Is Scientology Self-Destructing? - 2013-01-15
The Ideal Orgs certainly look great, make headlines, and serve as flashy totems of Scientology's (literally) unspeakable wealth. The Church of Scientology International (CSI) headquarters in Los Angeles says that it has built 34 of these cathedrals worldwide since 2003, with 60 more underway. Almost all were paid for by local parishioners, who had been lobbied by roving teams of fundraisers.
But inside the church, the Ideal Orgs are sparking insurrection. Across the country, donors and high-ranking executives say that the aggressive fundraising and construction scheme is used to enrich the central church at the expense of the rank and file, helping to grow the Scientology war chest to over a billion dollars. Two former members, Mike Rinder and Mark Elliott, went so far as to call the project a "real estate scam." To some of these defectors, the structures are metaphors for the religion itself: garish on the outside, empty on the inside. The irony is that the very expansion that Scientology lauds as its renaissance is actually a symbol of internal dissent and decline.
According to ex-executives, the Ideal Org money play is simple: Find beautiful buildings; get local parishioners to foot the bill; keep them closed; keep fundraising; open them; and finally, have the parishioners pay for renovations, buy supplies, and send money to the central church for the right to practice there.