Volunteer Ministers

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:

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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.

The Paris Terror Attacks & Scientology Disaster Capitalism

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Scientology Sea Org Captain David Miscavige in his Scientology War Room

The Church of Scientology has many cynical ways of making money. Following the terrorist attacks in Paris, Scientology is now attempting to make hundreds of thousands of dollars in France by selling a particular piece of its literature at obscene profit margins. Further, Scientology plans to send its notorious Volunteer Ministers into France in an attempt to recruit traumatized and vulnerable people into joining Scientology and handing over large sums of money to pay for super-expensive Scientology services.

This is disaster capitalism at its worst. Moreover, this pattern has been repeated over and over by the Church of Scientology following natural disasters, mass shootings, and other terror attacks. Scientology preys upon the vulnerable when horrific things occur.

The Church of Scientology’s campaign against France will appear to begin modestly enough with the Church inflicting upon the French a truly insipid little book called The Way to Happiness.

Written L. Ron Hubbard, the pamphlet is nothing more than a list of innocuous bromides that the Church of Scientology itself will not abide by. For example:

  • Don’t do anything illegal.
  • Do not harm a person of good will.
  • Safeguard and improve your environment.
  • Do not steal.
  • Be worthy of trust.

According to Mike Rinder writing in a recent blog post, a copy of The Way to Happiness costs about ten cents to produce. However, the Church sells these pamphlets to its own members in a pack of twelve that costs $18.00.

This is $1.50 each and so the Church is making an obscene 93.3% gross margin on its 1400% mark up.

The Church of Scientology wants its own members to donate $1.50 each for 250,000 copies to distribute in France. This is $375,000.00. The net profit will be a tidy $350,000.

The Church of Scientology has made preposterous claims for this banal phamplet — including the ridiculous claim that The Way to Happiness reduced crime by 50% in Colombia:

 …Colombian police have delivered Way to Happiness seminars to 3 million citizens and booklets to 20 percent of the population. Crime rates have dropped by 50 percent and Colombian tourism has increased to a level beyond any other Latin American nation. According to senior Colombian police officials, much of the credit for this change goes to The Way to Happiness. (Scientology website)

The Church of Scientology ridiculously claims credit for reducing crime in Colombia. No credit goes to the Colombian government or military for waging a brutal and very costly war against heavily armed and violent drug cartels. Such is the vainglorious and deceptive propaganda of Scientology.

By way of contrast, the well-known Christian-themed “Chick tracts” sell for .16 cents each. These often lurid and viciously anti-Catholic tracts spread the “Hellfire and damnation” message of evangelical Christianity:

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Due to their low cost, however, over 700,000,000 Chick tracts have been sold during the last forty years.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses are the world leaders in low cost religious literature. According to the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, its 2012 and 2013 production of low cost literature was staggering:

In 2012 the printeries operated by Jehovah’s Witnesses produced more than 1.3 billion magazines and 80 million books and Bibles

The Watchtower, our principal journal, is printed in over 210 languages and is the most widely circulated magazine in the world. Each 16-page issue has a printing of some 45,000,000 copies.

Awake! the companion magazine of The Watchtower—and second only to it in circulation—is printed in 99 languages. Each issue has a printing of some 44,000,000.What Does the Bible Really Teach? is a 224-page softcover book specifically designed to help its reader understand the basic teachings of the Bible. Since 2005, more than 214 million copies have been printed in over 240 languages.

The wealthy Church of Scientology owns two large digital printing facilities and so there is no reason this “Church” cannot give away free .10 cent copies of The Way to Happiness if distribution of this pamphlet is so vital to humanity.

At the bare minimum, Scientology could sell The Way to Happiness at cost. But it will not do so.

What puts the lie to the entire farce that is The Way to Happiness is that Scientology marks this product up 1400% and sell it at a whopping 93.3% profit margin.

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We have covered Church of Scientology profit margins here on the Scientology Money Project. For example, the e-meter is sold at a 385% mark up over cost. And as we recently covered in a guest column at Tony Ortega’s Underground Bunker, the  costs of Scientology auditing services are astronomical.

The Church of Scientology has never sold anything at cost because it is driven by greed. There is no humanitarian impulse whatsoever in any part of Scientology; it is all a soulless moneymaking scheme led by a narcissistic and violent con man named David Miscavige.

And now the Scientology Volunteer Ministers plan to descend on Paris in the wake of an historic terror attack in order to inflict upon Parisians 250,000 copies of an insufferable pablum-filled pamphlet called The Way to Happiness. 

The last thing France needs at this time is an insane American religious cult hawking its wares on the streets of Paris. Indeed, The Way to Happiness is nothing more than a ploy, a cynical sales tool Scientology distributes on the streets in an attempt to inveigle highly traumatized and vulnerable people into joining Scientology and  purchasing expensive Scientology services.

Make no mistake about it: The Church of Scientology is already carrying out its plans to exploit the pain and suffering of the French people in order to promote and sell Scientology in France.

To add to this moral outrage, the Church of Scientology is presently on trial in Belgium for fraud and extortion at the time of this writing.

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Scientology watchers are also expecting the Church of Scientology to send in its Volunteer Ministers to Paris for PR purposes.

Perhaps the most cynical and phony of all Scientology front groups, the “Volunteer Ministers” program was ostensibly created to be Scientology’s version of the Red Cross, i.e. a a first responder disaster relief organization. In actuality, the Volunteer Ministers (VM’s) program is simply another profit center for the Scientology moneymaking scam.

When 911 occured, Scientology VM’s literally walked over the backs of the dead to get PR photos for use in raising money. In one particularly offensive PR photo used in for fundraising, the Church of Scientology faded the real 911 first responders into nondescript black and white figures while colorizing one of its Volunteer Ministers in his distinctive yellow jacket:

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Within hours of the Virginia Tech mass shooting in 2007, the VM’s, once again, walked over the backs of the dead to pitch a tent in order to get photo ops and raise money.

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Scientology’s Volunteer Minister’s tent was set up on the Virginia Tech campus within hours of the mass shooting.

The bodies of the Virginia Tech dead hadn’t even been moved as the campus was a crime scene under intense investigation. But the VM’s were there like vultures taking PR photos. The VM’s were already asking for money.

This same craven pattern of Scientology Volunteer Minister disaster capitalism occured with the great earthquake in Haiti, Hurricane Katrina, the 9.0 earthquake in Japan, the great Indonesian tsunami, and every other mass murder, natural disaster, terrorist attack, and even celebrity deaths since 2001.

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On a wholly uninvited basis, Scientology cultist John Travolta and his wife Kelly Preston used their connections to make a  Scientology-glorifying PR flight into Haiti following the great earthquake there in 2010. With the crowded airport at Port-Au-Prince desperately needed for first responders, doctors, medical supplies, field hospitals, food and water, and emergency  rescue teams specializing in extracting victims from rubble, Travolta bumped these other flights so that he could get a landing slot for his private jet. Cultist Travolta and his fellow Scientologists made sure plenty of PR photos were taken of the actor for use in Scientology fundraising.

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Never mind that these Scientology Volunteer Ministers have absolutely no relationship whatsoever to the tragedy or disaster, their craven greed for money and PR compels them to travel uninvited to inject themselves and their unwanted Scientology “touch assists” to victims.

In one singularly bizarre attempt at PR, Scientology VM’s inexplicably assembled and conducted a parade of hapless victims amidst the rubble and devastation of post-quake Haiti:

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Scientology Volunteer Ministers do four things at the scene of any disaster, massacre, or tragedy:

The Church of Scientology immediately begins raising money to send its VM’s to the scene. Although Scientology is wealthy it will not spend any of its own money to pay for transportation, shelter, or food for its own VM’s.The Church of Scientology will never spend any of its own money unless it is on lawyers or for some other self-serving purpose such as television commercial during the Super Bowl.

Once the VM’s arrive at the scene, they make their way to the head of the supply lines distributing food, water, and medical supplies to the victims. The VM’s do not pay for these supplies; they simply want the PR photos of showing them handing out emergency supplies. These PR photos create the impression that Scientology paid for these supplies:

Scientology VM’s deliver “touch assists” to victims. These touch assists cost the Church nothing and while gaining more PR photos of VM’s appearing to help:

The Church of Scientology sends teams of videographers to make videos for use in PR and fundraising. In the photo below, Scientology videographers can be seen filming a Scientology VM holding a baby:

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The public needs to be made aware of Scientology’s cynical disaster capitalism conducted under the facade of humanitarianism.

The Church of Scientology has long used the word “humanitarian” to promote itself and its front groups.

When it comes to Scientology, however, the use of the word “humanitarian”should serve as a red flag that Scientology is once again looking to make an enormous cash profit on human suffering.