In the city that rose like the phoenix to become a vital hub of the South, the new Church of Scientology commits to uplift every community from drugs, crime and human rights abuse.
April in Atlanta is the time of year that dogwood trees bloom, creating canopies of white, and occasionally pink, flowers. When so much of the South’s cultural and financial capital is blanketed with the dogwoods, the city celebrates a joyful rebirth after the winter.
And in one corner of Atlanta, at the teeming fork of Roswell Road and Glenridge Drive, on April 2, 2016, the gaiety of dogwood time was accompanied by another very special occasion: the opening of the new Atlanta Church of Scientology.
The religion has been well established in Atlanta since 1973—but the new Church is something to talk about. Yes, it exudes Southern charm throughout its 45,000 square feet, with stately columns and graceful porticos. But the Old South is long gone with the wind, and the New South is a place of bustle and getting things done, in this birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement, the city that calls itself “too busy to hate.”
So, the grand opening was led by Scientology ecclesiastical leader David Miscavige, who proclaimed to the local Scientologist community: “This city is rightly remembered as a wellspring of civil rights and a catalyst for commitment. And while it’s also still a place of endearing charm and nostalgic memories, well, just wait till you see what else will be nostalgically remembered—now that you’ve placed this Church in Atlanta.”
What will be remembered is that the larger, precisely designed Church will speed more and more Scientologists along their paths to spiritual freedom. At the same time, the Atlanta Church will be on the front lines of the fight against narcotics and psychiatric abuse, championing human rights and the many other humanitarian endeavors of Scientology.
Indeed, within days of the opening, young Church members teamed up with Congressman John Lewis’ office to advocate human rights; a coalition, of which the Church is a member, promoted April as Child Abuse Prevention month; the Church hosted a luncheon for Concerned Black Clergy to address the issues of rising violence in the nation; volunteers for “The Truth About Drugs,” a signature Church initiative, distributed drug education literature across the city.
Those activities—and many, many more—were foreshadowed in speeches at the Church’s opening.
The Rev. James Milner, who had marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., told the crowd: “Drugs are the almighty oppressor today. They cause people to lose their humanity.” Referring to The Truth About Drugs, he said that “we use the materials, our counselors use them, and … drug abuse has dropped.”
Orlando Johnson of the Agape Center spoke about teaching The Way to Happiness, L. Ron Hubbard’s nonreligious guide for ethics and morality. “We deal with addicts, we deal with felons and those wishing to start life anew. It’s a tough crowd, but after a person goes through a The Way to Happiness class at our center, I see the message stays with them.”
Georgia State Senator Donzella James spoke of the loss of her sister at the hands of psychiatry. “There was nobody on our side until you came to the halls of our state capitol with Citizens Commission on Human Rights and the Psychiatry: Industry of Death exhibit. Since that time, we have partnered to bring this information. … We have introduced legislation to attack the root of the problem, and this new Church is a place for us to reach out from, to keep spreading the word.”
The crowd quickly got the message that this was pure Georgia—as youthful musicians gave a spirited rendition of Ray Charles’ “Georgia on My Mind.” And, yes, a ribbon was pulled, there were tours of a grand building, and a public information center was standing room only.
As 2016 draws to a close, the Atlanta Church is still hosting standing-room-only events. Scientologists are still fanning out throughout Atlanta—and heading elsewhere in the South on humanitarian missions.