Do Scientology ‘volunteer ministers’ really help millions?
Hop across to this Scientology site, and you’ll see a claim guaranteed to raise eyebows:
Over the course of the past twelve months, hundreds of thousands trained in the skills of the Scientology Volunteer Minister reached out and helped others in times of disaster.
Their actions embodied the words of Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard: ‘A Volunteer Minister does not shut his eyes to the pain, evil and injustice of existence. Rather, he is trained to handle these things and help others achieve relief from them and new personal strength as well.’
Eyebrows, according to the Guardian, were certainly raised in the offices of the British Advertising Standards Authority when the cult – whoops, religion – broadcast a TV ad that made a similar claim.
It stated that the church works with “volunteers from many faiths” to help people, including “giving aid to 24 million in times of need”.
The commercial featured two Scientology volunteers carrying a person on a stretcher and another volunteer with a stethoscope holding a baby.
The Advertising Standards Authority received a complaint about the TV ad challenging whether the claim about the number of people it helps was misleading and could be substantiated.
The church said that the 24 million figure was based on the total number of individuals helped by volunteer ministers between 1998, when records started being kept, and 2014.
It added that the priority at a disaster site was to provide direct aid, in forms such as medical assistance, rescuing victims and providing food, water and shelter.
However, when the ASA asked for evidence of the aid given at various disaster sites it was only “anecdotal”.
The UK ad watchdog also raised concerns about how the data on the number of individuals who had been given aid had been calculated. It was also unclear as to what counted as “giving aid”.
Said the ASA:
It was also unclear whether the church had included the total number of people in a community in cases where general community work had been carried out and, if that was the case, we had concerns about whether that was an accurate method of calculating the number of people given aid
Furthermore, we had concerns that there appeared to be no checks in place to ensure that individuals who were given aid were not counted more than once towards the overall figure.
The ASA banned then banned the ad because it had not been provided with suitable evidence to back up the claim of helping 24 million people.
We concluded that the claim had not been substantiated and was likely to mislead viewers. We told the Church of Scientology International to ensure they held adequate evidence for any claims that viewers were likely to regard as objective and capable of substantiation.
The photo above, taken from the cult’s site, has this caption:
Scientology Volunteer Ministers in Haiti provided virtually any service asked of them, including helping military units transport the severely injured to hospitals for emergency medical care.
Hat tip: Peter Sykes