Scientology: Damaging disaster zones

Scientology: Damaging disaster zones

As a cloud of dust and molten steel crashed down upon the city streets of New York on September 11th 2001, emergency responders, police, fire, and rescue teams risked their lives to save as many victims of that fateful day as they could. The scenes from 9/11 are imprinted on our consciousness; but not many know about the birth of something else sinister on that tragic day.

Five years after 9/11, Britain prepared for the one-year anniversary of the 2005 July 7th Bombings which took the lives of 54 innocent people and injured 784. A special investigation on BBC Five Live was broadcast on July 2nd 2006 on a peculiar issue that, having gone relatively unchecked, still plagues our disaster zones today.

BBC journalist Julian Worricker was presenting the show that morning:

“This Friday (July 7th 2006), the country will remember the first anniversary of the London bombings. We’ve heard many stories about the rescue work, the emergency services carried out that day, but what is less well known is that alongside them were Volunteer Ministers from Scientology.

When the UK was attacked by terrorists, Scientology was there to lend a hand. Since 9/11, Scientology have been active at nearly every single natural disaster, terrorist attack, or conflict. The worlds most controversial cult, which breeds misinformation, uses intimidation and harassment tactics against members of the public including journalists and dissidents, and was once referred to by the UK High Court as “pernicious nonsense”, “dangerous material” and “immoral and socially obnoxious” – is “assisting” and recruiting followers from disaster zones.

Firefighter in the devastation of 9/11 attacks.

The BBC Five Live programme sent an undercover reporter, Elodie Harper, to the Church of Scientology’s Citizens Commission of Human Rights (CCHR) in London. Wired-up with hidden microphones, she infiltrated the CCHR meetings and probed to hear more about Volunteer Ministers and Scientology’s actions in disaster zones:

“We went to three meetings of the CCHR, which is a wing of Scientology dedicated to fighting psychiatry, which it says is the reason why our society is failing.

The meetings were led by Paul Fletcher, who’s the director of CCHR’s London branch and Stefania Cisco, a Director of Special Affairs for Scientology. And watching over us while we met was an imposing six-foot-high portrait of L. Ron Hubbard, which dominated the meeting room, along with rows and rows of his books. And much of the meetings were spent watching videos which set out Scientology’s views on psychiatry and why they believe it’s harmful to us.”

The Church of Scientology opposes the notion of psychiatry; often comparing those working in the field to be charlatans or, at the more paranoid end of the spectrum, working as part of a government conspiracy to control the population.

But a little known fact is that psychologists and psychiatrists also make up part of emergency response teams. According to the American Psychological Association website:

Because psychologists are uniquely trained in helping people cope with stress and strong emotions, they are able to help disaster survivors, volunteers and disaster relief operation workers understand their emotions, such as anger, distress and grief.”

So the stage was set for The Church of Scientology, with their rhetoric of hatred againstĀ  psychiatry, to recruit members to their faith where the most vulnerable people could be found – with homes devastated, loved ones killed – The Church of Scientology rolled our their Volunteer Ministers.

They served teas and provided drinking water and supported the emergency services with basic tasks. But had this been their only agenda then they would have been respected in those areas and awarded for their diligent care and compassion.

But in their own words, that’s not all they did. Here is the undercover transcript of that interview between journalist Elodie Harper, the CCHR director Paul Fletcher and Stefania Cisco, a Director of Special Affairs for Scientology :

PAUL FLETCHER: Do you remember the Reading train disaster?
PAUL FLETCHER: We went there, too.
STEFANIA CISCO: We were there.
ELODIE HARPER: Um…and what kind of help and support did you offer?
PAUL FLETCHER: Well, we – we just offered whatever they need, you know, if they need, sort of, like, assists or locationals or they just want people to help with the cleaning up.
STEFANIA CISCO: People are distressed, so you know, you want — you – the opportunity for psychs when they are distressed, okay, you need counselling [mimics sound of an explosion]. You go in [snaps fingers] – that’s it. Um – we tried to keep them away. Spiritual –
PAUL FLETCHER: Spiritual security.
ELODIE HARPER: Spiritual security.
WOMAN: Spiritual security
PAUL FLETCHER: Fighting the psychiatrists; keeping the psychs away.
ELODIE HARPER: And do you think you got through to people on 7/7?

Spiritual Security is a means to ensure psychiatrists cannot attend their patients in the disaster zone. What the Volunteer Ministers do instead is administer “touch assists”. Below is a Church of Scientology propaganda video demonstrating what touch assist is:

The disclaimer “touch assists are to compliment medical treatment” is a laughable but carefully planted way for a Volunteer Minister to avoid any liability for their actions. The notion is a simple one, by touching someone the brain will reconnect with the injured limb and cause the body to heal faster. It’s hocus-pocus medicine, up there with homeopathy and “alternative medicine”.

But although appearing harmless, Volunteer Ministers provide this kind of medical attention to victims of disaster rather than allowing psychiatrists to assess and comfort those affected.

More evidence of Scientology using this process to recruit members to their church was outlined further by Harper:

“We spoke to one survivor of the 7/7 bombings who has some mental health training and was also approached by Scientologists after the disaster. They didn’t want to be identified, but they did tell us how they were shocked that they and fellow survivors were targeted by Scientologists trying to recruit them and talking of Dianetics therapy as if it were a – a medically recognised form of therapy.”

As part of the report Harper interviewed Bruce Hines, a dissident from Scientology having served 30 years in the church. He was ordered to Lower Manhattan on the morning of September 11th:

“There were organised buses coming up from Florida, where there’s a large Scientology center. Lots from California and from all around. So it ended up that there were hundreds going down there, probably every day. The idea was to get as many people as possible in yellow T-shirts down at Ground Zero, because the yellow T-shirts are very visible — just sort of to make an impact that way – and there’s always the hope that someone who gets involved will then continue with Scientology.”

On its own website The Church of Scientology writes about how Volunteer Ministers deliver seminars to police, fireman, and disaster relief organisations, claiming to be “indispensable in times of greatest human need – travelling halfway round the world to help people who have lost everything in an earthquake, tsunami, hurricane, flood, or the like.”

Map of where Scientology operates: from its website

The church reports 500 volunteers from 11 nations attending the 2004 Indian ocean tsunami, 900 responded to Hurricane Katrina and Rita. They attended the Haiti earthquake, and more recently there are reports they were active during the 2018 Indonesian volcano eruption which killed 429 and displaced 16,000 people, with 150 still missing.

(A full report of where and Scientology has actively operated in a disaster zone up until 2012 is available on their website:

The list claims that Scientology has partnered with notable disaster relief organisations such as The Red Cross, Rotary Clubs, The Salvation Army, National Guard, and Army Cadets but this still needs to be checked.

However, the evidence is mounting that Scientology are operating where people are experiencing hell on earth. The Church boasts over 35,000 volunteer ministers operate across the globe.

The claim that they are recruiting members for their church from those who have had their homes and lives destroyed is appalling and perhaps even more evidence of a world that is losing it’s grasp on truth, fact, and the importance of modern medicine. But on the other hand, it is a deeper reflection on how one organisation can somehow operate, unchecked, to infiltrate the lives of the most vulnerable people on the planet at their greatest time of need.

Western history is plagued with the actions of missionaries roaming the world and colonising nations in the name of their God or ideology. But this is new, this feels more sinister. Scientology, like any one else, is welcome in a free world to practice their beliefs. But this is crossing a line. It’s the ongoing narrative of unqualified individuals participating in acts that are damaging to the very person they are helping – and of a multi-national million pound industry founded on the premise of a badly written sci-fi novel manipulating vulnerable victims and recruiting them into one of the worlds largest, and most dangerous, cults.