Scientologists in Haiti: A Firsthand AccountS

We've spoken to someone who traveled to Haiti on a Scientology plane — and witnessed firsthand the ineptitude, quackery and irresponsibility of the church's minions in a disaster zone. Here's his account.

I arrived at JFK last week, ready to go.

I knew we were traveling with doctors and EMTs, but I didn't expect to see 50 scientologists, in their yellow shirts with Volunteer Minister on them. They were completely unprepared for going to a third world country, let alone a disaster zone. One girl was in designer cowboy boots. I asked her if she'd brought any sturdier footwear.

"Oh no, these'll be fine."

I asked another guy what he'd packed and he said he hadn't bothered to bring soap or toilet paper or food, but that he'd just "buy whatever I need at Port-au-Prince airport." I couldn't break it to him.

They had no place to stay, and no supplies — their idea was to use the ton of money they had to buy food to distribute when they got there. But there was no food and no water. That was the point.

By the time we arrived in Haiti, after a stopover in Miami, we had missed three landing slots at the airport. Aid agencies — genuine aid agencies — from other countries were being turned away, refused permission to land. But we still got a slot straight away. The guy who ran our charter seemed to think that the Scientologists had some real influence with the US Government, who were assigning the slots.

The doctors and EMTs in our party headed straight downtown to start working. The Scientologists had nowhere to go, and nowhere to put up the big yellow tent they'd brought for touch healing people in. They went to the UN, and managed to get on to their list of approved NGOs somehow. That meant they could set up in the UN grounds.

But they had no-one who spoke Creole, and they brought the weirdness of touch healing into a very superstitious society. They'd leave the tent and come into the general hospital downtown, and try healing people. One of the doctors and one of the nurses told me that the wounded started coming to them to tell them they didn't want to be treated by the people in the yellow shirts.

One nurse told me that the Scientologists actually caused harm — they gave food to people who were scheduled to go into surgery. That then led to complications in the operating theater.

On the way back, the plane stopped in Miami and did not go on to New York, stranding all the doctors and EMTs and journalists who expected to get back. After much fighting, the Scientologist representative agreed to fly any of the EMTs that "absolutely couldn't afford the ticket" on Jet Blue from Fort Lauderdale. I heard there were complications but had bought my own ticket because I was fed up with their weirdness.