In times of desperation, people will try just about any solution they can find, especially if it’s supported by their church. And it’s not a new concept that religious institutions sometimes abuse their power of influence over desperate or disadvantaged people to make a quick buck or for personal gain. Whether it’s sexual abuse by members of the clergy, religious pyramid schemes, or televangelist fundraisers, the exploitation continues. But the fact that widespread abuse administered or promoted by religious leaders is, to some extent, tolerated leaves me dumbfounded.
On March 4 the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation aired on The Fifth Estate (their “premier investigative program”) a story about widespread poisoning by religious “healers.” In the episode titled “True Believers,” host Mark Kelley investigates a trend of religious healing that requires the sick to ingest a solution of chlorine dioxide numerous times a day with the promise that they will be cured of whatever ails them. The solution, called the Miracle Mineral Supplement or MMS for short, is essentially a mixture of bleach and water to be taken every hour for a certain number of days depending on the specific ailment.
According to Jim Humble, creator of the MMS treatment program and founder of the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, the treatment will cure everything from AIDS to Ebola to the common cold. Humble (can that name be real?) claims he’s been sent to earth from a “Planet of the Gods” in the Andromeda galaxy on a mining mission, at which point he discovered the miracle cure. In order to have access to his healing potion, followers pay a membership fee of $35. The treatment was first advertised to poor families in Haiti and the Dominican Republic as a low-cost solution to their medical needs.
The trend for this “miracle” solution has grown beyond the church. The chlorine dioxide treatment has become a popular treatment for children with autism. Kerri Rivera, a follower of Humble, has promoted the use of MMS for improving the behavior of autistic children through CDAutism.org (where CD stands for chlorine dioxide) and the book Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism. What she neglects to mention is that the CD treatment has not been proven to have any positive effect as a treatment to any illness. The website also doesn’t show the very dangerous side effects of MMS or that Health Canada has released seven public warnings since 2010 against ingesting chlorine dioxide.
According to a Health Canada case study on the effects of sodium chlorite toxicity, a sixty-five-year-old man who accidently ingested the mixture experienced diarrhea and vomiting, and he suffered from acute kidney injury among other injuries.
Saskatchewan-based artist April Griffin, an autism advocate and part of a larger network of advocates against MMS (and autistic herself with three autistic children), expressed fear that children are being poisoned and abused. “I’m worried that those kids are being tortured,” she said on The Fifth Estate. “I don’t think it’s okay to just try anything because it’s autism. Because of the stigma with autism, we will accept things happening to an autistic child that would never be allowed to happen to a normal child. If somebody heard that a normal kid is getting bleach enemas from their mother, social services is going to be at their house in twenty minutes.”
This problem isn’t Canada’s alone. The United States has taken steps to crack down on the production and distribution of this harmful substance. Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Ben Mizer has been monitoring this trend in efforts to stop its spread in here. Despite the danger of these “healing” solutions, they are available online and being bought and sold for a hefty profit by religious scammers, despite several attempts to stop suppliers. Not only is this “treatment” harming those who are using it, it’s preventing them from seeking legitimate medical treatment.
Every day, science is making progress in medicine and working toward cures and treatments for our society’s most harmful diseases, but we have a long way to go. In the meantime, corrupt religious leaders are taking advantage of medicine’s shortcomings and preying on the ignorance and desperation of their followers. Abuse of religious power is nothing new, but if it is to stop, we must encourage religious followers to educate themselves on the topics they don’t understand. As we support scientific efforts to provide solutions, relief will only come from reason and understanding, not blind faith.