'Australian recruits have dwindled to virtually zero': Scientology struggles in NSW

The Sydney Morning Herald/January 13, 2019

By Ben Weir

Scientology describes itself as the world’s fastest-growing religion but the organisation's numbers in NSW are dwindling with the church reliant on overseas devotees, defectors claim.

The organisation has properties worth millions across the CBD, Chatswood and Dundas and in 2017, doubled its national revenue to nearly $40 million, the latest published financial records show. But it is struggling to find new recruits in Sydney, defector Paul Schofield said.

"Australian recruits have dwindled to virtually zero as media coverage and access to the Internet has ensured the truth about the cult is well-known here," Mr Schofield said.

The church, which was founded by American science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, also has a history of altering its membership figures, the defector who spent 30 years in the church rising to become an ordained minister of Scientology said.

"They are totally obsessed with statistics, if your statistics are not going up you get punished, they are very creative people with numbers,” Mr Schofield said.

A Scientology spokesperson for the church in NSW said there were, “a substantial number of Scientologists in NSW, which I would estimate in the many thousands.”

"The Church of Scientology has experienced the greatest expansion last year worldwide, including Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Taiwan,” the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, defectors claim the Church's solution to its dwindling standing in Australia is to bring in believers from Taiwan, where the religion has flourished in the last twenty years.

"They come out here totally devoted to doing as much Scientology as they can, on as little amount of money, before going back to Taiwan," Mr Schofield said.

"These people sign one billion year contracts and promise to come back [to the church] every time they die."

The Taiwan connection was exposed recently when a teenager was charged after a 24-year-old Taiwanese national was fatally stabbed at the church’s Chatswood headquarters.

Police allege that the teen was asked to leave the centre and while being escorted down the driveway allegedly produced a kitchen knife, fatally stabbing the church employee.

It is believed the boy was trying to visit his mother who was undergoing a so-called purification ceremony at the organisation's Australasian headquarters in Chatswood.

The victim was described as a “beloved” Scientology member.

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