Ireland's cult watchdog has contacted gardaí and the Department of Education over concerns the Church of Scientology is planning to target secondary school children under the guise of providing drug awareness programmes.
Mike Garde, director of Dialogue Ireland which monitors cult activity, said he has received information that the drug awareness group Narconon, run by the Church of Scientology, is planning talks in Irish schools.
"This is a major concern. The Church of Scientology is trying to infiltrate our schools. They are trying to recruit people to scientology. It has nothing whatsoever to do with drugs awareness," he said. "I've been in touch with the Department of Education too and am awaiting a response."
Garde received a leaked email saying the church planned to "hit" as many Irish schools as possible. "Everyone working in the school system needs to be vigilant. Narconon do not mention that they are associated with scientology," he added.
Last year, Narconon was ejected from numerous schools in the UK when its links to the controversial church were revealed. There was no apparent reference to the church in its drugs education literature.
The UK prisons ombudsman has also warned governors to ban it from jails because of its association with scientology. Its drug rehabilitation programme is based on 'The Fundamentals of Thought' by scientology founder L Ron Hubbard and was first delivered to drug abusers in US state prisons. Hubbard sponsored the incorporation of Narconon as an organisation.
A spokesman for Anonymous Ireland, an international group that monitors the activities of scientologists, said it is also aware of a strategy by Narconon to introduce 'say no to drugs' lectures at Irish schools. "I'm so concerned I've contacted the local schools here about it. The gardaí have also been forwarded the email. It's about raising awareness now," the spokesman added.
In California, where Narconon has its international headquarters, the state department of education has advised schools against using it. The Narconon website reports that from its inception the programme promoted an approach to rehabilitation without recourse to alternative drugs. But in 1973, it adopted procedures to include drug-free withdrawal, using vitamins and mineral supplements in tandem with training procedures adapted from basic courses in Scientology.
Garde, who gives lectures in schools about the dangers of cults, will raise the issue in any schools he visits.
"This is a very worrying step. But hopefully, with enough awareness, they will not be successful," Garde added.
Actress Kirstie Alley has claimed Narconon has helped her cure her cocaine addiction.