The leader of Florida’s biggest sham “church” network peddling bleach as a miracle drug says he’s camped out in Colombia while his sons face arrest for allegedly selling a fake COVID-19 cure and threatening a judge with a “Waco”-style standoff.
For years, the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing has been at the center of a lucrative, world-wide network that claims—falsely—that drinking glorified Clorox can cure you of virtually any illness. The “church” (which is not religious, by its own admission) has raked in the cash promoting “Miracle Mineral Solution,” a bleach solution first popularized in 2006 by an ex-Scientologist who claimed to be an alien god. Ludicrous as the scheme sounds, it’s seen a recent surge in visibility, gaining endorsements from conspiracy theorists and well-known conservatives.
Now, four members of the family behind Genesis II are facing criminal charges for allegedly flouting an order to stop marketing MMS as a COVID-19 cure. Two have been arrested, while the family patriarch says he’s out of the country.
Genesis II isn’t a real church. You can’t worship at a physical location, and its leader, “Archbishop” Mark Grenon, is not actually ordained. Instead, it’s a network of people peddling sodium chlorite, a bleach compound that the Food and Drug Administration warned in 2019 “can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and symptoms of severe dehydration.”
Nevertheless, Genesis II has thrived in recent years. The church’s founder, Jim Humble, is a former Scientologist who claims to be a billion-year-old space god from another galaxy. Humble worked with Genesis II for years, before appearing to back away from the church after an ABC News investigation.
"There are certainly times I have said some things that I probably should have said differently,” he wrote in a 2016 blog post. “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!"
The revelation didn’t stop Mark Grenon and his sons Joseph, Jordan, and Jonathan from peddling bleach. The family and their “church” raked it in for years, media investigations and criminal charges show. In one investigation, an undercover news crew attended one of Grenon’s $450 MMS seminars in a California hotel. There, Grenon hinted at the church’s lack of real religious convictions.
“Everybody start a church and do it from there. You can sell them anything! Tell them Jesus heals you while you drink this,” Grenon said.
Federal investigators apparently pursued those claims as the basis of a fraud charge. In a February 2020 interview, cited in the criminal complaint, Grenon told investigators he’d started a church in order to sell MMS.
“Everything you do commercially is under the Universal Commercial code, okay?” Grenon said, according to the complaint. “A church is completely separate from that code, statutes, and laws. That’s why a priest can give a kid wine in church publicly and not get arrested. Because it’s a sacrament.[…] I knew this because . . . they tried to arrest us for proclaiming stuff on the street in Boston. They threw it out of court because we’re a church. You can’t arrest us from doing one of our sacraments, and I knew this. So that’s why . . . I said let’s do a church. We could have done temple. We could have done synagogue. We could have done mosque.”
“So [the founding of Genesis] wasn’t really about religion?” the investigator asked. “It was in order to – to in a way, legalize the use of MMS?”
“Right,” Grenon replied. “It wasn’t at all religious.” (On its website, Genesis II claims to be “non-religious but spiritual.”)
Although the criminal complaint indicates Genesis II and the Grenons were under investigation by at least October 2019 (when they allegedly gave an undercover FDA investigator terrible cancer treatment advice), federal scrutiny on the church intensified when it started promoting MMS as a coronavirus cure. The FDA sent Genesis II an injunction, telling them to please stop doing that.
But the church allegedly continued, advertising “testimonials” that promoted potentially virus-spreading activity. One reviewer, featured in a Genesis II newsletter, claimed to have “traveled to the Philippines and had to pass through Seoul, Korea and Tokyo, Japan airports where just about everyone was wearing the masks for coronavirus. We had no fear (and no masks) because we had MMS protection. We are back home and everyone is still healthy.”
The Grenons also allegedly made violent threats against the judge who signed the injunction. In an April podcast, Mark Grenon and his son Joseph stated that they would not obey the restraining order.
“You’ve got the 2nd [Amendment]. Right? When Congress does immoral things, passes immoral laws, that’s when you pick up guns, right?,” one said. “You want a Waco? Do they want a Waco?” In a later podcast, Grenon accused the judge of “treason,” and in a third podcast warned that the judge “could be taken out.”
Grenon and his three sons were charged with “conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to violate the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and criminal contempt.” Their Bradenton, Florida headquarters were raided on Wednesday, and Jordan and Johnathan arrested. It was not immediately clear whether either had lawyers.
Mark Grenon, meanwhile, was at large as of Thursday morning. Genesis II has associates worldwide, particularly in Africa and South America. (Genesis II and other bleach sellers have faced particular scrutiny for giving bleach to African children.) None of the seven Genesis II chapters in the U.S., Canada, or Colombia that listed their phone numbers online answered the phone or returned The Daily Beast’s calls.
In an “emergency” interview with the founder of a conspiracy theory-laden “health news” site after the raid, Grenon revealed that he was in Colombia, where he expected to be arrested and extradited.
Questioned by an interviewer who called the FDA a “terrorist organization,” Grenon stuck to his old argument that Genesis II was a legitimate religious organization.
“The FDA says we should stop giving our sacraments to the world. We just basically said no, we have the First Amendment,” he said. “It says we have free exercise of our religious beliefs.”
Asked about his bleach’s medical validity, Grenon described MMS as “so real. I had projectile vomiting from bad sushi. I took it and within a couple of minutes, gone.”