Chilocco to a Newkirk newspaper that reported the Cult Awareness Network's criticism of the Church of Scientology.

But Bob Lobsinger, publisher of the Newkirk Herald Journal, said he is not opposed to the church. He said his editorials and reprints of articles from Time magazine and other sources emphasized his concern that Narconon is religion under the guise of drug treatment.

Meanwhile, Narconon Chilocco New Life Center continues operating while its application for a state license with the Oklahoma State Department of Health is under review.

Health department officials will make a recommendation to the commissioner of health on whether the facility, located at the old Chilocco Indian school campus north of Newkirk, should be licensed.