In the immediate aftermath of the Haiti earthquake two weeks ago, it was widely reported that Scientologists – who Tom Cruise infamously stated are the only people who can help at the scene of an accident – were descending on the country to provide their own brand of assistance. Indeed, celebrity Scientologist John Travolta personally flew some of them in with his Boeing 707.
Now, admittedly the Scientologists did turn up with medical supplies, rations and doctors but, given the fact that L Ron Hubbard taught that Scientologists should exploit disaster and bereavement with a view to aquiring new recruts, and that Scientologists have a history of delivering "Touch Assists" (basically healing by touch) on the scene of past disasters like 9/11 and the 2005 tsunami, you'll be able to see why the Church's intervention in Haiti hasn't met with universal acclaim.
And now we learn that Scientology is in Haiti to stay, with a spokesperson telling The Times “I have no doubt that in some form or other there will be a church of Scientology here". This doesn't exactly help with claims that Scientology's Haiti operation is an entirely selfless affair – after all, there's nothing quite like a humanitarian disaster to help kick start a conversion drive. Although you have to wonder what one of the world's poorest countries really has to offer a religion that costs truth-seeking followers hundreds of thousands of dollars as they tread the path to enlightenment. One hopes they're not looking for new employees – if my interview with ex-worker Marc Headley is anything to go by, no level of desperation would turn that into a wise career choice.
Update: Gawker has a first-hand account from someone who travelled to Haiti on a Scientology plane. It seems they've generally been getting in the way and in some cases putting people in danger - at one point they seem to have given food to people who were due to go into surgery. Definitely worth reading.