The ship allegedly provides "a religious retreat ministering the most advanced level of spiritual counseling," which apparently also includes a four-day standstill due to measles.
For those familiar with the Church of Scientology and its controversial Sea Org initiative, the religion’s penchant for cruise ship expeditions is familiar territory. For those who aren’t familiar, Sea Org is something of a private naval force owned and operated by the most important members of the Church of Scientology and provides courses and seminars at sea.
According to The New York Times, however, one of these ships was under strict quarantine in St. Lucia for an onboard measles outbreak.
The Caribbean nation prohibited passengers and crew members from disembarking as the United States is currently experiencing the largest outbreak of measles in 25 years with 700 reported cases. It, therefore, seemed unwise to allow a cruise ship filled with infected Scientologists to come ashore.
“Because of the risk of potential infection, not just from the confirmed measles case but from other persons who may be on the boat at the time, we thought it prudent to make a decision not to allow anyone to disembark,” the nation’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Merlene Fredericks-James said.
The ship remained docked for four days until around midnight on Thursday when it set proverbial sail to the west of the island. To Dr. Fredericks-James’ point, Scientology’s standing in terms of medication, even vaccines, are unclear. Actively bringing the measles on land was, in her mind, irrational.
“They’re subject to the sovereignty of St. Lucia,” Fredericks-Jones told Time. “To the extent that St. Lucia has the ordinary range of public health laws that everyone else in the Caribbean has, I’m sure that there is national legal authority for (quarantine) and no international objection to it.”
In a statement on Thursday, the St. Lucia Department of Health and Wellness revealed that the ship’s doctor requested and received 100 doses of the necessary vaccine. The department also confirmed that all passengers and crew members were stable.
The St. Lucia Coast Guard identified the ship as the Freewinds — a vessel owned and operated by the Church of Scientology. The organization described this 440-foot ship as “a religious retreat ministering the most advanced level of spiritual counseling.”
Scientology has been thoroughly scrutinized in recent years for its alleged abuse of members, horrid living and work conditions, and the pseudo-scientific technologies it uses to assess how spiritually tainted or healthy its members are.
Most notably, actress Leah Remini developed a television show exploring the religion’s protocols, detailing her own experience as a formerly devout member. According to Newsweek, the outspoken activist has called this measles outbreak a potential “blessing in disguise” for those looking to leave the Church.
“This outbreak could be a blessing in disguise because maybe some people can get off this ship of horrors,” she said. “Circumstances like this give an opportunity for some agencies or authorities to gain access to this ship beyond what would normally be offered.”
Remini left the Church in 2013 and subsequently exposed how the organization categorizes non-members or critics as “suppressive people,” and questioned the strange disappearance of Scientology leader David Miscavige’s wife, Michele.
The Church described being aboard the Freewinds as the “pinnacle of a deeply spiritual journey,” where members can reach the organization’s most advanced level of spirituality — New OT VIII. For Remini, this quarantine was a chance for members feeling trapped to speak out, escape, and address authorities.
“They don’t know that they have a place to go,” she said. “They don’t know there are people out here who are willing to literally take these people in and help them. They have no way of contacting us. When you really look at it, they need someone to care.”
While every passenger aboard the Freewinds is, by all accounts, there voluntarily, the Church of Scientology has been known to psychologically manipulate and physically detain its members — making it difficult to truly assess just how humane or compassionate the treatment aboard these vessels really is.
Mike Rinder, a former senior executive at the Church and highly outspoken activist since his departure, strongly concurred with Remini’s stance.
“If nobody asked they’d never get the opportunity to say, ‘yes,'” he said. “Would they (leave)? I don’t know. They have been very, very mind controlled and taught to believe that if they’re in a bad place it’s being created by their own ill acts.”
In terms of the church’s position on vaccines, the president of the Church of Scientology in New York, Reverend John Carmichael, admitted that the religion’s stance is fairly averse.
Carmichael said Scientology fundamentally underlines “the harmful effects of drugs, toxins and other chemicals that lodge in the body and create a biochemical barrier to spiritual well-being.”
As it stands, the Freewinds has voluntarily left the port and continued its journey. Whether or not every person aboard is grateful for that, will likely remain unknown.