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Schumer Backs Off Support for Program

The Buffalo News
August 6, 2005

News Staff Reporter

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-New York, has distanced himself from a statement supporting a controversial detoxification program linked to the Church of Scientology.

The program’s regimen, known as the “Purification Rundown,” was developed by L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology’s founder. The treatment plan – which Scientologists also consider a religious rite – relies on heavy doses of niacin, saunas and exercise rather than traditional medicines.

A number of medical authorities, including former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, have dismissed the approach, as have local addiction specialists who reviewed supporting documents for a four-part series on Scientology that ran in The Buffalo News earlier this year.

A Schumer spokesman said the senator had not been aware of the Scientology connection when issuing his letter supporting the New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Fund in Manhattan.

“Firefighters and first responders who had experienced 9/11 and toxic exposure during the long recovery process came to us and asked us for support, so our office gave them a boiler-plate letter,” said Eric Schultz, the spokesman.

“We did not know this project had any connection to Scientology. If it proves to be a sham, we won’t support it.”

In addition to Schumer, Reps. Charles B. Rangel, D-New York City; Vito Fossella, R-Staten Island; and Carol McCarthy, D-Long Island, had written letters supporting the project. Fossella and McCarthy have requested $1.5 million in federal dollars for its operation.

An endorsement from the New York Uniformed Firefighters Association reportedly was pulled, and David Prezant, deputy chief medical officer for the New York Fire Department, told the New York Times in 2004 “there’s no proven evidence (the detoxification process) works.”

The detoxification center became embroiled in controversy this week with the revelation that Margarita Lopez, a New York City Council member running for Manhattan borough president, had received $100,000 in donations from Hubbard followers after providing it with $630,000 in taxpayer funds.

That prompted New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to criticize the Church of Scientology.

“I don’t think it’s real science,” he said Tuesday. “I don’t agree with (Lopez) at all on Scientology.”

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