Health experts have dismissed a Nevada legislator’s new age water company as junk science. But now one of his former employees says the company is a gateway drug for the Church of Scientology.
Grecia Echevarria-Hernandez, a former employee at the Las Vegas-based Affinity Lifestyles, is suing the company for alleged religious discrimination. A practicing Catholic, Echevarria-Hernandez says she was pressured to complete Scientology video courses at work, and was denied pay, ostracized, and eventually fired when she refused to watch the videos.
When Affinity hired Echevarria-Hernandez as a brand ambassador in March 2015, the company made her watch Scientology videos, she alleges in an April lawsuit. For each Scientology “self-betterment course” Echevarria-Hernandez completed, she would receive a pay raise of 25 cents per hour, she says. When she skipped the videos, her coworkers and superiors turned “hostile,” firing her after just seven months with the company she says.
This is not Affinity Lifestyles’ first time in the headlines. The company’s CEO is Brent Jones, a Scientologist and member of Nevada’s state assembly. Affinity and its subsidiary Real Alkalized Water, where Echevarria-Hernandez worked, sell so-called alkalized water, a product whose purported health benefits have been met with skepticism from the scientific community.
“Real Water is a premium, drinking water with an alkalized pH of 8.0 that utilizes the proprietary E2 Technology™, making it the only drinking water on the market that can maintain a stable negative (-) ionization,” the Real Alkalized Water website reads. The supposedly premium water promises to “Unleash the power of negative ions!”
But the science behind alkalized water is soft, at best, and a scam at worst. In a 2011 article, that conceded that “there are too many dubious scientific claims to cover in one post,” the Guardian debunked most of Real Alkalized Water’s junk science selling points. Real Alkalized Water claims that normal drinking water is dangerously acidic (untrue), that normal drinking water contains dangerous “free radicals” (untrue), and that Real Alkalized Water “adds hundreds of millions of free electrons” to its beverages (highly unlikely).
The company also sells a product called “Real Pain Be Gone,” a product that claims to use “essential oils” for pain relief, and does not list any of its active ingredients. But one of Real Alkalized Water’s business partnerships might be more dubious than its product.
“Real Water proudly supports a variety of community charities each year,” the company proclaims on its website. One of these supported charities is the “Citizens Commission on Human Rights,” a Scientology-backed anti-psychiatry organization that has published a paper claiming terrorism is “manufactured by psychiatry.” (PDF)
A water company and a Scientology-supported organization might make strange allies. But Affinity Lifestyles CEO and Nevada Assemblyman Jones has spoken openly of his membership in the Church of Scientology.
“I was in the parking lot outside Carl’s Jr., eating my lunch in the car, and a lady came by and tapped on the window,” Jones told the Las Vegas Review-Journal of his introduction to Scientology. “I rolled the window down and talked to her, and she sold me a book, ‘Dianetics.’”
Jones has also faced scrutiny for his involvement with the Church of Scientology before, when he allegedly convinced a mentally handicapped Scientology practitioner to spend $30,000 on two ostrich eggs several years ago, as part of an ostrich-breeding scheme. According to a report in the the New Times Los Angeles, published in late 2000, Jones allegedly told the man that he had purchased the eggs, but that the ostriches had died. When a now-defunct website called RealBrentJones.com publicized the alleged ostrich fraud during Jones’s Nevada assembly run, he sued the website’s owners for defamation, eventually settling the case out of court.
Jones’s involvement in day-to-day operations at Affinity Lifestyles is unclear. He did not respond to a voicemail or an email sent to his Nevada assembly address. Reached by phone, Affinity Lifestyles immediately hung up without answering any questions.
Grecia Echevarria-Hernandez, meanwhile, says she was fired for poor job performance, even though she completed her work “admirably.” The “workplace environment became extremely unpleasant,” she said in her suit.