The struggling Amsterdam, Netherlands base of the Church of Scientology has bought a building which it hopes to transform into a so-called ‘Ideal Org.’
According to local newpaper Het Parool, the former office building was bought for 5 million Euro in cash — money the paper says was provided by the ‘mother organization.’
Earlier this year Jenna Miscavige, the niece of Scientology’s controversial leader David Miscavige, said the cult’s head office in Los Angeles views the Amsterdam base as an ‘SFO’ — a small and failing org.
At the time she told Het Parool that while foreign Scientology missions are expected to pay ten percent of their profits to the mother church, the cult’s Amsterdam base does not do so because it is insolvent.
The paper says that Scientology acknowledges it received significant financial aid to be able to purchase the building.
Small wonder. At its current location, Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 116-118, the church has faced rent arrears a number of times.
Nevertheless, in March this year the Scientology Kerk Amsterdam was reportedly negotiating the purchase of an office complex in Slotervaart, a suburb in Amsterdam’s New West borough.
At the time, Het Parool reported that the church, which did not have tax-exempt status, used Nabesa — a Scientology front group that did have tax-exempt status — to receive donations for its planned Ideal Org.
The purchase eventually fell through when the New West borough refused to adapt its zoning plan to allow use of the office buildings for religious purposes.
A Scientology spokesperson tells Dutch daily Trouw that this was not the reason to stop the purchase, but rather that the building at Wibautstraat was considered ‘more ideal.’
Meanwhile the reports in Het Parool drew the attention of the Tax and Customs Administration (Belastingsdienst), which last September closed the loophole by removing Naesa’s tax-exempt status.
Ironically, one month later an appeal court in Amsterdam granted the Scientology organization tax-exempt status. The Tax and Customs Administration has subsequently asked the Court of Cassation for a ruling in the case.
Not that it really matters. The Scientology cult is thought to have no more than 500 members in all of the Netherlands. It’s current glass-fronted building nearly always looks so empty that it gives new meaning to the phrase, ‘the lights are on, but nobody is home.’
Since 2003 the Scientology, which refers to itself as a ‘religion’ and a ‘church’, has embarked on a program to purchase and renovate landmark buildings at key locations in cities throughout the world in order to transform them into what Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard envisioned as “Ideal Organizations.”
In a controversial ‘sponsored post’ at TheAtlantic.com in January this year David Miscavige said, “This new breed of Church is ideal in location, design, quality of religious services and social betterment programs.”
Since 2003 over 30 such buildings have opened, with at least 60 more being planned.
The lavish buildings, richly decorated luxurious ‘palaces’ are meant to convey a sense of success and respectability — ideals that, given the amount of negative press Scientology manages to attract — seem rather elusive.
In fact, even the way Scientology goes about raising the cash for these expensive pieces of real estate causes critics to wonder whether Scientology is self-destructing.
The future home of Amsterdam’s Ideal Org is located at Wibautstraat 112-128 — a street most Amsterdammers would rather forget exists, though plans have long been floated to turn the ugly street into a prestigious boulevard.
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