Collette James

Church of Scientology Hustling Donations in the Aftermath of Hurricane Harvey


As we reported in our previous post, The Church of Scientology has been caught red-handed in a social media fraud in which it used stock photos to pose as Scientologists. These fake Scientologists were then used to launch social media attacks on Leah Remini, Mike Rinder, A&E, A&E’s sponsors, and the courageous people who appear on Leah’s show Scientology and the Aftermath. This is a scandal and a disgrace for Scientology.

There is yet another Church of Scientology scam to cover today. For over a decade Scientology leader David Miscavige has claimed that the Scientology Volunteer Ministers formed the “largest independent relief force on Earth.” This has always been a lie and will always be a lie. However, Scientology still makes this claim:

The Scientology Volunteer Ministers program (VMs) was established by Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard, in 1976. Some 100,000 VMs in 120 nations helped more than 1.6 million people in the last year alone, making the Scientology Volunteer Ministers the largest independent relief organization on Earth.

Mike Rinder challenged this claim in an excellent post on Scientology’s Volunteer Ministers at his blog. Mike added this photo of the Scientology’s empty “Hurricane Harvey Relief Forces Headquarters” here in Los Angeles to support his criticisms. We see only two very bored members of the “largest independent relief force on Earth” seated on folding chairs nonchalantly texting:

IAS.HH.LA

I would add this: At the present time the IAS claims there are 130 Scientology Volunteer Ministers in the areas decimated by Hurricane Harvey. This is what the IAS posted on its website as of today August 31, 2017:

How does the “largest independent relief organization on Earth” only manage to get 130 people to the scene of a widespread catastrophe? Particularly when the IAS — Scientology’s slush fund with an estimated cash pile in excess of $1.5 billion — has made an emergency grant:

As brought to my attention by Collette James on Twitter, Scientology’s Volunteer Ministers posted a misleading tweet. This tweet used a photo of the Louisiana Rescue Group that was shot at by looters. The tweet and photo could mislead the public into thinking that Scientology’s Volunteer Ministers were somehow involved in this particular operation:

So to recap:

1. The Scientology Volunteer Ministers are not, and never were, the “largest independent relief organization on Earth.” And yet Scientology continues to lie about it and raise money based upon this false claim.

2. Scientology’s IAS has hoarded an estimated ~$1.5 billion in cash and does not need donations. Just a fraction of the the interest generated by the IAS cash hoard would pay for all 130 Volunteer Ministers that are allegedly  on the ground in the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey.

3. Scientology has been caught lying on social media in its attacks on Leah Remini’s show. Therefore, how do we know that Scientology is not lying about the number of Volunteer Ministers in the hurricane-stricken areas? That is the problem with Scientology’s habitual lying: Nothing it says can be taken at face value.

Please sign my petition at Change.org demanding that the IRS open an investigation into Scientology’s tax exemption.

4. I have seen photos of fewer than twenty VM’s in areas affected by Hurricane Harvey. There may be more faces to count; I just haven’t seen the photos. The IAS main page shows two photos in which only two VM’s are seen. The bald-headed VM appears in both photos; we see his back toward us in the photo (left) and his face in the other photo (right):

5. Because Scientology’s IAS has zero financial transparency we don’t know the size of the IAS “emergency grant.” It could be a very small and insignificant grant. I say this because, as a rule, Scientology Volunteer Ministers are expected to pay their own expenses to travel to and from the scene of a disaster. The IAS should publicly disclose on the record how much Scientology is actually spending to help. Absent disclosure, all IAS claims are meaningless. The IAS could have donated a token sum of $1,000 for all we know.

6. Scientology Volunteer Ministers largely function to get PR photos and videos so that Scientology can raise more money as they are doing now with Hurricane Harvey. Scientology is infamous for its disaster capitalism and has used everything from 911 to Whitney Houston’s death to raise money. Scientology VM’s literally walked over the backs of the dead at the Virginia Tech massacre to pitch a tent and get in front of cameras. See Radar’s story: First Photos: Scientologists Invade Virginia Tech Campus.

7. Here is a Scientology camera crew filming a staged VM event in Haiti:

8. While the Scientologists working on the ground are to be saluted for helping, they also know that their work is being done for “Church PR.” They will also be promoting Scientology at the scene of the disaster while giving Scientology touch assists.

9. Noticeably absent from Hurricane Harvey relief efforts is Scientology leader David Miscavige. Although Miscavige boasts about the VM’s he has never, to the best of my knowledge, actually volunteered at any disaster. This is odd considering that no less an eminence than former President Jimmy Carter routinely rolls up his sleeves and helps to build homes for Habitat for Humanity.