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How drinking bleach became a Church ‘sacrament’

This fringe church has built a cult-like community around drinking bleach. Is it too late to stop it?

Jun 1, 2020, 8:16 am*

Tech

Colleen Hagerty 

Colleen Hagerty

“The coronavirus is curable, you believe that?”

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It’s a statement Mark Grenon has made repeatedly over the past few months while hawking a “sacramental” solution he claims will heal not just COVID-19, but also maladies ranging from herpes to AIDS.

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In reality, his “cure” is a form of bleach.

Grenon is a self-stylized “Archbishop ” and one of the founders of the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing. The Florida-based organization was created around the promotion of MMS, a chemical substance also known as “Miracle” or “Master Mineral Solution.” As described on the Church’s website, it’s a mixture of sodium chlorite and “food grade acid,” which creates chlorine dioxide, a powerful bleaching chemical.

To state that just once more—MMS is, as Grenon himself has admitted, bleach.

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Responding in part to Grenon’s “coronavirus is curable” claim, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, along with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Justice, have filed an injunction, forcing the Church to halt sales of its MMS kits and chemical solutions.

It’s a new approach for the agency, which has unsuccessfully warned against the substance for years as the Church promoted it with impunity. Over the past decade, it developed a cult-like following, utilizing internet forums and social media for promotion and charging hundreds of dollars to train up followers in its mixing and dosing “protocol.”

The resulting online army is now continuing to carry on the spread of MMS, with the Church’s blessing.

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“We haven’t sent out one sacrament since April 17, but guess what? Many have been sent out all throughout America and the world to people who need it from people we’ve trained,” Grenon said in a May Church broadcast, adding, “I love it. This is so good.”

The genesis of the Genesis II Church

According to Genesis II Church lore, Jim Humble “discovered” the healing properties of chlorine dioxide while gold mining in South America in 1996. On his website, Humble claims to have realized the mixture “cured malaria,” saying he “successfully treated” thousands of cases.

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“I think it’s safe to say MMS has the potential to overcome most diseases known to mankind,” reads the “Note from Jim Humble” on his current homepage. He says he went on to travel around the world to share his findings, able to address any ailment he encountered, from “aches and pains” and “allergies” to “dengue fever” and “dental issues.”

In 2006, Humble published his first book about his “findings.” One of his early converts was Mark Grenon, an American who says he was doing missionary work when he stumbled on Humble’s writing and started using MMS.

Screenshot of Mark Grenon in documentary about Genesis II Church of Health and Healing
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Grenon, in a recent YouTube interview, said he then reached out to Humble, and the two struck up a distant partnership. In 2010, they joined together to launch the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing together in Florida, where Grenon previously lived.

As described on the Church’s website: “We were formed to serve MANKIND [sic] directly. We want to bring health to the world. We will also serve MANKIND in other ways. We intend to help MANKIND extract himself from a world of death to a world of the living over the coming years.”

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Membership to the Church costs $35 initially and $20 annually after, with those who join receiving “membership cards” that the website asserts will protect them from “vaccinations, unwanted x-rays, scans, or health insurance,” while also affording them the the right to “purchase health products of all kinds in any quantity.”

This seems to hinge on the religious protections available in some U.S. states that allow for opting out of certain medical practices, such as vaccinations, and for the use of certain products, which are otherwise illegal, as sacraments.

“It wasn’t really about religion, it was in order to, in a way, legalize the use of MMS. Because we’re a church, you can’t arrest us from doing one of our sacraments,” Grenon said in that same YouTube interview of the rationale behind starting Genesis II.

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Or, as Humble put it at the time in a (now-archived) newsletter to supporters, “Look at the Catholics. Their priests have been molesting women and children for centuries and the governments have not been able to stop it. If handled properly, a church can protect us from vaccinations that we don’t want, from forced insurance, and from many things that a government might want to use to oppress us.”

A decade of mounting complaints

There was a reason behind the sudden need to “protect” themselves and MMS. After years of hawking the toxic solution, Humble was wracking up a number of complaints and attracting scrutiny from multiple governments.

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Australia, France, the United Kingdom, Kenya, and the U.S., among other countries, all issued warnings about MMS in 2010, the same year Humble and Grenon launched their church,. Government officials described severe side effects ranging from nausea and vomiting to respiratory and liver failure. Some also expressed intentions to prosecute suppliers.

“The FDA continues to investigate and may pursue civil or criminal enforcement actions as appropriate to protect the public from this potentially dangerous product,” the U.S. agency wrote at the time.

Still, throughout the next decade, interest in MMS continued to grow, as did the business of the Genesis II Church. Humble and Grenon’s Church began offering “sacrament kits,” which included the chemicals needed to mix up MMS. Then, they started hosting seminars and teaching in-person and video courses on how to properly follow what it calls the “protocol” of taking MMS.

Upon completion of these courses, which cost upwards of $100, participants would receive Church membership and a “Minister of Health Certificate with Reverend I.D. card.”

The Church positioned all of these purchases as “donations,” as Grenon recently explained in an interview. “You donate for a sacrament, same thing, you come down here to be trained up, you donate,” he said, citing IRS Code 508, which recognizes the tax-exempt status of churches. “It’s all donations. They [the U.S. government] hate that, because they can’t tax it.”

Even for those who didn’t “join” the Church, its online presence made learning about MMS incredibly accessible.

They provided free videos and written instructions showing how to properly measure out and mix the sodium chlorite and acid to make MMS, as well as suggestions on how much to consume and how often to take it. The general recommendation is to dilute drops of the substance in water. For some, they recommended diluting drops of the mixture to water and drinking the potentially toxic mixture as often as once an hour, eight hours a day.

As the popularity of the Church grew, so did the number of recorded MMS complaints to the U.S. government about brutal side effects. According to Business Insider, “dozens” have filed FDA reports, including allegations that ingesting the substance caused death.

At least one of those complaints implicated Louis Daniel Smith, who was arrested and subsequently imprisoned in 2015 for selling MMS. While Smith himself was not affiliated with the Church, he reportedly parroted its talking points, recommending MMS as a “cure-all” treatment for a range of illnesses. A website soliciting donations for Smith includes a now-deleted “Message from Jim Humble in support of Daniel Smith.”

In 2016, with criticisms mounting, Humble reportedly walked back some of his claims, saying to ABC News, “There are certainly times I have said some things that I probably should have said differently. For lack of a better way to express things at the time—or because others put words in my mouth, in the past I have stated that MMS cures most of all diseases. Today, I say that MMS cures nothing!” 

Per Humble’s website, he has since “retired” from the church, which is now “in the hands of Mark Grenon.” The site confusingly jumps between continuing to make statements such as “MMS has been known to stop both viral and bacterial diseases,” and, “It is important to note that MMS does not cure disease.”

A disclaimer at the bottom of the site further elaborates that, “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”

In 2019, the FDA said there was an “uptick” in MMS searches and social media posts, despite a number of platforms including YouTube purportedly banning MMS content and posts from the Church.

“The bottom line: Sodium chlorite products are dangerous, and you and your family should not use them,” stated the agency in another warning last year, though it took no action at the time to limit the Church’s sales.

USA v. Genesis II Church

However, when coronavirus started spreading across the United States, MMS became one of the FDA’s most famous targets in what it’s calling “Operation Quack Hack,” a coordinated effort to curb the sales of fraudulent, unproven, or potentially dangerous products marketed around the pandemic.

The injunction filings against the Genesis II Church trace claims of MMS’ ability to “cure” the coronavirus back to March. Posts on the Church website included specific dosing information for “treating” the virus, including adjustments to make for children.

“It should, it might even kick it [coronavirus] out the first day,” Grenon said in one of his broadcasts. His son, Joseph, added, “MMS will kill it.”

On April 8, the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent a warning letter to the Church, Jim Humble, Mark Grenon, and his sons, Joseph and Jordan.

“As described below, you sell products that are intended to cure, mitigate,
treat, or prevent COVID-19 in people,” the letter says, laying out a series of examples, including the recording mentioned above. “We request that you take immediate action to cease the sale of such unapproved and unauthorized products for the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of COVID-19.”

When that attempt failed to change the Church’s efforts, the Department of Justice went further, announcing on April 17 it had obtained a federal court order to “end” online sales of MMS through the Church and the Grenon family.

“Despite a previous warning, the Genesis II Church of Healing has continued to actively place consumers at risk by peddling potentially dangerous and unapproved chlorine dioxide products,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D in a press release. “We will not stand for this, and the FDA remains fully committed to taking strong enforcement action against any sellers who place unsuspecting American consumers at risk by offering their unproven products to treat serious diseases.”

In response, Grenon said in a broadcast he had reached out to President Donald Trump, asking him to “intervene” on behalf of the Church.

While there is no evidence Trump received the letter, days later, the President mentioned the power of disinfectants in fighting coronavirus during a press conference, saying, “And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning?”

Trump has since said his statement was “sarcastic,” but Grenon apparently missed the irony, sharing a video of it on his personal Facebook page, captioned, “Trump has got the MMS and all the info!!! Things are happening folks! Lord help others to see the Truth!”

Mark Grenon/Facebook

Following Trump’s remarks, poison control centers in multiple states reported an increase in activity, while outlets noted a spike in social media activity around MMS. As previously reported by the Daily Dot, MMS had already been gaining traction in fringe social media communities concerned about coronavirus.

While Facebook has since removed some of the groups posting about MMS, including those which claimed to be connected to the Church, others, such as “COVID-19 Corona virus Natural Remedies and Updates,” remain, offering recommendations for taking the product, along with specific directions for obtaining and administering it.

Other MMS enthusiasts have taken to the Telegram messaging platform. In one private channel, Business Insider uncovered posts from parents, who cited rashes and other illnesses they noticed in their children after they began giving them MMS. The Daily Dot has identified multiple public channels on Telegram that include conversations promoting, endorsing, or offering information on making MMS, including one from the Genesis II Church.

So, while the Church claims it has stopped selling MMS—the link to purchase products now takes you to a landing page saying they are “currently in prayer”—its influence is clearly ongoing.

MMS training programs are still sold on the site, as are the Church’s weekly broadcasts, which have as of late focused largely on pushing back against the continuing legal issues, mixed in with “testimonials” about the healing powers of MMS.

Grenon recently teased an upcoming interview with Judy Mikovits from the repeatedly denounced “Plandemic” viral video and began promoting his upcoming new book, which he promises will cover the Church’s response to coronavirus and “the FDA attacking us.”

The FDA told the Daily Dot it does not comment on open matters, pointing instead to an April press release about the temporary injunction. Since that announcement was published, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida has filed a motion to hold the Grenons in “contempt of court” due to their continuing comments about MMS.

But that has yet to impact on the Church’s message.

“The bottom line is, the bottom, bottom line is, take the protocol, it’s [coronavirus] gone,” Grenon said May 25.

And with information on where to buy it and how to take it easily available on social media and the Church’s website continuing to promote it unreservedly, it’s likely many people will continue to do just that, to potentially deadly effect.

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*First Published: Jun 1, 2020, 7:00 am