In the middle of the post-Katrina wreckage of a neighborhood, the sight of large groups of volunteers in bright yellow shirts working hard is heart warming at first. Their shirts bare the words "Volunteer Minister" with a curious Celtic cross on the back. They work hard helping to clean yards, haul supplies, and roof houses. Over five hundred of these volunteers have come from across the country with the noble purpose of helping out. As individuals they are dedicated and hard working volunteers, but the organization they represent is using their compassion to form a slick PR move to aggressively seek new members and establish credibility.
Imagine having a half destroyed home, full of muck and a tree smashed into the middle of the house. Suddenly, yellow clad Volunteer Ministers appear on your street offering to help pick up the pieces of your shattered life. They work hard, listen intently to your sorrows, offer to assist you through this hard time, and leave you a pamphlet and business card stating "you have been helped by a Scientologist." Almost like a commercial at the end of the volunteer work.
Missionary tactics of this type is common among many faith based relief organizations which channel aid and volunteers to disaster areas. Scientology adds a touch of hard core capitalist drive with a dash of holier then thou fanaticism to create a sleek recruitment machine. Just a few minutes of internet research into this new religion founded by Sci-Fi author L. Ron Hubbard will make any one down right nauseated at this futurist cult with a penchant for chasing disasters. There are hundreds of horror stories of abuse in the cult from former members online and many more stories of people being labeled a "suppressive person" by the church resulting in many friends and family cutting off all contact with the supposed "S.P." Even more insidious are the reports on how the C.O.S recently lost their court case against Google as they tried to sue the internet search engine into blocking people searching for information on the religion from finding anti-Scientology websites. One that they have single out in recent years is the Norway based website "Operation Clam Bake" (www.xenu.net)
In the wake of the Katrina disaster, the CEOs of Scientology are scrambling to increase the number of converts in their pseudo religion in order to inflate their company coffers. Phase one is infiltrate and create a more friendly environments for Scientologist by flying in volunteers from the around the country to help with relief efforts. Volunteer Ministers will assist in efforts, drop pamphlets, leave business cards, and talk about scientology beliefs with personal stories of how much it has helped them. Phase two is the setting up of a permanent church outpost and then using church funds to buy up expensive tracts of land while the prices are depressed. Anyone who speaks out against them will be the target of harassment and false accusations such as those lodged against the reporters in Clearwater Florida after the church started infiltrating the town and setting up a major US train headquarters (www.holysmoke.org/cw.htm). Every one should take a serious look at this kind of behavior from a billion dollar corporate religion backed by Hollywood star power.
Those seeking to further their own interests or implant their own beliefs in the wake of such tragedies are a blight on the face of compassionate relief efforts. Open hearts and helping hands, free of hidden agendas, are needed desperately in the Gulf Coast right now. Sending food from your area is a definite necessity, but volunteers, uncluttered by questionable motivations, are urgently needed across the region as the local populations struggle to slowly rebuild their ruined neighborhoods.