Haiti, and the Church’s Response
The devastation in Haiti has been horrendous, and the world has reached out with compassion to the people of that impoverished island. Most of us have given what we can to charities working to provide medical assistance, food and water. Hundreds of thousands have gone to the island to provide hands-on assistance – Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice, and many others.
One would certainly expect the Church of Scientology to reach out with compassion and generosity.
And individual Scientologists have. Some Volunteer Ministers have gone to Haiti, and are doing their best to assist. Many Scientologists, as individuals, have donated to charities.
But what is the Church doing? What has the Church given?
Church spokesperson John Carmichael was quick to appear on New York’s WOR News on January 20. He even wore a bright yellow Volunteer Minister’s jacket, and bragged about how the Church had sent a plane with 50 medical personnel and “a bunch of” Volunteer Ministers. He was vague about how many VMs were sent, but other reports put the number at about 20.
But had the Church actually funded the plane? Another report here states that it was actually John Travolta who funded the plane.
So has the Church actually donated any Church (not parishioner) funds to the effort? Has the central Church made any sacrifice or contribution?
The Church’s websites now sport a colorful button that says “Support the IAS funded Haiti Disaster Relief – CLICK HERE.” So is the Church donating anything towards Haiti relief? Or are they just using the tragedy to increase IAS donations? And what percentage of one’s IAS donations actually ends up helping Haiti? Well, we don’t know. There is no transparency as to the use of IAS funds.
And there is other evidence that the Church is using this as a means to “get the stats up.” An e-mail from Patrick Howsen at Bridge Publications tells Scientologusts:
“The Church of Scientology has started to ship out dozens of Volunteer Ministers to give aid to the tens of thousands that need it. Similar to the situation when 911 hit the USA, we need to get as much Scientology technology into the hands of the Haitian people.
“As we steadily increase the number of VMs being sent, so must we also increase the amount of Scientology tech into the hands of people.
“Right now we (Bridge Publications Inc.) are requesting that every single Scientologist lend a hand in this. We will be shipping thousands upon thousands of Scientology Handbook booklets and other various basic Scientology tools to the VMs on site. They in turn will distribute these to the public on the ground while hatting them on how to use the tech.
“All donations for fully tax deductible.
“I am asking you for a donation to this cause. The minimum donation being asked is $500. Any one making a donation of $3,000 or more will receive a very special commendation that will go directly into their ethics file.”
Perhaps no one has told Patrick Howsen that the Haitian people do not need religious literature. They need food, fresh water, medical supplies. But I think Patrick knows that. I also think he knows that talking about those things won’t get his stats up. To get his stats up he has to use the disaster to get more book sales.
What does he expect the VMs to do in Haiti? What does the Church expect these VMs to do?
Back to John Carmichael in his bright yellow VM jacket at New York’s WOR News. John was asked, point blank, what the VMs were going to do in Haiti. He stated that they would be doing “spiritual first aid.” They would be doing touch assists. Again, the people of Haiti urgently need a number of things – mainly food, clean water and medical care and supplies. Touch assists are not high on the list of needs. John further talked vaguely about how they would be “helping to organize.” In other words – he doesn’t have a clue what they will be doing.
But he does know that they will all have bright yellow T-shirts and jackets to advertise their presence. And he knows that they sent a photographer – a key member of the team – someone to photograph those VMs on the ground and get the shots back to Int Management PR so they can use them in the next event to reg more IAS donations and get more booksales…and around it goes.
But what are those VMs really trained to do? What are they told to do when they get there? Do they have any medical skills? Do they have a plan? Obviously not – as reported in the Daily Mail:
“A small group of Scientologists in bright yellow T-shirts tried to get into the city’s main General Hospital but were turned away by U.S. troops guarding the door.”
That doesn’t sound like really good planning or execution. Maybe the hospital didn’t see “spiritual first aid” as the highest priority.
But, again, what is the Church actually doing?
Well, they are crowing in press releases about how they have “over 200,000 Volunteer Ministers.” Well, where are they? If they have over 200,000 on call, then how come only a few dozen have arrived? And how come the Church, in all its press releases, is deliberately vague about how many VMs are actually on the ground?
As of today, more than 400 Red Cross workers from around the world are in Haiti, working in concert with thousands of local volunteers. Where are the hundreds of thousands of VMs?
Or is this just another one of those “stats” that they pull out of their hat to impress people – but when disaster actually strikes, they are nowhere to be seen.
I have nothing but admiration for the many who have traveled to Haiti and are doing their best to help in whatever way they can. And that includes the individual Volunteer Ministers on the ground.
What I don’t see is any real contribution from the Church. In usual style, they are:
1. Using the tragedy to increase IAS donations, while allowing others (Travolta) to pay for the flights out – then bragging that “they” sent the flight.
2. Using the disaster to sell more and more books, under the transparent pretense that the people of Haiti “need” Scientology literature rather than food, water and medical supplies and attention.
3. Sending a few Volunteer Ministers with a photographer and with their bright yellow shirts and jackets to make impressive photographs to claim, as they always do, that “VMs were leading the disaster relief effort,” when in fact they are disorganized and ineffectual because of lack of real training and real briefing in the actual skills needed at a disaster site.
Hundreds of thousands are working with dedication and compassion to bring real relief to Haiti. We must not allow the Church to get away with their usual opportunistic grandstanding and their naked greed in using this disaster to forward their own wealth and power.