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Saturday, May 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Scientologists Aren’t Liable for Suicide of Young Man

(CN) - The mother of a boy who killed himself cannot sue his father and the Church of Scientology for taking away his antidepressants, a federal judge ruled.

Victoria Britton filed suit in 2009 over the death of her 20-year-old son, Kyle Thomas Brennan, after he visited with his father in Clearwater, Fla., in February 2007.

Kyle Brennan had allegedly been the victim of an assault days earlier, but he was taking Lexapro antidepressants consistently.

Concerned that his son was suicidal, Thomas Brennan, a Scientologist, contacted a counselor with church, according to the complaint. But the Thomas' auditor with the church, Denise Gentile, allegedly advised him to take his son's medication away even though Kyle was not a Scientologist himself.

Less than 24 hours after taking away Kyle's antidepressants, the young man "was dead from a single shot of a 357 magnum handgun inside the father's bedroom," according to the complaint.

Kyle's psychiatrist allegedly said that stopping the antidepressants so abruptly, coupled with Kyle knowing he could not have them, exasperated his mental condition.

The defendants Britton had sued - the Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization, Denise Gentile, Gerald Gentile and Thomas Brennan - moved for summary judgment last year, claiming a lack of evidence.

U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday granted that motion on Dec. 6, noting that Kyle had contacted more than 24 governmental agencies to initiate criminal proceedings against most of his immediate family before arriving at his father's home.

"The record is clear that Kyle soon relinquished his Lexapro to his father, who is the sole source of testimony about the attendant circumstances," Merryday wrote. "The father reports that Kyle - acting unilaterally and voluntarily - presented the Lexapro to his father and said, 'I hate this shit. It makes me sick.' Kyle's father claims he took the Lexapro to a local library, researched the pharmacology of Lexapro, and placed the Lexapro in the trunk of his car. No other direct evidence or permissible inference describes the circumstances of Kyle's surrendering the Lexapro to his father."

Britton had claimed the "smoking gun" of her case was a communication from Gentile's supervisor, who said, "Get your son moved out and get him set up somewhere so that he can be handled,"

Merryday disagreed. "This entry shows that an ethics officer within Scientology advised an active practitioner of Scientology to move a troubled non-Scientologist from the practitioner's residence and to somewhere that assistance was available for the non-member," he wrote. "No evidence exists that anything at all occurred as a result of this entry, no evidence exists that Denise Gentile did anything because of this entry, no evidence exists that Kyle's father did anything because of this entry, and no evidence exists that anything either happened or failed to happen to Kyle because of this entry."

"The plaintiff's tendered explanation of the meaning of the term 'handled' within Scientology adds little or nothing to support the plaintiff's extravagant claims," he added.

The Church of Scientology is not responsible for Kyle having access to a handgun, Merryday found.

"No evidence suggests that Scientology or the Gentiles knew of the handgun in even the remotest manner or had reason to suspect the presence of the handgun in the father's apartment," the 24-page decision states. "Both Scientology and the Gentiles are in this record utterly unconnected to the handgun and the ammunition."

Merryday said that "a close and objective examination of the extensive record developed in this action confirms the soundness of the defendants' attack on the plaintiff's claim."

"The plaintiff's claim of Scientology's complicity in, and responsibility for, Kyle's death remains a mere hypothesis that is without essential support based upon reasoned and direct inference from the available evidence," he added. "In particular and in a manner fatal to the plaintiff's claim, the available evidence leaves irreparable gaps in the plaintiff's proposed historical sequence and irreparable gaps in the causal relation between persons and events and their respective consequences."

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