A Guide To Scientology's Most Ostentatious Real Estate - 2015-04-03
Empire-building has been part of many a religious group's strategy throughout history. But no one does it better than Scientology. The documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, which debuts on HBO tonight, offers the first in-depth survey of Scientology's practices, including its ongoing quest to acquire high-profile real estate.
Since it was founded in 1955, Scientology has purchased hundreds, possibly thousands of buildings. Just how many is tough to fact-check due to the church's many tenuously connected affiliates, but representatives did confirm to the Hollywood Reporter that the church bought 62 properties globally just in a five-year period between 2006 and 2011. The church owns several rural compounds which are more befitting of a cult, like Gold Base, the 520-acre former resort in the desert east of LA which has been turned into a training facility. But many of Scientology's most prominent holdings are found on busy corridors in the center of cities worldwide.
While these urban enclaves in places with high population density help the church increase its visibility — the oversized garish signage helps, too — it turns out there is also an architectural agenda behind these purchases. Representatives of the church have commented that it is indeed part of the church's strategy to buy and rehabilitate ageing historic buildings, which in turn helps them to be seen as valuable community partners. Of course, this plan doesn't always pan out.