ReligionNewsBlog.com — A controversial drug-awareness program widely considered to be a front group for the Church of Scientology has received funding from the Government of New Zealand to spread its unorthodox views through schools and community groups.
Scientology-sponsored Drug-Free Ambassadors have circulated 130,000 of the cult’s drug education booklets around New Zealand, paid for in part by the Department of Internal Affairs’ Community Organisations Grant Scheme.
Fairfax NZ News points out that “advice offered in the pamphlets is based on research by Scientology’s controversial founder, L. Ron Hubbard, who did not believe in medical drugs or psychiatry but instead in purging oneself of painful experiences to gain immortality.”
Ross Bell, executive director of the New Zealand Drug Foundation, warned that the group’s information was flawed pseudo-science and could prove harmful to youth.
“This kind of quackery should not be in our schools – we are talking about young people’s lives,” he said.
“Drug and alcohol issues are complex and therefore we need well-qualified, proper, evidence-based support advice and information.”
Bell said Scientology’s views on mental health were not based on science, and had been discredited “time and time again” in the countries they worked in.
Other critics, including former Scientologists, say the drug-free ambassadors are also a front group aimed at recruitment which does not openly disclose its ties to the church.
Another Scientology front group, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights engages in an on-going hate- and disinformation campaign against psychiatry and psychiatrists.
Critics note the name of the group is particular ironic, given Scientology’s history of human rights violations, including its hate- and harassment activities.
The religious cult tends to use popular causes as recruitment opportunities. It’s anti-drugs efforts include those of Narconon, another front group.
In 2005 then State Superintendent Jack O’Connell urged all California schools to drop the Narconon antidrug education program after a new state evaluation concluded that its curriculum offers inaccurate and unscientific information.
At the time The San Francisco Chronicle quoted O’Connell as saying, “We’ll get a letter out to every school district today, saying this program is filled with inaccuracies and does not reflect widespread medical and factual evidence.”
O’Connell had requested the independent evaluation after The Chronicle reported that Narconon introduced students to some beliefs and methods of Scientology without their knowledge.
Last September concerns were raised about a partnership between Australia’s Federal Government and Drug Free Ambassadors Australia.
The Church of Scientology New Zealand says its anti-drug group is not aimed at recruitment.
Figures show that during 2011 the Church of Scientology New Zealand, a registered charity, listed its income for 2010 as $1.2 million. Drug-Free Ambassadors, also a registered charity, had an income of approximately $6700, of which $6500 was grants.
Green MP Kevin Hague said any funding given to a group that was a front for the church should be stopped.
“In the case of someone who is struggling with drugs, they are very vulnerable. So their exploitation by the church for their own ends is despicable.”
“Scientology is evil; its techniques are evil; its practice is a serious threat to the community, medically, morally, and socially; and its adherents are sadly deluded and often mentally ill… (Scientology is) the world’s largest organization of unqualified persons engaged in the practice of dangerous techniques which masquerade as mental therapy.”
– Source: Justice Anderson, Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia — What Judges Have To Say About Scientology