By Matt Smith
Four years after San Francisco Chronicle reporter Nanette Asimov repelled a Scientology infiltration of California classrooms, the cult has moved to New Mexico, where believers hoodwinked the mayor of Las Cruces into allowing the indoctrination of third-graders.
Asimov's 2004-2005 investigative series documented how Scientologists, with the help of unwary teachers and administrators, set up so-called Narconon programs in San Francisco schools, beginning in the early 1990s.
As an Asimov headline put it, "As early as the third grade, students in S.F. and elsewhere are subtly introduced to church's concepts via anti-drug teachings."
Her stories spurred a California state investigation, which showed Scientology beliefs about drug physiology to be unscientific bunk.
Last month, the cult -- which teaches that drugs ooze out the pores in various colors, and that psychiatry is a scourge -- convinced Las Cruces, New Mexico Mayor Ken Miyagishima to allow Scientology programs into schools -- without informing him they were cult backed. This month, a tipster informed Miyagishima of the Scientology connection, and he canceled the program.
However, it's unlikely New Mexico schoolchildren have seen the last of the cult. In San Francisco, Scientology infiltrated classrooms for more than a decade unnoticed because they discreetly offered their program to individual teachers, with district-wide administrators none the wiser. It took a 2005 California-government crackdown to finally drive the cult out of schools.
In New Mexico, a reporter for the Las Cruces Sun-News asked Scientology anti-drugs program representative Richard Henley whether the cult had attempted to indoctrinate children in other New Mexico school districts. Henley refused to say, explaining that requests had come from "individual teachers or classes ... for two or three years."