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rehabilitation, thought reform and the destruction of young egos

by Wesley Fager (c) 2002 



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The Governor of Florida joins Straight's Advisory Board Straight founder Mel Sembler, AO is  Ambassador to Italy

Scientology finally pays former member for abuse charges

Ex-students call Elan experience "horrific"  Florida state Senator linked to Straight Church of England Attack's Scientology's Narconon Drug Rehab Program
August 8 is Betty Sembler Day in Florida The Seed closes. This time for good Straight gets $300,000 federal grant

Church of Scientology Accused of Preying on 911 Tragedy

Imagine Tony Soprano going to his psychiatrist only to have her hook him up to a lie detector.  If that sounds bizarre, click here.
Boot Camp Director charged with second degree murder.  First International Conference on Treatment Abuse huge success
Father Doctor Miller Newton and team to pay $4.5 million as KIDS of North Jersey closes CULT info, the journal of the Leo J. Ryan Education Foundation, features a 3 page story on Straight, Inc. Judge orders Desisto School to hire a consultant to meet standards
Florida's Office of Children and Families makes another big boo-boo

Who Controls the News You Read?

You probably knew that the Unification Church owns The Washington Times,  but did you know it now owns UPI too? Click here for that story.




Is there justification for a class action suit against the state of Florida for the abuses of Straight?

Sweden: George Bush is mooned but Betty Sembler, his benefactor, talks international drug policy 

Talking back to Bob Schwartz, "the Aerosmith of the Republican Party"

Straight and troubles with the ACLU

President-elect Bush to exempt churches from licensing requirements for social programs 

Did Scientology Processing Kill Lisa McPherson?

The Republican Party and the Straights Osama bin Laden and the "al Qaeda" cult Should Straight Training be compared to Marine Corps Boot Camp?

Alleged gang rape attempt at Growing Together foster home

Is George Bush a Moonie?

    SAFE Sued   A civil suit against SAFE, Inc., the Straight-descendent juvenile drug rehabilitation program that has been endorsed by Florida Governor Jeb Bush, was filed in Federal District Court in Orlando, Florida on December 19, 2001, Case NO. 601CV1489.  The suit was filed on behalf of Chris Manoly and Jeff Henschel, two young men who were in SAFE in 1999, and their fathers Kamal Manoly and Claude Henschel.  A summons was served on Loretta Parrish on June 19, 2002. The suit charges negligence; false imprisonment; breach of written contract; fraud; violations of the racketeering influenced corrupt organizations act (R.I.C.O.); and injunctive relief. Besides SAFE, Inc. the following other entities or individuals are named as defendants: Loretta Parish, Executive Director of SAFE, Anchor Foundation, a SAFE-related entity, and Dr. Linda Moore, a clinical psychologist from Maryland who recommended SAFE to the Manoly family. Kamal Manoly was a speaker last year in Bethesda, Maryland at the First International Conference on Juvenile Treatment Abuse. He spoke on SAFE, Inc.  Plaintiffs' attorneys are Tom Burton, a California attorney who has gained notoriety in a suit against a Utah-based juvenile treatment program  and James J Gangitano of Orlando, Florida.  

In the two years before he joined Straight, Inc. Michael Scaletta had been the business administrator for an Orlando company. His resume then states: Allegany College, Major Business Administration, but does not indicate a degree earned. Prior to coming to Straight, Loretta Parrish had been a partner and VP in a commercial land development venture. She had developed Muffler Man. Her resume then under education states: Florida College, Business Management but no degree  is indicated. Michael quickly rose in the ranks to become the executive director of Straight-Orlando. Loretta quickly became the Marketing Manager for Straight-Orlando. On August 14, 1992 Straight-Orlando officially closed and on that very day Michael Scaletta incorporated SAFE, Inc. In the morning the kids had been in Straight; after lunch they were in SAFE. They didn't even change facilities--Michael just leased the old facility from Straight.  He took Loretta with him.  Today Loretta is the owner and executive director of SAFE.   Between 2000 and 2001 Alba Murphy and some other former SAFE parents had worked to sue SAFE  but nothing ever came of that suit.  In 2000 TV Station WAMI of Miami,  Florida did a two-day special report on SAFE which you can view here.  One noted cult expert Steve Hassan from Boston has had this to say about SAFE,   "[SAFE] fits my model of a destructive, mind-control cult."   Eye Witness News will keep you informed as news develops in this breaking story,  but as for now the big question on everybody's lips is whether the governor of Florida and Nancy Reagan will appear in court as a character witnesses for SAFE.     See a related story on SAFE.


    TV report on Kids Helping Kids -- Cincinnati   11-14-05: video link updated 0800 In 1980 Straight's national education director, George Ross (Ph.D.. Education), left Straight to set up his own 2nd generation Straight in Sarasota, Fl. which he called LIFE. He took Helen Peterman, Straight's first clinical director, with him. (See Peterman and Ross.) Ms. Peterman had been accused of abusing children at Straight - St. Pete. Dr. Ross left LIFE to set up Kids Helping Kids in Hebron, Kentucky across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. Straight had a camp in Cincinnati (physically in Milford). State prosecutors closed Straight - Cincinnati in 1987. Dr. Ross left Hebron to set up yet another program in Lexington, Ky. which he called Possibilities Unlimited. Dr. Ross was criminally prosecuted by state authorities for the activities of PU but he was acquitted. One of his character witnesses was Helen Peterman. In the meantime Kids in Hebron bought the old Straight - Cincinnati facility. There have been accusations of abuse at Kids (parent company is Tri-State Rehab). Watch WCPO-Cincinnati special report on Kids Helping Kids by Hagit Limor. xscript & video ....Related article KHK - Cincy
    Jeb Bush joins Straight's Advisory Board    (Also see DFAF's Advisory Board.) Check out this incredible document. As of October 11, 2001 Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida and brother to the President of the United States, is on the Advisory Board for Straight which now calls itself the DFAF (Drug Free America Foundation, Inc.) And so is his wife Columba!  James W. Holton, Commissioner of the Florida Transportation Commission, is on the board of directors of the DFAF. It should come as no surprise to see Jeb Bush tied to DFAF, after all Betty Sembler was his finance cochairman. And then there is SAFE. Straight-Orlando closed on August 14, 1992. On that very day Michael Scaletta Straight - Orlando's executive director (taking Loretta Parish, Straight - Orlando's marketing director, with him)  opened SAFE, Inc. out of the same facility Straight had used. In the morning the kids had been in Straight; after lunch they were in SAFE.  In late 2000 TV station WAMI from Miami, Florida did a two-day exposition on SAFE. Because Governor Jeb Bush had previously visited SAFE he had been contacted while the segment was being produced to get his thoughts of SAFE. Even though he had been told that the segment was going to be controversial, Jeb Bush sent the station this letter of endorsement of SAFE!   Even without Jeb and Columba,  the list  of names on Straight's Advisory Board is nothing short of extraordinary!. Here they are:
Jeb Bush   Governor of Florida
Columba Bush  wife of the Governor of Florida
James R. McDonough  Florida's Drug Czar
Toni Jennings  a Republican and formerly President of Florida's Senate
Robert L. DuPont, Jr. the founding director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the second White House Drug Czar.  Dr. DuPont is a former paid consultant for Straight and has been an expert witness for Straight in many of its civil litigations for abuse.
Thomas Constantine Thomas A. Constantine is the former head of the DEA. We are checking to see if this is the same man. Robert L. DuPont, another DFAF Advisory member, is a business partner with Peter Bensinger, another former head of the DEA. 
W.G. “Bill” Bankhead  the "tough love," Secretary for Florida's Department of Juvenile Justice, who has awarded several contracts to Ramsay Youth Services, Inc. (Nasdaq: RYOU), formerly Ramsay Health Care, Inc, to operate juvenile prisons in Florida.
Rudy Bradley a Republican and Florida state Representative from Saint Petersburg who pushes faith-based initiatives. (Mr. Bradley is black and became something of a sensation a few years ago when he switched from the Democratic Party.)  In 2002 Jeb Bush appointed Mr. Bradley as a commissioner on the Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioner's Committees on Consumer Affairs, Gas and International Relations
Richard M. Baker a Republican and the Mayor of Saint Petersburg, Florida 
Rick Romely a Republican and the Attorney for Maricopa County, Arizona.  He was a  Betty Sembler's choice for the nation's drug czar.
James T. "Tim" Moore Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement 
Susan Latvala  a Republican on the Pinellas County, Florida Commission
Brad Owen  a Democrat and Lt. Governor of Washington state 
Alfred Hoffman, Jr see write-up following this table 
Stay tuned for more As you can tell from the source document it is difficult to decipher all the names. The Oakton Institute is working to get a clearer copy of the document and will update this page as further Board Members and Advisory Board members are identified. 

The million dollar question  is, "why did all these government officials join the Advisory Board for DFAF?"   Could political contributions (money) have been a factor? We will look at that possible issue, but since most of the board members are Florida officials we will limit ourselves to Florida state campaign contributions.  [To see Sembler contributions to Republicans at the national level click here.]   State and federal election laws are written to limit the amount of money a person can contribute to a particular candidate for a particular election. The purpose is to keep a wealthy man or company from buying a candidate  or from having undue influence over an elected official. But election laws have never been perfect. On November 6, 2002 the new campaign finance reform law went into affect. The bill was sponsored by Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold. The intent of the new law is to limit the amount of "soft" money people and groups can donate to political candidates and parties. In 1998 U.S. federal law set strict limits on the amount of money any one person can donate to a candidate for national office -- $1,000 for any one election. Further, the law limited an individual to $5,000 in contributions in any one year to state party or special interest political groups. And it limited to $20,000 per year the contribution a person can make to the national political parties. In other words the law put a yearly total limit on all political contributions for federal purposes at $25,000. That is called "hard" money--a specified top-line limit.  It was the law in 1998 and might vary some before or after 1998. The problem is that there were loopholes in federal campaign fund raising laws. The law's limit did not apply to what are called "independent" expenditures, where money is spent to support or oppose a candidate independently of the candidate. And they did not apply to money spent on "issues" as opposed to calling for the election of a particular candidate. This is called "soft" money. Soft money allows individuals and groups to contribute much more than $25,000 in any one year. Not surprisingly, Lamar Alexander, Mel Sembler's first choice for President  and recipient of a lot of money from Sembler, opposed the campaign refinance law. 

After Jeb Bush's unsuccessful bid for governor of Florida in 1994 he formed the Foundation for Florida's Future, a charity to do constructive things for Florida; but there is evidence that the foundation funds were used primarily to pay the salaries of campaign aides until the next election cycle. Mel Sembler gave $5,000 to that foundation as did the Huizenga Family Foundation. Former paid Straight consultant and expert witness for Straight, the former Drug Czar Robert DuPont, is chief of the scientific advisory board for Psychemedics, Huizenga's hair follicle drug testing company. DuPont is now on the advisory board for DFAF.   

Between 1996 and 2002 Mel Sembler and his clan donated $100,012.75 to the Republican Party of Florida.  Additionally,  between 1996 and 1997 Mel contributed $15,000 to the Republican Fund for the Nineties-State (PAC). And in 1998 he contributed $10,000 to the Campaign for a New American Century Stat (PAC).  Mel's friend Walter Loebenberg, former President of Straight Foundation, former President of Drug Free America Foundation, and founder of the Florida Holocaust Museum, contributed $21,000 to the Republican Party of Florida between 1996 and 2002.    Florida state law limits donations to candidates who are running for state offices to a maximum of $500 per person for any given election. Before we look at contributions to individuals, let me give you a heads up on how things can work. On April 18, 1996 Mel Sembler contributed $500 to Tom Feeney's war chest (Feeney was Jeb Bush's running mate the first time he ran). But as we've seen between 1996 and 2002 the Sembler clan gave $100,000 to the Republican Party of Florida. Between 1996 and 2000 the Republican Party of Florida donated $59,000 to Feeney's campaigns. Today Tom Feeney is the Speaker of Florida's House of Representatives. So there seems to be ways of getting additional money to candidates. 

Besides Mel and Betty  other potential Sembler donors include   their sons and daughters-in-law Brent and Debbie Sembler, Greg and Liz Sembler, and Steve and Diane Sembler.  Of these,  Steve Sembler  is not on the contribution bandwagon.    In addition to Sembler donations to the Republican Party,  the Semblers have given many donations to individual candidates.    In 1997 Jeb received $3,500 from the Semblers. Mel and Betty gave $500 each on Sept 18, and Brent, Gregory, Dianne, Debbie, and Elizabeth each gave $500 on the 19th. On Jan 25, 2002 Mel, Greg and Elizabeth each gave $500 to Jeb. Debbie, Betty and Brent each gave $500 on Feb 7, and Greg and Brent donated another $500 each on Sept 13.   Walter Loebenberg gave $500 to Jeb Bush in 1997 and $500 in 2001.  Donald Sullivan, former secretary for Straight Foundation, donated $200 to Jeb's campaign in 1997 and $500 in 2002.  Even Calvina Fay, DFAF's executive director, freed up $200 for ole' Jeb.  Mel and Walter each gave $500 to Jeb's running mate's  (Frank Brogran's) campaign. Betty Sembler was Jeb's finance co-chairman in 1997.  Mel financially supported Jeb's dad so George Bush I made a TV commercial for Straight and made Mel ambassador to Australia. Mel financially supported Jeb's brother  and so  George Bush II made Mel ambassador to Italy. Mel supported  Jeb and Jeb joined the advisory board for DFAF and wrote a letter of endorsement for the controversial Straight legacy program in Orlando called SAFE.

On June 15, 1999 DFAF advisory board member and state Representative Rudy Bradley got $2,000 from the Semblers, $500 each from Mel, Betty, Brent and Greg. Walter Loebenberg gave $500 to Bradley's campaign. Betty's mother gave another $500.    Florida state Senator Jack Latvala was first elected to the Florida Senate in 1994 and was reelected in 1996. He is the founding president of North Pinellas Republican Club. He has received an award from the Police Benevolent Association. From 1996 - 1999 Jack Latvala received $1,600 from Betty and Brent Sembler. Loebenberg donated $150 between 1995 and 1996.   Jack's wife Susan is a Republican member of the Pinellas County School Board and a DFAF advisory board member. [Source for Florida state contributions:  Florida Department of State Division of Elections]  Betty gave $500 to Rich Baker's campaign while Greg Sher, CEO of the Sembler Company pitched in $250. [Source: Saint Petersburg Times, 2-10-2001]  From the Saint Petersburg Times of 02-18-2001 Brent Sembler gave $500 to a mayoral candidate in 2001 while his brother Greg gave $100. The Times does not specify whether Baker received it, or what candidate received it for that matter.

In late 1991 HRS revoked Straight - Orlando's permanent license and gave it a temporary one because of violations of state code. The regular license was reinstated in April 1992, but on August 14, 1992 Straight-Orlando closed. On that very day Michael Scaletta opened Substance Abuse Family Education, Inc. (SAFE), A Florida HRS site visit report of SAFE conducted between July 6 - 8 and July 13 - 15, 1993 found that during the 30 day period leading up to the state investigation there had been approximately 29 "reported" incidents of restraint while only 1 reported incidence of restraint at all other juvenile drug rehabs in the district combined! In 1993 HRS notified SAFE that the state would impose fines on SAFE for violations of administrative code in particular those revolving around excessive use of restraints. SAFE felt it was being harassed by the state's health inspectors and sued the state. A Memorandum dated Feb 15, 1994 from Harry Moffett, Senior Human Services Program Specialist, Alcohol, Substance Abuse and Mental Health of the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS) to Pamela Peterson, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health states that HRS has had inquiries about SAFE from Republican Representative Bill Posey and Republican Senator Toni Jennings. And why not. Former Senator Jennings served in the Florida Senate from 1980 until she retired in 2001. She had been elected Senate Republican Leader, Republican Leader Pro Tempore and served an unprecedented two terms as Senate President in her last eight years. The Saint Petersburg Times of 11-15-02, p. 6B states that Donald Sullivan, MD is being considered for the Florida state Republican Party chairman. Don Sullivan is the former secretary for Straight Foundation, Inc.   Joseph Garcia, former Chairman Straight Executive Committee and former Executive Vice President and Treasurer of Drug Free America Foundation,  contributed $500 to Ms. Jennings' campaign in 1999.   Former Senator Jennings is on the advisory board for DFAF.

In 1997 Alfred Hoffman, Jr., Jeb Bush's finance co-chairman, paid $32 million for a Coral Gables yacht club that he bought from one Armando Codina, a leader of the right-wing Cuban American National Foundation. Armando Codina is an ex-business partner of Jeb Bush. According to Salon ezine, "American intelligence and law enforcement authorities firmly believed that [one Orlando] Bosch was responsible for . . . the 1976 explosion that brought down a Cuban airliner, killing all 76 civilians aboard, although Venezuelan prosecutors had failed to convict him of that terrible crime." In 1989 Bosch was in prison in America for entering the country illegally, but prominent Miami Republicans, including businessmen with the Cuban American National Foundation, pressured President Bush to pardon Mr. Bosch.  President Bush's son Jeb had made a fortune in real estate deals with some of these Cuban exile businessmen who had advocated  Bosch's release. George H. W. Bush pardoned Bosch and worked out a deal so he could stay in America despite the Justice Department's desire to have him deported because he had, "repeatedly expressed and demonstrated a willingness to cause indiscriminate injury and death." 

James W. Holton, an attorney from  Maderia Beach and Commissioner of Florida Transportation Commission is on the board of directors for Drug Free America Foundation.  On December 5, 1995 Straight Foundation, Inc. changed its name to its current name--the Drug Free America Foundation.




    Scientology finally pays out to former member  
Church of Scientology pays

On May 9, after 22 years and one of the longest playing legal dramas  in California jurisprudence,  the  Church of Scientology paid former parishioner Lawrence Wollersheim for damages he said he incurred while in the church.   Mr. Wollersheim had signed a "billion-year" contract with the church but says he ended up in a "thought reform gulag" instead. In 1989 a California appeals court said that, "Wollersheim's mental condition worsened to the point he actively contemplated suicide," adding, "the church's conduct was manifestly outrageous." Mr. Wollersheim had quit Scientology after spending $150,000 on L. Ron Hubbard's "mental health" regimes and went on to found FACTNET, the biggest cult awareness voice on the internet. Click here and here for the story.  Congratulations Lawrence and FACTNET!!!


    The Clary Report, Florida state Senator Donald Sullivan, MD and his wife Judge Irene Sullivan  

Did Mel Sembler quash a state attempt to close an abusive drug rehab? The Clary Report, Florida state Senator Donald Sullivan, MD and his wife Judge Irene Sullivan Straight closed its flagship program in Saint Petersburg on April 13, 1993 amidst an investigation of Straight being conducted by Lowell Clary, Acting Inspector General for Florida’s Department of Health and Human Services (HRS) now called the Office of Children and Family.  Mr. Clary had begun his investigation back in December because of damaging documents about Straight's operations which he had received from Richard Bradbury.  Mr. Clary released his findings on May 19, a month after Straight, Inc. had closed.  His report,  which is presented below in its entirety,  insinuates that Melvin Sembler and " unnamed state senators" probably pressured HRS to grant Straight-Saint Petersburg a license in 1989 when an on-site inspection team was preparing to deny the license. According to the report Harry Moffitt, an HRS senior program specialist, said that deputy assistant secretary Linda Lewis questioned why Florida would continue to let Straight operate in spite of allegations of withholding medication and food from clients, depriving them of sleep and using excessive force against them. That when Ms. Lewis brought this up to Ivor Groves, an assistant secretary to HRS, she had been told that she would be fired on the spot if she did not do as told. Groves denied the conversation and Lewis did not recall it. The report also revealed a definite pattern of abuse or excessive force used against clients at Straight facilities.  See the five page report here:

Post Clary: Straight's Dr. Donald Sullivan, MD oversees Florida's Office of Children and Families. Donald C. Sullivan, MD is a respected orthopedic surgeon in Saint Petersburg, Florida. In 1992 he was successfully elected to the Florida state Senate as a Republican.  One thing that former Senator Sullivan can be credited for is making Saint Petersburg Community College a full four year college.  [ Betty Sembler sits with Florida's drug czar Jim McDonough on on the advisory board of the Multijurisdictional Counterdrug Task Force Training (MCTFT)--a program funded by the U.S. Department of Defense through the Florida National Guard and hosted near Betty's house at Saint Petersburg Junior College.  MCTFT is the federal government's program to train law enforcement officers, nationwide, in counter drug task force efforts.]  Besides his work in education,  Senator Sullivan  served on the state Senate's Children and Families Committee  which oversees Florida's Office of Children and Families, the very same office that the Clary Report insinuates was prepared to deny Straight's license in 1989 when political pressure was put on it to grant a license. This all occurring, of course, before Senator Sullivan came aboard.  Former Senator Sullivan says he had been persuaded into running for the state Senate in 1992 by his friend, then state Senator, John Grant, a Republican from Tampa.  (Between 1994 and 1996 Senator John Grant got $4,000 from eight separate $500 donations from the Sembler clan. Joseph Garcia, former Chairman Straight Executive Committee and former Executive Vice President and Treasurer of Drug Free America Foundation contributed $250 to John Grant's 1996 campaign.  [Source:  Florida Department of State Division of Elections])   Interestingly,  Wesley Pennington,  the president of Straight,  ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for the state assembly in 1992.  Interesting because according to a document submitted by Straight Foundation to the IRS as part of its tax package, in May 1992 Donald Sullivan, MD was the secretary of the board of directors of Straight Foundation, Inc. Check out the 1996 annual report for Straight Foundation (which now calls itself the Drug Free America Foundation) in which the state's office of corporations is instructed to remove Donald Sullivan from its list of officers.  

Post Clary: Dr. Sullivan's wife Irene Sullivan becomes a Sixth Circuit judge. In the preface to an article written by Saint Petersburg Times reporter William R. Levesque on October 29, 1998, Mr. Levesque writes: "Critics say the endorsements blur the line between party politics and non-partisan judicial campaigns." He writes: "In two fliers, the Republican Party of Pinellas County urges residents to vote the party ticket, . . . Included in the list are Irene Sullivan, a candidate for circuit court judge, and George Brown. . ."   Irene Sullivan, who is the wife of Dr. Donald C. Sullivan, got her judgeship. (Irene Sullivan received $1,000 from Mel and Betty Sembler in four separate $250 donations between 1997 and 1998. Walter Loebenberg donated $500 to Ms. Sullivan's campaign in 1998 and $250 in 1997.  Former Straight board members or advisory board members attorneys Guy Perenich and Myron Mensch, Dr. Bruce Epstein and wife Amy (Amy is not a former board member), and Mel Gross and Raymond Bourgholtzer threw in $650 combined. DFAF Advisory Board member Susan Latvala and her husband state senator Jack Latvala donated $550 between 1997 and 1998. Irene's husband and former Straight Foundation secretary Donald Sullivan, MD gave the maximum allowed of $500. But all of this pales to insignificance compared to what Irene Sullivan donated to her own campaign fund. She gave $99,000 of her own money to become a judge.  [Source:  Florida Department of State Division of Elections])  For Betty Sembler's 70th birthday everybody gathered at Gratzzi's Italian restaurant to wish her well. Judge Irene Sullivan  was there. Instead of gifts Betty had asked everyone to contribute to the DFAF. 

The Clary finding is not the only time Mel Sembler's cronies put heat on state licensing officials either. Straight had opened in 1976 and by 1978 was in danger of being shut down because of numerous allegations of serious child abuse. The man who led the investigation had been Robert G. Marshall, district director of the state's licensing authority for drug rehabilitation programs in Pinellas County for the state office of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS). Naturally, a special citizen's committee called Parents Associated Inc. had been created to investigate--the investigator, Bob Marshall. Prominent on that citizen's committee had been Pinellas County Judge Jack Dadswell and Mack Vines who would be the chief of police by 1980.   (Terry Hensley, another Saint Petersburg Police Chief, would later become the executive director of the Straight Foundation under its new name the Drug Free America Foundation.) A spokesperson for HRS Secretary William J. "Pete" Page, Jr. has admitted that Straight officials had called to complain about Marshall. Straight board member John White said that on one occasion a Straight official complained to Page about Marshall, but he did not know who it was. Even Melvin Sembler confirmed that some Straight officials had contacted Mr. Page about the HRS investigation of Straight, but, according to a newspaper account of the time, like Senator Curt Kiser 10 years later, he can't remember who they were. In any event Straight did not close but the investigator Bob Marshall was fired!    

An interesting thing happened after the  man destined to be the chief of police for Saint Petersburg investigated HRS' Bob Marshall.   One of his assistants,  Lt David Milchan, who had headed the Youth Services Division of the St. Petersburg Police Department, had frequently referred families to Straight.   In fact he was on the  Straight Advisory Committee.  Well it seems he just got tired of being a police officer after all those years of service.  No he didn't bother retiring.  He just up and quit and took a job with HRS.  So now Straight had managed to get Bob Marshall fired for investigating Straight   and get a  former board member working for HRS to boot.   Well after a bit David Milchan decided that he wanted to be a policeman after all,  and so he went back to law enforcement.  But not as a mere lieutenant.  He went to Saint Petersburg  Beach which is the city of residence for Straight co-founder Joseph Zappala and,  in 1981,  was given the job of Chief of Police!   The Saint Petersburg Beach Lions Club annually awards the Joseph Zappala Policeman of the Year Award. 

See related stories: 

Dr. Sullivan being considered for Florida state's Top GOP.
Charlie Crist is Florida's attorney general.

St. Petersburg Times on Clary Report: A persistent foul odor

  Straight founder Mel Sembler, AO is  Ambassador to Italy

Straight founder buys his second ambassadorship! We recommend China next!

In 1988 Melvin Sembler, bidding under #27 (for Republican William Howard Taft, 27th President of the United States) and in return for his work as a Republican fund raiser, and also for his own personal financial contributions, was given an ambassador's job by George W. Bush (whom he affectionately calls #41).  In that year Straight co-founders Mel Sembler and Joseph Zappala each gave over $125,000 in almost matching donations to Republican causes. Mel Sembler was given the ambassadorship to Australia while Joe Zappala, his sometimes business partner, was given the Madrid job even though he did not speak Spanish. And though he had no published writings, Ambassador Zappala had, at least, graduated from high school. The Senate recognized both men for their civic achievements, including their work with Straight, Inc. On his Senate application form,  under the block for any foreign languages spoken Mel Sembler had written "English (fluent)."  And since the two men are often called the "Saint Petersburg Twins"  it should not surprise you to learn that at one place on their Senate application forms Sembler and Zappala used almost identical language.  Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Paul Sarbanes, who fought hard to squelch the appointments,   was not amused and had this to say about the two using almost identical wording [Source: St. Petersburg Times, October 4, 1989]

This is an absolute insult to the process.  It's incredible. It's the sort of
thing where a teacher in school would hand the exam back, or better yet flunk the student.

Syndicated cartoonist Gary Trudeau had a field day lampooning President Bush's 1989 ambassadorial appointments and ran several satires like the one below:

On August 23, 1989, cartoonist Gary Trudeau and Universal Press Syndicate published the above lampoon presumably on Mel Sembler insinuating he was the highest bidder for the Australian ambassadorship job.  When asked why, according to the comic strip, he had said,  "NO, NO.  I just promised the kids a country where they could surf."   Today Mel keeps a framed copy of  the cartoon  above the toilet in his office. [Florida Trend Magazine, May 1997]

Straight board members have always been good Republicans. Mel Sembler was George W. Bush's finance co-chairman in Florida in 1988. Straight board member Alec Courtelis was Republican Party Finance Chief.  Roy Speer, founder of cable's Home Shopping Network, was another Straight board member to pitch-in $100,000 to them Republicans in 1988.  Zappala got the ambassadorship to Spain, and interestingly, Speer got the concessions to the Madrid Summer Olympics! You can learn more about the 1989 Saint Petersburg Twins' appointments here

Through the years Mel has been generous to Republican causes. His contribution tally sheets from 1980 to 2002 attest to that.  Last year, as one of George, Jr.'s Regents, who include the likes of Enron's Ken Lay, Mel bought rights to the Italian embassy. Here's the sales receipt. On October 31, 2001 Mr. Sembler addressed the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee   which was then considering his nomination and told them, in part:

Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, I believe that I have the qualifications necessary, if confirmed, to lead our diplomatic mission in Italy, to modernize it, and to strengthen it as an instrument to promote American interests in Italy.  During my career in business, public service, politics, and diplomacy, I have worked hard and accomplished much. . . For the last quarter century, along with my wife, I have fought vigorously against the plague of drug abuse. In 1976 Betty and I helped found STRAIGHT, a non-profit, adolescent drug treatment and rehabilitation program with branches across the U.S., which successfully treated and graduated more than 12,000 young people nationwide. For 17 years, I served as chairman of the board of STRAIGHT. Other than our children, nothing was more rewarding than this effort. Betty and I initially agreed that if we helped one child it would be worth all the effort. With 12,000 successful graduates . . . It was a gratifying accomplishment.

Here's the entire speech.  Well Ambassador2 Melvin Floyd Sembler, AO, has already reported to duty in Italy.  Here he is on  his new assignment.  

  We feel that Mel Sembler has paid more than his fair share  to get respect from his fellow Republicans.  And so it is only fitting he should be required to pay no more than $24,000 during the 2004 election cycle (which was the total  contributions to them Republicans made by Clark Randt, Jr. in 1999 for the Red Chinese post.)  In fact, we strongly urge Mr. Sembler to buy the Red China post next.   Does he realize that the Great Wall of China is the only man-made structure that can been seen with the naked eye from outer space, and unlike that tower in Italy,   it does not lean even after all these years.  But best of all the People's Republic of China has 11,178 miles of coastline!  Yes,  Mr. Sembler,  you should go for Red China  next.  Perhaps you can save the world by turning Red China into a nice capitalistic society like our own.  You could show them how to market "thought reform"  for profit so they could Capitalize on Communism.    

Not since George H. W. Bush was our ambassador to China when Forrest Gump tore their Commie asses up in ping pong  has there been a better opportunity to normalize relations with Red China.

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  The Seed closes for good Art Barker and The Seed close for good, 2002

When Mel and Betty Sembler founded Straight in 1976 they didn't exactly start from scratch.  One of their sons had been in a drug rehabilitation program called The Seed which was then the rave in juvenile rehabilitation in Florida.  But after a blistering report by the US Senate in 1975 which likened The Seed's methods to those employed by North Korean soldiers to brainwash American servicemen,  The Seed stopped it's expansion programs.  And in the ensuing vacuum walked Mel and Betty.  There were reports that The Seed had closed altogether;  but it had not. It had stopped treating juveniles.  But now  it looks like Art has retired and closed his program for good.   And what about the money?  Well, the dogs got it.  Or at $50,000 of it.  Here's that story.  

Art,  some say your program was abusive;  others swear by it.   I'm reminded of a movie called Goodbye Mr. Chips in which an English headmaster,  in the twilight of his life,  recalls all the boys he has helped in life.  Do you harbor similar feelings of satisfaction?

Goodbye Mr. Barker        back to newspaper index


  First international conference on treatment abuse huge success by Reid Martin, Straight - Springfield

The conference in D.C. was informative, fascinating, sad, fun, funny, and aggravating. A total success!!! It exhibited every sign of growing pains associated with a first run event and I am very proud to have been there. Fred Collins couldn't make it but sent a very well made video that was shown on a large projection screen. Maxie C. Maultsby was ill and unable to attend but is OK and doing well. Arnold Trebach acted as facilitator / director / organizational supervisor and kept everyone on schedule, insuring that we focus on the pertinent topics. Phil Elberg's speech reminded us survivors to be free of guilt because:  "Straight (and Straight-like programs) was cult, the kids were the victims and the parents were the unsuspecting cult members". All the speeches and speakers were great. I went there with an open mind, and at least, that's my interpretation.

There were a variety of participants all there for their own particular reasons. We all agreed upon one issue. Child abuse by "Drug Treatment" facilities must be stopped. The conference was of course, titled: "Saving our Children from Drug Treatment Abuse". A very nice gentleman named Jim Turney was there documenting the entire event. His company: can provide audio or video tapes of the various events. His number is: 703-550-7474. At least one freelance writer was there uncertain to whom she would sell her story. A writer from High Times, and (I think) someone writing for NORML was present. There were supporters of SAFE, Program Survivors, lawyers, parents, siblings, and others. There were around 50 or 60 people total. We were all reasonably cordial given that some of us had entirely opposing viewpoints.

Personally, I wish the New York Times had been there. I ordered a few tapes from Jim so I can review the material later. Needless to say, I went through a lot of emotion, especially when listening to the survivors' accounts. I remembered that place in vivid detail, memories of others came back. The worst part was hearing of someone kept in a similar program for something like 13 years. It was really riveting to hear Fred tell of the night he threw the kitchen table through a window as a last resort. I ate in that kitchen with his younger brother George for a month or so after that with plywood covering the opening. I really miss him too; I was reminded of that. Fred has gained a very healthy amount of weight and I couldn't believe how much he looked like George.

I would tell more, but I'm tired as I just drove home today. I figured that many would be curious so I wanted to get some info out to you as soon as I could.

I also received a call from an associate here at home telling me of how one of his customers just paid someone to come kidnap her 13 year old daughter for "intake" somewhere. It's still going on folks, that's why we were there. We must never forget that.

[Editor's note.  I was one of the speakers at the conference.  I think one of the most telling moments occurred when a member of a follow-on Straight was addressing the conference from the floor and Stanton Peele repeatedly asked him,  "OK,  what is it that your program does differently that is so effective".  The man did not,  or could not, answer that simple question.  Many former Straight officials have opened their own Straight-based programs around the country and they all claim success,  so I also would like to ask them just what Straight technology they have removed from their programs?  What have they kept?  And what new innovations have they implemented that makes their programs so successful, and also that can assure us there can be no abuse at their program?  I would also like to add that not all conference attendees had been members of Straight or Straight-related groups.  For example, a panelist named Matt had been at Elan.  Another man had just had a good friend escorted to a wilderness program in West Virginia.]

Links: Trebach Institute's report           back to newspaper index


    Florida OCF sells confidential files   Straight and its related programs have operated with impunity in Florida for over 30 years under licenses issued from the Office of Children and Families (formerly HRS).  To its defense, OCF has often had its hands tied by court  decisions favorable to the Straights and by pressure from state Republican politicians in one of the most politically corrupt states in the Union.  To its distain HRS has had kids escape from Straight and its abuses only to be taken right back to Straight by HRS!  OCF licensed the Broward County juvenile facility associated with Lutheran Family Services where, two years ago, counselors took pictures of a child who was hanging himself instead of cutting the boy loose. That boy now has brain damage.  OCF has frequently managed to make its own mistakes as when it recently sold 50 boxes of confidential client files for $5.  Story.  

      back to newspaper index


   The Leo J. Ryan Education Foundation features a story on Straight, Inc.  

Volume 2, No. 2 (Fall 2000)  of  CULT info,  the journal of the Leo J. Ryan Education Foundation, carried a three page story on the Straights titled Straight at What Price?  Does Mind Control Continue at Drug Rehabs for Children?  The story was written by Wesley Fager.     back to newspaper index



Father Doctor Miller Newton and team to pay $4.5 million


In 1983 Dr. Miller Newton,   then Straight's national clinical director,  left Straight on the heels of two state criminal investigations and amidst mounting civil litigations,   to form his own Sembler-based synanon called KIDS of Bergen County in New Jersey.  Click here   to see his 18 year reign as one of the world's acknowledged authorities on addictions and compulsive behaviors.  Click Closure for a Quack Victim to see how Rebecca Erlich,  one of his former patients, finally ran him out of town.    back to newspaper index



Straight gets federal grant for $314,539 from the Small Business Administration

And you think the U. S. Government's Small Business Administration is tasked to ensure minorities get their fair share.  Straight Foundation which now calls itself the Drug Free America Foundation (DFAF) in collaboration with PHR Associates, Inc. and Drug and Alcohol Testing, Inc. was awarded a $314,539 grant by the The U.S. Small Business Administration in December 2000.   The grant is to help 200 small businesses in the Tampa area to setup drug-free workplaces. 

On October 21, 1988, Congress enacted the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 as part of the Omnibus Drug Initiative Act of 1988. This statute requires that all institutions receiving grants from any federal agency certify to that agency that they will maintain a drug-free workplace. The Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1998 authorizes the U. S. Small Business Administration to hand out grants to "qualified intermediaries" that can provide technical and financial assistance to small companies in setting up Drug-Free Workplaces by providing for drug testing, employee assistant programs (EAPs) and such. $4 million dollars was appropriated. Straight got one of those grants from the SBA. It was for $314,539. Randall S. Pawley's National Drug and Alcohol Testing, Inc, Straight's partner in Saint Petersburg which actually does the drug testing part, received $234,000. And Drug Free Business Houston (the organization apparently from which Calvina Fay, DFAF's executive director had come) got $170,000. Former White House Drug Czar and paid Straight consultant Robert DuPont has teamed up with Peter Bensinger, former director of the DEA, to form Bensinger and DuPont--another organization offering companies assistance in setting up EAPs.

Straight, Inc. always boasted that it did not accept government funding but this was not true.  The Seed,  Straight's predecessor, was run by a huge NIDA grant plus smaller grants from LEAA,  the U.S. government's  Law Enforcement Assistance Agency.  After the U.S. Senate accused   The Seed of brainwashing kids,  LEAA promised not to fund any more drug rehab programs, but a few months later LEAA was already funding Straight startup money of $100,000 in two grants.  Straight stopped receiving LEAA grants when it was accused of violating federal law in the use of that money.  

From  Dan Forbes' Sub-Rosa Plot:  According to Philanthropic Research, Inc., in the FY ending in September, 2000, DFAF had total revenues of $528,872; of this, government contributions and grants totaled $206,016. For 1998, total revenue was $527,465; government grants, $176,073. And DFAF’s own web site reports that in December, 2000, the U. S. Small Business Administration awarded it and two collaborators a $314,539 grant “to assist 200 small businesses … in establishing and maintaining drug-free workplaces.” DFAF was to assist these employers in identifying, documenting and intervening.

After laws were passed in the late 1980s authorizing the federal government to give financial aid to programs which had established Employee Assistance Plans or EAPs, Straight's newsletter EPIDEMIC ran a big promotional article for EAPs. Today, Straight's former paid consultant Robert DuPont assists businesses in setting up EAPs from his offices in Maryland and Chicago. Straight Foundation is using the SBA grant to assist employers in EAPs. Wood and Associates is a competing EAP services provider in Tampa which deals with "sexual identify" problems and crisis intervention such as suicide, besides providing assistance for employees with drug and alcohol problems. Is the DFAF addressing "sexual identity" problems and suicide issues too?  Ironically,  Straight, which has been chided for not having minority students, is now being funded by one of the federal government's watch-dog agencies charged to ensure that minority businesses get an equal opportunity.  back to newspaper index



Foiled snake attack


A prosecutor in Maryland thought murder attempts with snakes went out with Synanon Churchback to newspaper index



Sex abuse and the rights of children in Florida rehab programs

Police report of alleged homosexual gang rape attempt at a Growing Together foster home (The items didacted in black were done by the police, those in grey by the editor):

Sexual Abuse alleged at  a Growing Together-extension foster home.

In 1997 a former male client at Growing Together,  a  Sembler-based synanon in Lake Worth, Florida,  alleges that he was sexually assaulted by his four old comers.   Now just because a kid says he was abused in a Growing Together-extension foster home does not necessarily mean that the event happened. But it does question the wisdom of Florida officials for letting Sembler-based synanons operate foster home extensions because there have been abuses at Sembler-based foster homes, because Sembler-based foster homes have a long history of violation of fire and safety codes, and because Straight has a long history of reports of sexual abuses and physical abuses in Sembler-based host home extensions. In fact, politically-connected Straight was run out of Virginia in 1991 by state health officials. But not for 9 years of allegations of abuses starting with a $220,000 award to Fred Collins by a federal jury back in 1983 for false imprisonment. Virginia health officials finally did their job when the Commissioner for the Department of Mental Health, Dr. King E. Davis was personally sued after a kid claimed he had been sexually assaulted in a Straight-extension host home. The boy’s dad and attorney reasoned, OK Dr. Davis, this program has a trail of child abuse, including sexual abuse, and you continued to license them. So if somebody gets hurt, you will have to share in the liability due to your negligence.

Allegations of sex abuse at Straight - Dallas

Are teenagers really allowed to sleep behind a locked door and in their underwear? This went on at Straight all the time. Do you see the potential for sexual abuse? Suppose there is a fire. One former Straight parent once told Ed Bradley on Sixty Minutes who brought up this same issue 15 years ago that he had been told when he had asked the question himself about fires and the wisdom of locking kids in bedrooms that the kids would die in the gutter anyway. Without host home extensions, allegations like the one cited in this news release can not be made thus actually protecting Florida state officials (as well as other state licensing officials) and Growing Together officials too, as well as the children. (And oh yes, the host home parents in Virginia were sued too, so it protects them also.) Furthermore, it underscores the need for kids to have their constitutional right to call home or to call a state health official or to call an attorney because if abuses can occur in churches and they have, or by police officers–and they have, or by one’s own parents–and they have, or by Straight officials–and they have, then abuses can occur in a Growing Together-extension foster home.

Isn’t it funny that in Florida a policeman apparently does not question the appropriateness of locking kids in a room. Isn’t it funny in Florida the police go out of their way to read a potential felon his constitutional rights but a kid in a Floridian drug rehab has no rights. If the policeman were to arrest the alleged perpetrators they would be allowed a phone call. But not the little boy. In a Florida drug rehab he can not call his own parents.  Perhaps these programs have something to learn from the criminal justice system.  Prison wardens are well aware of what may happen when a young inmate is placed in a cell with older inmates.  There has been a history in the American prison system where a guard discovers a young prisoner hung in his cell.  Why?  After being ganged raped by his cell mates,  feeling he has lost his manhood,  young prisoners often resort to suicide.   What is wrong with Florida?  back to newspaper index


  President-elect Bush to exempt church-run social programs from state licensing

Narconon,  the drug treatment program tied to the Church of Scientology,  boasts of the largest drug rehab treatment facility in the world at Chiloco, Oklahoma.  In the  early  1990s state health regulators in Oklahoma refused to license Narconon.  But then, amidst a big debate,  just out of the blue,  the state legislature in Oklahoma decided to change the law.  The new law said   if you can't get licensed by Oklahoma authorities   then we'll still let you operate if you can get  certified by an  out-of-state licensing body.  And that is just what Narconon did.  They got a license from CARF in Arizona.  The Newkirk Herald alleged of possible associations between CARF and some Scientologists.  CARF, incidentally,  also licenses the Sembler-based synanon Growing Together in Lakeworth, Florida.  

Now George W. Bush has found another creative way to license drug rehabilitation programs which can't pass state muster as stated in this first bullet of his drug policy from a Straight Foundation (now calling itself DFAF) writeup.  There was a church-related rehab program in Texas that was having problems passing state health regulations to operate a rehab program,  so he passed a law that exempts church-based rehab programs from state scrutiny. (See Roloff Schools.)  George W. says that if he is elected he will have churches exempt from state oversight of running rehabilitation centers.  You would have thought that he would have learned from Ronald Reagan.  At President Reagan's inaugural speech he introduced Father Bruce Ritter as  one of the nation's "unsung heroes" in the so-called "War on Drugs."  Father Ritter,  then a Catholic priest, was the founder of Covenant House, a charitable organization that took in homeless kids,  "exploited" kids.  I don't  know what he did with the little girls.  But do you know what he did with the little boys.  He had sex with many of them!  Or maybe from Jim Jones' People Temple which resorted to the extreme method of saving its drug addicts from addiction by having them commit suicide.  Maybe George W. should read Ronald Enroth's book Churches that Abuse or Alexia Parks' book An American Gulag to learn about some fundamentalist, Christian-based boarding schools.  You know Straight's former national clinical director Father Doctor Miller Newton might have a problem getting a state license to run a juvenile drug rehab program anywhere in the country considering  his reputation for running abusive programs,  but George W. Bush is giving him an opportunity to practice his bizarre treatment techniques on kids under the name Man of God!   See George W. Bush on exempting church-related drug rehab programs from state scrutiny here. [Check out this related link on  Bethel Children's Home.]

As many of the new Straights align themselves with churches we have concerns with President Bush's faith-based, social programs initiative.  The Straights may have been the biggest chain of private, juvenile lockup rehabs, but click on Alexia Park's book An American Gulag to get the dope on the independent faith-based boarding schools that have been accused of abuse.                      back to newspaper index

  The Republican Party and the Straights According to the book The Great Drug War the first time Fred Collins ever saw Straight was on NBC's News Magazine. "It all reminded me of a Moonie cult," said Fred at the time. [Later Mr. Collins, an engineering student at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and making good grades, would visit his brother who was a student at Straight only to be shanghaied into Straight himself. A federal jury would subsequently award Fred Collins $220,000 for being falsely imprisoned at Straight.]  Twenty-five years ago you might have been in some airport or shopping center where you  were approached by a  college-age man or  woman selling flowers for their church. Their church may have been the Unification Church founded by South Korean Sun Myung Moon. They used to call themselves Moonies but they don't like that term anymore. Reverend Moon associated organizations have proven themselves quite capable and have helped Reverend Moon to have the money to keep his national-level newspaper, the Washington Times, afloat. In fact, he has been so successful that when fellow Christian Reverend Jerry Falwell ran into trouble on the mortgage of his Liberty Baptist College in Lynchburg, Virginia, he turned to Reverend Moon's money to bail him out. Maybe that's why you can see Reverend Falwell on the podium at a Moon-sponsored function from time-to-time.  People like Fred Collins might,  at one time,  have thought of it as a cult,  but how can it be a cult if Jerry Falwell of the Moral Majority associates with it?   Give credit to the old  Cult Awareness Network for enlightening us about the Unification Church  but that is now operated by the Church of Scientology.   The Washington Post did a feature expose on Reverend Moon and his Unification Church about a year ago,   but you won't see a similar article in the Washington Times.   George and Barbara Bush are big Moon supporters. They go around the world making speeches for Moon.   And if George Bush will reach into the pockets of a Korean-based, newage churchman  then it shouldn't surprise you to know that George's hands are in Mel Sembler's pockets as well.  The Republican Party has a penchant for cult money.  Here for the first time is an expose on the Republican Party and it's links to Straight brainwashing schools for white American children.    back to newspaper index


    Betty Sembler Day   It is not unusual for humanitarians such as Straight cofounder Betty Sembler and Scientology® founder L. Ron Hubbard to have a day named in their honor. March 13 has been declared L. Ron Hubbard Day in 150 American cities by mayors impressed with Hubbard's work in areas like drug rehabilitation, education and reform of criminals. The Los Angeles city council was so impressed with Hubbard's life work that they named a street after him: L. Ron Hubbard Way. Take Betty Dederich, a former prostitute who became the wife of Synanon Church founder Chuck Dederich. Sometime around May 1977 Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley declared Betty Dederich Day in honor of her humanitarian work at Synanon. Synanon perfected the treatment method that is employed at Straights. Reverend Jim Jones of The Peoples Temple is another award winner who, among other achievements, treated heroin addicts. When Jimmy Carter campaigned in San Francisco parishoners from The People's Temple helped form large crowds of cheering supporters. This gave Jones a private audience with Rosalyn Carter. Of course later Reverend Jones moved his flock to Guyana where he and almost all of his 900 disciples committed suicide in mass--men, women and children.

In October 1994 President Bill Clinton signed into law a bill that makes the fourth Sunday of every July National Parents Day. There's an interesting story on that bill that was first introduced by Congressmen Dan Burton (R.-Ind) and Rep. Floyd Flake (D-N.Y.) earlier in the year. According to an article in the Washington City Paper, the date is tied to a religious holiday celebrated by the Moonies in honor of their founder Reverend Sun Myung Moon and his wife Hak Ja Han Moon. According to that article the Moonies believe Reverend Moon is the third Adam and his wife is the True Eve. That when the Moons' first biological child was born, Mrs. Moon's "breast milk was cut with cow's milk and ceremonially served to Church members." In 1960, according to the article, the couple declared themselves the True Parents of all mankind. They proclaimed True Parents Day, a church holiday to be celebrated variously in March and April. In 1993 Ms. Moon toured America on a "True Parents' Tour America." She ended her whirlwind tour at the US Senate's Dirksen Office Building on the evening of July 28 when she spoke to the Women's Federation for World Peace, an organization she founded and an organization which has paid both George W. and Barbara Bush handsomely for giving speeches at its functions. The day before Senator Trent Lott (R-Miss) had addressed the Senate urging his fellow senators to support True Parents' Day by attending the WFWP meeting the next evening. Next night Ms. Moon was introduced at the meeting by Senator Orim Hatch (R-Utah). You can this fascinating story here, but the ultimate outcome of it all, according to this article, is what American's now celebrate, along with Mother's Day and Father's Day, as National Parents Day.

So it is not unusual for Republican politicians to award special favors to cult founders who have donated large amounts of money to their campaigns. According to this Drug Free America Foundation press release dated August 7, 2000 and to this announcement in the Saint Petersburg Times, Florida's governor Jeb Bush declared August 8, 2000 Betty Sembler Day in honor of the matron from Saint Petersburg, Florida who has done so much to affect drug policy in America [DFAF was formerly Straight, Inc.]. From the press release it is noted that Mrs. Sembler was "one of the 10 founding members of Straight, Inc." Also noted is that she is vice-chairperson of DARE International and that she formed a DARE Foundation in Australia when her husband Melvin Sembler was ambassador to that country.

In 1989 President George H. W. Bush made a TV commercial for Straight out of the Oval Office. He also appointed Straight founder Mel Sembler ambassador to Australia and founder Joe Zappala ambassador to Spain. The fact that each had contributed over $100,000 to his campaign (and that other Straight officials had also made substantial contributions) had noting to do with it. In 2001 President George W. Bush appointed Mel Sembler to be our ambassador to Italy. The fact that Sembler Company contributed $100,000 to the Bush-Cheney Inauguration Committee had nothing to do with that. President Bush's brother Jeb, who is governor of Florida, has written a letter of support of Straight legacy program SAFE, has joined DFAF's advisory board, and has declared August 8, 2000 Betty Sembler Day. The fact that she was his finance co-chair has nothing to do with that either. 


    The Straights and the ACLU  

The Straights and the ACLU

"They [the Straights] run very close to really performing psychic murder."
Marge Robertson,  executive director of the Cincinnati Chapter of the ACLU,  from Cincinnati Post.
". . . In some instances they were locked in rooms by themselves and denied food for days. They also reported that they were made to sit in chairs without speaking while listening to others berate them for hours. . . I recently interviewed a child that would be diagnosed as an emotionally unstable personality with paranoid overtones. The use of the above noted practices with this kind of child could easily result in a precipitation of major mental disturbance. Fortunately this child was able to run from the Seed before very much damage had been done to her psychologically. She did manifest some confusion and paranoid ideation which she felt was a result of the manner in which she was treated by the Seed personnel. I have also interviewed children who made suicide attempts following their running from the Seed. Overwhelming feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and despair were in evidence."
Letter from  Jeffery J. Elenewski, Ph.D., clinical psychologist,  The Children's Psychiatric Center, Dade County, Florida to   Mr. Alex Miller , Youth Coordinator, Florida State Drug Abuse Program, Miami which is included as part of the 1974 U.S. Senate report on Straight's predecessor:  The Seed.

In 1997 Florida Trend Magazine made the following statement about Straight founder Melvin Sembler: 

"By some accounts, the backlash to Straight's treatment philosophy only fueled Sembler's enthusiasm for conservative causes. Indeed, he speaks proudly of an ACLU lawsuit filed against Straight's Atlanta affiliate some years ago. 'It just shows that we must have been doing things right,' he says with a grin."

Just what was the ACLU lawsuit in Atlanta Mr. Sembler was referring to here?  We have to first go back to Straight's predecessor--The Seed.  On the night of June 26, 1973,  four days before his 21st birthday, Roger L. Young was arrested by police who entered his grandmother's home. He did not know that earlier that day his mother,  Mrs Dorothy Sykes,  and her attorney Bailey Welden had convinced Circuit Court Judge Richard Miller to commit him under the Guardianship Act to a juvenile drug rehabilitation program in Saint Petersburg called The Seed.  Ms Sykes already had her other three children in The Seed.   Judge  Miller once bragged that he prefers juveniles to be absent from the courtroom while they are being committed to The Seed. He said that if he notified the minor first "they'd be long gone." Judge Miller said that "he requires no proof from the parent that the minor has a drug problem and needs the help of The Seed." "There has to be use of drugs or they wouldn't get in," Judge Miller had said during the Roger Young proceedings. "The Seed screens them," he said. "I say take them to The Seed and see if they can help them." Welden was an attorney who worked without fees to aid parents in getting their children in The Seed. The Seed in Pinellas County was  part of a state-wide chain based in Fort Lauderdale.  Roger had not been present at the hearing. He did not even know a hearing had taken place. His mother was not required to give proof that her son had a drug problem. On July 3 Margaret Yazell of the ACLU sent him a certified letter offering legal assistance from the ACLU. The receipt was returned signed by Susan L. Connors, Director of the Pinellas Seed. Dr. Robert L. Young, a Panama City dentist and Roger's father, said he was not allowed to talk to Roger on the phone. (Roger's mother and father ware divorced.) Kathy McCarty, Roger's girlfriend was not allowed to speak with Roger either. The police searched Roger but found no evidence of drugs. But Roger was searched at the Seed and Seed personnel found marijuana and syringes. His mother said they were holding that over Roger's head. Seed staff told Roger that with syringes and pot he could get a 10 year felony sentence, but as long as he stayed in The Seed, they won't notify the police. His mother said that the threat helped Roger decide to stay in The Seed. Leonard Lubin of the ACLU said that to "extract from somebody a course of conduct on an offer not to report a felony is compounding a felony." 

Only five months after the coerced imprisonment of Roger Young, it had happened again. Jeff Bourgholtzer was a 17 year old student at Boca Ciega High School when his parents suspected that he was using drugs. At on point his parents had tried to get Jeff to enter The Seed, but Jeff had run away. Later with an attorney named Jack Clark, Raymond and Joyce Bourgholtzer, Jeff's parents, met with a Gulfport, Florida (a St. Petersburg suburb) probate court judge on November 26, 1973 and had themselves declared Jeff's legal guardians. (Circuit Court Judge Jack Dadswell had started his legal career years before as the city attorney for Gulfport.) Jeff was unaware that there had even been a hearing.  They told the judge that Jeff had admitted to using marijuana, hashish and hashish oil and petitioned the court to order Jeff into the Seed--which the judge did. The order stated that Jeff Bourgholtzer would remain in The Seed "until such time as he finishes the program." The police picked Jeff up at his high school on December 6 and took him to the Gulfport police station where he had been allowed to make one phone call. Jeff had called the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and spoken with attorney Leonard Lubin. Jeff told Mr. Lubin what had happened to him. Art Barker, the founder of The Seed,   had admitted to reporters and editors at the St. Petersburg Times in early December 1973  that Seedlings are not allowed to meet with their attorney once they enter The Seed. And so it was with Jeff and Mr. Lubin. Unable to contact his client, Mr. Lubin filed a  writ of habeas corpus declaring that his client was being "detained without lawful authority" and was denied due process of law.  Jeff was granted a hearing on December 14 in Pinellas County's Circuit Court by Judge David Patterson. Circuit Court Judge Robert E. Michael presided at the hearing. Jeff Bourgholtzer had been isolated completely from the outside world for 9 days. From his parents, from his attorney, from his friends. Amazingly,  at his hearing Jeff Bourgholtzer told Judge Michael that he no longer wanted to be represented by an attorney, and wanted to remain in The Seed! "There's a prima facie case of the possibility of coercion," remarked Mr. Lubin. Even the judge admitted that someone in The Seed had apparently told Jeff he would be sent to jail if he did not stay, but the judge says he assured Jeff he would not be sent to jail. Here's what Circuit Court Judge Robert Michael had to say. "We (the court) were being asked to test a system, but we didn't have to because Jeff said he wanted to go back (to the Seed). . . If I had gotten into (the legality of probate order) I think there would have been grounds to say some constitutional rights probably were violated. If Jeff had said he was being held illegally, I might have had to send the case back to (to probate for review)." Lord only knows what happened to Jeff Bourgholtzer in those 9 days of isolation, but even the judge knew Jeff had been told by Seed staff that he would go to prison if he didn't shut up. [St Petersburg Times, 12/15/73.]

Eleanor Randolph writing for New Times in 1974 wrote that the ACLU was investigating The Seed for the possibility of invasion of privacy:  "a youngster's private right to grow up in painful fits and starts."   In November 1974 the US Senate released a report that likened the methods The Seed  to the brainwashing methods used by North Koreans against American POWs during the Korean War.   After that damning Senate report The Seed closed its expansion programs,  but some Seed parents including Melvin and Betty Sembler opened their own Seed-like program in Saint Petersburg which they called Straight, Inc.  Jeff  Bourgholtzer's dad,  Ray Bourgholtzer, was the Secretary/Treasurer for Straight.  Ray's attorney had been one Jack Clark.  [There was a Jack Clark who was president of Straight from 1981 - 1982.  He was Mel Sembler's neighbor in Treasurer Island.]   

Soon after Straight started operations there was an incident similar to the Young and Bourgholtzer incidents.  A young woman named Gail Stephenson had escaped from a host home and fled to a neighbor's house to use the phone,  but Straight phasors barged into the neighbor's house, uninvited,  and forcefully removed Ms. Stephenson back to Straight.  The ACLU did not get involved and after a week in seclusion Ms. Stephenson now  said she now wanted to remain in Straight.  States  Attorney James T. Russell, who had invited The Seed to Pinellas County,  took no action.  Within 16 months of its opening a half dozen board members left Straight.  One made a public statement insinuating Straight was worse than The Seed.

Despite allegations of abuse, Straight expanded.   Straight Cincinnati opened in January 1981. Within six weeks of its opening the American Civil Liberties Union in Cincinnati had already received complaints about the program. "It's a brutal program," said Margie Robertson, director of the Cincinnati Chapter of the ACLU. Ms. Robertson called it "a concentration camp for throwaway kids." Patricia Wynne of Lebanon, Ohio said her ex-husband placed her 13-year-old son Michael in Straight Cincinnati in May 1982. Of her son she said, "He's brainwashed. He's not even my son any more." Ms. Wynne hired attorney Joanne Hash to get Michael out. Attorney Hash said that Michael gave the following description of the program in a court hearing in July 1982: "He had been in Straight 59 days. He had been subjected to counseling 12 hours a day in a windowless room. He had no outdoor exercise. His diet consisted of dry cereal and juice for breakfast, peanut butter and jelly for lunch with an apple or banana and chili for dinner most of the time. He was locked in a room every night. If it was necessary to get up to go to the bathroom he must wake an oldcomer to go with him." [Washington Post, 7-14-82, p. Md1.] 

Which all brings us to Mel Sembler's boastful grin about the ACLU in Georgia.   Straight-Atlanta had started operations in Marietta, Georgia in August 1981. Six months later it was already being sued. A former client had complained of child abuse at Straight-Atlanta and referred to it as a "hell hole" according to the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. The youth named five clients who were still being held against their will at Straight and on February 1, 1982  Kathleen Wilde of the ACLU filed suit against Straight Atlanta in Cobb County Superior Court for holding five youths against their will and for operating without a license. Writs of habeas corpus were written for the 5 youths. The suit charged that the five teenagers are suffering "inhumane treatment" that creates an immediate danger to physical and mental health."  Straight was represented by Marietta attorney Robert Grayson. Two of the youths were dropped from the suit--one who did not want to participate, the other had left Straight according to Superior Court Judge Dorothy Robertson. When Straight had setup in Georgia, Georgia Department of Human Resources officials had told Straight to apply for a license after about six months of operations. That is why Straight had not yet filed for a license. Nancy Reagan was scheduled to visit Straight-St Pete on February 15, and so on February 4 a reporter from the Times called Sheila Tate, Mrs. Reagan's spokesperson,  to ask if the first lady was still planning to visit Straight in light of the ACLU suit in Georgia. Mrs. Tate responded that Mrs. Reagan has no plans to cancel her visit, and that Ms. Tate had not checked into the ACLU charges in Atlanta and declined comment on "something that is in litigation." The suit was dropped in March after an out-of-court settlement which called for a three member panel to investigate the charges. The panel cleared Straight of any wrong doing, but the terms of the settlement prevent the attorneys or panel members to discuss the findings. [Saint Petersburg Times,  7-8-82 p. 3b.]  And so Mrs Reagan kept her planned visit to Straight on February 15, 1982. When the First Lady travels that's news. She was accompanied by nearly a half dozen secret service agents, three aides, Drug Czar Carlton Turner, and 20 members from the press including The New York Times and a camera crew from NBC News.  back to newspaper index


  George Bush is mooned, but Betty Sembler, his benefactor, talks international drug policy 

Who paid for the trip to Sweden?  In its heyday Straight gathered nearly a hundred million dollars by specializing in treating affluent white children for drug addictions. Straight detractors claim that many of the treated kids did not have true drug addiction problems but that their parents were white and that they could afford the payments. Melvin and Betty Sembler have stood steadfast through the years saying that they never received any compensation from their involvement in Straight. But when you're worth $36 million dollars what kind of meaningful compensation could you get anyway? How about having a holiday named after you? Does Florida celebrate Betty Sembler Day because of her involvement fighting the so-called War on Drugs, or is it because she was Jeb Bush's campaign finance co-chairman. After all the Sembler family has a history of buying political influence. In 1988 George Bush, Sr. named Straight co-founders Melvin Sembler and Joseph Zappala as U.S. ambassadors to Australia and Spain,  respectively. The nomination cited in part their work with Straight, Inc..  But these two men were also influential fund raisers for George Bush and,  personally,  each paid over $100,000 for their respective posts. What's it worth to be called former ambassador at a cocktail party or in a business meeting? 

For those of you who sold Christmas trees and cookies for Mel's Kids, what was your understanding for the use of that raised money? When Mrs. Ambassadorable (which is what Governor Bush calls the First Lady of American Drug Policy) took her trip to Sweden as part of an international drug policy conference  who paid her travel expenses?  Straight Foundation or her husband?  Does she or Calvina Fay or anyone else draw a salary from DFAF?  And, if so, how much?  If there's money left over from the Straight's treatment program,  why not give that money back to the mom's and dad's who gave it?  That's what I'd like to know.  

And while Betty may have been warmly received in Sweden,  George Bush, the man she helped make president, wasn't.  Click here for that story.    back to newspaper index



Talk Radio 1310

  On Wednesday May 22, 2002 author  Radley Balko published an article for FOX News which describes the abuses of Straight, Inc. and Straight's ties to the Republican Party through its founders Mel and Betty Sembler. Shortly afterwards Mr. Balko was invited to be a guest on Talk Radio 1310, Albuquerque, New Mexico hosted by Bob Schwartz. Mr. Schwartz made a pronouncement that he did not believe that Straight was as abusive as Mr. Balko portrayed it, because if it was, then lawyers would be coming out of the woodworks trying to sue. This editorial, which was eMailed to Mr. Schwartz, rebuts Mr. Schwartz's observation. 
Talk Radio 1310
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Subject: Your interview with author Radley Balko concerning his article on Straight, Inc. and prominent Republicans and Straight founders Mel and Betty Sembler
Dear Bob Schwartz:
This message is in response to your criticism of Radley Balko's answer as to why there are no more law suits against the Straights if they are as bad as Radley portrays them to be. The simple answer that you don't want to hear is, "actually there are." They are at . Anticipating the corollary question, "then why aren't there more criminal prosecutions?" The answer to that too is, "actually there are." They can also be found at the referenced web link.

Unfortunately, you did not ask the basic question, and that is because Radley did not bring it out. Straight is about Chinese-perfected thought reform of which there are two parts: "confession" and "re-education" which Straight calls "honesty" and "re-acculturation". Chinese political prisoners confess to being reactionaries, right wing extremists, and to having anti-revolutionary sentiments. Straight kids confess their deepest darkest secret--in keeping with the "newage" (one word rendition of "New Age" that rhymes with "sewage") implementation of thought reform practiced by many of the other cults. Thus under duress, deprived of food, sleep and water in an atmosphere of the "cult of confession" where everybody is confessing to something, many kids succumb to confessing to things they may or may not have done. Straight's teenage psychiatrists place great emphasis on detailed sexual disclosures--masturbation, homosexuality, incest. Under such a climate it is easy to twist an episode where a five year-old male child played doctor with a friend into a homosexual encounter. I've been told that when a girl in Straight alludes to a lesbian affair, the episode might be discussed by Group in a sensual manner. But if a guy is tricked or cajoled into relating to homosexuality, the matter is treated with disgust. Look at any stag movie watched by a 'straight' person (no pun intended) and invariably there will be a scene between two women. This is erotic and acceptable in the 'straight' community, but an event between two males is taboo. If the Straights get a female teenager to question her sexuality, there are mores of society that can help her cope with any doubts she may have picked up in Straight about her sexuality. But if the Straights cause a male teenager to question his sexuality then they might create mental illness or cause suicides to occur. Since Straight targets white teenagers because of the economic position of their parents, then I would expect you to ask, "OK, if what you say is true, then how come there are not more cases of suicides of young white males?" And the tragic answer is, "there are." That story is at . Please understand that I am not saying these young men are homosexuals, or even that there is anything wrong with homosexuality. All that I am saying is that young Straight kids should not be professional counselors. That is why we have colleges and universities. When teenagers play psychiatrists then somebody is going to get hurt. 

As a corollary to this, many kids will never sue Straight for fear that Straight will blackmail them for what they have revealed in their confessions. Of course there are many other reasons why even though there have been a great number of civil suits, there have not been even more. One of the cruelest things that the Straights do is Mic Talk. Straight shows parents pictures of dead kids and frightens the hell of them. Parents are allowed no contact with their kid in the early stages of conditioning of both the child and the parent. Parents do talk to their kids once a week across a picket line using a microphone extorting them to do what their captives ask of them. The kids who are systematically being abused are bewildered that their parents seem to be a part of it! Straight rips families apart. Kids come out suffering from PTSS, often disowned by their own parents. Some come to believe they are drug addicts when they are not, and are grateful to Straight for saving them from a condition they never had. They do not sue. If the child escapes early enough on to recognize he has been abused, his parents won't believe him and support him in a civil suit. No attorney is going to take the suit for a penniless, "druggie" kid--unless he is an ACLU attorney. That's a logical question to ask,  e.g. "why didn't the ACLU get more involved?"  Actually there has been a huge involvement from the ACLU which is documented at . And even when a child can convince his parents that he has been abused and the parents sue, the power brokers of the pseudo war on drugs have convinced potential jury members that the child is a "druggie" kid and got what he deserved. Many Straight parents have committed suicide and are not there to sue anyway. Furthermore, Straight requires parents to pay a large percentage of the money up front and many parents have no money left to sue. Straight requires parents to sign a statement that they will not sue Straight. In Florida, a kid could not sue without an adult anyway. When clients do sue Straight they have to overcome the hearsay rule. Kids can not look left or right when someone is being abused beside him, thus he can not make positive ID. The same for the screams coming from the bathrooms. And then in order to progress you must give abuse to newcomers yourself-- that is you have to become a part of the abuse. Simply put, Straight was never about curing kids. It is about their parent's money. The kids are just hostages.

All of this brings us to a man named Bob Marshall and to why you, Bob Schwartz, doubt the existence of the Great American Holocaust? Soon after Straight opened, there were many allegations of abuse. Bob Marshall, an investigator with the Florida department of health was assigned the job to investigate the abuse. But a citizens committee was formed to investigate the investigator. Prominent on that committee was a circuit court judge and the man destined to become chief of police. Mel Sembler admitted that members of the board of directors for Straight called Bob Marshall's boss. Though data came out confirming that abuses had occurred, nothing much was done other than to fire Bob Marshall! Do we have the same thing today Mr. Schwartz. Did you not recently run for Mayor of Albuquerque as a Republican? Do you not refer to yourself as "the Aerosmith of the Republican Party?" Were you contacted by fellow Republicans  to start the spin to do damage control to protect Mel Sembler's career? All we are trying to do is to stop the killings. What are you trying to do? Yes, Mr. Bob Schwartz, the Great American Holocaust did happen. And actually there were more suits.


    Judge orders Desisto School to hire a consultant to meet standards  
Published on April 12, 2002. Author(s):    (AP)  [from Boston Globe]

A private school for emotionally troubled teenagers in Berkshire County must stop enrolling new students until it meets state standards, according to a court order. The order, issued Monday by Suffolk Superior Court Judge Janet Sanders, says the DeSisto School in Stockbridge must hire a consultant to develop policies for training staff, using physical restraints, and outlining student privileges such as using the telephone and having visitors. The policies must be approved by the state Office
Click for complete article (167 words)

This is not the first time the $60,000 a year Desisto school for teens with offices in Massachusetts and Florida has come under fire.  Click here for related articles.  Click here to join a discussion forum for former Desisto students.



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This web page is offered as a public service and as an educational resource to those interested in learning about the potential dangers of abusive, Straight-based synanons.   The page is the on-line publishing arm of the Oakton Institute for Cultic Studies.