The controversial Church of Scientology, which numbers Tom Cruise and John Travolta amongst its followers, is looking for new regional headquarters in Birmingham.
Leaders of the controversial faith, practised by eight million worshippers worldwide, have asked a city-based property adviser to locate new premises in the city centre.
The Church is seeking a large new regional base, which could employ several hundred people, for administrative and retail purposes.
But the plan is likely to trigger fierce opposition from more established faiths.
The Church of England declined to comment today but In March 2004 the Diocese of Birmingham attacked the city council’s decision to let the Scientologists launch its volunteer ministers’ centre in Centenary Square.
Former diocesan spokesman Arun Arora said at the time that the Church, founded by science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard, was “as much a religion as a dog is a vegetable”.
He said Scientology was regarded by many as “little more than a cult” and had been refused recognition as a religion by the UK Charity Commissioners.
But an insider said of the latest plans: “The Church of Scientology is looking for a base in Birmingham to serve greater Birmingham and the whole of the West Midlands.
“They are looking to launch an administrative facility with retail, selling printed material.
“They already have a church with a book shop off New Street but they could become a very large employer in the city centre if this scheme goes through. They want to spread their message in the Midlands.
“Property advisers were approached earlier this year and were bound to secrecy – they have not yet identified a suitable building but are speaking to them on a regular basis.”
Graeme Wilson, the Church of Scientology’s public affairs director, said: “The Church of Scientology in Birmingham is looking for larger premises as part of an international expansion which in the last two years has resulted in large new premises being established in key cities around the world, including New York, Johannesburg, San Francisco, Madrid and many others.
“People are looking for solutions to life’s problems, and Scientology offers solutions for pretty well all the problems that people commonly encounter.”