Sydney “state of idle”

The following article is from www.vice.com in Australia

Inside the Church of Scientology’s New $14 Million Compound

By Nelson Groom

This month the Australian Church of Scientology opened their renovated headquarters. It’s located in downtown Sydney in a heritage building dating back to 1908. The $14 million project has birthed an array of new and exorbitant facilities, with its sole purpose being to lure new acolytes.

Historially, Scientology spread failry quickly in the land down under. After officially starting in America in 1952, there was enough of a following to hold a Scientology Congress in Melbourne by 1954. The Australian branch of the Church even became the regional headquarters of the entire Asia-Pacific region. But like in America, reports of the macabre have long overshadowed the church, and it now seems these are starting to catch up.

The group has always been optimistic when expressing their numbers. They claim to have150,000 members in Australia, despite census numbers putting the figure at fewer than 3,000.To put that in perspective, its less than the number of Aussie Satanists and witches. What’s more, it was shown in 2011 that these numbers are dwindling. Jim Lippard believes we can credit this to the internet, which has robbed the churches power to sweep things under the rug.

The former chief spokesperson for Scientology in Australia Mike Rinder was candid in his explanation of why the Australian brand of Scientology is potentially at risk: “Australians tend to be pretty down-to-earth, and and bullshit don’t fly.” Case in point: the church’s recently rejected rehab center.

The optimistic membership figures are consistent with the decision to pimp out the headquarters. But as Mark Rinder goes on to explain, the money spent on construction could be doing more harm than good. “Too much money goes to international management, and they’re buying buildings, so they can’t use that money for staff.” Hence why they might be forced to spend truckloads of money on employee back payments.

In order to make my own mind up, I decided to see the headquarters for myself. I called the church’s head office, and after several days of deliberation, they agreed to give me a tour. I suspect it wasn’t a coincidence that this was arranged for a peak period of business, the 5 PM rush hour.

The outside of the building melds surprisingly well with its surroundings. However, this all changes when you walk inside. As soon as you step through the entrance, the vibrant lighting and futuristic decor make you feel like you’re on set of the latest terrible sci-fi dystopian flick. It’s prompt validation that this is not your average church.

I was soon acquainted with my guides, Carolyn and Colin. Both were dressed in Navy-esque uniforms, which are intended to honor Hubbard’s time spent in the Navy. The first stop of the tour was in a similarly honorary vein: the L Ron Hubbard memorial office, fitted with a library of his very own books. I was told this was “a mark of thanks to Hubbard.” I suppose the $600 million he acquired through the church wasn’t enough.

After this, the led me upstairs to see the new chapel and café. I should note at this stage how bizarrely flaccid the tour was—if these were their peak hours, it’s safe to say that business ain’t booming.

Inside the chapel, there were tiled murals and a bronze bust of the big homie Hubbard (the dude is never further than arm’s reach in any part of the church).

I was informed that the time had come for me to discharge my emotional baggage, so we got in an elevator and made our way up to the auditing section. Auditing is the central process of Scientology, where subjects are purportedly cleared of negative influences in order to reach a state of Zen. It involves a practitioner and a divisive machine known as an e-meter. Author Paulette Cooper believes that in the eyes of church members, auditing puts the science in scientology.

We passed a reception desk manned by some brain-dead employees and made our way down a long corridor of identically vacant offices.

“These are all new rooms. In here, this one has the best view.”

I stepped inside with great reluctance. In the center of the room was a desk and chairs, both adorned with scientology symbols. It was my first encounter with an e-meter (electro-psychometer for those who prefer redundancies).

The machine, which scientologist’s claim will diagnose emotional ills, looks like a prop from the original season of Star Trek. It “works” by sending a small electrical current through wires that are attached to dual cans held by the user. The cans measures resistance, i.e., to what degree a body opposes the passage of the electric current.

According to the church, when subjects using an e-meter recall traumatic memories, their mind produces a charge that triggers the dial on the machine to move around. And in 1971, it was ruled in a US District Court, that e-meters had to present the following warning label:

“The e-meter is not medically or scientifically useful for the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of any disease. It is not medically or scientifically capable of improving the health or bodily functions of anyone.”

It’s been argued that the belief in an e-meter’s ability to read one’s soul, despite the lack of any serious science to vouch for this at all, is the greatest testament to scientology being a religion.

“Go ahead; hold on to these.”

My guides watched with flashing eyes as I grasped the cans. It was a profoundly unnerving scenario.

“Think of a time that was very stressful for you,” said Carolyn. “The e-meter helps to identify trauma.”

Having prepared for this all beforehand, I decided to do the reverse and focus on a deeply relaxing memory instead—namely, getting high on a beach in Barcelona. I had also read that the movements in the dial can also be attributed to hand moisture, which was thick in my palms.

“There it goes! There it goes again!” exclaimed my guides.

Sure enough, the dial was faintly stirring up and down, the alleged response to a distressing memory. Meanwhile, I was just reflecting on Catalonian chronic.

I sure as hell wasn’t going to tell this to my wide-eyed tour guides, though, who were staring at me, apparently free from any instinctual need to blink.

Having supposedly been cured of my supposed trauma, I was escorted to what appeared to be a classroom. Colin told me this was where members learned to become auditors. According to AlternativeReligions.com, this costs approximately $50,000. It was no surprise then that these rooms were also empty.

My guides explained that the church is primarily kept afloat from the study fees, which go for up to $1,400 per subject. Anyone is free to take up the studies, which involve working throug the prolific content of Hubbard under a supervisor’s guidance. They range from introductory courses to advanced ones. The broader study sections were stocked with a myriad of material.

One student was slumbering on a desk. When we drew near, he spotted our trio, shot upright, and apologized frantically. I don’t blame him—I’ve never been a fan of science fiction books myself.

When I left, around 7 PM, the multimillion-dollar compound was still open for business—with no actual members present save for the staff and the lone student desperately trying to stay awake.

Sydney Idle Org is opened

A report in the “Property Observer” Australia:

The building – no question – is beautiful. The future will again show an empty building serving just as a real estate investment with “others” money

Jennifer Duke | 8 May 2014

201 Castlereagh Street, or The Church of Scientology, restored

201 Castlereagh Street, or The Church of Scientology, restored

Some Sydneysiders may have walked past 201 Castlereagh Street in the past, noting the small ‘Scientology’ signs if they paid attention. However, this subtlety will be no longer, after a complete upgrade to the building and the introduction of large ‘Church of Scientology’ branding.

The beautiful 1908-built structure has had two storeys added, where initially three were proposed, and has had a number of its heritage features restored. The brick pilasters and bronze-glazed glass curtain have been brought up to the modern day. The building overlooks Hyde Park.

The $12 million lump sum contract, awarded to Kane Constructions in March 2013, had a vision of additional commercial offices and spaces, as well as new lifts, wet areas, a lobby and building services.

They worked with Nix Management and WMK Architecture to deliver the project.

The launch of the completed building, on 3 May, saw 2,500 Scientologists attend. Official information says that the building’s congregation is ‘ever growing’ and that it serves as a hub for “people of all faiths and cultures across New South Wales”.

Launching the building with an address was David Miscavige, the ecclesiastical leader of Scientology.

“There’s a new sign in the southern night skies and it points to something never seen before—your Ideal Org of Sydney. That it opens directly in the wake of what is a whole new Scientology world lends it even more significance. Because for all the help you thus far extended to the millions, you now possess the means—in this, our Golden Age—to uplift this city and this nation with the unqualified freedom of Scientology,” said Miscavige.

Attendees include Federal Member of Parliament Julie Owens, Australian Human Rights Council president Sev Ozfowski, Young Offenders Support Service programme manager Kalisi Bese and Aboriginal elder of the Dunghutti people Bill Allen.

Those who attend the newly refurbished building are provided with a Dianetics and Scientology introduction.

The Church of Scientology, Sydney, moved to the site in the 1980s. This year is the 60th anniversary since the formation of the Church of Scientology. Fundraising for this project through Ideal Org has occurred for some time, with online discussion as to when the building would be brought up to standard.

Toronto update – March 2014

sucks2beotviii wrote again:

“Thanks for posting my article! It’s my first post ever! There is one main correction though–the images of Toronto org are not quite right as the old org and new org images are mixed together. If possible, you may want to correct them.

Attached are these Toronto org images including a couple new, better images:
My post talks about the original building the Toronto org has owned at 696 Yonge St. since 1979, which is now boarded up and sits empty. This is a massive building 8 stories high that occupies an enormous corner lot on the busiest main street in downtown Toronto. It is now closed and boarded up “for renovations” that will never come while the dust gathers. (Please see attached images and see which are labelled 696 Yonge Street.)
Meanwhile, the Toronto org staff and public have moved from occupying all 8 floors of this massive building all into one tiny top floor at 77 Peter Street in a dead, low traffic area where they pay rent while the huge building they own stands empty. Nuts! (See picture labelled 77 Peter Street) You enter through the light coloured entrance in the middle where the bike is and go to the top level–note how tiny this space is, compared to the original massive org building at 696 Yonge. Now that is one severely shrunken org!
Hopefully you can get my attached images and see by the labels which org is which. Thank you for posting my article and thank you Izhar for all you do!”
Photos 696  Yonge St.
696 Yonge St.1 696 Yonge St.3 2…and 77 Peter Street
77 Peter Street 2 77 Peter StreetTHANK you sucks2beotviii

Buffalo Ideal Org: – February 2014

sucks2beotviii reports:

I recently had an opportunity to go north of the 49th parallel and wanted to update you on the scene in Canada.

Buffalo Ideal Org:

 Okay, not Canadian, but it stand empty about an hour and a half from Toronto. Every now and then some missionaires have come in (poor bastards, now there’s a one way ticket the RPF if there ever was one…) and they try to convince Torontonians they should drive 1 ½ hours to another country to Buffalo to study. No thanks. If Torontonians wanted an empty org, they could just stay in Toronto.

For the longest time, a large dumpster sat in front of the Buffalo org, situated in downtown Buffalo. Over a couple days, on a recent weekend, there appeared to be just one staff member visible in the whole org. Big empty div. 6. No receptionist. No people.

Have a look at these images: taken on different days, at different times, always deserted:

b3 b1 b2

Toronto Org – End Feb 2014

 sucks2beotviii reports:

I recently had an opportunity to go north of the 49th parallel and wanted to update you on the scene in Canada.

Toronto org:

Speaking of sad, next we have the Toronto Org.

Aside from a small Vancouver org, Quebec and Toronto are really the only active orgs to speak of in Canada. In the 80’s/90’s Toronto had a few hundred Scientologists between Toronto Org and the long-gone CC Toronto. The biggest event on record was attended by about 900 people. In the past decade, there have been about 400 Scientologists in Toronto. These days, there can’t be anywhere near 100, at the most. A Scientologist told me that at a recent event, all the old reliable loyal Scientologist were nowhere to be seen. Gone.

This org had the distinction of owning it’s own building since the 70’s—a valuable 9 storey office building on high traffic Yonge Street, smack downtown, absolute ideal location (pun intended).

As with other orgs, the paying tenants were kicked out a few years ago, causing horrible PR and resulting in the typical no money, no toilet paper and no-heat-in-winter (in Canada!) scenarios. Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, some genius has the idea to move everyone out of this building to 77 Peter Street to “prepare for the renos” which of course aren’t happening.

So, to get this straight, the 9-story building they own on a high traffic route, stands empty and they are renting ONLY a top floor in a shitty little 3-story building in a dead part of town. I can’t imagine these tiny premises could accommodate more than 50 people! Don’t believe me? Check it out. Here is 77 Peter Street (the org is accessed by just the little pink door in the middle, top floor only, no sign outside):

 

2 3 4

Advanced Org Saint Hill Canada

 The bright idea here is to take the remaining100-ish Scientologist left in the Toronto area and get them to fund not just Toronto Org but the “Canadian AO” as well. Yea, that’ll work.

In 2009, the rundown former Hockley Highlands resort in Mono, Ontario with it’s 196 acres of land was purchased. Recruitment is underway to hire on 200 new staff. As if.

An hour from Toronto, it’s in the middle of nowhere. Hockley Valley is a small ski area out in the country. And now we have this.

The SO members who filled the 3 top floors of the now-empty Toronto org, have been bussed out into the middle of nowhere, where nothing is happening. These tend to be young 2nd generation Scientologists and Quebecers stranded far from home. I hear someone drives back and forth every day to the Toronto Org. If you’re paying rent at 77 Peter Street, you might as well then also pay for a car and all that daily gas while the building you own on Yonge St. stands boarded up and empty. It defies logic.

They are also trying to open a Narconon nearby where the residents are protesting with “No Narconon in Hockley” signs, available for purchase at the general store, to help fund the protest. Clearly, someone missed the LRH memo on “maintaining friendly relations” with the neighbours:

From TheStar.com:

Narconon meets fierce opposition in Hockley Valley

Hockley is up in arms over Narconon’s bid to convert a picturesque estate into an addictions recovery centre. Narconon says its well-studied program has produced 35,000 graduates since 1995.

Lisa Caissie walks her dogs along a street in Hockley Valley, where talk of a new rehab centre linked to Scientology has some residents up in arms.

Lisa Caissie walks her dogs along a street in Hockley Valley, where talk of a new rehab centre linked to Scientology has some residents up in arms.

By: News reporter, Published on Mon Sep 02 2013
In Hockley Village, a sleepy slice of country about an hour’s drive northwest of Toronto, residents are friendly but private, keeping mainly to themselves.

But that changed when Narconon came to town in late July, with a proposal to buy the sprawling estate of late Conservative MP Donald Blenkarn, and turn it into a private drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre.

During the three-hour-long meeting, residents peppered Clark Carr, president of California-based Narconon International, with questions about the controversial rehab program that is based on teachings of the (even more controversial) Church of Scientology.

Carr tried to dispel the notion that rehab facilities are an inherent risk to the community, and espoused the virtues of Narconon’s drug-free program, which he said “has been looked at very carefully in many countries.”

But widespread opposition to the proposal has since made relative strangers into close allies. Petitions have been launched. Letters have been sent to high-placed government officials. A month after Carr’s visit, the village is plastered with red and black “No Narconon in Hockley” signs, on sale for $10 at the general store. (Proceeds go toward fighting the proposal.)

“It’s the No. 1 topic of conversation,” said resident Lisa Caissie. “People stopping in the road, you know what they’re talking about.”

Described online as an “exclusive country estate,” the Blenkarn property spans 150 picturesque acres, a short walk from the quiet village centre, just east of Orangeville. Listed at $2.9 million, it includes five cottages, a lake and an outdoor sauna.

Narconon, which will require a zoning amendment to operate its program, has placed a conditional bid on the property through a holding company in Delaware. The site is one of several being considering “as part of Narconon’s ongoing expansion program,” Carr told the Star. It would be the first in Ontario.

In Hockley, however, residents are readying for battle. Some, including Caissie, simply don’t believe a rehab facility belongs in the family-oriented village, which rarely sees police cruisers and has limited local medical services.

Others have been gripped by an Internet-fuelled panic about Narconon itself. The program, which includes detoxifying sauna sessions and high doses of vitamins, is lauded by famous Scientologists Tom Cruise and Kirstie Alley. But the methods have recently come under fire amid lawsuits filed by the families of three Narconon clients who died at a facility in Oklahoma.

“People immediately go onto Wikipedia, and the minute they start reading about Narconon, it just gets really scary,” said resident Harvey Kolodny.

After resident Jamie Thompson heard about the proposal, he went online, and was put off by Scientology techniques like the E-meter, a lie-detecting, thought-tracking device used, according to the church’s website, “to help . . . locate and confront areas of spiritual upset.”

Thompson manages the general store and lives with his young family in a rented house next to the Blenkarn property. He has a “No Narconon” sign at home, but said he is “nervous” about displaying it.

To bolster their position, residents have enlisted the help of David Love, who has campaigned hard against the addictions recovery program since leaving a Narconon facility in Trois-Rivières, where he was a client and worked on staff before it closed last year.

Before being admitted to the program, Love said he was asked to stare into the eyes of a counsellor for hours on end, and identify objects of various colours in a room.

“It’s the most craziest stuff you’ve ever seen,” he said.

Once admitted, Love, who was battling a morphine and cocaine addiction, said he witnessed other clients being taken away in ambulances. He was hired on staff upon graduation with “no training, no nothing,” he said.

According to CBC, a regional health authority in Quebec shuttered the Narconon facility after the methods used at the centre landed at least four clients in hospital.

The health authority did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But Carr tells a much different story. In an email response to questions from the Star, he said the Trois-Rivières facility closed after the province “fundamentally changed its posture toward what kind of drug rehabilitation it would tolerate” to “strictly medical, drug substitution, and so forth.”

Narconon was told it had to reapply for its licence under these new conditions, and the province “made it clear that they would never approve Narconon unless we irreversibly changed our method of treatment,” he said.

Carr disputes the allegation that four clients were taken to hospital due to the techniques used as the centre.

“It is true and appropriate that occasionally someone would be referred to a proper medical authority when and as needed,” he said. “This is what any and all drug rehabs do and are supposed to do. That this was ‘because of Narconon methods’ is a fabrication.”

As part of Narconon’s communication skills course, Carr said, clients “practise the ability to confront another person,” but do not “stare into the eyes of a counsellor for hours at a time.”

Regarding Love being hired without training, Carr said Narconon Trois-Rivières hired its own staff, not Narconon International.

When Narconon accepts recent graduates onto “trainee programs,” they are always put onto a series of staff training steps, he said.

He said the investigations into the deaths at Narconon’s Oklahoma facility are ongoing, but that “there is no evidence whatsoever to support the allegations in the media that vitamins or sauna played any role whatsoever in these incidents.” No charges have been laid.

Narconon staff is trained in emergency medical protocol, and the Hockley facility would have a “properly trained” nurse on site, as well as a consulting medical doctor on the premises, “as needed,” Carr said.

To gain admission to Narconon, clients must be approved by a medical physician “as physically and mentally capable of doing” the program, which is substantiated by scientific evidence, and has produced more than 35,000 graduates since 1995, he said.

“There are certain persons with their own colored histories and agendas who have taken on a campaign against Narconon and also Scientology,” said Carr.

“If there is someone who has a grudge or fixed opinion about Scientology, I sincerely recommend he or she take it up with Church personnel . . . Why anyone would express that he or she is ‘fearful’ is beyond me. We all couldn’t be more open to questions.”

Rev. Yvette Shank, a spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology, said in an email that Narconon “has its origins” in the religious writings of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, but is a “secular” program that “teaches no belief system.”

“Since Narconon’s inception, members of the Church of Scientology world over have supported the organization,” she said. “We are proud of our association with Narconon.”

Shank said the Narconon facility is “completely separate” and “not related” to a future Scientology retreat, envisioned on a nearby property the church purchased in 2009.

The church intends to convert the former Hockley Highlands Inn and Conference Centre into a sprawling retreat with a top-notch café, conference centre and lodge accommodations, with 200 staff members.

A promotional video on the church’s website describes the retreat as “exactly what is required to assist Canadian Scientologists through the ultimate frontier at the top of the bridge to total freedom.”

However, Narconon’s Hockley proposal is hardly a done deal.

Jacquie Tschekalin, director of planning for the township of Adjala-Tosorontio, which includes Hockley Village, said the township has received an application for a zoning amendment to allow a 24-bed residential addiction recovery centre.

Although formal processing (which includes public meetings and ultimately a council vote) has yet to begin, Tschekalin said the township has received dozens of calls from concerned residents, “and lots and lots of email, too.”

Tschekalin also has questions about traffic issues, and the potential strain on local services and the lack of oversight by the province, which does not license private addictions recovery centres.

But the municipality, which currently has no such facilities, “can’t be discriminatory,” she said.

“If we’re going to change the zoning it has to work for everybody regardless of who owns the property.”

Bill Schoenhardt, who is handling the sale on behalf of his sister-in-law, Marguerite Blenkarn, said she decided to sell the property after her husband, “the major patriarch in the family,” passed away last year.

He knows many local residents have questions about the proposal, but said it is not his role “to present or defend a Narconon centre.”

A good portion of the opposition, he suspects, stems from the fact that some people “don’t like anything that’s different.”

“They have their concerns . . . and whether they’re valid concerns, exaggerated concerns or fictitious concerns, they have their right to express them,” he said. “Thank goodness we live in a free country.”

With files for Torstar News Services

Cambridge ideal org – update feb. 2014

from “suck2beotviii”:

I recently had an opportunity to go north of the 49th parallel and wanted to update you on the scene in Canada.

Cambridge ideal org:

The Cambridge org is really just the old Kitchener org bilked of its money, moved 10 miles down the road to its neighboring city and made to sound like it’s some big brand-new org.

I’d seen the pictures of the org in the big glossy Scientology International News magazine and set my GPS for it but I still literally, no exaggeration, drove past that org three times trying to find it. It was so photoshopped beyond reality in the magazine that I literally could not recognize it.

It’s located off a main street but with no foot traffic to speak of. It’s a renovated low level industrial building with the entrance waaaaay at the back. Talk about invisible and uninviting from the street. I had to drive my car down the lane way to the back, park, and get ogled by someone, presumably surprised to actually see a visitor. Who in their right mind would go through the trouble to find this place and then actually go in for a personality test?

Once inside, it was clear that an entire top level of the building as depicted in the Scientology magazine was missing. As I toured around the premises I walk past many, dark foreboding rooms where my helpful guide kept flicking on lights and saying “Oh, and this here is a reg office”, and “This is the qual study room.” It was good to get her descriptions, as really, it was just a series of empty, dark rooms. The lights were turned on and then back off as we proceeded down the hall on the dark upper floor.

I saw two people on course (mid day on a weekday). The D of P told me that two people were on HGC lines (by ‘were’ did that mean once used to be?) Beyond that I saw maybe a couple dozen people in total, mainly Sea Org members, imported from the Toronto org an hour away.

So, I ask you, does this faked picture below from the Scientology International News magazine photo look anything like what I’ve just described?

1

 

One last sad note is that the Scientology News magazine proclaimed Cambridge to be the “Silicon Valley of the North.” Sorry, but this is a sleepy little town on the outskirts of Toronto whose economy is driven by the local Toyota plant. It looks like DM now needs to not only trump up the Orgs, but to try to make them sound like they are located in booming metropolises overflowing with people just waiting to do their personality tests.

Really very sad.

 

 

 

 

Montreal Idle Org – March 2014

An email from Michel in Canada:

“Montreal ideal org had been rented out to a skateboard/punk/graffiti collective, who packed out  a few months ago. Building is boarded up on the outside and there is evidence of water damage and maybe roof falling in.  Here are some pictures from outside.”

 DSC04470 DSC04472 DSC04473 DSC04476 DSC04479…more from aug 2013…
Is the Church of Scientology’s Montreal expansion project paralyzed?

by Gaétan Pouliot
August 12, 2013, coming from the forum of excsnt.net


No work has yet begun on the beautiful six-story stone building purchased by Scientologists in 2007
Photo: Annik MH De Carufel – Le Devoir

The Church of Scientology’s vast real estate project is still moving forward in Canada. Even though the project is not progressing at the pace desired by the organization, the Scientologists swear they will transform all of their often worn-out looking buildings into welcoming and modern facilities. But there are obstacles that seem to be paralyzing certain projects, including the one in Montreal.

On Saint-Catherine Street, the building formerly occupied by the La Patrie newspaper is slated to become the new home of this controversial international organization that is recognized as a religious corporation in Quebec.

No work has yet begun on the beautiful six-story stone building purchased by Scientologists in 2007 at a cost of $4.2 million. After hosting an art gallery last year, the building is now vacant.

Scientologists nevertheless want to turn this site into a magnificent temple which they call an “ideal organization,” like the one that opened in Quebec City’s lower town in 2010.

Founded in 1954 by science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, the Church of Scientology sells expensive courses and therapies that are supposed to purify the body and the mind. The organization says that its goal is to make way for a world without war and criminality. And to achieve this goal, it must build “ideal organizations” around the globe.

The Church of Scientology claims that the Montreal project is not experiencing any delays. The building is still in “the design and planning phase,” asserts Erin Banks, spokesperson for the organization in Los Angeles, in reply to Le Devoir. The president of the Church in Canada, Yvette Shank, emphasizes that, due to the age of the building – built in 1905 – the planning stage is longer.

In 2010, however, Ms. Shank said she hoped the new facilities on Saint Catherine Street would be inaugurated at the end of 2011. The building’s expected opening date has also been postponed several times on the organization’s website.

If the Montreal project seems to be faltering, things are moving ahead elsewhere in Canada. In February, hundreds of Scientologists gathered in Cambridge, Ontario, to celebrate the opening of their “new church.” Like the one inaugurated in Quebec City, the two-story building welcomes visitors in a flashily appointed and bright environment. It includes training rooms, a chapel, an information center, and a sauna.

In Toronto, the organization’s headquarters in Canada, all activities have been temporarily relocated because of the major renovations planned for the eight-story building located a few minutes from Queen’s Park. At a bit more than an hour’s drive from Toronto, the Scientologists also own about 80 hectares of land that they want to convert into a training center.

In Winnipeg, the scenario is similar to Montreal. The Church of Scientology owns a historic six-story building in the stock exchange district. There too, the renovation work is in the planning stage.

A scam

This real estate strategy implemented at costs of millions of dollars in all countries where Scientologists are present has been drawing a great deal of criticism.

One of the movement’s best-known critics is Mike Rinder, former communications director for the mother Church of Scientology. This longtime Scientologist who left in 2007 considers these “ideal organization” as nothing but a scam. “If Montreal and Winnipeg had the money to renovate their buildings, they would have done it,” he wrote in an email exchange with Le Devoir, adding that this program is a strategy of the church’s current leader, David Miscavige, to raise money. Mr. Rinder asserts that the Church of Scientology uses these buildings to claim that the organization is growing.

For its part, the Church declined to answer any questions from Le Devoir concerning the costs of its real estate strategy. The official reason for this vast project, Erin Banks insists, is that: “The Church of Scientology is experiencing a great period of growth around the world.”

This claim is difficult to verify. Statistics Canada data indicates there were only 1,745 Scientologists in Canada at the time of the 2011 census, compared to 1,525 in the 2001 census.

 

Bulawayo Idle Org – Zimbabwe Africa

Here is what the Zimbabwe DAILY NEWS – Africa has to say about the Idle Org in Bulawayo:

Church premises turned into brothel

Dereck Nyathi  •  5 February 2014 9:30AM  •

BULAWAYO – South Africa-based Church of Scientology is facing a crisis as their building in Bulawayo has been illegally invaded by sex workers, drunkards and street kids who are refusing to vacate the premises despite city council efforts to evict them.

In an interview with the Daily News, the church administrator, who identified himself as Chipere, confirmed the presence of illegal occupants who are resisting eviction.

“It is true that there are people living in our building and most of them are drunkards and street kids. We closed the flat after water supplies were cut,” Chipere said.

“The church never used the building but to our surprise people broke in and started using the premises without our permission. We reported the matter to the police and city council who have previously tried to evict people living there but they still come back, break in and continue living there.”

He said the illegal occupants have been living in their building for more than seven years now.

“The police are aware of this issue because there are cases of violence that are reported almost every day from the building. People, who live there abuse alcohol, use the rooms for sexual pleasures, they have destroyed the windows, doors and the place is very untidy now. I really don’t know how the situation can be dealt with,” he said.

Chipere said some of the people who live at Marvel Court along Joshua Nkomo Street are normal families and there was a time when they threatened him saying they have political support to forestall eviction.

“They threatened me, saying they are politically connected and since they have nowhere to stay they have no option but to occupy the building. The building will soon be renovated because we are still working on getting permission from border authorities to bring in material and renovate the building. It is still our building and we don’t want to use force on the people,” Chipere said.

Bulawayo police spokesperson Mandlenkosi Moyo told the Daily News that he had not received any reports about the issue but police will look into the case and make sure that everything is resolved.

“I’m not aware of the issue myself but it is our duty to protect the lives of the people. Therefore, as police we will be there to escort whoever will come and report, to make sure no one is hurt during the eviction process,” Moyo said.

A source close to the city council revealed that they attempted evicting people living there but they kept coming back.

“At first we evicted them with the help of the police but they returned. The second time we gave them an ultimatum that they leave the premises in a certain period of time but up to date they are still there. We are not sure how to handle this case anymore,” he said.