Ex-Members Spill on Latest Scientology Scam

As more and more people leave the “Church” of Scientology, more information is coming out about the inner workings of the church. Alex Klein at Buzzfeed interviews a bunch of them who left as a result of what they allege is a real estate scam run by the organization:

When Bert Schippers forked over hundreds of thousands of dollars to help build an Ideal Org in downtown Seattle, he thought he was helping save the world. “I thought I was in the best religion on the planet,” he says. But as he gave more and more from 2001 to 2008, the new cathedral’s doors remained locked shut: to people, but not to money. Schippers, who had joined the church in 1986 and spent more than a million dollars on donations and courses, started asking questions about what, exactly, he was paying for; church leaders barred him, his wife, and his friends from setting foot inside.

“We gave that money because we wanted our local church to have its own building,” says Schippers, who runs a circuit-board company with his wife. “But when I found out the church had changed the original teachings of L. Ron Hubbard to make so much money… I felt absolute, complete, total betrayal.” Nonprofits often tell you that a donation can change your life, as well as its recipient’s. For Schippers, losing so much for so little was a disturbing wake-up call. “It was around then I realized, I was in a fucking cult.” He pauses, can’t quite find the words. “It’s…a mindfuck. Just a total mindfuck.”…

It’s no secret that Scientology is pay-to-play; the prices for its services and teachings, from books to audits to seminars, seem to know no ceiling. But this moneymaker is different: The building drives ask for straight-up cash donations of fixed amounts — many times larger than traditional Scientology buy-ins — and, according to former executives, go straight to the central church’s kitty. For years, those who’ve long questioned Scientology’s legitimacy mocked the religion’s sci-fi-tinged teachings, called Hubbard a fraud, and lampooned those gullible enough to be taken in by its feel-good myths.

But that didn’t work. Why? All religions have their Xenus, multi-armed elephants, or magic babies, their morally ambiguous prophets, their tall tales and scandals. They even ask for millions of dollars from the faithful.

But the defectors who claim to have been bilked say this scheme is different, manipulating local parishes for the sake of central church finances. And once you talk to them, the stereotypes start to fade. These donors weren’t brainwashed weirdos. They were more average joes than creepy cultists — searching, like the rest of us, for a pew, a community, a how-to guide for life. They’re not familiar with corporate intrigue or mass donation drives.

The whole thing is worth reading. Klein did a great job on it, for which he will undoubtedly be rewarded by being investigated by private detectives and who knows what else, as past critics of the “church” have.

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