Plan + Commitment: 51 Ideal Churches done
Pacifica Bridge Los Angeles’ Ideal Church (foreground), the American Saint Hill Organization (moving down L. Ron Hubbard Way, on right), the Advanced Organization Los Angeles (across LRH Way on left).

Inside View

Plan + Commitment: 51 Ideal Churches done

Salvaging the planet is a tough job—but the Churches that can make it happen are being built.

There are days of rage, when humanity recoils in horror at bloodshed and depravity. Poignant are the sneak attacks on America—December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001—which so stunned the world. But for only a short time.

In 1945, the Allied nations smashed the Axis powers. And, while the outcomes of “9/11” are still playing out, there was no argument that many good men and women said “no!” to a future that held only carnage and chaos.

Among those who refused to capitulate to fear after 9/11, the Church of Scientology marshaled its resources to salvage civilization from its mad rush towards self-destruction. “Bluntly, we are the only people on Earth who can reverse the decline,” stated Scientology’s ecclesiastical leader, David Miscavige, in a message titled “Wake-Up Call” that was sent to every member of the religion just hours after the World Trade Center towers fell. “If we don’t work faster we could face a scenario where any help would be impossible. And it’s not just the violence we have recently witnessed; it’s everything that violence potentially wreaks in terms of economic and social collapse.”

The key to answering that challenge was in transforming every Scientology Church into powerhouses of outreach.

Yes, the Churches serve their members, advancing them up what’s called the “Bridge to Total Freedom.” But an equally important role is organizing crusades and programs—in tandem with many other groups—that attack the causes of degradation in society. These humanitarian efforts fight drugs, advance literacy, promote human rights, battle psychiatric abuse and teach rehabilitation for ex-offenders. And squads of Scientology Volunteer Ministers respond to everything from the devastation of earthquakes to organizing “extreme” tours to remote communities that are in dire need of social services.

The challenge in 2001 was that few of Scientology’s Churches had the brick and steel, and precise design, to do the work envisioned in Mr. Miscavige’s “Wake-Up Call.” Scientology was founded in the mid-20th century, and had expanded rapidly. A lot of the early Church structures weren’t up to the task.

Mr. Miscavige had a study done of the Tampa Church, close to the Church’s spiritual headquarters in Clearwater, Florida, and out of that came a plan.

“People said we couldn’t create the Churches that we needed,” said Mr. Miscavige. “People said we should do things gradually.

“But that got us nowhere, and buildings have taken too long to plan, construct and open—while humanity’s plunge into chaos hasn’t slowed. We had to act,” Mr. Miscavige concluded.

His energy echoed that of Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard, when he said in 1982: “The consideration that it takes a long time to build something is not true. That itself is an aberration, an effort to discourage destruction by pretending creation takes a long time.”

Building Ideal Churches was not a new concept. Indeed, it was the vision of Mr. Hubbard as early as 1962: “We’re thinking in terms of new buildings and designing new buildings all over the world.” And in 1975 when he described the Ideal Organization: “One could look at this ideal org and know that this was the place a new civilization was being established for this planet.”

CreationThe International Landlord Office, assisted by the global design firm Gensler, is the hub of planning, design and purchasing for new Ideal Churches.

It was in 2003 when the first Ideal Church (or Organization) was created. With the opening of the new Church in Atlanta in April 2016, Scientology reached a milestone of 51 new Ideal Orgs. How did that happen?

Mr. Miscavige determined exactly what must be done to build an Ideal Org—the kind described by Mr. Hubbard. The Church at Saint Hill in England, which Mr. Hubbard managed while also conducting advanced spiritual research in Scientology in the mid-1960s, was a model to attain that was set by Mr. Hubbard. But how could that be measured? The solution was determined by desired outcomes—here’s everything an Org should do, and here’s how the physical planning could achieve that. It’s not just the size, but the rigorously designed plans that enable the broad dissemination of the religion and the delivery of all available Scientology services, thus allowing Scientologists to accelerate their spiritual progress.

Achieving incredibly precise quality, as well as economic efficiency, were considerations. “It was an overwhelming task if every single Church had to plan out its work individually,” Mr. Miscavige said. “We had to organize it so that Churches were not left on their own to solve the same construction problems which come up in each case, while bringing down the cost with global procurement contracts.”

The answer was the International Landlord Office which was created as the management body to oversee the creation of Ideal Orgs globally.

The mandate was to do it all and do it all now. The mass purchasing and standardization by master designers—especially the worldwide architectural firm of Gensler—had to be integrated with the sense and style of each community.

“With what we’re doing centrally,” Mr. Miscavige said, “we are helping every Church congregation. By unifying functions such as space planning, design and purchasing, we don’t duplicate work. We maximize the economy and we assist every Church to achieve the highest quality building.”

The first Ideal Church was in Johannesburg, South Africa, opening on November 1, 2003. The city was one in which Mr. Hubbard lived and continued his research into the spirit and mind in the early 1960s. To inaugurate the Ideal Church program, Mr. Miscavige highlighted the mission of Scientology, salvaging mankind.

Mr. Hubbard tackled problems “directly and at every strata,” Mr. Miscavige said at the Johannesburg opening, “from programs for white juvenile delinquents, to literacy tools for black African schools, not to mention an end to the policy of separateness. … LRH knew those chains would be broken, and yet the freedom sought would not be achieved without something else. For, how free is a man if he is not able. And that is why, above all else, he worked to bring the spiritual freedom that is only possible through the Technology of Scientology.”

Fifteen days later, Mr. Miscavige opened the second Ideal Church—this one in Buffalo, N.Y. At the inauguration, David Miscavige announced: “Here stands the Central Organization to bring our solution of drug rehabilitation, education, morality, not to mention even more groups, centers and missions to every community.”

After that came San Francisco, where Mr. Miscavige announced the “workable solutions” embedded in this new Church, and the mission to “bring them everywhere, on a planetary scale, to reverse those trends” of social decay.

And then on to Madrid, London, Rome, Nashville, Seattle, Portland, Tokyo—until the Church reached No. 51, Atlanta. And the runway for new Ideal Churches keeps increasing in speed, with 50 more planned to be opened in the immediate future.

Mr. Miscavige summed up: “What LRH envisioned of an Ideal Church is a gathering place for the entire community. Yes, it is the ideal facility to service Scientologists on their ascent to higher states of spiritual freedom. But it is also the meeting point for humanitarian programs in that city for the benefit of all, a cooperative effort to uplift people of all denominations. And, ultimately, we reach the point where humanity finally has a chance.”

Milan. Mega Church of Scientology.

Ideal Org: No. 50 Milan
Mega Church of Scientology.

Here’s what expansion means for the Church of Scientology.

In October 2012, the Church’s ecclesiastical leader, David Miscavige, was in Italy to open a new “Ideal Organization” in Padova. He decided to add to his trip by visiting the Church in Milan. There he observed a large, active congregation—so large, so active that the facilities could barely contain all that was going on.

Maria Rosa Dalmas, Executive Director of the Church of Scientology of Milan, told Mr. Miscavige about standing plans to move to a larger building. Dalmas explained that she had been scouting potential locations and that, in fact, she might have found the perfect place.

“Show me,” Mr. Miscavige told Dalmas, who obliged, taking him to see a five-story structure on Fulvio Testi Avenue, overlooking Milan’s beloved North Park.

As their tour of the property was winding down, Dalmas remembers David Miscavige turning to her and asking, “What are you waiting for?”

Less than two months later, in December 2012, the Church completed the purchase of the building—the future Scientology Ideal Organization of Milan. The Church’s International Landlord Office in Los Angeles, saw to the planning, design and execution of the project, working closely with Dalmas to see that the specific needs of her congregation were met.

Great story—but it gets even better with a little history. In the 1980s, an anti-religious clique in the Italian government attempted to destroy Scientology in that country. Machine gun-toting police stormed the Church in Milan, but Scientologists were undeterred. After a lengthy court battle, the Italian Supreme Court threw out all charges against the Church, and in a landmark decision proclaimed, “Scientology is a bona fide religion whose activities, without exception, [are] characteristic of all religious movements.” Today, this decision is recognized by leading judicial authorities and scholars as a pivotal decision setting important standards regarding the definition of religion throughout the European Community.

The Milan Church, largest Ideal Church in the world, allows large numbers of parishioners to progress up Scientology’s “Bridge to Total Freedom.”
Big, BeautifulThe Milan Church, largest Ideal Church in the world, allows large numbers of parishioners to progress up Scientology’s “Bridge to Total Freedom.”

The Italian Scientology churches never stopped growing during the 20 years of litigation—resulting in the happily cramped bustle Mr. Miscavige witnessed in 2012 in Milan. About three years later, on October 31, 2015, the new Ideal Church of Scientology opened.

During his speech at the opening, Mr. Miscavige referred to the struggle that Italian Scientologists had endured—and culminated with victory. “It was you who surmounted every obstacle,” he said. “So that when doors were shuttered and dark forces encircled, you drew from those first tests of strength and advanced our Religious Freedom Crusades in Europe.”

The Milan Ideal Org is a vast structure, spanning 104,000 square feet on 1.5 acres of land, covering a full city block—a fitting monument to the energy and vigor of the local parishioners, and the town they call home. “If ever a city was destined as the seat of an Ideal Org, then it is your Milan,” Mr. Miscavige said in his address. “This city of age-old splendor and new-age vision. This city, where energy pulses from her streets and creativity issues from her soul.”

Rosella Cominelli was an early adopter of Scientology in Italy, one of a group of five people who opened the first Church Office in Milan in 1974. Now 63, Cominelli took the opportunity of the opening to reflect how far her religion has come. “This new Ideal Org is simply a dream come true. It’s so different from what we were at the beginning more than 40 years ago. That was grassroots. This—this is grand.”

The Milan Ideal Church is a focus on community activities
Hub of ActionThe Milan Ideal Church is a focus on community activities—including an open house for Scientology’s Volunteer Ministers.
The Church, the largest local Scientology Organization, has a constant flow of people working on their spiritual progress or engaging in humanitarian efforts
The Church, the largest local Scientology Organization, has a constant flow of people working on their spiritual progress or engaging in humanitarian efforts.

Indeed, Milan’s new Ideal Org reflects the refined style for which Italy is famed. The building’s interior is outfitted with elegant marble flooring, dark millwork, polished stainless steel and accents in deep red, evocative of the trademark shades of two other bold Italian institutions: Ducati Motorcycles and Ferrari.

But beyond the size and grandeur of the Milan Org, the rapid pace of activity continues: Human rights, anti-drug awareness campaigns, shining a bright light on psychiatric criminality. And, if there’s one thing that marks Italian Scientology Churches—especially Milan—is the work of Volunteer Ministers. The Civil Protection Volunteers of the Scientology Community, popularly known as PROCIVICOS, provide frontline disaster response in their communities.

“Our churches are both inward and outward facing,” Mr. Miscavige said in an interview. “Individual Scientologists grow in their abilities to confront life and make change. And then they turn to the communities where they live. They start fixing problems, finding solutions, salvaging people in many, many ways. That’s the story in Milan. It’s our biggest Church, and it got big by creating powerful Scientologists who could then tackle the big jobs in society.”

Tokyo. Ideal Church of Scientology in Japan.

Ideal Org: No. 49 Tokyo
Ideal Church in Japan marks Scientology’s rapid expansion in the Far East.

The Land of the Rising Sun has long figured in the lore of Scientology, as David Miscavige, ecclesiastical leader of the religion, explained to the crowd of more than 1,000 people gathered at the August 8, 2015, opening of the Tokyo Ideal Organization.

Scientology Founder “L. Ron Hubbard originally approached these shores at the age of 16, in 1927,” Mr. Miscavige said. “He came to view Fujiyama from 50 miles at sea and described it as ‘a symmetrical cone of celestial beauty.’ So it was Japan well and truly left her mark on a young LRH, for it was here he saw a culture he knew ‘could influence the entire East with thought and raised ability.’”

Scientology came to Japan as a grassroots movement, with the Church establishing its official presence with a Tokyo Org in 1985. In 1986, Dianetics was first published in Japanese, making the nation’s bestseller list two years later. By 2007, Japanese translations of all of Scientology’s Basics Books and Lectures were available.

“With a new Ideal Org in Tokyo, and another in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Scientology is now firmly established in the Far East,” Mr. Miscavige said in an interview. “Every book and lecture by LRH that Japanese and Chinese-speaking Scientologists need to advance on their spiritual path is now translated into their own languages.”

Japanese Scientologists now have the ideal environment for religious study, with course rooms designed specifically for Scientology and an entire floor dedicated to facilities for Scientology spiritual counseling, called auditing. There’s also a chapel for congregational gatherings, weddings and naming ceremonies. An auditorium spans most of the eighth floor of the building, and the Org also features a café, multi-use public spaces and a stunning rooftop terrace.

Ultramodern and eight stories high, the building is located in the heart of the world’s most populous city, standing as a symbol of spirituality and hope.

Like all Scientology Ideal Orgs, the Tokyo Church has an expansive public information center, where all are welcome and visitors can peruse multimedia displays to take in more than 500 films introducing the beliefs and practices of Scientology.

The Tokyo Ideal Church is a place of bustle and activity — arriving to begin courses and services
ExuberanceThe Tokyo Ideal Church is a place of bustle and activity—from arriving to begin more courses and services (above) to attending lectures and community meetings (below).
The Tokyo Ideal Church is a place of bustle and activity — community meetings

“An especially attractive aspect of the religion for Japanese is Scientology Study Technology,” said Takayuki Shirota, director of the Learning Support Institute of Tokyo. He said the educational method developed by L. Ron Hubbard is a tool “desperately needed by Japan today” because of the nation’s “drop in scholastic ability,” adding that if Japan were to implement the technology, the nation would experience nothing less than “the dawn of a renaissance of learning.”

At the new Tokyo Org, information is also available on Church-sponsored humanitarian and social betterment programs, which include Youth for Human Rights International, The Truth About Drugs, The Way to Happiness Foundation and Scientology Volunteer Ministers.

The regional activities of these programs are coordinated at the Tokyo Ideal Org, which will “not only light up the center of Tokyo but our entire nation with humanitarian help,” according to Masami Saito, a member of Japan’s parliament for Miyagi Prefecture.

Saito should know—he personally benefited from the work of Scientology’s Volunteer Ministers in the aftermath of a 2011 earthquake that rocked Eastern Japan, as he explained in a speech at the Tokyo Ideal Org opening. “Your members, the Volunteer Ministers, were there clearing away debris from [my father-in-law’s] collapsed house,” Saito said. “They showed such skill and discipline. Your humanitarian attitude was touching to the core.”

Scientology team members participated in search-and-rescue efforts, manned earthquake shelters and organized the delivery of food, water and supplies. They also assisted in the cleanup of entire towns and villages that had been leveled by tsunami waves, displacing more than 300,000 residents.

The Scientology volunteers also used techniques developed by L. Ron Hubbard, the religion’s founder, intended to help victims overcome stress, toward facilitating rapid recovery from illness and injury. “We helped people to dream again, changing despair to hope,” said Koji Minami, who coordinated the Volunteer Ministers, adding: “We were able to create minor miracles like this on a daily basis.”

Bogota. Ideal Church of Scientology in Colombia.

Ideal Org: No. 48 Bogota
Proven results: Scientology efforts helped end the scourges of violence and drugs.

A thriving metropolis of nearly 8 million people, Bogota, Colombia, may have a bloody past, but its gaze is fixed firmly on a bright future. It’s a city with an artistic center, a creative edge and a strong sense of itself.

“They consider themselves the city closest to heaven on earth,” David Miscavige, Scientology’s ecclesiastical leader, noted in a speech after the July 5, 2015, opening of the new Ideal Church in Bogota.

Nestled in a high-altitude cradle beneath the Andes Mountains at over 8,500 feet above sea level, Bogota’s new eight-story Scientology Ideal Organization stands prominently on the city’s Calle 100 in the Northern district of Usaquen.

The ultramodern structure spans 48,000 square feet and sits in the center of the district’s vibrant commercial and entertainment hub.

The lofty city, home to the first Scientology Ideal Org in South America, bears little resemblance to the Bogota of just 20 years ago, when human rights atrocities, drug trafficking, murder and mayhem plagued all of Colombia, much of it perpetrated by the country’s own military.

Today, longstanding civil conflicts are being resolved and crime rates are down. Colombia’s National Police report that 2014 was the country’s least violent year in three decades, with the homicide rate at its lowest since the mid 1980s.

Of course, the big question is why Colombia has done such an about-face. The general consensus is that it can be traced to a combination of factors, including the nation’s taking on of the cartels (with an assist from the United States’ $9 billion Plan Colombia initiative approved by Congress in 1990), some courageous politicians, and perhaps a populace that grew tired of living in a war zone.

There is another influence in the ongoing Colombian transformation: The presence and programs of the Church of Scientology, which several of the high-ranking members of the nation’s military have emphatically affirmed.

The story of the religion in Bogota dates to the 1970s, when the first Scientologists began Dianetics and Scientology dissemination there. The Church’s presence grew throughout Colombia over the decades until 2009, when its cruise ship, Freewinds, sailed to the port city of Cartagena for its 20th anniversary refit.

The ship’s presence would facilitate a close relationship between the Church and the Colombian military and police forces, whose members began taking Scientology courses onboard the vessel with the encouragement of General Carlos Ramiro Mena and Colonel Ricardo Antonio Prado.

The Bogota Ideal Church’s Information Center has videos and literature on Scientology—as well as the religion’s many humanitarian projects in Latin America.
Getting the wordThe Bogota Ideal Church’s Information Center has videos and literature on Scientology—as well as the religion’s many humanitarian projects in Latin America.

Around the same time, Church-sponsored human rights education programs ramped up in the country, ultimately reaching 100 percent of Colombian Army personnel, according to Lt. Colonel Anstrongh Polania, Chief of the Department of Joint Operational Law for the Colombian Ministry of Defense. As a result, human rights complaints against the army dropped 96 percent.

“And it is not only the Army we reached,” Polania explained in a speech at the Bogota Ideal Org opening. “We trained judges, prosecutors, magistrates, attorneys and even schoolchildren across all of Colombia. Everyone we taught learned that the protectors of human rights form the backbone of our nation.”

The Way to Happiness campaign, which promotes a common sense moral code developed by Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard, has also had a positive impact, says Lt. Colonel Edgar Rojas, Special Ops Commander for Rural Zones for the Colombian National Police. “I have observed real changes in my men and fellow police officers once they study The Way to Happiness. Believe me, it is the checklist for life.”

Scientology’s Truth About Drugs educational initiative is also at work in Bogota. “Drugs are still the biggest enemy of our nation, and those who lack knowledge and understanding are at continual risk,” said Lt. Colonel Carlos Peña, Coordinator for Anti-Drug Education with the Colombian Anti-Narcotics Department.

Peña praised the Church of Scientology for “opening the eyes of people to the dangers of drugs” and helping to “change the perception of associating Colombia with drugs, terrorism and corruption.”

All around, Peña said, the new Ideal Org, and the Scientologists behind it, are a fantastic ally in the effort to build and carry into the future “a stronger Bogota and a greater Colombia.”

The Bogota Touristic Police Unit met at the city’s new Scientology Ideal Church to get instruction on the religion’s Truth About Drugs campaign.
Truth tellingThe Bogota Touristic Police Unit met at the city’s new Scientology Ideal Church to get instruction on the religion’s Truth About Drugs campaign.
The Bogota Touristic Police Unit met at the city’s new Scientology Ideal Church to get instruction on the religion’s Truth About Drugs campaign.