Jackson Wyan, a young Tom Cruise look-alike with short black hair and a black button-down shirt, greets people with laser-focused eye contact, a fixed smile and solid handshake at the Founding Church of Scientology of D.C. in Dupont Circle.
His mission not-so-impossible: Recruit more members.
Would-be Scientologists approach the landmark red building, also known as Fraser Mansion, at 20th and R streets NW, with regularity. Wyan, who’s been with the D.C. church six years, gives tours that include a sweep through the first-floor library full of founder L. Ron Hubbard‘s writings and a basement recruitment center with free stress tests.
So many curious Scientology seekers take Wyan’s tours that the church, which has occupied the high-profile site for a decade, says it can no longer handle the traffic at the 22,000-square-foot building — so it’s tripling its size in D.C. with new offices.
By the end of the year, most of the 100-member staff will move into a 50,000-square-foot building at 16th and P streets NW.
The Church of Scientology Religious Trust, a sister organization, bought a seven-story building at 1424 16th St. NW for $17.3 million from Castleton Holdings in November. The Staubach Co. real estate firm helped with the purchase, one of 22 properties the trust bought last year.
The Founding Church of Scientology of D.C. is leasing the space and plans to infuse $5 million into a renovation that includes a 500-seat auditorium and rooftop cafe once it obtains its permits.
With the move and a refurbished Fraser Mansion, D.C. will have the third-largest collection of Scientologist facilities in the nation, in terms of square footage, behind Los Angeles and Clearwater, Fla.
There are 10 million Scientologists internationally, 3.5 million in the United States, and 50,000 on the member list in Greater Washington, according to the church.
The accuracy of the numbers is often questioned. The D.C. church declined to offer detailed figures of its membership or growth, but says interest in the church has increased.
“A lot of people who come to D.C. are interested in society and what they can do for their fellow man and they are looking beyond themselves, looking more globally and environmentally,” says local spokeswoman Sylvia Stanard. “You can’t just live in your own little world.”
Indeed, Scientology strikes many as otherworldly. Some visitors, however, are just intrigued by the religion that Hubbard, a science fiction writer, founded in D.C. in 1954 after he studied engineering, mathematics and nuclear physics at The George Washington University.
Hubbard, who died in 1986, wrote the best-selling book “Dianetics” and helped the church grow by attracting outspoken Hollywood stars such as Cruise, John Travolta and Kirstie Alley.
– Justice Anderson, Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia, quoted atWhat judges have to say about Scientology
Scientology has been criticized as something akin to a pyramid-networking scheme and lately has confronted controversy over its teachings that psychologists and psychotherapeutic drugs are unnecessary — most publicly last summer when Cruise wrangled with “Today” show co-host Matt Lauer.
Wyan dismisses the criticisms as just your typical slamming of a new religion. Besides, business is booming and pumping money into D.C.’s economy, he says.
And that’s a very important part of the mission.
The church — which says it has $8 million worth of assets in its D.C. coffers — generates money not only through donations, but also through classes and counseling, which cost $36 to $2,000 a shot.
Says Wyan, laughing: “We want people to give lots and lots of money.”
The above article states that “Wyan dismisses the criticisms as just your typical slamming of a new religion.” We welcome people to examine whether that is the case, or whether criticism of Scientology is based on legitimate concerns.
While the publishers of Religion News Blog value and support religious tolerance and religious freedom, we also value and support the right to examine a religion’s claims and practices.
The Church of Scientology has a long history of unethical behavior, based in part on the writings of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard – a man who lied about his accomplishments, and who promoted the hate and harassment practices the Church of Scientology is known for.
While the Scientology organization has been on a charm offensive in recent years, its beliefs and practices carry serious risks. From its hatred of psychiatry to its pseudo-medical practices and its “factualy inaccurate approaches” to antidrug education, Scientology’s teachings and practices warrant thorough investigation.
See the Apologetics Index collection research resources on Scientology