Another in the Sunday Redux series. This one was originally published on March 25, 2013.
Scientology’s “massive international expansion” has become almost a mantra of David Miscavige and his clone spokespeople (mostly lawyers these days) that send letters to the media. At least in the US it seems the spokespeople are no longer allowed to speak .
This is the first in a series of articles that will examine the FACTS about this supposed “massive international expansion”.
How Many Scientologists?
Corporate Scientology shouts from the rooftops that there are 10 million members worldwide (though this number has been being used since 2006 so it’s time for a new number). The Scientology spokespeople waffle about how they arrive at this figure – but it is actually no mystery. Many years ago the figure was pegged at 4 million which was derived from a guess of how many names had EVER been in any org central files and then adding to it a theoretical number of how many people on average read a hard back book. But then in the 90’s David Miscavage told Heber he was an idiot because he kept using the same figure which meant the church was not expanding. So it became 6 million. Then it became 8 million. Then 10. Each time David Miscavige just pronounced that this was now the new figure.
In truth, it is easy to know how many active church members there are. The IAS has an EXACT list. It’s about 30,000, but anyone who has ever been on their mailing list knows that it is virtually impossible to get off it, so even that is no longer accurate. But the church will never make that number available.
There is another accurate measure, which is the number of people that attend the David Miscavige mandatory attendance events. Jeff Hawkins, Steve Hall and others who have seen the figures also know this is less than 30,000. And this is with all Scientology orgs and missions reporting within an HOUR of starting their event so the report can go to DM before the end of the night on attendance. That figure has been below 30,000 since the 90’s. And if anyone believes the orgs are not inflating their figures (they have to report last year’s attendance compared to this years ) I have a bridge to sell you. But again, corporate scientology will NOT disclose this information publicly.
The third way of knowing whether Scientology membership is growing or contracting is by surveys done by independent organizations.
There have been a number of these around the world, but the most accurate are in the United States. A 1990 American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) concluded there were 45,000 Scientologists in the US. A 2001 survey estimated 55,000. In 2008 ARIS concluded the number had shrunk to 25,000. Tony Ortega published an excellent article on these statistics on 4 July 2011: Scientologists: How Many Of Them Are There, Anyway?
David Miscavige Logic?
Corporate Scientology spokespeople have always responded to these (and other) surveys with the assertion they are inaccurate (utterly ignoring the fact that they show declining figures). Usually they assert some version of “if they conducted the survey in Clearwater they would conclude that 10% of the population were Scientologists.” This is of course pure “David Miscavige logic” – whatever I say is right, if you disagree you are wrong. He pronounces from his bubble that the survey organizations have no idea how to extrapolate any national figures from their samples.
But for a minute, let’s assume he is right. That would mean there are 13,500 Scientologists in Clearwater and 420,000 in the Tampa Bay area. Hmmm, then why do they stress and harass and cajole and go nuts to ensure the Ruth Eckerd Hall is filled when the Dear Leader jets into town to address the adoring crowds. It only seats 2,300 people and there are supposedly (according to the church) nearly 2000 Sea Org members in Clearwater and thousands of public on lines. Doesn’t appear that his statistical sample would even work for Tampa!
A Scientology Spokesperson Finally Fesses Up
So, how do you get anything resembling the truth from the church?
Enter, stage right, Graeme Wilson – the PR Aide OSA UK and senior church spokesman for all churches of Scientology in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
He was recently quoted in a major and serious newspaper (The Independent) making a startling admission that confirms all is not well in the world of straight up and vertical international expansion.
And even at that, his statement was what he thought he could get away with, not the actual truth. A balance between what he thought the media may accept and what he feels public Scientologists may not cringe too heavily at….
But again, let’s take Mr. Wilson at face value and assume the best case scenario for the Church of Scientology. The Independent reported:
Graeme Wilson, UK public affairs director said the building would be open to local people. The church currently has 118,000 members in the UK, 15,000 of whom are active participants. See article here
First, he has finally acknowledged there are actual figures for “members” and “active members”. Of course, “active members” are the ONLY real members. It is not even the same as Catholics that never go to Mass being called “Catholics” as a different category than those that do attend (“active”). No, this 118,000 is the total number of names that have ever made it into CF. And that includes EVERYONE who has bought a book or taken an intro service.
But the real figure to focus on is the 15,000 “active” members.
Outside the US, the United Kingdom is the most established area for Scientology in the world. LRH personally ran London Org. Personally opened a PE in Dublin. Made his home at St Hill.
The UK has 9 Class V orgs and an AOSH. That is 1500 active members per org.
So, let’s take his inflated figures and compare them to the inflated figures dished out by Dear Leader with some simplistic math – but it is adequate to give a ballpark figure.
The US has 44 Class V orgs SH and AO. That would equate to 69,000 “active” members in the US.
The world is 139 plus 5 Advanced Orgs – which extrapolated out is 216,000 or 2.1% of what is publicly claimed.
Out of the mouths of babes….
Graeme Wilson is too far away from Miscavige’s control center. But I don’t expect he will be making any more “uncoordinated” statements to the media.
Next in this series:
And the third:
More will follow in the “Stats” series.
By Mike Rinder