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Jefferson Hawkins: What those Scientologists in yellow T-shirts at a disaster scene really want


Jefferson Hawkins was once the top marketing executive for the Church of Scientology and helped it reach its greatest extent with the famous “volcano” TV ads in the 1980s. He’s told his tale of getting into and out of the church with his excellent books Counterfeit Dreams and Leaving Scientology, and he’s previous written a series about Scientology “ethics” for the Underground Bunker.

One of the most cynically opportunistic recruitment methods in Scientology is what L. Ron Hubbard called the “Casualty Contact.” He detailed this method in a number of bulletins in the 1950s and 1960s.

In a Professional Auditors Bulletin of 28th Feb, 1956, he says,


Every day in the daily papers one discovers people who have been victimised one way or the other by life…One takes every daily paper he can get his hands on and cuts from it every story whereby he might have a preclear…

He should represent himself to the person or the person’s family as a minister whose compassion was compelled by the newspaper story concerning the person. He should then enter the presence of the person and give a nominal assist, leave his card which states exactly where church services are held every Sunday and with the statement that a much fuller recovery is possible by coming to these free services takes his departure…

Some small percentage of the persons visited or their families will turn up in his group. Thus he will build a group and naturally from that group he will get a great many individual preclears.

He mentioned this again three years later, in an HCO Bulletin of 15th September, 1959:

A fruitful source of HAS [Hubbard Association of Scientologists] Co-Audit is casualty contact. This is very old, is almost never tried and is almost always roaringly successful, providing the auditor goes about it in roughly the right way. Using his Ministers 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 souls, to find himself wonderfully welcome. Ministers almost never make such rounds. Some hospitals are strictly against this sort of thing, but it’s only necessary to find another. It’s fabulous what one can get done in a hospital with a touch assist and locational processing.

He instructs these “ministers” to always have a business card and hand it out, and to have an answering service to handle the calls and give people the course schedule. He notes that

…your statement, “the modern scientific church can cure things like that. Come around and see.” will work. It’s straight recruiting!

Straight recruiting! Yes, get in there and find unfortunate people who are sick or who are the victims of accidents and tell them “Scientology can cure that!” Nothing opportunistic about that at all.

In the legal field, that’s known as “ambulance chasing” and is frowned upon – in fact, it’s illegal in the US and many other areas. It’s considered highly unethical to prey on victims of disasters, diseases or accidents. In Scientology – not so much. It’s considered “straight recruiting.”

OK, you say, but that was 1959. Certainly they don’t do that anymore. Oh, but of course they do. It just has a bright new marketing package devised by Hubbard, called the Volunteer Minister Program. It’s the old “casualty contact” caper with a new packaging.

Jefferson_Hawkins_ObeyThe Volunteer Ministers are dispatched to a high-profile disaster area – a major hurricane or flood or tsunami or school shooting, or whatever is in the news. There they don bright yellow T-shirts or jackets, set up a bright yellow tent, and begin doing “touch assists” and “nerve assists,” handing out booklets, and talking to people about Scientology. And you know they are “finding ruins” and telling people “Scientology can handle that,” as described in my first article in this series. Straight recruiting. Or as Hubbard puts it,

As the benefits of the Volunteer Minister program begin to spread throughout the society, a rank and file of people that have been helped will begin to accumulate. These people will begin to feed into missions and Churches of Scientology from wherever the Volunteer Minister has been at work.

The brilliant thing about the Volunteer Minister caper is that it not only puts a nice altruistic spin on the activity for non-Scientologists and the press, it also makes it attractive to Scientologists themselves. Where they might have been turned off by the obviously cynical opportunism of the “casualty contact” program, they can take pride in participating in a program that seems so altruistic and self-sacrificing – helping the victims of disasters. And they are helping to bring people into Scientology as well, a win-win in their eyes as a true believer.
I genuinely believe that most Scientologists are decent, good people. For many of us, it was our genuine desire to help others that first attracted us to Scientology. To a Scientologist, using Scientology to help people in a disaster area seems like the best possible thing one could do. They really believe this, and I think the people on the ground are sincere in their desire to help others with no thought of personal reward.

I also think they are not aware of how cynically they are being manipulated by Scientology.

For instance, why the yellow T-shirts, yellow jackets and yellow tents? Why yellow?

Because the color yellow pops out in photographs. It’s highly visible. That was a conscious decision made when these things were designed. I know, I was in Scientology’s Marketing Division when these decisions were being made. The main consideration was optics. How was it going to look.

How much money does the Church of Scientology spend on these disaster relief efforts? Nothing. Zilch. The individual Scientologists are expected to pay their own way, including their transport to and from the disaster area. Or wealthy Scientologists are convinced to contribute money to fund the expedition. Or John Travolta is convinced to donate his plane. What comes directly out of Church coffers? Nothing.

How much organizational thought and planning goes into these efforts? Again, nothing. There is no thought given to what the area might need or what would actually help the disaster victims. The Volunteer Ministers come in with their own preconceived Scientology notion of what people “need.” They do “touch assists” and “nerve assists” (which are borderline inappropriate touching) and hand out Scientology literature. Because they come in with the fixed idea that what these people “need” is Scientology.

What about food, water, or clothing? Again, the Church provides nothing. Sometimes, on rare occasions, they piggy-back on other relief efforts, transporting or distributing food or water provided by other organizations. But no thought or effort goes into discovering what the disaster victims might actually need, and providing that.

What does Scientology make sure to provide? Photographers and videographers. The internal instructions to carry out one of these activities always include one vital target: Make sure everything is photographed and videoed, with those bright yellow T-shirts and tents highly visible. Any Volunteer Minister effort that dared to return without voluminous photographic evidence for use in press releases and promotional videos would be in big trouble!

And the main Church of Scientology activity comes after the event – preparing glossy press releases and editing slick videos to convince the world how much Scientology is “helping.”

Scientology isn’t helping. Volunteer Ministers aren’t helping. When you strip away the packaging and marketing, it’s just “straight recruiting.” It’s Hubbard’s cynical and opportunistic “casualty contact” in brand new clothes.

Yellow ones.

— Jefferson Hawkins


Was ‘Access Hollywood’ really sitting on a manic Tom Cruise interview for ten years?

How can we forget 2005? That was the year that Tom Cruise changed everything. Until then, the media here in the US was under a serious chill following the $416 million lawsuit against TIME magazine for its 1991 cover story on Scientology. (The lawsuit was dismissed, but not before TIME spent about $6 to $8 million defending itself.) Cruise’s handlers made sure no one asked him about Scientology. But then, after Cruise became super gung-ho in 2004, he fired his longtime publicist, hired his sister, and in 2005 went out to talk openly about Scientology. He also jumped on Oprah’s couch about his love for Katie Holmes, and we all got to see Tom, the crazed Scientologist, in his interview with Matt Lauer. Since it was Tom bringing up Scientology, it opened a flood of media coverage that only became more of an inundation after Tom’s infamous “black turtleneck” video showed up in 2008 and then his split with Katie Holmes happened in 2012.

And once again, a focus on Tom Cruise has created another tidal wave of publicity as Leah Remini exposes Cruise in her new memoir, Troublemaker. So it’s only now that Access Hollywood reveals that it recorded a manic interview of Cruise back in 2005 which mirrors, in a lot of ways, his crazy encounter with Matt Lauer? Really?

A memory comes back to us. When the Leah Remini/LAPD story broke in the summer of 2013, we spent a day being interviewed by various programs, including our one and only appearance on Access Hollywood. We’ll never forget that before we were put in front of a camera, we were interviewed by a woman at the program who put us through an interesting barrage of questions. “I’ve personally interviewed Tom Cruise,” she said, “And I don’t understand why his religion should be a story.” Oh, we handled that one just fine. We explained that the controversies of Scientology have nothing to do with “religion,” and that any group that splits up families, forces young women to have abortions, and otherwise terrorizes its own members with the prospect of expensive interrogations needs to be kept an eye on. Especially when it was using celebrities to forward its agenda. You should have seen her jaw drop open. “I had no idea,” she said at the end of that pre-interview. They then put your proprietor in front of a camera, and for half an hour after that segment was filmed, the crew sat around and peppered us with more questions. Clearly, the folks at Access Hollywood were a sheltered bunch.

When we saw the segment, we remember the correspondent saying something to host Billy Bush about his having done a big interview with Tom about Scientology. And remember, this was in 2013. But had they held back the best parts of that 2005 interview? Was Access Hollywood protecting Tom during that fateful manic period? We’re hoping someone with a better institutional memory of Access Hollywood can help us out. Is the program sitting on even better footage of Tom going off the rails back in 2005? Maybe someone there can leak it to us? Pretty please?

Anyway, here’s what they aired yesterday, and it’s so annoying the way they’ve chopped it up. Just show us the 2005 interview already. Or maybe they did back in the day, and they’re just fibbing that it’s never been seen before? We really don’t know. But the idea that a crazed Cruise in his Matt Lauer mode is still to be seen really gets us excited…




We didn’t get a chance to include photos in our book, so we’ve posted them at a dedicated page. Reader Sookie put together a complete index and we’re hosting it here on the website. Copies of the paperback version of ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ are on sale at Amazon. The Kindle edition is also available, and shipping instantly.

Our book tour is concluded for now. We’ll let you know about future appearances. Previous events: Santa Barbara (5/16), Hollywood (5/17), Orange County (5/17), San Diego (5/20), San Francisco (5/22), New York (6/11), Chicago (6/20), Toronto (6/22), Clearwater (6/28), Washington DC (7/12), Hartford (7/14), Denver (7/17), Dallas (7/20), Houston (7/22), San Antonio (7/24), Austin (7/25), Paris (7/29), London (8/4), Boston (8/24), Phoenix (9/15), Cleveland (9/23), Minneapolis (9/24), Portland (9/27), Seattle (9/28), Vancouver BC (9/29), Sydney (10/23), Melbourne (10/25), Adelaide (10/28), Perth (10/30)


Posted by Tony Ortega on November 6, 2015 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of LA attorney and former church member Vance Woodward

UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield


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