Hey everyone this is Chris Shelton, the Critical Thinker at Large, with our last chapter in our deconstruction of this book, Scientology, edited by academic and cult apologist James R. Lewis and featuring essays and articles from a number of like-minded sociologists, psychologists and religious scholars. We are finally wrapping this up.
Now for anyone who is paying more attention than they probably should, I am skipping chapter 21 called “Sources for the Study of Scientology: Presentations and Reflections” since this offers very little of substance and is mostly a summary of Hubbard’s individual books and videos. Dorthe Christensen does make some decent points about how the Church has altered the original works of Hubbard over the years to fit the re-written historical record or hagiography of Hubbard’s life and how he supposedly was always on a self-made collision course with destiny to bring freedom and salvation to Mankind through his works. Since we’ve really already covered that whole thing in some detail earlier in this series, though, it’s only a footnote here.
So our final chapter is actually the Appendix, which is a very short article titled “Pastoral Care and September 11: Scientology’s Nontraditional Religious Contribution” by Carole M. Cusack and Justine Digance. This was apparently a section in a longer article by these two authors published in Australian Religious Studies Review in the spring of 2003.
Now I’ve talked about the apologetics flavor of the articles in this book, but this appendix really takes the cake in terms of how the authors bend over backwards to praise the Church of Scientology’s actions at Ground Zero on the days following September 11, 2001.
First though, I want to be clear about something. I do not and will not ever criticize or lampoon anyone’s positive and effective actions to help another or others. 9/11 was a horrifying event with tragic consequences, not only for the nearly 3,000 men, women and children who were killed but also the thousands who directly participated in the recovery efforts, not to mention the ripple effects of fear and terror this event had on the entire nation. There was not one American anywhere in the world who was not affected and indeed, all of our allies mourned our loss and worked with us to take measures to prevent something like that from ever happening again. Many of those security measures and the “War on Terror” which this sparked were controversial, to say the least but it’s not the point of this video to debate the merits of any of that. I just want to be clear that there were many responders to Ground Zero and Scientologists were among them. Those who actually brought logistical support, comfort and aid to the first responders deserve our praise and our respect for working hour after hour, day after day. Many people from many different religious and secular groups tried to help bring some order into what was the ultimate in chaos and to try to help any and all survivors to make sure they stayed alive. It was a heroic effort and I’m not going to denigrate what anyone actually did there as individuals.
That all being said, there is a matter of exaggerating the truth, overstating the importance and simply lying outright about how much help and how much involvement Scientology had in the Ground Zero recovery efforts. There is also the matter of some of the deceptive tactics Scientology used at that time to force their way in to the area and maintain their involvement. That is what I am going to talk about here. Let’s do a little contrast and compare of what these academics have to say versus what other information I found. Now keep in mind that everything I’m going over here was fully available to the authors at the time they wrote this article, so they either did no research at all or ignored anything that was not positive towards Scientology. Here’s how they start:
“Maintaining a presence at Ground Zero was a complex process, in that no religious group could set up there to provide pastoral care unless recognized by the authorities, city, state, and federal. These groups were overwhelmingly Christian churches, Catholic and Protestant. The one exception was the Church of Scientology, which is perhaps the quintessentially modern American religion, founded by L. Ron Hubbard. Scientology shares certain features with New Age religions, such as the desire to interpret September 11 as an event that should result in peace, not war, and a hierarchical organizational structure resembling initiatory groups within the Western esoteric trajectory. However, in many ways it is quite different from New Age religion, having an institutional structure and a definite, articulated belief system.” (p. 435)
Actually, Scientology had no official authorization to be at Ground Zero, or what the people on the scene simply called The Pile. They simply forced their way in and stayed once they had access. There is an old adage that if you look and act like you are in charge, especially in a confusing situation like a natural or man-made disaster, people are going to assume you have authority and are going to follow your direction. This is how Scientologists got a foothold into establishing themselves on the scene. Cusack and Digance go on:
“Scientology was the only nontraditional religion to provide pastoral care at Ground Zero. This unique status could be explained by the extensive network of powerful members the Church of Scientology possesses (show business celebrities and politicians being the most visible). It could also be explained by the fact that the Church of Scientology, despite a controversial history, has become powerfully involved in corporate motivational and charitable activities in America, often providing these secularized services to government agencies.” (p. 435)
It’s an interesting statement for these academics to make that Scientology was the only nontraditional religion to provide pastoral care at Ground Zero. I could neither confirm nor disprove that, but as far as these two reasons they gave – celebrities and Scientology somehow being involved in corporate America and charity – these two ideas are so asinine as to be pure imagination. I honestly have absolutely no idea how they could even imagine that Scientology somehow has a foothold in corpoate motivational and charitable activities. If there is one thing Scientology could care less about, it’s charity. Their next statements are just as ill-informed:
“Scientology has developed a Volunteer Minister Program, first envisaged by Hubbard in 1973 and fleshed out in 1976. This program is unique in that it is open to anyone. That is, it is an example of the more secularized services that Scientology provides generally to the community rather than only to its members, recalling the continuum of contributions referred to above. Although not precisely trained counselors, Volunteer Ministers provide help in times of need, which may include counseling-type duties. They are also trained in performing a specifically Scientological therapy: Assists (for example, a Contact Assist or a Touch Assist). These are actions ‘undertaken to help a person confront physical difficulties.’ Assists may be administered to aid people in ‘periods of intense emotional shock.’ They thus resemble the traditional Christian practice of ‘laying on hands.'” (p. 436)
Scientologists do believe that running their hands over people’s bodies or touching them in various places offers therapeutic relief for injuries and exhaustion, but in my own experience giving and receiving these over the years, I found this to be true only about 25% of the time. That business about comparing Scientology assists to the Christian idea of “laying on of hands” is a ridiculous analogy and is pure Hubbard fiction. It was an idea he came up with to make Scientology sound more religious, but there is no part of assists which compare to the idea of invoking the Holy Spirit, which is what laying on of hands is all about in Christian faiths. Now let’s get into what actually happened at Ground Zero:
“Scientology Volunteer Ministers arrived at Ground Zero within hours of the Twin Towers’ collapse. Like Christian pastors, the Ministers’ role was to counsel and support the workers who were engaged first in rescuing survivors, then in clearing away rubble and bodies over a period of months. Gail Armstrong, editor of Scientology’s Freedom magazine, condemned the attackers: “[It is the] continuing tragedy of our times that fellow human beings can be twisted into killers who believe their acts of hatred, revenge, and cowardly acts of murder and suicide are justified” but quickly shifted focus to the courage and determination showed by the relief workers, which caused “the one result that the authors of destruction did not want; a stronger and united force for good, bound by that courage and determination to defend what is honorable and decent, a people joined and committed to the preservation of freedom for all.'” (p. 436)
It is true that Scientologists from the New York organization were very likely on hand at Ground Zero within hours because the disaster site was not far from where the Scientology church was located and there were tons of people pouring in to try to help out. So what did they do? Well, let’s let a Scientologist who was there describe it. This is Simon Hare, a Sea Organization member from Canada who sent out an email on Sept 14 to any Scientologist he could reach:
“For the last two days I have been in New York Org running, with several other Sea Org members, the deployment of Volunteer Ministers into the disaster zone.
“We have experienced considerable success making ourselves stable terminals [trusted individuals] in the disaster zone giving assists and supplying food to the police and fire fighters. We are ‘the guys in the yellow shirts’ and that alone now gets us past the road blocks into southern Manhattan. The Dianetics 1-800 number was placed on the TV as a number to call if you wanted to help. With our higher confront and work ethic we have established ourselves to such a degree that we now have the Red Cross referring social workers and psychologists to us at the org for training transport into the disaster zone. We hat them on assists put a shirt on them and send them in. Our people have been in the area since Tuesday afternoon.”
“With Scientologists and non-Scientologists combined we have sent out close to 150 Volunteer Ministers so far. At the highest peak so far we have had close to 40 people working the zone at one time.
“And there are thousands and thousands of people down there working. Police and fire and national guard and other workers. The sheer magnitude of the operation is difficult to grasp.” (Simon Hare, Sea Org member)
Okay, a couple of points I have to mention. First, the 1-800 number they got on TV aired for five hours on Fox News before it got pulled down. Why did it get pulled? Because their number was not listed as “Dianetics” or “Church of Scientology” but instead was called “National Mental Health Assistance.” Yes, that is correct. The group that despises psychology and psychiatry so much that they come up with marketing campaigns and anti-psychiatry legislation with the stated goal of ridding the world of the evil of psychiatry, used that tag line with the Church of Scientology phone number to try to get people to call them immediately after 9/11. It can’t only be me who is completely disgusted by that, right?
Second, this email was never meant to be seen by non-Scientologists and it tells you a great deal about how many Scientologists are actually on hand in one of the largest cities in America. They could only round up 40 people at a time to do VM work and many of them were not even Scientologists. Hardly supportive of their claims of tens of millions of members around the world. If there were tens of millions of members internationally, that should put hundreds of thousands of Scientologists in the New York/New Jersey region. Yeah, not so much.
Simon went on to describe how hard everyone was working and how they needed more people. He then said this:
“Additionally we are trying to move in and knock the psychs out of counseling to the grieving families and that could take another 100 plus people right now. Due to some brilliant maneuvering by some simply genius Sea Org Members we tied up the majority of the psychs who were attempting to get to families yesterday in Q&A, bullbait and wrangling [wasting time]. They have a hard time completing cycles of action and are pretty easy to disperse. But today they are out in full force and circling like vultures over these people and all of our resources are tied up in the support efforts in the disaster zone at present.” (Simon Hare, Sea Org member)
These guys hate psychiatry so much that they would do anything to stop them, including getting in their way at a disaster site to keep them from helping anyone who needed real mental health assistance. These Scientologists were proud of this. Notice how there is no mention here of how Scientologists moved in and helped those families out instead. That’s because it didn’t happen. No, all that occurred here is that Scientologists proudly stopped people who desperately needed professional mental health care from getting it and then patted themselves on the back for it. Who would think that is a job well done? Read on:
“There is nowhere on Earth right now that hurts like this place. These are brave people and they are the able and they don’t know it but they need the Scientologists with LRH’s tech to be here right now. The fire-fighter company down the street from the org lost 14 members on Tuesday. No one can do anything for them or the rest but Scientologists. The other religions here with their ministers have shown their true colors and are working hand in hand with the psychs to give these people as much false data and restimulation as they can. They HAVE NO TECH and they’re not even trying to hide it anymore. They’ve crossed over and abandoned anything spiritual and to hell with them.” (Simon Hare, Sea Org member)
This is the fanaticism of Scientology and it goes all the way from the top to the bottom. Some of you may recall that Tom Cruise said something like this in the infamous 2004 IAS award video that was leaked to the internet. Scientologists are so steeped in their delusionary world view that they honestly believe they are the only ones who can help anyone anywhere. They look with disdain and contempt at every other religion and mental health professionals of any kind. Their public relations chatter about accepting people of other religions, of wanting to open up inner-faith dialogs and work hand-in-hand with other church groups is all self-serving claptrap and every single Scientologist knows it. This is not just something that L. Ron Hubbard or David Miscavige think. All Scientologists actually feel this way and this is how they talk to each other about members of other religions. How about the Red Cross? What does Scientology think about their hard work?
“The Red Cross has told us when we went to help at their shelters and found no one there, “the people say they are doing fine so we send them back out”. That’s because the Red Cross’ confront is sooo low they can’t even see when people are suffering right in front of them. They are blind.” (Simon Hare, Sea Org member)
So yeah, this is the level of help that Scientology was trying to rally and offer to the emergency personnel, firefighters and thousands of others who selflessly gave of themselves for days and weeks following 9/11. Yet what do Cusack and Digance, our two academics, have to say about Scientology here? Check this out:
“Scientology is a minority religion that has created, and sought strenuously to maintain, strong ties with other minority religions, which demonstrates its deep understanding of the changed Western religious situation: secularization resulting in a varied religious climate, in which the traditional religion of the West, Christianity, retains its position while gradually losing authority… One unique feature of Scientology that remains to be noted is that it is the only nonconventional religion in the United States that was in a position to take a leading role alongside mainstream religions and secular charitable rescue workers.” (p. 436)
I’m sure you see as well as I do how ignorant these academics sound in light of the facts I’ve shown you so far. This is what I’ve been talking about throughout this entire series, but I think this may well be the best example I’ve been able to show so far of how poor their research is and how far down the apologetics rabbit hole they are willing to go.
In doing research for this video, I came across a post about 9/11 and Scientology by David Touretzky. He is a research professor at Carnegie Mellon University and a strong anti-Scientology advocate who has not personally ever been a member. He’s an example of an academic who does real research and has come to some very sensible conclusions about Scientology and the damage it can do. On March 2, 2002, he posted this:
“A woman I know worked as a volunteer at Ground Zero in Manhattan five days after the 9/11 disaster. Below are her personal observations about the unauthorized presence of Scientologists at the official command center, and how she managed to get them booted out. I’m withholding her name to protect her from Scientology harassment of the sort we’re all too familiar with.”
“I thought you might appreciate my own personal recent (nightmare) experience with Scientologists –
“Through my membership with an international children’s charitable organization that coordinated with the Red Cross in response to the 9/11 disaster, I found myself working with a mental health/mass care group assigned to Ground Zero five days after the attack. (The fires were still burning and gaining the proper Federal ID, etc. required to access ‘The Pile’ and interact with the rescue workers..police and fire units and medical volunteers…was lengthy even with Red Cross sponsorship.) In spite of the mind-numbing horror of the site itself, balanced by the amazing and countering displays of humanity among those on site, one of the largest jolts of emotion that I had was when I entered the official command center (federal and local agencies) housed in a school at the foot of the rubble. The lobby area was overrun by Scientology reps (a dozen or more?) offering their brand of ‘bearing witness’ in exchange for minor first aid (foot powder, bandaides, massages, cots). The displays of their pamphlets and books spread strategically throughout the area was marketing at its most agressive. They all donned brightly colored t-shirts and, striking me as eerily inappropriate at the time, seemed to be festive in their demeanor. A mental health volunteer and I immediately sought out the ‘central command’ of the relief effort and made a formal complaint. Long story short, no one had apparently authorized their presence and in fact, Guilliani, wisely, had publicly and formally strictly forbidden religious groups from any visible presence…..after all, wasn’t it this kind of fanaticism that inspired the insanity of the attacks?
“No one knew how they had gotten access and they were routed out later that day. I had been moved to soul-depleting nausea when I glanced at some of the posters and flyers depicting space ships and aliens (with comic book style graphics) and considered that their ability to promote this view of ‘reality’ at a time when all of us where questioning our reality as being no different from Bin Laden’s inspirations and applications. I still consider their presense as ‘intellectual and spiritual terrorism’ that was taking opportunistic advantage of people (police and firemen and I assume family members at the Pier site) who were still in the shock of having, for example, watched ’15 of my friends who were rushing the building in formation to help get people out and seeing the building crush them ALL’ (direct quote from one of the NYPD officers I spoke with.)
“This is not to say that there weren’t other religions represented by individuals (met one priest who was sensitive enough to remove his collar before dispensing psychological/spiritual comfort along with eyewash and footpads), but they operated as individual volunteers simply availing themselves to anyone who wanted to speak with them. No religious tracts, bibles or other paraphanelia visible anywhere. The Scientologist’s were the only ones sucking the much needed air out of the site by promoting their agenda. They were Scientologists FIRST and human beings SECOND. Oh yeah, that’s consistent isn’t it?”
And with that we have reached the end of the appendix, or at least as much as I could stomach reading to you. And we have reached the end of this book. It’s been quite a journey. If you’ve not seen all the videos in this series, I encourage you to do so because there’s a lot more here than just me ranting about intellectually dishonest academics. We’ve managed in going through all this to uncover quite a bit about the history, theories and practices of Scientology, its legal history and some of the problems that groups and governments have had in dealing with its shady practices.
I hope that this whole thing has been educational, informative and entertaining. I don’t think I realized when I started this what a task it would be, but now that it’s done, I am quite happy with the work. As always, please do like and share this around the interwebs and if you haven’t subscribed to my channel, now is a great time to do so.
This is Chris Shelton, the Critical Thinker at Large. Thank you for watching.