Is Scientology breaking the law?

Allegations of illegal imprisonment by Scientology

excerpted from

Emphasis added in red . Editorial comments, when added, are in purple .

Captivity Case May Be Tied to Faith

January 13, 1990, Los Angeles Times

By John H. Lee and John Johnson, Times Staff Writers


Pomona police said Friday they are investigating whether beliefs espoused by the Church of Scientology led a family to confine a mentally disabled woman in a cell-like bedroom at a Phillips Ranch house.

While stressing that neither the church nor its beliefs are under investigation, police said they want to know if Scientology practices could explain why the woman was kept in confinement.

Police and Los Angeles County mental health workers discovered Marianne Coenan, 31, locked in a sparsely furnished room with a boarded-up window after they entered the residence on Jan. 5.

The woman was incoherent and had bruises and scratches on her legs, wrists and neck, police said. She was kept behind a door into which a small, square opening was cut and steel bars had been inserted, police said.

Her husband, Edwin Coenan, 41, was arrested the same day and booked on suspicion of false imprisonment and endangering a dependent adult. He has been released on $5,000 bail, and no charges have been filed.

This implies answers to some questions I had - whether false imprisonment by a family member is legal. Apparently, family relationship does not grant the right to illegally imprison another adult, even a dependent adult.

The woman's father and stepmother, Floyd and Audrey Twede, as well as the victim's half-brother, Steven, are also under investigation, police said. The Twedes rented the house on Rolling Hills Drive where the woman was confined.

Police said they saw Scientology printed material in the house and plan to review documents written by Scientology's late founder L. Ron Hubbard that describe how to treat mental breakdowns. In the documents, Hubbard recommended isolation as a treatment and also warned his followers to avoid conventional psychiatric care.

If Hubbard is describing how to treat mental breakdowns, this sounds like practicing medicine without a license.

"The family also made statements to the effect that they didn't believe in some forms of medicine and psychiatric help," Sgt. Elias Valdez said. "We are trying to determine what connection the beliefs had with the false imprisonment."

Investigators said other relatives and friends of the woman said she had been kept in the room for at least eight weeks after suffering a mental breakdown in October.

"Attorneys for the husband and parents have said that Marianne became so violent, she was hurting herself," Lundstrum said. "So they created a space where she could not harm herself. They said they did it for her own safety."

Isn't this precisely the point at which legal commitment procedings should take place?

The woman's confinement came to the attention of authorities after Cathy Speer of Hillsboro, Ore., said her sister failed to arrive in Oregon for the Christmas holidays, Lundstrum said. Speer asked police to go to the Phillips Ranch home to check on her, the detective added.

Does this imply that Marianne had previously been healthy enough that her sister was not aware of her mental breakdown in October?

After Edwin Coenan's arrest, a relative called the Church of Scientology and was referred to Timothy Bowles, whose Los Angeles law firm represents the church on various matters. Bowles told The Times that he had been briefly involved in the case, but is not defending Coenan.

Church spokeswoman Shirley Young confirmed Friday that the Coenans and Twedes are Scientologists but added that the care of Marianne Coenan "was not a church matter ... nor did the church take any stand with relationship to her treatment."

But if the Introspection Rundown, part of Scientology "tech", calls for illegally detaining people - and I contend that indeed it does - then the church most definitely does take a stand regarding her treatment.

Specifically, police said they will review a "technical bulletin" authored in 1974 by Hubbard, in which he describes the "Introspection Rundown" -- a process for treating people with mental breakdowns.

He wrote that people suffering severe mental anguish, or a "psychotic break," should be isolated and "destimulated" to protect them and others from possible harm. During the process, Hubbard added, the "muzzled rule is in force," meaning that no one should speak to the troubled person or talk within earshot.

The document also articulates Hubbard's understanding of psychosis and his disdain for psychiatry.

Asked if the family was using a church-approved treatment for psychosis, church spokeswoman Young said Coenan's isolation was "a medical matter" and added that "the church takes no official stand on it."

Given the contents of the Introspection Rundown document, I contend that this is a lie.

However, church officials, relatives and police said Coenan had been under medical supervision during the two months of confinement.

Young, asked whether the family was applying the "Introspection Rundown," said, "I'm just becoming abreast of the situation. So far as what they did, this is a sad and unfortunate case."

What happened to Lisa McPherson, who died while in the custody of Scientology, was also a sad and unfortunate case. The question is whether this kind of tragedy is illegal, and whether it can be avoided in the future.

Detective Lundstrum, meanwhile, said the bulletin "may help explain what the people were doing, but the information has absolutely no legal bearing on the case."

But if Scientology and Hubbard claim a scientific basis for these procedures, isn't that fraud?

Detectives visited Marianne Coenan several times this week at a private psychiatric hospital in Pomona, Lundstrum said. Coenan appeared to be in fair physical condition, and "she had some lucid moments, but she still has not been able to concentrate," the detective said.

Relatives told police that her condition deteriorated over the past year, during which time she had been taken to several doctors.

[One of those doctors,] Privitera said he has no connection to Scientology and the church has never steered patients to his practice.

Detectives said charges against Edwin Coenan must be formally filed by Thursday. At that time, charges against any other suspects will be filed, if there are any, Lundstrum said.




Los Angeles Times, January 31, 1990



The Los Angeles County district attorney's office has decided not to file criminal charges against the husband of a mentally distraught woman who was kept isolated in a cell-like bedroom for two months , a prosecutor in Pomona said Tuesday.

Edwin Coenan, 41, was arrested Dec. 5 after Pomona police found his wife incoherent, bruised and confined in a boarded-up room at a residence in the Phillips Ranch area.

Deputy Dist. Atty. John Hayes said the case was being "kicked back to police detectives for further investigation."

Detective Carolyn Lundstrum said Coenan has refused to discuss the case with police. She added that the wife's father and stepmother, Floyd and Audrey Twede, who live at the house, also refused to answer police questions. The Twedes were not arrested.

Attorneys for the husband and the Twedes told investigators that Marianne Coenan, 31, was isolated so she could safely recover from a mental breakdown suffered in October. When police and Los Angeles County mental health workers found Coenan, she was locked behind a door into which a small, square window was cut and steel bars had been inserted.

"Generally speaking, the family was not under obligation to report (the confinement)," Hayes said. "Our decision not to file charges was based on insufficient information to support the case. From what I read between the lines, these people actually thought they were benefiting this woman."

I would like to know why the family was not obligated to report the confinement. In the earlier story, the clear implication seemed to be that this was a case of false imprisonment. Hayes' statement does indicate that Marianne was not being helped by being locked up, despite the apparently good intentions of her family.

The family, which belongs to the Church of Scientology, apparently adhered to beliefs espoused by the church's late founder, L. Ron Hubbard -- particularly, a disdain for psychiatric treatment.

Coenan's confinement was consistent with the method of treating mental breakdowns described in Scientology literature that police requested and reviewed while investigating the case , Lundstrum said.

"Based on the report we submitted, the (district attorney's) office was not convinced that any criminal activity took place," the detective said.

Prosecutor Hayes said the investigation will continue until additional relatives and friends of the woman are questioned .

"We want the police to conduct a few more interviews," Hayes said.

" I don't think the wife has been questioned yet," he said. "I believe her condition has improved greatly, though . The detectives will talk to her when she is able to handle an interview."

So, under horrific and illegal Scientology treatment, she got worse; under traditional psychiatric care, she improved.


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