A purported "miracle cure" for autism sold by a church is actually a chemical solution that amounts to nothing more than "industrial bleach," according to an ABC News report this week. The Genesis II Church of Health and Healing preached the elixir would be able to successfully treat the developmental disorder.
The news came as ABC News was set to televise an episode of "20/20" Friday night featuring the show's producers posing as church parishioners and testing the chemical solution among medical professionals.
By playing off the fears of parishioners looking for an answer to autism, which may have impacted them or a loved one, the church was able to sell millions of its "miracle cure" kits worldwide.
"This is a high-strength industrial bleach. It really scares me that people would give this to their kids because it is a poison," Dr. Paul Wang, the senior president of Autism Speaks, an advocacy organization in the United States that has been a source of funding directed towards the causes and treatment of autism, told ABC News. "You can’t blame any parent for wanting to help their child. In this case, we just want to make sure that everybody understands MMS (the Church’s chemical solution) is not a cure."
The Genesis II Church refers to itself as a "non-religious church of healing set up to serve mankind." Though the church’s "restoration center" is said to be headquartered in Santa Marta, Columbia, its mission is to "bring health to the world" at its several locations across the globe.
Its creator Jim Humble, a man who calls himself an archbishop and claims to have come to Earth from another galaxy, introduced his first of four books about the supposed healing solution titled "Master Mineral Solution of the Third Millennium" and published in 2010.
On the website’s homepage, the Genesis II Church posted several videos of people professing that the "miracle cure" worked for them and asked for a “60 dollar donation” for the chemical solution.
"Vulnerable, desperate people are always going to be targets for con men. There’s a lot of money to be made from them," Dr. Steven Novella of the Yale School of Medicine told ABC News.
Recipients of the "cure" have previously voiced their concerns about experiencing side effects such as diarrhea and nausea after taking it, church authorities responded that they need not worry. Instead, the church said, these were signs the elixir was working.
Federal prosecutors said the chemical solution could certainly not be a used to cure any human ailments. Rather, it would be more appropriate for use as a cleaning solution for swimming pools or household appliances.
Because it is illegal to sell similar false cures under federal law, Humble moved to Mexico to avoid being convicted like other officials from the objectively eccentric church have been already.
Louis Daniel Smith sold bottles of the same "cure" online for $9.99 in Spokane, Washington under a company called "Project Greenlife" from 2007-2011. He was found guilty on five federal counts, including "introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce with intent to defraud or mislead," and sentenced to 51 months in prison in October 2015, according to the United States Department of Justice.
Though Smith was not a member of the church, Genesis II supporters came to his aid by providing emotional support and raising money for his legal defense online.
There is no known cure for autism, which is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the United States, according to a 2014 Center for Disease Control and Prevention report.