Scientology centers in Tennessee have been closed after police rescued two patients being held and medicated against their will.
UPDATE: A previous version of this article stated the facilities were owned and operated by the Church of Scientology. This information was reportedly gleaned from an erroneous statement from the county’s sheriff’s department. The confusion stems from the fact that Marc Vallieres, who has been charged with two felonies of facilitation to kidnapping in connection to the case, is a well-known Scientologist. The article has been updated to reflect the new information.
Tiny cabins and a double-wide trailer operated by Marc Vallieres, a well-known member of the Church of Scientology were recently raided by Tennessee police after they received a 911 call from a person trapped inside.
“We proceeded up the hill through a gated, makeshift paddock that is secured externally with a steel latch,” the Cannon County officers reported.
There, they saw the person who had called them looking out through a Plexiglas window.
“He is locked inside the cabin with no way to remove himself from the building,” the report went on.
The site’s caretaker, Dennis Flamond, allowed the officers inside, where they found a mostly empty room with a small pile of sheets in the corner.
The caller told officers that he had been held there against his will for nine months and was being given unknown medications supposedly meant to “cleanse” him.
Valliere’s Life Center for a New Tomorrow LLC “is not a medical or treatment facility,” according to its website. “The main focus is to provide an environment that is peaceful and safe, where people can rest, destimulate, gradually calm down, regain their senses and with some help perhaps recover the social skills necessary to function successfully in life.”
The center’s practice of avoiding psychiatric drugs is in line with the Church of Scientology’s firm stance against prescribing drugs for mental illnesses.
The man on the call said that he was being mistreated and showed the officers his bare, lightless room.
The officers removed the man from the premises and contacted his mother, who was in disbelief. She had learned about the facility online, where it was portrayed completely differently than the grim reality.
By the time officers returned with a search warrant for the rest of the facility, Flamond was packing his things.
Officers also found a female patient who was mentally handicapped and had been imprisoned in a padlocked room for as many as 14 hours a day. She was also hospitalized.
Three suspects have been arrested and two of them — Flamond and Hans Snyder Lytle (the site’s manager) — have pleaded guilty to two counts of false imprisonment.
Vallieres, who was charged with two felony charges of facilitation to kidnapping, pleaded “by information” in Circuit Court.
This is not the first time one of Vallieres’ facilities have come under fire. In 2014, the same center was cited with multiple license violations after authorities found Vallieres had failed to do criminal background checks on employees and that the center was housing someone who required a higher level of medical care.
Scientology is a controversial church founded by Ron Hubbard in 1955. It has achieved widespread fame with the help of celebrity members like Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Beck. It was recently involved in another bout of scandal after former member Leah Remini released a docuseries on the institution.
“You’re not going to continue to lie to people and abuse people and take their money and their lives,” Remini tells the church in the show’s opening. “If I can stop one, then I’m gonna do it.”
But even though Vallieres’ “treatment” techniques are suspected to have been influenced by his studies with the church, local Scientology officials have insisted that the church was not involved with these facilities.
“I had no idea what was going on down there,” Church of Scientology Nashville pastor Reverend Brian Fesler told FOX 17. “You can’t open a Scientology facility unless it’s approved by the church… It has nothing to do with our church. It’s nothing we would be involved in, in any way.”
All of Vallieres’ facilities have now been permanently closed. The three men convicted in the case are on supervised probation.