Scientology at Ground Zero

by Chris Owen (Chris Owen)
SubjectESSAY: Scientology at Ground Zero
Date6 May 2003 15:35:45 -0700

[Links added. -k]

Scientology at Ground Zero

By Chris Owen, May 2003

(with thanks to Barbara Graham, ptsc, Cerridwen and others)
(also posted to ScientologyWatch,

Scientology's long war with psychiatry has led it down some strange avenues, few stranger or more distasteful than what transpired in New York City in September 2001. Even before the dust from the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon had settled, Scientologists were targeting the psychiatrists working with traumatised citizens in New York and elsewhere, seeking to "knock them out" of the disaster recovery efforts and blaming them for the attack itself.

Within hours of the collapse of the Twin Towers, Scientology's leadership responded with an immediate flash briefing to Scientologists worldwide. David Miscavige, the head of the Church, issued "Inspector General's Bulletin No. 44 — Wake Up Call — The Urgency of Planetary Clearing" to give Scientology's own internal response to the unfolding tragedy. He told Scientologists:

"The terrorist attacks of this day demonstrate the destruction a small minority of suppressive persons can wreak. If nothing else, it also demonstrates why our misison is so vital and why speed in accomplishing our aims is of paramount importance.

Bluntly, we are the only people of Earth who can reverse the decline, and we do not have an endless amount of time to pull it off."

Miscavige was quick to put the blame on psychiatry, which Scientology has in the past blamed for evils such as Soviet Communism, the Yugoslav wars, drug addiction, school shootings and even — in a particularly deranged bulletin by L. Ron Hubbard — "pain and sex". Showing a distinct lack of grasp of history and religious politics, Miscavige's communique declares:

"World War II and its mission of genocide was spurred on by a psychiatric myth of racial superiority. Reducing Hitler's army to dust, killing millions in the process, did not end it.

Suicide bombings at Pearl Harbor led to atomic bombs wiping out whole cities. Yet suicide bombings of an even more brutal nature — previously unimaginable — have now occurred.

Every one of these attacks, and endless world conflicts can be traced to a lack of real technology of the mind and reliance on false mental therapies of psychiatry and psychology. Don't be fooled. It is not normal for people to agree to suicide missions in killing others. Such people are not born, they are made. It is done through drugging, hypnotism and implanting — the stock in trade of the psych. This not conjecture. It is fact. And if there is any doubt, consider the fact that the primary suspect — Osama bin Laden — has a psychiatrist as his right-hand man."

(For the record, Pearl Harbor was not a suicide bombing — the kamikaze did not appear until Japan's defeat was in sight, in 1944. Nazism was not the creation of psychiatry; its racialist policies had antecedants that went back long before psychiatry even existed. Its 20th century inspirations included "sciences" such as eugenics that had widespread if misguided support from intellectual elites across Europe and the United States, some of which happened to include psychiatrists, alongside representatives of many other professions. Osama bin Laden's right-hand man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is actually a surgeon, not a psychiatrist. Scientology's dubious claim of his psychiatric links appears to rely on the sole source of unnamed "officials in the Egyptian government". Since 9/11, Scientology has developed a complex conspiracy theory that involves al-Zawahiri as the éminence grise and master brainwasher behind al-Qaeda, with the nineteen hijackers and even bin Laden himself as his improbable victims. It quotes approvingly claims that Zawahiri "was able to reshape bin Laden's thinking and mentality and turn him from merely a supporter of the Afghan Jihad to a believer in and export of the Jihad's ideology." Few outside Scientology give the theory any credence.)

Miscavige identified a number of remedies for modern society's "cycle of materialism". Not surprisingly, the main solution he offered was to promote Scientology more intensively. Other religions were not the answer: "other religions have failed … all because they lacked the technology to achieve their aims — Christianity, Islam, Judaism — you name it. All except us." Scientology's plan of action would encompass multiple goals. It would "continue to fight psychiatric influence and brutality until those plagues are a forgotten memory." It would aim to "have as many Volunteer Ministers as there are police" (perhaps invoking Scientology president Heber Jentszch's ambition to have an "OT Police" of high-level Scientologists using their purported superpowers to "bring order"). Above all, it would seek to "move every being up The Bridge. Only the Clear and OT will survive." Miscavige gave two instructions to Scientologists to achieve this end. First, "Get up The Bridge" — no more putting off courses for trivial reasons such as time or money. Second, "Help in the crusade so we do pull off a big win." This meant a massive expansion in "every sector of Scientology activity", meaning both the Church and its various front organisations. A huge amount of growth was called for: "10,000 missions and 1,000 Class V orgs is not just a nice figure to postulate in the future. It must become a reality … hundreds of thousands of field auditors, tens of thousands of missions and thousands of auditors."

Perhaps injecting a note of reality, Miscavige admitted that his ambition was "overwhelming". Nonetheless, he concluded, Scientology's progress over the past fifty years convinced him that Scientologists could achieve it:

"Consider this: we were once just one man; today we are millions. In other words, we have the numbers to actually pull it off. …

LRH gave us the answers. Let's never forget the call he issued in the final sentence of Book One [Dianetics]:

"For God's sake, get busy and build a better bridge!"

We can do it. We will do it."

The RTC briefing was disseminated around the world on September 12th, translated into half a dozen world languages, with Scientologists instructed to "go to your local Church of Scientology for briefings and hatting [tasking]". As soon as the RTC briefing had gone out — and probably before — Scientologists around the world were mobilised to "handle the chaos of today's bombings", as one Scientologist put it. Scientologists were instructed to pass out copies of L. Ron Hubbard's booklet The Way to Happiness to families, friends and neighbours, as it was "the correct stable data for our society". The International Association of Scientologists announced "Uplines coordination … to get 73 million copies of TWTH reprinted and poured into strategic areas to help bring peace and tolerance to this disturbed planet." As usual, this was to be funded by the donations of Scientologists; they were requested to make donations to the "Concerned Businessmen's Association of America — Anti Terrorist Campaign" (the CBAA is one of Scientology's numerous "front groups").

The efforts were particularly concentrated in the cities which had become, or were near, disaster areas: New York City, Washington, D.C. and Pittsburgh. Scientologists mobilised under the banner of the "Volunteer Ministers" to provide assistance to the rescue effort at Ground Zero and, more broadly, to the population of the cities as a whole. New York's Scientology office on 46th Street — one of the most important Scientology centres in the U.S., as the home of the Church's Continental Liaison Office for the eastern United States and Canada — was the focus of the Church's efforts in the city. A prominent sign was placed on the building proclaiming it a "Disaster Relief Headquarters," notwithstanding the fact that it had no official role whatsoever in the city's relief effort. A New York Scientologist informed fellow Scientologists that "New York Org is just body routing [recruiting] people off the street and giving them assists [a form of faith healing] or sending them straight into group processing". Scientologist Peter McCuen reported: "Within hours of the bombing, the New York Org had delivered the first group processing sessions as well as assists." Around the country, other Scientology organisations did much the same thing. The Battle Creek Enquirer reported on September 19th that on 9/11, a sign had immediately gone up outside the Church's office in downtown Battle Creek, Michigan, urging those disturbed by the tragedy to come in for free counseling. The Battle Creek org's executive director Mike Delaware told the newspaper: "We had about 25 people in that day. We put [the sign] out to offer free Scientology auditing and counseling."

This effort was clearly directed from high levels in the Church. Scientologists were told to "do your part in applying LRH ED 'BOOM POSTULATE'". This referred to a typically assertive L. Ron Hubbard Executive Directive issued on 20 February 1974, with a rather unfortunate title given the circumstances of 9/11. In it, Hubbard declares:


We are probably the only people on the planet absolutely sure of where we are going.





This is OUR planet.


This the Scientologists certainly did at Ground Zero and in New York hospitals. Disturbingly, one of the goals appears from the outset to have been the deliberate and systematic disruption of mental health service delivery. An e-mail to Volunteer Ministers sent on September 12th advised: "When arriving at a hospital, VM's should say who they are [and] say they are there to give spiritual aid. This is needed before the psychs get their ruddy hands on people." This was very much in the vein advocated by Hubbard in an HCO Bulletin of 15 September 1959, a document which is still part of the corpus of Scientology policy, in which he outlined a method of recruitment that he dubbed "casualty contact":

"Using his Ministers [sic] card, an auditor need only barge into any nonsectarian hospital, get permission to visit the wards from the Superintendant, mentioning nothing about processing, but only about taking care of peoples [sic] souls, to find himself wonderfully welcome.

Don't pick on the very bad off [sic] unconscious cases. Hit the fracture ward and the maternity ward. Go around and say hello to the people and ask if you can do anything for them. … This is a pretty routine drill really. You get permission to visit. You go in and give patients a cheery smile. You want to know if you can do anything for them, you give them a card and tell them to come around to your group and really get well, and you give them a touch assist if they seem to need it but only if they're willing. And you for sure make sure that there is someone on the other end when they ring up. But your statement, "the modern scientific church can cure things like that. Come around and see." will work. Its [sic] straight recruiting!"

On the 14th, Simon Hare of the Canadian branch of the International Hubbard Ecclesiastical League of Pastors — yet another Scientology "front group" — informed Scientologists of his team's work at Ground Zero. In his e-mail he showed in full force the hatred felt by Scientologists towards psychiatry and anyone associated with it, including other religious groups who had "shown their true colors [by] working hand in hand with the psychs":

"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. 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.

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."

There was also an attempt to take on some of the many people nationwide who had been traumatised by the televised events at the World Trade Center. On the same day that Simon Hare sent his e-mail, September 14th, President Bush and his wife, Laura, attended the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance in Washington, D.C. TV viewers watching the proceedings live on Fox News saw a message scroll across the ticker at the foot of the screen: "NATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH ASSISTANCE: 800-FOR-TRUTH." The message ran for about two hours until Fox executives realised that the number was actually that of the Church of Scientology's Dianetics helpline, and [ ] promptly yanked it from the ticker. This caused considerable controversy, not least because the name "National Mental Health Assistance" was — no doubt intentionally — confusingly similar to the genuine National Mental Health Association, which was also offering counseling services following 9/11. The NMHA issued a strongly worded statement urging people to "Beware Scientologists Claiming To Be Mental Health Professionals." It urged Scientology to "to stay out of mental health. The public needs to understand that the Scientologists are using this tragedy to recruit new members. They are not providing mental health assistance." Its spokesman castigated the apparent deception being practiced: "Here they create a National Mental Health Assistance organization, with the same initials as our organization's and convince one major news outlet to post their mental health number, and what does it go to? It goes to a place where they are trying to get people to join Scientology."

Perhaps out of embarrassment, Scientology attempted to distance itself from the controversial ticker message. Church spokesman Kurt Weiland in Los Angeles was quoted by the St Petersburg Times as saying that "National Mental Health Assistance" must have come from Fox. "I can assure you it didn't come from us," he said. His statement was undermined by Fox, which was itself on the defensive over its lack of verification of the "service" being promoted. The network revealed that it had received an e-mail reading "National Mental Health Assistance crisis hot line now open. Call 1-800-FOR-TRUTH," with no mention of Scientology. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that a press release — perhaps in the same e-mail — had been sent to Fox stating: "The National Mental Health Hot Line is open and available to anyone in need of help — or anyone who would like to assist the victims." Again, no mention of Scientology.

However, there was no confusion over the Scientology link among Scientologists behind the scenes. Simon Hare of I-HELP Canada reported that "The Dianetics 1-800 number was placed on the TV as a number to call if you wanted to help." There was some ambiguity about how exactly the message had got onto the TV. It seems likely that the email and/or fax promoting the Dianetics number was generated by the volunteer ministers, or had at least been passed on by them to Fox. The NMHA reported that it had "received a number of unconfirmed reports that Scientologists with the letters NMHA on their shirts have been seen in New York claiming to be mental health professionals". New York Scientologists claimed in internal e-mails that the ticker message had in fact been initiated by Fox following a query to the Volunteer Ministers:

"This morning we received a call from FOX TV in New York. They wanted to know if we were handling the Mental Health needs of people. We said yes we were and so they have now posted the DIANETICS HOT-LINE NUMBER on their channel and we have come to find out that we are posted on four different TV stations in New York as well as on national TV as the number to call for mental help.

They have scrolling across the bottom of the screen on local and national TV three numbers to call: Mental Health (our 1-800 number), the Red Cross number and a Hospitalization number.


The 1-800 phones at BPI [Bridge Publications Interactive, publishers of Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health] are ringing off the hook. We are taking approximately 50 calls every 35 minutes average, sometimes more sometimes less."

Another Scientologist reported:

"I just got off the phone with Ann at Bridge Publications. She told me that the Church's 1-800-FOR-TRUTH number is THE mental health number being flashed across the bottom of FOX and other major TV news channels. Ann told me they are flooded with calls.

She explained that this is the result of the Volunteer Ministers working at ground zero. Out of the 120 relief volunteers at ground zero, 40 are Scientology Volunteer Ministers. This direct contact is how the 1-800-FOR-TRUTH number became THE mental health number to call."

The news appears to have been disseminated widely within Scientology through official internal channels. A Florida Scientologist e-mailed fellow Scientologists to tell them:

"Last night the Solo Supe[rvisor] at Flag announced that the TV channel Fox called the Church to see if we were going to be in charge of the mental health up there and that there is a crawler at the bottom of the TV channel telling people who are distressed to call the DN [Dianetics] hot line and they are getting bombarded with calls! Awesome! This is a major way to really explode Scientology. Now is the best time to do something on the 4th Dynamic if there ever was!"

In another indication of Scientology's rivalry with psychiatrists at the scene, Peter McCuen of the Advanced Saint Hill Organisation Florida asked "what happened with the psychs who had been 'In-Charge'?". The answer, he said, was that "since we jumped in so quickly, confronted what was needed and then started providing it, even the psychiatrics [sic] viewed us as the leaders. So, they started asking us what they should do." Another Scientologist wrote of how the Volunteer Ministers displaced a psychiatric counseling service: "At the relief station at a nearby high school, some psychs had a table set up. They were not doing anything; one of them just sat there staring into space. Since the table wasn't in use, the VMs started putting drinks and snacks on it. The chief of security for the location came by and suggested that the VMs just take down the counseling sign and put up one for drinks and snacks, so they did. The VMs reported that the drink table got a lot more business after that!"

Another dubious activity involved the mingling of Scientologist and medical relief efforts. A Volunteer Minister reported: "We set-up an area for assists right there next to the medical area — outside. We put out 3 cots and we started body routing people in for nerve assists." Faith healing of the kind represented by Scientology "assists" — which have no medical legitimacy — is unlikely to have much positive effect in a medical situation, despite Hubbard's bogus claims that 70% of ailments are psychosomatic. At best, the "assists" would have been more or less useless; at worst, they could have distracted and perhaps diverted the genuinely needy away from more reliable treatment from genuine medical personnel.

Some of Scientology's other activities in Lower Manhattan appear to have been rather more defensible. Around 800 Scientologists, from all over North America, are claimed to have turned up in New York to help the effort. Not long after the rescue operation had begun, yellow-shirted Scientologist Volunteer Ministers took over the evacuated buildings of Stuyvesant School to run a receiving facility for Ground Zero workers, about quarter of a mile from the disaster area. Here, they gave Scientology "assists" and "locationals" to stressed-out Ground Zero workers. According to Peter McCuen, "at least 300 firemen, policemen and other rescuers [were] serviced by the VMs on the first night alone." He wrote of the example of a firefighter who visited the Scientologist facility to unload his distress at the death of an individual who was probably Father Michael Judge, Chaplain of the New York Police Department, subsequently recorded as fatality 0001 of the WTC attacks:

"One of our VMs gave him some assistance and got into 2-way-comm with him and he started crying. He said that his priest, who raised him and helped him through his career as a fireman, had died in the fire. His upset was that it wasn't right that a priest dies in a fire. He was thoroughly acknowledged by the VM and the fireman got it. In the course of the comm cycle the VM told the fireman that she was from the Church of Scientology. He went VGIs [Very Good Indicators] and said, "Oh, I know someone from Scientology!" She asked if it was a CCNY [Celebrity Center New York] staff member, who is a firefighter. He said, "No. The owners of the Goodfella's, an award winning pizza place that is owned by Scientologists." The firefighter told her that he would take her there after it was all over."

Some Scientologists appear to have had little time for the efforts of other relief agencies. Simon Hare of I-HELP Canada was scathing about the Red Cross: "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'. Thats [sic] 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."

Scientologists were active at the Pentagon, too. Peter McCuen wrote:

"A VM spotted that not all of those who were inside were getting out to get food. He found a golf cart and loaded it up with water, coffee and food and drove into the site of the work (right in front of the hole in the Pentagon). Although the area was strictly off limits, marked off and guarded, the VMs were allowed in. They went straight to the staging area with the food and drinks. The workers who had been inside were extremely thankful for the help.

The team of Scientology VMs soon became invaluable and was asked by the relief coordinators and executives within the Pentagon to actually come into the building itself. The VMs delivered coffee and other drinks and food to the personnel doing security duty in the portions of the building that were not damaged."

The Scientologists' efforts in Lower Manhattan have been exhaustively publicised by the Church since September 2001. Numerous claims have been made about the supposedly invaluable work done by Scientologists at Ground Zero. The claim that Scientologists were actually at Ground Zero has been disputed, not least by rescue workers who were present at the scene. According to a Scientologist woman passing on information from her daughter, a Scientology executive,

"There is a fence around the perimeter of Ground Zero where the World Trade Center used to be and only four categories of people are allowed inside:

  1. Police
  2. Firemen
  3. Red Cross workers
  4. Church of Scientology Volunteer Ministers."

But according to one of the Scientologists who was actually there, the Volunteer Ministers were not allowed into the "red zone" around the wreckage of the WTC. He wrote:

"There was a very large barricade there manned by both Police and Military and they absolutely refused to let us though. The SO [Sea Org] member in charge of the VM's 'snuck' about 5 of us in another way and on the way we gave out cold drinks to tired rescue workers. We stayed in the pier area right near the site for awhile, helping to unload TONS of supplies arriving by boat."

In truth, Scientology's activities in Lower Manhattan appear to have been relatively marginal. Despite the Church's publicity efforts, it is remarkable how little direct attention the Scientologist operation received from the media at the time. The New York Times did print a complimentary article on September 20th, which Scientology has cited and reproduced innumerable times since, but the article simply reports the claims of Scientology spokesman John Carmichael without any actual eyewitness observation of what was happening on the ground. There seem to be few if any published eyewitness accounts that have not emanated from Scientologists or the Church of Scientology — which, given historical precedents, is not the most trustworthy reporter.

Scientology's involvement in the relief efforts seem to have been mostly fairly harmless, if somewhat distasteful at points. The same cannot be said for its members' deliberate efforts to frustrate the mental health professionals attempting to deal with the human consequences of the 9/11 attacks. Their actions in trying to "tie up" the counsellors on the scene were reprehensible and explicable only by reference to an ideology that is pathologically hostile to any non-Scientology form of mental healing.

More broadly, though, Scientology's approach betrayed major weaknesses in its overall philosophy. Scientology's chief reaction to the 9/11 disaster was to promote itself; its main answer to the challenge of terrorism was more Scientology. David Miscavige's statement to Scientologists was devoid of any attempt to put the attacks in context or address their real origins, instead preferring to play up a literally incredible conspiracy theory implicating psychiatry as the puppetmaster of violent Islamism. Nor did he make any attempt to reach out to other faiths. Indeed, he condemned them all as having "failed". The solution to the terrorism problem was not increased outreach between religions, nor peace in the Middle East; true peace could not be achieved unless the Suppressive Persons behind the conflict (meaning Scientology critics and, especially, psychiatrists) could be "shattered". 73 million copies of The Way To Happiness, many of which have been distributed in Israel, are unlikely to achieve much beyond being turned into landfill. In short, Miscavige's response, and Scientology's as a whole, is completely divorced from reality. The world does not work as Scientology envisages it. There is no hidden conspiracy of psychiatrists to run and ruin the world. Scientology does not have "millions" of members; its reputation is poor and its political standing marginal. If Scientology has nothing to offer the world other than its own recycled dogma, it doesn't seem very likely that it will ever manage to become anything other than marginal — in a very real sense, the Church's self-absorption and obession with psychiatric conspiracies is marginalising Scientology itself.