Scientology bill introduced in Oklahoma Senate.

Posted: January 18, 2020 in politics, religion

Those who have been following Odd Oklahoma for a while will remember my three-part series on Scientology in Oklahoma, where I outlined the history of the organization’s largest Narconon drug treatment facility, Arrowhead, located on Lake Eufaula. As part of that coverage, I outlined the details of the various deaths that have occurred there. Narconon is a psuedoscientific approach to drug treatment that is simultaneously dangerous and a recruitment tool for Scientology.

I’m excited to announce that, in response to three deaths in less than a year at the Oklahoma facility, State Senator Tom Ivester has introduced legislation to get Narconon run out of Oklahoma. Buried nondescriptly among a list of nearly 1000 Senate proposals is Senate Bill 295, with the short description:

Mental health; broadening oversight authority of Board of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to include certain facilities. Effective date


This is the anti-Scientology bill we’ve been waiting for. I was going to make detailing what this bill does exactly a separate post for Monday, but I’m pretty sure I’m breaking this story. I don’t want to risk someone getting the details out before me.

You can find a link to a PDF of the text of the legislation here.

Ivester’s bill amends Title 43A of the Oklahoma Statutes, specifically the section on certification for mental health facilities providing drug and alcohol treatment.

The first thing it does is add “recovery” facilities to the list of kinds of mental health facilities that are regulated by the statute. Apparently, this is to make it clear that the kind of services being provided at the Arrowhead facility are covered under the statute.

Currently, Arrowhead is able to get its certification through a private third party. This would, instead, require certification through the Board of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Originally, it was the Board that had denied Narconon their certification and nearly shut them down in the 1990s. It was only by getting outside certification that they were able to stay open. This would end that exemption. Expect there to be legal battles between Narconon and the State of Oklahoma over the next several years as they try to get certified.

The next change made to the statute is to exempt faith-based, non-residential, programs, along with residential recovery programs with a capacity of less than twelve. I’m not really in favor of the faith-based exemption, but I can let it slide if it means that we get rid of Narconon. While Scientology is a religious organization, Narconon is not officially affiliated with the church, so it won’t qualify for this exemption. I am not positive what the rationale is for the small program exemption, but the Arrowhead facility is much larger than 12 beds. I’m sure it affects some programs that currently exist that Ivester is trying not to target.

My best guess is that this bill is specifically worded to avoid banning any of the other current treatment facilities that already exist in Oklahoma, while still targeting Narconon. Those two exemptions probably allowed those existing groups to keep operating.

It occurs to me that this bill would not exempt some explicitly secular approaches to recovery modeled after the faith-based ones like Alcoholics Anonymous. That could be a legal issue if one of those groups ever tried to set up shop. They’d probably have a legitimate lawsuit on their hands under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Still, that problem could be solved entirely by just striking “Faith-based” from the line:

6. Faith-based, nonresidential recovery programs; or

By doing that, it would allow for the secular programs while still requiring certification for the residential Narconon facility.

I’m still going to lobby for the bill. I’ll push for Ivester to make that one small change, but even if it doesn’t happen, I’ll deal with getting rid of Scientology’s deadly facility in the short term and let the various atheist and Separation of Church and State groups challenge the bad part of the bill.

Still, it would be nice if that didn’t have to happen.

  1. [...] The blogger at Odd Oklahoma, the site that first brought this bill to my attention, writes: [...]

  2. xenubarb says:

    “…exempt faith-based, non-residential, programs, along with residential recovery programs with a capacity of less than twelve.”

    Okay, in California, facilities with six or fewer beds were unregulated. Perhaps sensing the direction of trouble, Narconons started spawning small satellite facilities proximate to the larger ones. In San Diego County, the little ones all received Cease and Desist notices from the state for being unlicensed, so clearly that loophole’s been plugged.

    All OK is doing with this is ensuring harder-to-monitor, smaller Narconons. This is not an improvement.

  3. Desertphile says:

    I helped kick the crime syndicate out of New Mexico, as their fake “Second Chance” scam was shown to be *WORSE* than no drug interdiction at all. “Graduates” of narCONon continue to abuse drugs longer than drug addicts who have received no treatment at all. This was not only true in New Mexico, but also elsewhere such as the Michigan prison system.

  4. Thanks for keeping on top of this! This is terrific news :)

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