The Church of Scientology was founded by author L. Ron Hubbard as an organization dedicated to the practice of Scientology, a religious belief created by Hubbard. It was first incorporated in the United States as a nonprofit organization in Camden, New Jersey in December 1953, and currently is considered to be a tax-exempt religious nonprofit organization under the tax code administered by the Internal Revenue Service.

By contrast, the governments of Germany and Belgium officially regard the Church of Scientology as a totalitarian cult; in France, a parliamentary report has classed the Church as a dangerous cult; in the United Kingdom, Scientology is not regarded as meeting the legal standards for being considered a bona fide religion. The status of Scientology continues to arouse controversy in a number of countries around the world.

Following Hubbard's retirement from direct Church management around 1980 and his death in 1986, leadership of the Church of Scientology was taken over by David Miscavige, one of his former personal assistants. Miscavige holds the post of Chairman of the Religious Technology Center (RTC), a Scientology corporation which exists to regulate the use of Hubbard's writings and publications. Miscavige is widely recognised as being the controlling figure in Scientology. The public face of Scientology is another corporation, the Church of Scientology International, whose president and chief spokesman is the Reverend Heber Jentzsch.

Table of contents
1 Churches and Missions
2 Volunteer Ministers
3 Sea Org
4 Scientology Centers
5 Religious Technology Center (RTC)
6 Church or business?
7 Finances
8 Membership statistics
9 Scientology splinter groups
10 Affiliated organizations
11 Related topics

Churches and Missions

Scientology churches and missions exist in many cities around the world, and are open to the public. Members of the public entering a Scientology church or mission are offered a free personality test, the result of which is invariably that the recipient has severe psychological problems and is in dire need of Scientology courses and auditing.

Besides the main activities of delivering auditing and auditor training, Scientology delivers other services including Sunday services, naming, marriage and funeral ceremonies. These do, though, play a minor role compared to the main activities.

Volunteer Ministers

The Church of Scientology began its "Volunteer Minister" program as a way to participate in community outreach projects. Over the past several years, it has become a common practice for the organization to send "teams" of "Volunteer Ministers" to the scenes of major, headline-grabbing disasters in order to provide assistance with relief efforts. (Most of these relief efforts consist of passing out copies of a pamphlet authored by L. Ron Hubbard entitled The Way To Happiness, and by engaging in a method of calming panicked or injured invividuals known in Scientology as a "touch assist.")

The Volunteer Minister program most heavily promoted by Scientology took place in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, when approximately one thousand Scientologists were sent to New York City to participate in the relief efforts there. Scientologists wearing bright yellow T-shirts emblazoned with the logo "Scientology Volunteer Minister" became a common sight at the World Trade Center site during the cleanup efforts. Critics of Scientology accused the organization of attempting to take advantage of the disaster in order to promote Scientology to the grief-stricken populace in the area.

Sea Org

The Sea Org (Sea Organization) was founded in 1967 by L. Ron Hubbard, as he was embarking on a series of sea voyages around the Mediterranean Sea. The personal crew who accompanied him on these voyages were the foundation of the Sea Org, and it continues to serve the purpose of enforcing the rules and administering disciplinary procedures within the church. Dedicated Scientologists seeking to advance within the church are often encouraged to join the Sea Org. One of the conditions of the organization is for members to sign a contract pledging their loyalty to Scientology for "the next billion years," committing their future lifetimes to the Sea Org. Scientology claims this billion-year contract is strictly a "symbolic document." The Sea Org's motto is "Revenimus" (or "We Come Back"); there are, however, no reports yet of reincarnated Scientologists rejoining the Sea Org.

Rules in the Sea Org are reputed to be harsher than normal. During the Sea Org's Mediterranean tour, Hubbard applied strict discipline to Sea Org members aboard his ships. A variety of physical punishments (including the practice of "overboarding," or throwing miscreants over the side of the ship) is said to have been used in the Sea Org.

Scientology Centers

The worldwide "spiritual headquarters" of the Church of Scientology is located in the city of Clearwater, Florida. Officially known in Scientology as Flag Land Base, this international headquarters was founded in the late 1970s when an anonymous Scientology-founded group called "United Council of Churches" purchased the Fort Harrison Hotel for $3 million. The citizens and City Council of Clearwater did not realize that the building's owners were actually the Church of Scientology until after the building's purchase. Clearwater citizens groups, headed by Mayor Gabriel Cazares, rallied strongly against Scientology establishing a base in the city (repeatedly referring to the organization as a cult), but Flag Base was established nonetheless.

In the years since its foundation, Flag Base has expanded as the church has gradually purchased additional property in the downtown Clearwater area. Its relationship with the city has repeatedly moved between "friendly" and "hostile," as the church has worked with the city to establish better relations; while at the same time actively opposing the local St Petersburg Times and even protesting the Clearwater police department. Scientology's largest project in Clearwater has been the construction of a huge high-rise complex called the "Super Power Building," an enormous structure whose highest point, when completed, will be a huge Scientology cross that will tower over the city.

Scientology has also worked to establish a highly visible presence in Hollywood. The church owns a large complex on Hollywood Boulevard, and it even convinced the city of Los Angeles to rename a minor street adjoining its building "L. Ron Hubbard Way." Its Hollywood location is home to the largest of the Scientology Celebrity Centers, which are elaborate, luxurious accommodations meant to cater to various celebrities who are guests and members of the organization. Scientology has actively worked to bring celebrities and famous names into its membership, as Hubbard recognized the enormous public relations value of movie stars, musicians, and similar persons.

A third headquarters for Scientology, Gold Base, is located in Hemet, California, in the area where Hubbard spent his last days before his death. This is the home of Scientology's media production studio, Golden Era Studios. It is also believed to be the central headquarters for the highest level officers who manage the entire worldwide organization.

Religious Technology Center (RTC)

Around 1980, all of the Church's intellectual property was transferred to a newly formed entity called the Religious Technology Center (RTC) which, according to its own publicity, exists solely to safeguard and control the use of Scientology's writings (or "advanced technology", as its internal documents and scriptures are termed). However, the RTC is also believed to be the financial hub and international headquarters of the entire worldwide organization.

The RTC employs a small army of lawyers and has vigorously pursued other individuals and groups who are deemed to be a threat to Scientology. This has included breakaway Scientologists who have tried to practice Scientology outside the central church and critics, as well as numerous government and media organizations. This has helped to maintain Scientology's well-deserved reputation for litigiousness (see Scientology and the Legal System).

Church or business?

The Church of Scientology claims to be non-denominational and compatible with all faiths; however, a deeper study of Scientology shows that its worldview and teachings do contradict the worldview and teachings of religions such as Judaism, Christianity, or Islam.

The Church of Scientology also claims that in 1994, a joint council of Shinto Buddhist (Yu-itsu Shinto) sects in Japan not only extended official recognition of Scientology, but also undertook to train a number of their monks in its beliefs and practices as an adjunct to their own meditations and worship. This continues, according to Scientology, a long tradition of Eastern faiths of assimilating or adopting elements of others faiths which they find harmonious with their own. This may be a reflection of the fact that Hubbard acknowledged a strong Eastern, and specifically Buddhist influence in forming his own personal philosophy. However, academic researchers have noted that Hubbard's grasp of eastern religions was shallow and often inaccurate (see Prof. Stephen A. Kent, Scientology's Relationship With Eastern Religious Traditions).

Although originally established as a tax-exempt religious and charitable organization, the Church of Scientology lost this status in 1967 when the United States Internal Revenue Service accused L. Ron Hubbard of using Church monies for his own personal enrichment. 26 years of highly acrimonious litigation ensued, during which time the Church refused to pay any of the taxes demanded by the IRS. Tax exemption was finally restored in 1993 under a confidential and highly controversial settlement with the IRS. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal published on December 30, 1997, exemption was granted after Scientology paid a settlement of $12.5 million to the IRS to cover its outstanding tax liabilities. In addition, Scientology also dropped its more than fifty lawsuits against the IRS when this settlement was reached. Scientology frequently states that its tax exemption is proof that the United States government accepts it as a religion.

In other countries, though, the Church of Scientology is not recognized as a bona fide religion or charitable organization, but is regarded instead as a commercial enterprise. (Sentence of German Labor Court). In early 2003, in Germany, Scientology was granted a tax-exemption for 10% license fees that are sent to the US. This exemption, however, is related to a German-American double-taxation agreement, and has nothing to do with tax-exemption in the context of charities law. In several countries, proselytizing activities of Scientology on public ground undergo the same restrictions as commercial advertising, which is interpreted as religious persecution by the Church of Scientology.

Official reports on Scientology in countries such as Britain, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand have yielded unfavorable observations and conclusions. In Britain, Scientologists were banned from entering the country between 1968-1980; more recently, an application by Scientology for charitable status was rejected after the authorities decided that its activities were not of general public benefit. In Germany and Russia, official views of Scientology are particularly harsh. It is seen as a totalitarian organization, and is or has been under observation by police and national security organizations.

In Israel, the Church of Scientology does not use the term "Church" as part of its name, possibly because of the Christian connotation of the term in Jewish culture. When asked, most Israeli Scientologists deny that Scientology is a religion, and low level adherents appear genuinely surprised when they are confronted with English-language Scientology material in which the word "Church" is used. Something similar happens in Scotland, where Scientology operates as the "Hubbard Academy of Personal Independence"; it is believed that Scottish law does not permit Scientology to call itself a religion.

Unlike many other well-established religious organizations, the Church of Scientology maintains very strict control over its names, symbols, religious works and other published writings. The word "Scientology" (and many related terms, including "L. Ron Hubbard") is a registered trademark. The Church takes a hard line on people and groups who attempt to use it in organizations and practices that are not affiliated with the official Church of Scientology (see Scientology and the Legal System).


Members of the Church of Scientology are invited to do any number of classes, exercises or counseling sessions, for a set range of fees (or "fixed donations"). Charges for auditing and other church-related courses run from hundreds to thousands of dollars. A wide variety of entry-level courses, representing 8 to 16 hours study, cost under $100 (US). More advanced courses require membership in the International Association of Scientologists (IAS). Membership without taking expensive courses or auditing is possible, but the higher states of Scientology cannot be reached this way. In 1994/95, Operation Clambake estimated the cost of reaching "OT9 readiness", one of the highest levels, is US $365,000 - $380,000. [1]

Critics hold that it is improper to fix a donation for religious service and that therefore the activity is non-religious. The Church of Scientology points out that many classes, exercises and counseling may also be traded for "in kind" or performed cooperatively by students for no cost, and that members of its most devoted orders need donate nothing for services.

Membership statistics

Reliable statistics are membership of the Church of Scientology are notoriously difficult to obtain. The Church itself issues only vague figures (without breaking them down by region or country), and public censuses have only in recent years included questions about religious affiliations.

The Church of Scientology has claimed anywhere from eight million to fifteen million members world-wide (a number roughly equal to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), and has stated that "Scientology is the fastest growing religion in the world." Critics, however, state that the evidence for Scientology's expansion suggests otherwise. The International Association of Scientologists (IAS) maintains a list of Scientologists world-wide: every active Scientologist is required by Scientology to belong to and pay dues to this association. According to some sources, Scientology and Dianetics reached its peak in the mid-1980s at approximately 1,500,000 members world-wide, and has been declining ever since.

  • In 1986, the New Zealand national census found 189 Scientologists nationwide.

  • In 1991, the National Survey of Religious Identification [1] reported 45,000 Scientology followers in the United States. This survey has been placed in evidence in the court case "Raul Lopez v. Church of Scientology Mission of Buenaventura" by Scientology's attorney, Gerald L. Chaleff. That same year, the New Zealand national census found that the nationwide total of Scientologists had increased to 207.

  • In 1994, there were 3,400 Scientology "Sea Org" members, 34,000 lifetime IAS members, and 54,000 yearly IAS members. This produces a total of 91,400 names on the membership lists. Observers of Scientology estimate that at least half of these people no longer participate in Scientology, and do not consider themselves Scientologists.

  • In 1995 IAS membership was estimated at 65,000 active Scientologists world-wide.

  • In 1996, Australia's national census recorded 1,488 Scientologists nationwide (equivalent to 0.00767% of the population). The New Zealand national census found a further increase in the number of Scientologists, to 213 - putting them on a level with Hare Krishna and Christian Science but considerably behind Satanism (903 members).

  • In 1998, the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution estimated a total of 5,000-6,000 Scientologists in that country.

  • In 2001, the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) reported 55,000 adults in the United States who consider themselves Scientologists. Observers of Scientology estimate an additional 20,000 Scientologists outside the United States, for a total of 75,000 world-wide.

  • In 2003, the Canadian national census reported a total of 1,525 Scientologists nationwide.

Scientologists are allegedly common in Hollywood, with movie stars John Travolta and Tom Cruise being amongst the world's most prominent followers of the religion. However, the claims of its influences ("the second-biggest religion in Hollywood" etc) are most likely largely exaggerated.

Scientology splinter groups

The Church of Scientology denies the legitimacy of any splinter Scientology groups and factions outside of the official organization, and it has actively sought out these "rogue" Scientologists and tried to prevent them from using officially trademarked Scientology materials. These independent Scientologists are known as "squirrels" within Scientology ("because they're nuts"), and they are classified as "suppressive persons" ("SPs") - in other words, opponents and enemies of Scientology. Despite the Church bringing to bear considerable legal and social pressure, the number of Scientologists who have broken away from the official Church has increased since Hubbard's death. Many of these independent Scientologist groups refer to themselves under the umbrella term of "Free Zone".

Affiliated organizations

There are also several organizations and groups which are staffed by Scientologists, and use Scientology technology and trademarks under the control of Scientology management, but often avoid mentioning the connection in their texts:

Official Narconon Site
Narconon Exposed, covers media reports, source documents, studies and research papers.
  • CCHR (Citizens' Commission on Human Rights), co-founded with Thomas Szasz, takes the form of an activist group to expose "psychiatric abuse", furthering Scientology doctrinal opposition to mainstream medical psychological therapies.
Official CCHR Site
Psychiatric Times: Psychiatric Profession Current Target of Citizens Commission on Human Rights
  • Applied Scholastics
Applied Scholastics Official Site
Scientology v. Education: A critical analysis of Scientology's "study technology"

Many other Scientologist-run businesses and organizations belong to the umbrella organization WISE (World Institute of Scientology Enterprises), which licenses the use of L. Ron Hubbard's management doctrines in businesses.

  • WISE (World Institute of Scientology Enterprises)
Official WISE Site
Los Angeles Times Article Series on Scientology: 4. Reaching into Society

Related topics

See also Totalitarian religious group.

To do: Saint Hill Scientology base to be written