Tag Archives: Scientology

Church of Scientology’s new $145m complex has generated more in fundraising than it cost

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from “The Independent” by Tim Walker, Tuesday 19 November 2013

Confetti falls as the Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige dedicates the Flag Building in Clearwater, Florida
Rex Features
The site offers parishioners the opportunity to undergo a secretive programme devised by L Ron Hubbard that is said to heighten senses and provide special abilities
John Travolta and Tom Cruise were among thousands of Scientology parishioners gathered this weekend at the Church’s worldwide spiritual headquarters in Clearwater, Florida, to celebrate the dedication of its newly completed Flag Building, which contains facilities for what the late Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard dubbed his “Super Power” programme. Those privileged enough to undergo the secretive Super Power Rundown are said to acquire heightened senses and special abilities. The new building marks an ambitious undertaking by the Church of Scientology to tackle what it calls its most important programme to date.

The building is the tallest in Clearwater and the largest in the Scientology portfolio, taking up an entire city block. Construction of the 377,000sq ft complex has taken 15 years and cost up to $145m (£90m). During the event on Sunday, six-foot privacy fences were erected to protect attendees from public view, while Scientology security staff stood by to stop curious onlookers getting too close. The Church declined to allow Florida newspaper the Tampa Bay Times a tour of the premises, and it is not yet known whether the building will ever be open to the public.

The eight-minute dedication ceremony was led by Church boss David Miscavige, but attended by fewer Scientologists than anticipated. City authorities had reportedly been warned to expect crowds of 10,000, but some estimates suggested little more than half that number had actually turned up.

According to planning documents and details on the Church’s website, the sprawling complex contains a bookstore, a chapel, a basement dining hall and several hundred small rooms for the entry-level Scientology system known as “auditing”. There is also an Office of the Commodore: a space set aside for Hubbard, who died in 1986. Miscavige’s office is at the top of the building on the seventh floor, while on the sixth is a running track, where Scientologists are expected to run in circles until they attain enlightenment, or what Hubbard called a “cognition”. On the same level is a sauna, where parishioners can enjoy a “purification rundown”, or “purif”.

But the star attraction of the new building is housed on the fifth floor: the Super Power programme, which the 59-year-old Church has described as its most important project to date. Hubbard supposedly created the Super Power Rundown in 1978, promising that it was “the answer to a sick, a dying and dead society”, that it would help Scientologists to “create a new world,” and could “literally revive the dead”.

At his own death, Hubbard left behind his plans for the programme, which involves the use of futuristic devices to help subjects hone the 57 senses or “perceptics” he identified, which include taste, touch, smell, endocrine states, compass direction and perception of appetite.

During the 1990s the Rundown was tested on a handful of wealthy donors at the Church’s California headquarters. Among them was hedge fund boss Matt Feshbach, who later told Florida’s St Petersburg Times that the process had helped him to outperform his business rivals, to appreciate beauty more deeply, and to sense danger more quickly than others. In spite of this success, the programme was kept largely under wraps until an appropriate facility could be constructed.

John Travolta and Tom Cruise (front, fourth and fifth from left) applaud David Miscavige (Rex)

John Travolta and Tom Cruise (front, fourth and fifth from left) applaud David Miscavige (Rex)

In 2012 The Village Voice acquired leaked digital renderings of the Flag Building interior, which included details of the devices used in the Super Power Rundown, such as a large gyroscope known as the “motion quadrant”, which spins users to enhance their sense of compass direction. Among the other tools in the facility are a “smell wall”, a “taste wall” and an “oiliness table”.

Auditing sessions are thought to cost as much as $1,000 per hour, and the cost of a Super Power Rundown remains a mystery, but the Flag Building has already proved to be a successful fundraising tool. Scientology leaders originally estimated its cost at $100m, but according to the Tampa Bay Times, since the fundraising campaign for its construction began in the early 1990s, the Church has attracted donations of more than $145m.

The fundraising drive continued even when construction came to a halt in 2003; building only recommenced in earnest in 2009, after the city of Clearwater introduced fines of $250 per day for violating its planning code.

This year former Scientologists Rocio and Luis Garcia sued the Church, which they left in 2011, for fraud and deception. The couple, who donated more than $340,000 in their time as members, said the organisation was using the Flag Building “as a shill” to raise money. The Church rejected the accusations as “frivolous” and “blatantly false”.

On New Year’s Day 2012, Debbie Cook, a former captain at Scientology’s Flag Service Organisation in Clearwater, sent a mass email to members accusing Miscavige of having turned her beloved Church into a mere machine for “continuous fundraising”.

Hubbard, she wrote, “never directed the  purchase of opulent buildings or … posh  renovations or furnishings”. The Church then sued Cook for violating the confidentiality agreement she had signed upon leaving its staff in 2007.

The Flag Building is the only place where a Super Power programme will be conducted (Rex)

The Flag Building is the only place where a Super Power programme will be conducted (Rex

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First they came for the Scientologists…

Damian Thompson – The Telegraph

October 18th, 2013
The Church of Scientology is furious. France’s judges have upheld its conviction for “organised fraud”, which includes charging followers thousands of euros for an “electrometer” to measure mental energy. “A heresy trial!” yells the Church, promising to fight this “affront to religious liberty” in the European Court of Human Rights.
I’m trying to think of the last time the Scientologists were this angry. Probably in 2005, when South Park aired an episode in which Stan joins the outfit and learns that 75 million years ago an evil intergalactic emperor called Xenu “rounded up countless aliens from different planets, froze them… and dumped them into the volcanoes of Hawaii”. The wickedly funny animation carried the caption: “This is what Scientologists actually believe.” Which was true.
Scientology became a laughing stock: a cartoon had accomplished more in 25 minutes than anti-cult campaigners had in decades. And now France labels it “organised fraud”. If you were to attach any of the Church’s leaders to an E-meter – an electronic device that checks “spiritual impediments” – I reckon the needle would be flickering wildly.
You’re probably thinking: well, cry me a river. They don’t like it up ’em. It’s hard to feel sorry for followers of L Ron Hubbard, particularly now that any search engine can uncover terrifying allegations against rogue Scientologists.
But – and I’m saying this through gritted teeth – the Church has a point. Not necessarily about this particular French case, but about a general threat to religious liberty in Europe.
The French government regards Scientology as a “cult” rather than a “religion”. That may seem like a statement of the obvious – but as soon as you start to nail down the differences between cults, sects and religions you run into trouble.
The EU says it guarantees religious freedom. But here’s the crucial thing: in some countries that applies only to groups that governments register as a religion. Generally speaking, the further east and south you  go, the more arbitrary the cult/sect/religion definition. If you’re a registered Baptist in Russia, then you’re fine; if you’re unregistered, you could be breaking the law by hosting prayers in your house.
I once went to a conference in Saxony at which a government minister lectured us on the difference between real and fake religions. “Lack of sense of humour” was a clue to fakery, he told us – a tricky rule of thumb to employ in Germany, I would have thought.
This isn’t to deny the existence of cults and cult-like behaviour: we’re perfectly entitled to apply the word to religious bullying. But “cult” isn’t a scientific term, any more than “church” is. You can find creepy sectarian movements in suburban parishes, inner-city mosques and internet start-ups. Britain’s most impartial cult-monitoring body, Inform at the LSE, receives troubling inquiries from the families of newly converted Christians.
Inform takes the line that all religious groups need to obey the same laws as civil bodies. That’s a sensible approach, rooted in English and American concepts of freedom.
The danger is that we’re moving towards a European model in which faith needs to be rubber-stamped by civil servants and a “cult” is any religious group the government dislikes.
We may smile at the fury of the Scientologists, in their comic-opera uniforms, at the leaking of the story of Xenu. But it’s worth remembering, next time you visit a country church, that it wouldn’t be there if genuine evil emperors hadn’t failed to crush a supposedly dangerous cult founded by Jesus of Nazareth.

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Scientology case has judges debating the meaning of religion

Owen Bowcott, legal affairs correspondent

The Church of Scientology Centre in Queen Victoria Street, London.

The Church of Scientology Centre in Queen Victoria Street, London. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

Five supreme court justices have spent a day wrestling with notions of God, nirvana and what constitutes worship in an attempt to decide whether Scientologists may conduct weddings.

In one of the more curious appeals to come before the UK’s highest court, senior lawyers – wearing puzzled expressions, and bemused smiles but no wigs – ranged across centuries of legislation and a number of faiths to try to establish what religion is.

The case has been brought by Louisa Hodkin, who wishes to marry her fiance, Alessandro Calcioli, in the Church of Scientology‘s building on Queen Victoria Street in the City of London.

The registrar-general of births, deaths and marriages has declined to license the Scientologists’ “chapel” as a place of meeting for religious worship under section two of the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855. Hodkin and her partner, who are volunteers at the Church of Scientology, claim the refusal is discriminatory. At a previous hearing, the court of appeal rejected their application.

Wigs and gowns are rarely worn in the supreme court in Westminster these days. On Thursday, the air of intellectual informality was enhanced by the eccentricity of the issues. On one hand was James Strachan QC, for the registrar-general. Scientology, he told the court, was initially founded by the American writer L Ron Hubbard as “dianetics” – a process of self-discovery. Scientology did not describe itself as a religion until 1951. Its eighth level of perfection, Strachan said, was a state of “infinity”. “The process of Scientology is not about worshipping God, infinity or a supreme being,” he said. “It’s about auditing, training and developing self-awareness. The judge [in the courts below] had difficulty in understanding whether it might be a theistic religion.”

Strachan, however, insisted Scientology did not qualify as religion: “It does not involve worship of a divine being. The central processes of Scientology are not about reverence or veneration. It’s about constructing the self.”

Scientologists do refer to a “creed” and “sermons”, he conceded, “but it’s not religious worship. If the registrar-general has wrongly registered Buddhists or Jains [other faiths that do not worship gods] then they should be de-registered. The argument that it’s discrimination [against Scientology] goes nowhere.”

Against him was Lord Lester, the veteran Liberal Democrat peer, who pointed out that the Church of Scientology already enjoys “charitable rates relief” on its London headquarters worth £300,000 a year.

Scientology was akin to Buddhism, he implied. “[The Buddhist principle of] nirvana is not venerated as a being or power that is supernatural or divine. In Scientology, L Rob Hubbard is not venerated.”

In other jurisdictions, such as Australia, Scientology has been accepted as a religious denomination. The refusal to register the chapel was religious discrimination, Lord Lester insisted.

The five supreme court justices – Lord Neuberger, Lord Clarke, Lord Wilson, Lord Reed and Lord Toulson – brought in Islam, Unitarianism, Quakerism and other faiths to develop comparisons.

“A Quaker service often consists only of silent meditation,” one justice observed.

The appeal is of wider significance since Scientologists have applied for certification at other premises in England that they claim are used for religious worship.

Speaking after an earlier judgment, Hodkin said: “I hope the court allows me to marry in my own church, surrounded by my family and friends, which means everything to me.”

The court has reserved judgment. At the end of the hearing, Lord Lester tried a note of religious reconciliation: “Nirvana,” he explained, “is a state which an individual attains, the state your lordships attain quite often at the end of a case.”

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July 22, 2013 · 09:46