Scientology Daily Digest: Sunday, November 24, 2013

Programming note: We’re back in the saddle after a couple of days off due to an exhausting trip plus commitments that ran way late on Saturday night.  We’ll be putting out Digests for tonight through Wednesday night inclusive and we’ll be off for the US Thanksgiving holiday (our annual date with gluttony, for readers outside the US who are unfamiliar). We’ll resume daily publication on Saturday night.


More details of the Golden Age of Dreck 2 release are emerging, as well as abundant evidence that the cult is going into overdrive to get people to come into their local orgs to see the videos of the events.  The prose is more purple, the promises are more extravagant, and the testimonials are more over the top than ever before.

New York GAT 2 video broadcast invitation

New York GAT 2 video broadcast invitation

Last night, the cult held a video viewing event in Manhattan.  The tipster who e-mailed me the flyer was unable to attend, on account of being a declared SP (a minor impediment in the staff’s eternal quest to be upstat by inviting tons of people).  The most notable detail is that the event was held not at the NYC org’s “chapel” but at the Washington Irving High School auditorium.  That’s the biggest auditorium of any of the NYC schools.  They did this because renting from the school district is dramatically cheaper than renting a hotel ballroom in NYC, but it’s nowhere near as classy and successful.  But there are other private event venues that are also extremely competitive versus hotels, but which are a lot nicer than a high school auditorium.

I couldn’t get the exact seating figure, but based on a couple of pictures, it seats at least 1,500, probably a few more.  I would be extremely surprised if the NYC org was able to draw more than about 50 people given that the cult has never been that big in NYC in per capita Scientology involvement.  22 million people in the metro area served by the Org and they are unlikely to have gotten more than a few dozen to show.

It would be incredibly difficult to hide the number of empty seats in an auditorium that size.  I’m sure the acoustics were pretty interesting, with hard floors to make the empty hall echo all the more.  And it’s a good thing there aren’t many “whales” in the NYC area, since the hard plywood seats standard in NYC school auditoriums is not the plush comfort that they presumably expect.

Tony Ortega’s Blog

Today’s post had a brief comment by Jenna Miscavige Hill, niece of David Miscavige (daughter of his older brother Ronnie, who blew long ago).  She says, “I can’t believe people still buy any of this BS about ‘discovery’ of ‘lost tech.’ It’s just such an obvious and blatant money making scheme.”  While this is probably obvious to the readership of this blog, it’s nice to see somebody from the gene pool point this out.

Also worth noting is the annual “Christmas Stories” event invite, which features a few of the usual celebs reading Christmas stories.  You know, the holiday for that guy Christ, who turned out to be nothing more than a momentary blip in the R6 implant all those years ago.  Mostly the C-listers, but Kirstie, Anne Archer and others a bit nearer the top of the list are not there.  Not sure about the significance of this particular guest list. People with access to prior years’ lists might be able to shed some light on the changes in the cast from, say, 3 or 4 years ago.

Selected comments: 

Mike Rinder’s Blog

Mike’s been pretty prolific the last couple of days. Here are the most relevant posts:

Forums (ESMB, WWP, OCMB)

General Press

  • The cult recently purchased a building in Auckland, New Zealand.  The purchase price was NZ$16 million (US$13.1 million).  Interestingly the article reports that the building was financed by a loan from CSI to the local group, which will have to be repaid later (terms unknown).  There may be less than 250 Scientologists in all of NZ, if they exist at the same rate as in Australia, excluding staff (the 2006 census listed 350, but defections have obviously reduced this number over the course of nearly a decade).  Financing the building in advance of fund raising could be an interesting change in strategy, if we start seeing this elsewhere.  In fact, it could be a recognition that large donors () are getting tapped out, so Miscavige is going to take more cash over time rather than getting all the proceeds from an Ideal Org purchase up front.  The only problem is that if the org continues to spiral downward and is unable to meet payment deadlines a year or two out, the international management may be left holding the bag, which is of course very unattractive to DM.
  • bAnon

    The last 20 seconds of the voice mail blast from Rinder’s site is hilarious.
    quote “If you are interested, or you need help to come, please say YES, now.”
    quote “If you no longer wish to receive calls like this, call 866-536-0359”

    http://www.mikerindersblog.org/come-to-the-ias-at-flag-repeat/

  • DeElizabethan

    My favorite good new news is about NZ. That IS very interesting and I think telling as you say. Apparently he wants one there for PR reasons, but it is sure to backfire.

    • Sally Dannce

      It is not merely for PR purposes that scientology is insisting on a presence in NZ. NZ is handy.

      During the lead up to the tax exemption status being granted (reluctantly) in late 2002 by the NZ Inland Revenue (IRD), fairly large sums of money were funded by Int management so that the “best tax lawyer” could be hired to find a legal path to ensure “tax exemption on religious grounds” was obtained. It was a very serious issue for the CofS. There are a couple of reasons as to why.

      Commonwealth Nations can use legal precedents inter-nation. It was actually an Australia legal case that gave the legal pathway through for CofS NZ to get tax exemption status in NZ (but that’s another story for another day). The reason Int management was hurling money to NZ to “hire the best lawyer” was to get a legal precedent they could use in Britain where they have had no luck gaining charitable religious tax exemption status. NZ was used as a pawn in the game.

      The other reason is the only legal position for “religious recognition” is actually a tax one. Without tax exemption on religious grounds, the cult would merely be, legally speaking, just like the local tennis club. All the dots connect in this scam. The big picture is quite wild. The money involved that is silently moved around is significant so the cult can gain a legal “respectable” foothold and enjoy a myriad of tax benefits, all under the guise of being a religion. However it is a VERY fine line they walk to
      maintain it.

      • DeElizabethan

        Thank you so much for this explanation and info.

      • John P.

        Sally, thank you for your perspective. This is amazingly helpful.

  • KJP in Portland

    Welcome back John.

  • Lurkness

    Some additional financials for New Zealand from an article in July of this year:

    “The 2006 census recorded 357 Scientologists in New Zealand.

    The church’s latest available accounts, for the 2011 financial year, indicate the church had 30 paid fulltime staff and a gross income of $842,299 with $419,925 coming from member donations. A further $207,798 came from “service provision”, Scientology courses and training.

    It had current cash and bank balances of $415,573, $310,118 in inventory, and non-current assets – land and buildings – valued $6.6 million. Total assets were more than $12 million while the church had liabilities of more than $10 million.

    The church’s 2012 accounts were expected at the end of June but the church had sought, and been granted, an extension until August, the Charities Commission said.”

    The article JP posted shows the following financial and building info:

    “Church of Scientology New Zealand head Mike Ferriss told the Sunday
    Star-Times the cost of the restoration was $16m (for the building they previously bought for $10M in 2007).

    More than $3.5m had been raised mostly from the church’s 5000 local members (LOL LOL ROTFL), Ferriss said, but scientologists around the globe including expat Kiwis would contribute.

    Non-members who wanted to see the building restored had also donated, he
    said.

    The 2006 census counted 357 Kiwi scientologists; meaning each would need to
    donate more than $44,000 to reach the $16m target.

    The church’s annual accounts for the year ending December 2012 showed
    donations were down more than $170,000 to $245,253.

    It booked $1.18m from members in advance payments. The church had about
    $300,000 in the bank and owed its international office more than $8.6m,
    reporting a $2m deficit.

    The “huge” project is estimated to take around 12 months of construction,
    Ferriss said.”

    {Must only be in NZ that things are straight down and verticle.}

    • aquaclara

      Excellent stats here. Thanks, L.

    • Sally Dannce

      Hi. I am a kiwi. I have seen the property deed title for the building the CofS NZ Inc. purchased in 2007. The legal owner of 136 Grafton Road is the CofS NZ Inc. The doc I saw contained no financial info on the purchase of the property. I know that only about $3m – $3.5m (NZD) had been fund-raised locally at that time so have always strongly believed the extra $4m came from the “mother church”, possibly combined with some off-shore benefactors.

      Ferriss in the recent press release states another $16m is needed for the renovation. There are very tight regulations concerning this particular building because it is historically listed/protected and the building needs serious foundation strengthening to bring it up to current building code standards.

      The CofS NZ is only meant to conduct “charitable activities” within NZ so the issue of overseas funding to purchase a building are “interesting”. When
      NZ CofS obtained tax exemption from NZ Inland Revenue (IRD) in late 2002, the IRD was concerned about the debt level to the “mother church”.

      This is what the IRD wrote (2002):

      “Outstanding debt to Mother Church

      As discussed, I have concerns and reservations about the amount of indebtness on the books at the time the proposed Rules are adopted. Repayment of this debt may well mean the New Zealand Church is applying funds to non charitable purposes.”
      Michael Oomen, Manager – NZ IRD.

      Can of worms anyone?

  • aquaclara

    Thanks, John P. Great stuff here. The Narconon piece deserves its own discussion-I’m still reading through this. What a well-done piece so far.

    On a separate note, it will be interesting to see which locations report in on Gat 2 and other events. I”ll keep my eyes open.

  • Missionary Kid

    Even if Co$ ends up with a building in New Zealand, could that put an asset outside of the U.S. that could be harder to attach in a lawsuit?

  • Anonymous

    JohnP,

    Wanted to make sure you saw this where an anon is doing some data analysis on the rate of departure for folks leaving Scientology:

    http://www.forum.exscn.net/showthread.php?34064-Scientology-stats-are-UP!-)&p=881064&viewfull=1#post881064

    There are links within the above link too.

    One of the things that is tricky is that the data sets seem so small that the risk of analysis error seems large. But it may also be true that Scientology is so very much smaller than we think that almost any data set, real or imaginary, is going to be small.

    Just an FYI…I have spent zero time looking underneath the covers on this.

    • Lurkness

      Nice link, thanks. Diving down that rabbit hole, as it is important to where we think the cult is going. I haven’t said much about your comments on the independent movement, as I fall in the category of belief that so, so many more have left than are stil-in, that if the independents had viability, we would have seen more by now. We haven’t. Idendent movement seems only to rise relative to the exedus from CoS, but at a lesser disportional rate. Yet, to see successful, sustained recruiting for independent movements outside those disaffected from the Chirch itself. If they had something attractive and valuable, their numbers should be enormous, given the many, over the years, who have left/kicked out of the cult. And new recruits should be showing up in their numbers. Yet to see that.

      • Anonymous

        Agreed.

        In the final analysis, the offering of Scientology does not work well enough to stand on its own merits.

        Also agree that FAR, FAR more people have abandoned Scientology (including public, staffers, Sea Org etc.) than are still participating in the official church and all stripe of “indies” combined.

        An appropriate comparative model is to look at the number of people who can afford and try to get into top universities in the U.S. (e.g. Harvard, Stanford, etc.) versus the number that are actually admitted. The admission / application ratios are in the low single digits.

        If Scientology could consistently deliver on the bulk of its promises, there would be an Org on every street corner and lines around the block for people clamoring to get in. Smart people figure out what works in the world at large pretty fast. The cost to go to the top of the bridge is roughly comparable to the cost of a top undergrad degree plus an MBA at the best schools on earth.

        Yet, those top schools consisting graduate more paying customers in a year than have ever reached the top of the Scientology “bridge” in the entire 63 year history of the church.

        From a simple 25,000 foot crowd-sourced view alone, Scientology is a loser.

        The product of Scientology just isn’t good enough. And all the threats in the world by the church towards people who say so cannot change that simple reality.

  • Semper Phi

    “I would be extremely surprised if the NYC org was able to draw more than about 50 people given that the cult has never been that big in NYC in per capita Scientology involvement.”
    Oh ye of little faith! The person who called trying to confirm me for the event said they had to go to Irving H.S. because they had already confirmed 1,000 people! I’m sure that any confirmation total would include figures made up by all of the local orgs, including CCNY and quite probably the little Long Island Org. To reach 1,000, they must be counting body thetans and probably staff members. It would be interesting to know how many of those confirmed had “last-minute conflicts” that kept them from actually attending.

    • John P.

      One suspects that people click “confirm” on the Facebook event page to make… the… damned… phone… stop… ringing… Thus, I would have to believe that the no-show rate is far in excess of that for similar events. Maybe they got to 100. But I can’t believe that people are going to spend hours taking the train in from Westchester, LI, NJ or CT on a weekend, when the trains aren’t running all that often, to sit on hard wooden chairs and be regged within an inch of their lives. Three hours on the train, umpteen hours locked in a room on hard chairs, all to emerge poorer at the end? No, thanks.

  • Lurkness

    Moar stats. For the Biggest event in all Universes, the replay in the home territory of Southern CA only culled in less than 4k at the Shrine Auditorium this weekend. From Mike Rinder’s blog:

    Mike Rinder says:

    November 25, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Thanks Pepper.

    I am confused about the difference between the “top tier” of the auditorium and “the second level”?

    If the “top tier” is the balcony, and only the first few rows were full this means there were less than 4000 people there. That is pitiful when the whole of PAC, the Int Base, all orgs from San Diego to Santa Barbara staff and public were expected to be there.

    But perhaps I misunderstood what you were saying…

    Pepper in response:
    Sorry for the confusion. I was in the balcony, in the last section towards the end. This section was empty, except for maybe the first 2-3 rows and not all the way across the auditorium either. You could look at the Shrine Auditorium seating chart online too.

    Yes, I definitely believe there were less than 4000 people there. There pockets of empty seats/rows throughout.

    • Lurkness

      Some reliable numbers out of Germany on member numbers:

      “Interior Ministry spokesman Philipp Spauschus told reporters Monday there are no plans to stop surveillance of Scientology entirely.

      A 2012 domestic intelligence report on Scientology claimed the group’s membership in Germany had fallen by about 10 percent from a year earlier, to between 3,500 and 4,500.”
      With 82M people, the membership rate in Germany is 0.00004268. St8 up n vertical, I tell you!

    • Lurkness

      Although, 4k showing up in LA Area, is almost double what DM himself “pulled in” for the SP opening in CW (probably 2.5k)!