INGLEWOOD — The city’s newest — and by far the grandest — church, is open for business.
On Nov. 5, 5,000 Scientologists, guests and city officials converged at 315 S. Market St. for the dedication of the Church of Scientology.
The site of a former retail jewelry store, the 45,000-square-foot building has undergone a $5 million refit. It is one of 60 — there have been five new buildings open in the greater Los Angeles area since 2010 — new churches the organization is building around the world.
The controversial organization — which some have likened to a cult — teaches that people are immortal beings who have forgotten their true nature.
Through a method of spiritual rehabilitation known as “auditing,” practitioners aim to consciously re-experience painful or traumatic events in their past in order to free themselves of their limiting effects.
Those welcoming the new Church, included Councilman Ralph Franklin, Inglewood Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks, Los Angeles NAACP President Leon Jenkins, Skipp Townsend, executive director of the gang intervention group 2nd Call and the Rev. Cecil “Chip” Murray, retired head of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles and currently a professor of religious studies at USC.
The dedication ceremony was officiated by David Miscavige, chairman of the Board of Religious Technology Center and the ecclesiastical leader of the Scientology religion.
“This new Church of Scientology is quite literally imbued with contributions and global spirit of Scientologists from more than 100 nations,” Miscavige said.
“In that respect, it reflects the greater shape of Scientology — both body and soul. Moreover, it reflects the attributes of greatness all religions traditionally sought to inspire, including decency, nobility, compassion and charity.”
Meanwhile, Franklin spoke of his gratitude that the new church would help revitalize the downtown Market Street corridor.
“I for one am very excited about your move to your new home,” Franklin said. “Thank you for being our anchor to Market Street. You are helping revitalize downtown and offering a platform from which we can make a segue into our great future.”
He added: “I have faith that your presence will be a catalyst for this city’s renaissance. And so it is with great pleasure that on behalf of all of us here in the city of Inglewood I say congratulations on your new home.”
As it happened, the media were not actually invited to Saturday’s event, but Erin Banks, of the Church of Scientology International, and Patricia Harris, the Inglewood Church’s director of public affairs, gave The Wave a guided tour of the facilities Monday.
Banks took a reporter through the three-story building — adorned with many examples of African art — beginning with the welcome reception and public information center, the chapel, the Dianetics and Scientology Bookstore, the Purification Center, the Scientology Course Room and the Office of L. Ron Hubbard.
According to Banks, all the churches have an office dedicated to the Scientology founder as a mark of respect and tribute to stay true to his writings and teaching.
She also pointed to key programs that the church sponsors, like the Foundation for a Drug-Free World and United for Human Rights.
“The church is here for the community and to help people,” she said.
“Parishioners from all over the world helped to put this here and we’re really proud that we did that. I encourage people to just come in and found out for themselves. Check it out, our doors are always open, it doesn’t matter whether your Christian, Baptist or Muslim.”