Narconon, a Scientology-linked drug rehab program, is causing controversy in Israel. The Tel Aviv municipality will soon be running its drug rehab treatments, which were developed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

But the Health Ministry and the Israel Antidrug Authority seem a bit uneasy reported Haaretz.

Did Scientology's biggest giver kick in?Antidrug Authority General Director Haim Messing doesn’t appear too thrilled.

“In my opinion, the Tel Aviv municipality cannot start such a process without the approval of the Health Ministry and the Antidrug Authority,” he said. Messing explained, “The patients will receive large doses of vitamins and food supplements while in the sauna to increase the excretion of toxins by the body.” “We are in favor of effective methods for drug rehabilitation, on the condition that programs be adopted only after being properly researched,” he concluded.

Medical experts have repeatedly questioned the validity of Hubbard’s teachings regarding toxins and drugs held within the body. Nearly 500 California doctors backed school authorities when they dropped a Narconon program presented to students.

Here are some of the claims made by Narconon that medical experts called inaccurate:

  • Drugs accumulate indefinitely in body fat, where they cause recurring drug cravings and flashbacks for years, even after the user quits.
  • The vitamin niacin pulls drugs from fat, and saunas sweat them from the body.
  • Colored ooze is produced when drugs exit the body.

Shouldn’t Israeli medical experts be researching these points specifically before going ahead as Messing concluded?

Narconon seems increasingly desperate to garner official recognition. And now after being repeatedly rebuffed due to a lack of credible scientific evidence the Scientologists that support the program apparently are willing to put up rather than shut up.

Scientology booster Jenna Elfman“We received a donation of $1.5 million in the U.S. to run the program,” Dr. Benny Avrahami, director of the Tel Aviv Municipal Anti-Drug Authority told the press. “The only condition set by the American donors was that we run this specific program,” he said.

So who do you think that donation come from?

Tom Cruise has given millions to Scientology and has targeted substantial sums to implement similar programs featuring Hubbard’s niacin and sauna treatments for fireman and rescue workers in New York.

Kirstie Alley has been a spokesperson for Narconon, while Jenna Elfman has been a booster for the closely related Criminon program.

Maybe these Hollywood Hubbard fans each kicked in $500,000 to get things going in Israel?

Well, one thing is for sure, some Scientologists did.

Britney Spears seems to drift from one religion to another lately and apparently can’t quite make up her mind.

Raised a Baptist she ended up veering off the evangelical Christian path to follow her idol Madonna into the “Kabbalah Centre.” Subsequently, she picked up a Hebrew tattoo.

Brtiney goes 'Hindu'?Now it appears that the singer is interested in reincarnation and Hinduism.

Spears attended a Hindu temple in Malibu to bless her baby boy and according to a priest there seek “spiritual guidance.”

The former teenage pop star, per Hindu practice, even got a traditional red dot on her forehead reports Contact Music.com.

But that dot was done with dye, so unlike her tattoo it won’t require laser surgery to remove.

Britney Spears supposedly takes the Hindu belief in reincarnation quite seriously and is reportedly attending “reincarnation sessions” with a “Hindu psychic” says the Post Chronicle.

But unlike other stars that almost always reveal they were famous names from history in their past lives, Spears says she was just a dog.

A “Shetland sheepdog” that “worked on a farm in Virginia” to be exact.

This refreshingly humble singer has also taken up bowling, supposedly to improve her troubled marriage reports Spotlighting News. “Bowling allows us to curse at each other in a good way,” she reportedly was overheard to say.

Does Britney Spear’s latest incarnation as a would-be Hindu require her to take on a new moniker?

Given that she was “born a Baptist” does this make her a “Christian for Krishna”?

Maybe it’s best to say, “Britney is a bowling Baptist, Kabalistic, Krishna devotee.”

Now that’s a real tongue twister isn’t it?

CultNews was soon strewn with comments from Falun Gong followers after an article appeared yesterday examining the racist and bigoted teachings of its founder and leader Li Hongzhi.

Li Hongzhi receives flowers from the faithful in New YorkInterestingly, the feedback received did not deny that Hongzhi made the disturbing statements quoted, but insisted that they were offered out of context and/or defended them.

One disciple of Hongzhi said, “My understanding is that when gods created man, we were created to god’s image, different races was created by gods of different races and when a child is born from a marriage of two people from different races it will be hard for the gods to trace the child’s origin and therefore hard to save.”

In defense of Hongzhi’s homophobia one member remarked, “Actually all orthodox (upright) religions view this matter in the same way, Christianity included, it is very hard to reach heaven when practicing homosexuality.”

Regarding “Master Li’s” bizarre claim that elderly women would start menstruating again after practicing his religion one member noted, “Can you prove that elderly women who practice Falun Gong DON”T regain their menstrual periods? Have you ever considered the possibility that Li’s teachings in this regard are true? I know for a fact that they are true. I suggest you do more research on the subject before mocking these teachings.”

However, no objective outside research was cited to support Hongzhi’s astounding claim and much like other groups called “cults” that make fantastic claims, the evidence offered is anecdotal stories and/or personal testimonials not corroborated by any scientific peer-reviewed and published studies.

CultNews has also received emails too from Falun Gong members and they frequently consist of the same statements recited over and over again. Much of this feedback emphasizes repeatedly that the sect is being “persecuted” by the Chinese government and that somehow this should ameliorate Li’s racist statements and bizarre claims of supposed supernatural powers.

What all this points up is that Li Hongzhi has a very well-organized network of Falun Gong followers that function like a well-oiled machine effectively handling his public relations and garnering publicity to promote Falun Gong, its agenda and attack “Master Li’s” perceived enemies.

The Epoch Times, a newspaper run by Hongzhi devotees, churns out article after article supporting him, denouncing the Chinese government and generally provides a platform to preach Falun Gong’s beliefs.

Falun Gong street protestAdditionally, there are the constant well-organized protests staged by Hongzhi’s devotees outside Chinese consulates and lately they have even taken to the streets staging dramas to gain attention in New York City.

One such performance came complete with fake blood dripping down a woman’s face and shocked Midtown businessmen as they walked down Sixth Avenue. A female Falun Gong member hung over a poll, while another, a man dressed up in a communist uniform pretended to hit her with a club and another woman lay down, acting as if she were dead reported the New York Sun.

Doesn’t all this reflect the type of fanaticism and devotion frequently associated with groups called “cults”?

One protest performance was a chilling tragedy. In January of 2001 five Falun Gong followers doused themselves with gasoline and set themselves ablaze in China’s Tiananmen Square to protest persecution by the Chinese government. Two died, including a 12-year-old child.

Girl disfigured by fiery protestOne young woman was horribly disfigured and badly crippled.

Again, this appears to be reminiscent of other groups called “cults” such as the Solar Temple suicide in Switzerland that ended in fire, the Jonestown mothers who killed their own children or the members of “Heaven’s Gate” that obediently committed suicide to fulfill the agenda of their leader Marshall Applewhite.

Hongzhi and his disciples claim that there are 70 million Falun Gong followers in China. This number has never been independently verified, but whatever number of adherents exists within China the sect has caused serious concern.

In 2002 the Chinese government blamed Falun Gong for the deaths of 1,900 people by suicide or refusing medical treatment.

Perhaps Western journalists should pay less attention to Hongzhi’s public relations machine and more to what he actually teaches and the consequences of his influence.

Falun Gong also known as Falun Dafa led by Chinese exile Li Hongzhi has been labeled an “evil cult” in China and it seems Chinese American communities have increasingly become concerned about its adherents activities in the US.

Hongzhi’s followers have caused problems repeatedly during holiday celebrations, apparently using every opportunity to pass out tracts and preach, which has annoyed others and violates the rules set for such events.

As the Chinese New Year drew near this year controversy surrounded the group’s participation in a parade in San Francisco as reported by the San Francisco Sentinel. 'Master Li' HongzhiAt a hearing held by the city’s Board of Supervisors both sides of the Falun Gong controversy spoke out and some of strange teachings of Li Hongzhi leaked out.

According to Falun Gong’s leader “elder women will regain the menstrual period because a cultivation practice of mind and body requires menses.” Hongzhi concludes, “Otherwise, how can they cultivate their bodies without it?”

Hongzhi’s teachings about homosexuality must disturb many in the Bay area, which includes a large gay community. Li says that a “black substance” accumulates in the body due to homosexuality that causes bad health. Hongzhi’s homophobia also goes beyond simply describing its link to a “black substance” he has also called gays “disgusting,” and prophesizes that one day they will be ’eliminated’’ by ’the gods.’’

Hongzhi also appears to be a racist.

He teaches his followers that “mixed-race people¦[are] instruments of an alien plot to destroy humanity’s link to heaven.” And that these interracial unions are somehow part of “a plot by¦evil extraterrestrials.”

More bizarre is that practitioners of Falun Gong believe that “Master Li” actually can “personally install’’ falun (a wheel of law) in their abdomens, can “levitate,” “become invisible” and knows the “top secret of the Universe.”

Hongzhi also changed his date of birth from July 7 to May 13, which is when Buddha was born, reported Asiaweek.

Sound like a personality-driven “cult”?

Margaret Singer, top cult expert, was critical of Falun Gong“If you want a good description of a cult, all you have to do is read what they say they are,” Margaret Singer told the San Francisco Chronicle at a Seattle conference in 2000. The psychologist, who was the most respected cult expert of the 20th Century observed, “They actually say ‘Don’t Think.’ Just recite the master’s teaching.”

Last month Steve Hassan a cult counselor from Boston told the Chronicle that Li’s followers are “told not to think negative thoughts, and are given fears if they consider any other reality” and that Hongzhi “comes very much out of the cult extreme, the authoritarian stereotype.”

David Clark, a Pennsylvania cult counselor sees Falun Gong’s human rights campaign as a “clever marketing mechanism.” “It is a way of gaining access to get people to join the cause,” he said.

“I consider myself a victim of the Falun Gong because my parents were hurt by it, and the harmony of our family has been seriously damaged,” a Chinese massage therapist who practices tui na, told the Chronicle in December.

An anti-Falun Gong Web site has been launched to expose “the false and contradictory claims of Li Hongzhi.”

For example, regarding health Hongzhi teaches “the root cause¦is karma…That’s the root cause of people’s health problems, it’s the chief source of them. Of course, there are two other forms. One of them is really, really small, high-density tiny beings. They’re something like a cluster of karma.”

This sounds similar to the Scientology belief in so-called “Body Thetans” or BTs, which that group’s founder L. Ron Hubbard claimed originated from outer space clustering on human beings and causing problems.

Such beliefs have allegedly led some Falun Gong devotees to neglect their health by not properly consulting doctors in a timely manner and/or seeking medical treatment and instead relying upon Hongzhi’s supposed powers and religious practices.

Li likewise seems to denigrate hospitals. He says that their “treatment methods are at ordinary people’s level while illness is beyond the ordinary,” He claims, “It’ll be years before today’s Western medicine catches up” with him and what he knows.

Chinese authorities have reported that hundreds of Li Hongzhi’s followers have died in Mainland China due to medical neglect.

So besides racism, homophobia and often-bizarre supernatural mumbo-jumbo it seems Falun Gong can become a health hazard.

It’s no wonder why the Chinese government sees Hongzhi as “evil” and Chinese Americans have become increasingly wary of his disciples participating in their community events.

Dutiful son Mel Gibson wants his dad to be happy. And it seems that happiness includes having his very own church.

The 'Church of Mad Max'?Hutton Gibson, the 87-year-old father of the famous actor-director, raised his family as so-called “traditional Catholics,” which is kind of an oxymoron, considering the Gibsons don’t belong to the traditional Roman Catholic Church.

Rather than follow the recognized authority of the Vatican as truly traditional Catholics do, these self-proclaimed ”traditionalists” denounce its 1960s reforms implemented through the Second Vatican Council.

Instead, they typically say that the last “true pope” was Pope Pius the 10th.

So septuagenarian Dad Gibson and his very rich Hollywood son, have made up their very own churches that they can run any way they want.

Hey, what’s more traditional Catholic than that?

The new church Mel bought for his dad will be called “St. Michael the Archangel Chapel” reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

It’s not clear who besides the Gibsons will attend this house of worship, which actually is a house currently being remodeled.

'St. Michael the Archangel Chapel' A California foundation called “World Faith Foundation” apparently largely if not exclusively funded and run by Mel Gibson paid $315,000 for the site, which is not much considering the hundreds of millions the director/producer made from his movie The Passion of the Christ.

The former Mad Max spent millions funding the creation of another chapel near Malibu in California that he attends. It seems there is somehow a shortage in the “Sunshine State” of traditional Catholic churches too. 

This 9,300 square foot California Mission-style edifice that the star built is surrounded by 16 acres and is quite a bit grander than Dad Gibson’s projected place of worship.

A group called “Holy Family,” once estimated to only include about 70 regular members, attends services at Mel’s church. 

“Holy Family” has been compared to groups called “cults” promoted by other Hollywood stars, such as Scientology and the Kabbalah Centre.

There are about 600 traditionalist chapels, but Mel Gibson’s may be the best endowed.

Other such traditionalist groups include the somewhat more Vatican-friendly “Society of Saint Pius the Tenth,” the strident “Society of Saint Pius V,” the allegedly abusive “Apostles of Infinite Love” and the bizarre “Tridentine Latin Rite Church.” 

Many of these groups can be seen as rather idiosyncratic, mutually exclusive and possessing they’re own particular theology. Some are also often defined and/or led by charismatic personalities, such as the Tridentine Latin Rite Church founded by Francis Schukhardt who says the “Virgin Mary” made him a “bishop.”

Will the former Braveheart star become the shepherd of his own flock? Probably not, but his two churches do appear to have their own interesting idiosyncrasies.

Madonna seems to have joined the ranks of those suffering from eating disorders, but who will do the intervention?

An empty Madonna?There doesn’t seem to be much left of the former “Material Girl” who once was regarded as a sex symbol and sang songs looking like Marilyn Monroe.

She “exercises at least three hours a day, sometimes runs 10-miles, and eats mainly wholegrains and vegetables” reports The Mirror from the UK.

Apparently the 47-year-old 1980s icon’s spiritual journey with the so-called “Kabbalah Centre” hasn’t helped her to understand that the inner soul is more important than the physical body that contains it.

And whatever is driving the star she doesn’t seem to have either a positive self-image or the inner peace gained through some form of enlightenment.

Despite those endless interviews about newfound fulfillment Madonna has seemingly become only an empty shell of her former self.

Perhaps her spiritual mentors Philip Berg, his wife Karen and their two sons Yehuda and Michael should take some of the credit.

After all, it’s been a decade since the Bergs began extracting millions from Madonna and now it seems they should share in some of the responsibility for leaving the pop diva running on empty.The old Madonna

But the Bergs meanwhile have filled their bank accounts, bought mansions and embraced the very materialism they supposedly teach their students to reconsider.

It appears that Philip Berg’s teachings may be as empty as the woman who became his most public and recognized spokesperson and booster.

This is perhaps a warning to anyone wanting to place the star on a pedestal as a role model or make Madonna’s spiritual journey with the “Kabbalah Centre” their own.

Is there something about being a Scientologist that somehow leads professionals to commit so-called “white collar crimes”?

Some chiropractors that shared a common commitment to Scientology, once named the “Cult of Greed” by Time Magazine, have been linked to such crimes in recent news reports.

Markell Boulis focus in fraud caseScientologist Markell D. Boulis of Pennsylvania, now jailed on drug charges in Georgia, has become a focus in one of the largest health insurance fraud cases in the United States reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The former chiropractor ran something called “Practice Solutions” out of his basement, selling other chiropractors a package of services.

Another Scientologist was reportedly linked to Boulis, chiropractor David Goroway, who became a defendant in a federal racketeering lawsuit that was later settled.

Time Magazine once noted, “Many of the group’s followers have been accused of committing financial scams” and called the organization “a hugely profitable global racket.”

Scientology has a history of specifically recruiting dentists, doctors and chiropractors through business management companies such as Sterling Management.

Boulis and Goroway were also associated with yet another Scientologist and chiropractor in Florida.

Scientology’s new Flag Building in downtown ClearwaterInterestingly, Clearwater, Florida, which is a major hub for the controversial church and is known for its many Scientology-linked building projects and businesses run by Scientologists, now has another distinction.

Clearwater has been cited by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in its annual report as a metro area with one of the highest per capita rates of consumer fraud in the United States.

Postscript: David Goroway contacted CultNews and advised that he is no longer involved with Scientology.

It seems that Showtime is afraid of Scientology, at least that’s what Trey Parker says, one of the creators of South Park.

No 'Bullshit!' about Scientology for Penn & Teller“Showtime wouldn’t let [Penn] do an episode of Bullshit! on Scientology” and “that’s “f–ked up” he told GQ Magazine in an interview.

According to recent press reports the South Park Scientology episode “Trapped in the Closet” that mocks the controversial church often called a “cult” and ridicules Tom Cruise will not be run in Britain due to threats from the litigious former “Top Gun.”

So it seems there are some limits even to South Park bravery.

Nevertheless it’s quite easy for Brits or anyone else in the world with Internet access to see the Scientology slapdown through an array of Web sites, such as one cited by Wikipedia.

“Now that we’ve done it, now it’s like we’ve sort of opened the floodgates. People will be less scared,” observed Trey Parker.

Trey Parker says 'that's f--ked up'But the “floodgates” were actually first opened by bumbling Scientologist Tom Cruise running his mouth recklessly in interviews and of course his infamous couch jumping stunt on Oprah.

Since the Hollywood superstar’s media meltdown last year Scientology and the actor have become “fair game” for almost any reporter and a standing joke amongst standup comics.

Hey Showtime, how about showing a little guts?

Why not let Penn & Teller feature Scientology in a show that’s name seems synonymous with its public persona?

President Bush used for publicity ploy by seminar-selling group?President George W. Bush presented a Volunteer Service Award to a graduate of the controversial mass marathon training group called Landmark Education (LE).

25-year-old Erin Green picked up her award personally from President Bush in Chicago. Green does volunteer work through the Boys and Girls Club. And she said this was “inspired” by a LE “leadership course.”

Landmark Education, which is a for-profit privately, owned company is in the business of selling such courses, essentially concocted by a 1970s seminar guru and former used car salesman, named Werner Erhard. Werner Erhard

LE uses volunteers for much of its own in-house work-for-free labor force and Ms. Green’s volunteer work for the Boys and Girls Club is part of a long-running and ongoing public relations campaign.

Paying customers of LE, in what can be seen as a ploy for free advertising to promote its sales, are encouraged or “inspired” to go out and volunteer within their respective communities garnering attention and giving credit to Landmark.

“In Landmark Education programs, I realized that one person really can make a difference,” Green gushed in a prepared press release that reads more like an infomercial.

While the LE-linked volunteers do good work for no pay, the company that is the impetus behind that work is likely to make some money through increased sales from the free publicity.

Typically stories about such volunteers and their LE “homework assignments” are written up in local newspapers, but this time Green getting an award from the President of the United States was like hitting the PR jackpot.

It’s doubtful President Bush knew that LE is reportedly known for “mind games” and “Soul Training,” culminating in something of a “Drive-thru Deliverance.”

Instead, he probably was told “Landmark Education is committed to the fundamental principle that people have the possibility of success, fulfillment, and greatness,” as a spokesperson stated within its news release.

However, Self Magazine wasn’t quite so glowing, but rather once relegated the company to the category of “white collar cults where personal growth’ means brainwashing.”

Ms. Green has successfully done her homework for Landmark, while President Bush may have unwittingly just been worked.

The 'TomKat' twoWhile former good girl Katie Holmes reportedly plans to marry Tom Cruise after having his baby (as told to Ellen DeGeneres) and continue her Scientology education while apparently distancing herself from Catholicism, her boyfriend’s last wife is doing just the opposite.

Nicole Kidman apparently has ended her days “dabbling” with Scientology and now wants to be married as a Roman Catholic reports Life Style Extra. The only consistency in this twisted tale is that whoever gets Tom Cruise must take on Scientology too.

Mrs. Cruise number twoNo one knows the exact details about the last Cruise marital meltdown, but some suspect that as Kidman cooled to Scientology, Cruise cooled to Kidman.

The Holmes family would probably like to know all the fine details considering their daughter’s present condition and impending marriage.

However, a probable confidentiality agreement was likely one part of the bargain Kidman made in her final divorce deal, so neither the public nor Cruise’s future in-laws are likely to find out easily.

Instead, Katie Holmes and her family are likely to learn the hard way.