The American president Donald Trump, at a Covid-19 taskforce briefing on 23 April 2020, suggested that the ingestion or injection of disinfectant could “knock out” the novel coronavirus.
Dr Deborah Birx, the taskforce response co-ordinator, looked rather stunned and scientists and doctors soon took to social media to advise against this course of action. The media soon picked up on the claims of Mark Grenon that he had written to Trump just a few days before to outline his church’s belief that chlorine dioxide could kill 99% of pathogens in the body, including Covid-19.
Grenon is the “archbishop” of the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing (G2C). The organisation, which describes itself as a “non-religious church”, was founded by Jim Humble and his supporters in the United States in 2010 — although Humble had been promoting his idea long before that date.
His key idea, and the basis of the church, is that a form of bleach called chlorine dioxide (known as CD, chemical formula ClO2), can kill pathogens in the body that cause illness and that it should be ingested daily to maintain optimum health.
The ClO2 is produced through the mixing of two solutions (22% sodium chlorite dissolved in water with citric acid) which together make up the church’s “healing sacrament”, known as MMS (Master Mineral Solution, previously called Miracle Mineral Solution). It should be noted that the “church” claims that its sacramental substance is not a bleach, and claims that its suggested quantities are too small to constitute a bleach.
G2C says it is a non-religious church, founded to create a legal structure to protect the teachings of Humble. It claims to have been founded not to serve God, but to serve mankind — through “bringing health to the world” — although Christian references and Bible quotes are replete throughout its website, including in its name.
“Genesis 2” is said to refer to a “second beginning” and is linked to the church’s aim of restoring health, extracting mankind from the current “world of death’ to the “world of the living”. G2C members, the website suggests, help mankind through spreading their knowledge of MMS, revealing the cover-up of its benefits by “Big Pharma”.
(This is the idea that not only is the pharmaceutical industry motivated by money but also that it is actively contributing to the ill health of the population so that people are more compliant and in need of drug companies. At the more extreme end, it is tied to a belief in a government agenda of depopulation).
While G2C claims to have spread to over 135 countries, including the UK (with more than 3,000 members and 226 churches in 2018), its core beliefs, I suggest, are tied to the idea of a free American who can protect himself and his family from governmental oversight. This is exemplified in the ID cards that members are required to carry that state:
“This card signifies that this member of the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing has the God-given, unalienable right to control and maintain their personal health. All members are exempt from any means not chosen, including but not limited to: vaccinations, medications, X-rays, scans, implants, mandatory voting, and health insurance mandated by a human government or authority.”
This positions the group as having overlapping interests with a number of groups and ideas which voice scepticism about governmental policy positions and other “expert-based” interventions, known by those outside these networks as conspiracy theorists. However, card-carrying members of G2C might actually hold diverse and idiosyncratic positions on any particular issue.
Unsurprisingly, this “church” has courted controversy before now — not only in its claim that MMS is safe for all, from pregnant women, to babies, children and pets, and of course, for very sick people. Its claim that nausea and diarrhoea are evidence that the treatment is working is problematic.
Much of the recent controversy has focused on the use of MMS or ClO2 as a treatment for autism, particularly promoted by one G2C member, Kerri Rivera. In the UK and Ireland, there have been concerted campaigns against the use of MMS for the treatment of autism, most notably the work of the autistic rights campaigner Fiona O’Leary.
The US Food and Drug Administration, the UK Food Standards Agency and Health Canada have all issued warnings against the ingestion of MMS. It remains to be seen whether anyone — beyond the G2C’s membership — will attempt to use MMS as a cure for Covid-19.
Dr Sarah Harvey is the senior research officer for Inform and editor, with Eileen Barker, of the forthcoming Health and Healing in Minority Religions, to be published in the Routledge-Inform series on Minority Religions