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Scientology luxury cruise ship remains locked down; Cult put thousands at high cancer risk

lilly_von_marcab's picture

Six weeks after public health authorities on the Caribbean island of Curaçao (Netherlands Antilles) impounded the Scientology cult's 440-foot luxury liner "Freewinds," the ship remains locked down. Experts advise that decontaminating the ship would cost millions of dollars and may not even be possible. Meanwhile, the cult continues to solicit funds for cruises that will not happen.

After the ship was quarantined on April 26, the Curaçao Drydock Company was contracted to carry out refurbishment and repairs. The contamination was so extensive that the company decided that the risk to its workers was too great, and ceased operations. At that point Scientology sent a team of its "Sea Org" internal paramilitary force to clean the ship themselves. They are bringing the blue asbestos by the truckload to dump at the island's Selikor landfill site at Malpais.

Incredibly, top leaders of the Scientology cult were informed of the pervasive contamination back in 1987, but chose to do nothing. Until the 1960s, when the Freewinds was built, blue asbestos was often used in shipbuilding (it was not known at the time to be so carcinogenic). Former Scientologist Lawrence Woodcraft, a licensed architect by profession, supervised interior remodeling work on the ship in 1987 when the cult first purchased it. According to a legal affidavit made after Woodcraft left the cult in 2001, Woodcraft had notified Scientology officials immediately about the widespread blue asbestos and the dangers it posed. The response he received was that he should carry on with the work, and leave the asbestos where it was. Since Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard had never mentioned that asbestos was dangerous, they were not going to worry about it. Scientologists believe that disease is caused not by microbes or toxic substances, but by the presence of "suppressive persons" (SPs), or people who disagree with Scientology and its goals. Moreover, Scientologists believe that high-level Sea Org members cannot get cancer or any other disease.

Meanwhile, Scientology continues to promote cruises on the Freewinds, receiving large cash advances from Scientologist prospective passengers, who have been informed only that the ship is going through an ordinary refurbishment. Already, the cult has missed several planned sailing dates, but it continues to seek funds for voyages in the near future. According to Radar Online, the cult has scheduled conventions starting in July and running through November.

On May 1, the cult's spokesperson lied to Radar Online with the following "spin":

"The next cruise is scheduled for Thursday, May 8. Inspections done on April 15, 2008 and April 28, 2008 again confirmed that the air quality is safe, in accordance with the standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Clean Air Act." None of this, of course, was true.

The cult's promotional materials give further information about Scientology's advance-booking scheme:

"The new conventions calendar aboard the brand new Freewinds is out and we are looking forward to seeing you aboard! Look over the different conventions and let me know which convention(s) you plan to attend."

Yet all the extremely hazardous "cleaning" of the blue asbestos may be in vain. According to officials in the Netherlands' Ministry of Environment, which dealt with an asbestos-laden ship in 2006 that was eventually demolished, the cost to make Freewinds safe for passengers, if it is even possible, may run into many millions of Euros/dollars, probably more than the ship itself is worth.

The ship is used by Scientology for advanced training in "Operating Thetan" levels, for members who have paid fees of between USD$100,000 and $400,000, as well as for tax-deductible Caribbean cruises for its members and their families. Curaçao has been the ship's homeport since it was purchased by Scientology, as it is not permitted to dock in any US port.

Many Scientologist celebrities have spent time aboard the Freewinds, including Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Suri Cruise, John Travolta, Kelly Preston, Chick Corea, Lisa Marie Presley, Catherine Bell, Kate Ceberano, and Juliette Lewis. "Now" magazine reported that Tom Cruise has been urged to seek medical attention regarding potential asbestos exposure, however a representative for Cruise stated he has "absolutely no knowledge" of the recent asbestos controversy. Cruise, Holmes, Travolta and Preston have celebrated birthdays and other events on the Freewinds. Scientology has official "religion" status in the USA, which means that it is exempt from paying taxes, and that its members can declare any Scientology-related expense as tax-deductible.

Raw blue asbestos is the most hazardous form of asbestos, and has been banned in the United Kingdom since 1970. Blue asbestos fibers are very narrow and thus easily inhaled, and are a major cause of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a form of cancer which can develop in the lining of the lungs and chest cavity, the lining of the abdominal cavity, or the pericardium sac surrounding the heart. The cancer is incurable, and can manifest over 40 years after the initial exposure to asbestos.

"This is the most dangerous type of asbestos because the fibres are smaller than the white asbestos and can penetrate the lung more easily," said toxicologist Dr. Chris Coggins in a statement published in "OK! Magazine." Dr. Coggins went on to note that "Once diagnosed with mesothelioma, the victim has six months to a year to live. It gradually reduces lung function until the victim is no longer able to breathe and dies."

The Scientology cult was founded in 1950 by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. Its primary goal is to "clear the planet" by "obliterating psychiatry." Scientology's many front groups include the Citizens' Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), Criminon, Narconon, and Applied Scholastics. Scientology claims to be the "world's fastest growing religion," with some 8 million members, but mainstream demographic surveys have shown that the number of members is closer to 55,000 worldwide, and declining. Scientology is currently under investigation in several countries for a variety of human rights abuses, including child abuse, violation of child labor laws, kidnapping and running secret internal prison camps, as well as for a number of financial crimes.

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Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
It should also be noted that she wasn't built as a cruise ship but was originally a ferry, with deck levels for vehicles that were rebuilt when she was converted. The blue asbestos is not just an insulator but also used for fireproofing, a higher requirement when the ships purpose was carrying fueled vehicles which are a fire hazard. She's laden with more than the usual amount of asbestos for this reason. She's literally dripping with it. Lawrence Woodcraft's 2001 declaration is a good read, Google freewinds+asbestos and it'll be the first hit. There's even photos from the past out there that show Sea Org members using dust masks and paint scrapers cleaning the asbestos in areas of the ship that they were working on. Many, many people have had direct exposure in this manner. This saddens and outrages me deeply.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
The cult won't admit to any of this because it would be an admission of guilt. They have known for decades what they were exposing their members to, actually charged them for the opportunity to be knowingly exposed to a very aggressive carcinogen. This is just one of several lawsuits looming in the cult's future.

Submitted by Galt (not verified) on
NiK, I am a Scientologist. Not really affiliated with the Church organization, but I do use Scientology daily. I guess to me, a lot of this stuff going around the net about How Bad Scientology Is or Must Be is pretty dumb, considering the benefit I have gotten out of it. Yes, I have not gone uber-far in Scientology, and I anticipate being knocked for that here, but come on, I am a human being. I don't hate any nay-sayers, but I can say with all my heart that Scientology has majorly improved my life. I guess what I would like to say to people out there, even the nay-sayers, is that if the "upper level" stuff of Scientology rubs you wrong, it really is such a tiny little part of Scientology in "day to day life" and the benefits you'll get from even basic stuff that DOESN'T require going into a Scientology center of any sort (such as reading "A New Slant On Life"...great stuff in there, whether you're Christian, Buddhist, Agnostic or whatever). But give it an honest whirl. If you are a "basher," at least get some basic Scientology under your belt so you may understand what the actual majority of it is about. In short, it's super-helpful, super-useful stuff. - Galt

Submitted by Galt (not verified) on
Anthony, Not true, bro. Built right in to Scientology is "what's true is what's true for you," that is to say, observe. This is the same thing Gautama Buddha taught in the form of "just see." I am initmately aware of the claims and so on of upper-level Scientology. I cannot say "yes they work," or "no they do not work," although I can tell you that the Scientology courses, auditing and reading I have done have been immensely helpful. I guess my "bone of contention" is that there is SO much focus on SO little of Scientology, and people who really know only the "most scandalous" information and act on that are missing a boatload of great lower-level stuff that really can be used immediately to improve one's life and environment in a way that no other body of information can readily match. The focus on so little would be like someone going around saying "Christians think you can walk on water!" or other such supposedly "shocking" distortions. It's just false stuff and completely misses the point of Christianity, as any Christian would likely point out. So to answer your question, I am aware of the claims but the picture being painted of a legion of brainwashed individuals "yes"-ing and marching in lockstep is quite false. - Galt

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
I think that before you sink more money into Scientology, you should take a hard look at the legal records, court documents, ex-member testimonies, criminal prosecutions, and even the upper level beliefs in LRH's own handwriting that are available both online and in government records. I mean...if it comes directly from LRH in his own writing and is verified, it's not a lie, right? And court documents and legal records aren't forged unless you believe there's some large scale government conspiracy. Listen, it's YOUR religion, right? Don't you have a right to know it then? Your scriptures and beliefs are right there in the open and all over the internet for you to see and use if you believe they can help your life. Why is everyone else allowed to read them and you, who actually believe they can help you, aren't? And doesn't it strike you as odd that so many people protest? Doesn't that make you the least bit curious as to why? Scientology's tech is supposed to raise your IQ, so USE your mind. Just because someone tells you something doesn't mean it's true. Do some research for yourself, take a look at both sides. But back on target. Anonymous, the critics, and the Scientology protesters aren't protesting the beliefs of Scientology or the tech. If you believe it helps you and makes you a better person, then awesome. What we're protesting are the documented crimes and human rights abuses of the organization of Scientology. As a Scientologist, you're supposed to be an ethical person focused on the betterment of all humanity. What do you have to say about Scientology's leadership who have known the Freewinds had a problem with asbestos for decades (as per legal testimonies of former members before this news broke proving them correct) and knowingly exposed thousands of people to the cancer causing material? Why would they do this to their own believers? Why would Scientology's leadership ignore the experts who said the asbestos on the ship was too extensive to remove safely and send in their own Sea Organization members who have no training in this highly dangerous task? Isn't that unsafe for their own people? Why do they put them at risk? If Scientologists are the most ethical people on earth and dedicated to the betterment of humanity, why do they have an RPF? Do you know what the RPF is? Does forced labor and a separation from family and friends really make someone a better person? Why do they have to suffer for things like wanting to leave Scientology because they decided it wasn't working for them? Why is there an RPF for children? Shouldn't children be in school or raised by parents who care and love them if they're having problems instead of being sent away to from home to be in a labor camp? If the tech works for you, then I am happy you found something to help. But that doesn't change the practices of the organization of Scientology or it's leadership with it's documented criminal actions and human rights abuses, most of which are leveled at it's own people. Free Zone Scientologists also believe in the tech, but many protest the CoS with Anonymous because they know this isn't about beliefs, but about how the CoS harms people and they want it to stop. If Scientology has the potential to help people and you really want to make a difference in the world, then look to your own people. Do the research. It's not okay to harm and I think it's sick and terrifying that a religion could do something like this to people who trust and believe in it.

Submitted by luana1980 on
The Freewinds left port more than a week ago and had a christening ceremony with hundreds of guests (after refit of the main decks, concert hall, dining rooms etc) last weekend. Since then there had been events and guests on the ship every day to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the ship's "Maiden Voyage" in 1988. Those events are being recorded (as every year) and will be shown to hundred thousands of Churches of Scientology in the world within the next four weeks. So, "Lilly", what are you talking about?

Submitted by Galt (not verified) on
First, I want to thank you for "upping" the level of debate. Your tone and consideration are much appreciated, and I wish the discourse on the net at large looked like yours. To address your points: 1. Court cases, ex-members, controversy: Believe me, I've seen and read plenty of ex-member stuff. I can see how they got where they got. Ex-staff being worked hard, etc. But I don't really buy that they had the "little to no fault" that they portray themselves as having. There are lots of staff in similar positions (of which I count friends from my past) who are doing fantastically. I am quite familiar through papers and so on of a variety of legal controversies and unfortunate events. I have learned hard lessons from Scientology, and in my personal experience, following the "what's true is what's true for you," I have not yet come upon a hard truth in my course of studies that has met with my disagreement. Put into action, what I've studied has categorically worked, including teachings on ethics and so on. 2. Right to know upper level stuff: what is de-emphasized by ex-members is that a lot of the "advanced level" teachings are RIGHT THERE in the Tech Dictionary. Surely one or more of them have an old Tech Dictionary. It's not unknown. Just because we are supposed to hang tight for details isn't a substantial point. The point of substance is simply the belief or knowledge that you are an eternal spiritual being. You may not buy that. I do believe it, and so do Buddhists (almost exactly the same) and Christians (who believe in the "one-life-and-eternity-in-heaven" flavor of spiritual eternity). So Scientology in that regard is fairly in accord with other major religions. If you "buy" that you are eternal, then the idea that stuff happened "back in the day" is no big stretch. So hanging tight for details doesn't particularly bother me, as the story is readily available to any Scientologist who comes across a few dictionary entries. Ex-Scientologists got my BACK on this one, YO! Trust. 3. RPF: Yup, have eye-witnessed it. They do this in the military too, it's the old peeling potatoes or digging holes and filling them back in. Nothing new here...can you agree with that, at least in principle? One thing on this: dude, you say "children." Do you honestly believe that is a fair and representative statement? Like there are hordes of seven year olds doing hard labor in some camp somewhere? There are teens who are on staff with the Church and, having done whatever unethical thing which landed them in RPF make up for it and move on. But those are teens, not five year olds. Would you agree that is a more fair statement? In my personal opinion, you have plain and simply been fed good-sounding distortions on the net. Miss-the-mark stuff that uses the terminology and structures the sentences right, but misses the essence of the concepts. Anyways, the above probably isn't detailed enough, and I am happy to continue trying to come to a peaceful understanding with you. All I can say is that having done my fair share of Scientology training, I am much much better for it. Fair enough thus far? - Galt


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