Scientology cruiseship in asbestos controversy

No, we’re not going for the obvious “which is the two is more dangerous” angle… Instead, we look at a potentially lethal combination of the two.
Reports about the presence of asbestos on board the Freewinds, Scientology’s 40-year-old cruiseship, have been floating around for years.

A licensed architect, Lawrence Woodcraft was assigned to prepare detailed plans for remodeling the interior cabins and other spaces on the Freewinds following its purchase by Scientology in 1987. Shortly after arriving on the ship, he noticed a powdery blue fibrous substance under a layer of paint. Upon closer inspection, he recognized it to be “blue” asbestos, the most dangerous form of this carcinogen. Lawrence has written a sworn Declaration concerning this discovery, his attempts to alert Sea Org officers (including David Miscavige’s sister-in-law Bitty Miscavige) about the problem, and their refusal to remove it.
– Source: Introduction, Declaration of Freewinds’ architect, Lawrence Woodcraft, January 24, 2001

See also this transcript of video interview with Woodcraft, talking about the Freewinds.
The ship was purchased in 1984 by the Church of Scientology International. At the time, the Church stated:

CSI believed that an ocean-going vessel would be the most appropriate facility for ministering New OT VIII because this advanced level of religious service requires a completely safe, aesthetic and distraction-free environment and because L. Ron Hubbard, the religion’s founder, had researched and ministered the first OT levels aboard a ship in the late 1960s. A ship therefore would have particular religious significance to Scientologists
– Source: Flag Ship Trust Application for Recognition of ExemptionoffsitePDF file, IRS Form 1023, August 18, 1993

Now St. Martin newspaper The Daily Herald reports that

[d]uring refurbishing and reparatory work, which involved removing the ceiling and panelling on cruise ship Freewinds, blue asbestos was released and ended up in the ventilation system. Freewinds’ captain did not report this when it’s own personnel were working on the ship on the Mathey warf in Otrobanda
– Source: via, Apr. 29, 2008

Radar Online writes:

Reached via phone, a worker at the Curacao Drydock Company tells Radar that the ship has been docked and sealed and that a story about asbestos did run in the newspaper.

The boat is Scientology’s main, if not only training center for those seeking rise to the high position of OT VIII. Equipped with a gym, a hospital, a cinema, and a disco, it’s the party boat featured in the recently unearthed video featuring a boogieing Tom Cruise. There’s no telling how many aspiring Scientologist grandmasters and Acapulco shirt-sporting, thetan-shedding vacations were exposed to the toxic asbestos dust.
– Source: Cancer on the Lido deck: Scientology cruise ship rife with asbestos?, Radar Online, Apr. 30, 2008

Of course Scientology’s PR department is on the job. Spokeswoman Karin Pouw contacted Radar regarding its story:

[A] spokesperson for Scientology tells Radar the ship has not been locked up and is undergoing a planned overhaul, which will be finished on schedule.

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,” church spokesman tells Radar via e-mail.

Radar rightly places that information in context of the Church’s shifty approach to facts:

First, however, it needs saying that the church has issued misleading, though technically true statements about its actions in the past. When Radar last asked about the church hand-delivering legal threats to members of Scientology antagonists Anonymous, the spokeswoman below denied that lawyers were delivering legal threats. But someone representing the firms hired by the church was delivering DVDs and legal letters. This time, Radar e-mailed the spokeswoman as soon as we learned of the report of the Freewinds being locked up. Karin Pouw objected to the lack of time we gave her to respond and to the nature of the questions. She went on to say that Freewinds inspects its air quality but does not say government authorities performed these inspectors. We’ve asked for clarification and proof of the inspection results and will report on the response.
– Source: Scientology Responds, Radar Online, May 1, 2008

Blue asbestos is commonly thought of as the most dangerous type of asbestos.
It should be noted that the Church of Scientology makes all manner of fantastic medical claims.
In his bizarre video talk about Scientology, actor Tom Cruise stated, “Being a Scientologist, when you drive past an accident it’s not like anyone else. As you drive past you know you have to do something about it because you know you’re the only one who can help.”
In our opinion Scientology’s claims amount to quackery. But as the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Scientology should have been honest about the presence of asbestos on board of its cruiseship.

Read more about Scientology and asbestos on the forum
Research resources on Scientology
Religion News Blog’s Scientology news tracker & news archive

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday May 1, 2008.
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