Earlier this month, Georgia's first Ideal Church of Scientology opened its doors. The 45,000-square-foot mansion that houses the church is located in Sandy Springs, just outside Atlanta. We talk to a Scientologist from Atlanta about what draws him to the church, and how it has diversified. Then, we learn more about the church's practices and its history with journalist Tony Ortega of The Underground Bunker blog.
UPDATE: On Wednesday, May 4th, our show responded to some of the negative feedback about this segment we've received from a listener. The player below includes more information about our coverage of Scientology's presence in Georgia as well as a correction to something our guest, journalist Tony Ortega, said.
Ortega called Scientology a "tiny organization," citing numbers from sources who were recently departed "former executives who had access to enrollment documents" from the church. "They tell me at its greatest height, around the year 1990, Scientology had about 100,000 people around the world," said Ortega. "that number is down now to less than 20,000 people around the world."
But an economic study by Florida State University in 2014 found that about 10,000 Scientology parishioners currently reside in the Tampa Bay area alone. And more than 9,000 others paid long-term visits to the Church in that city in 2013. The university survey also says "It is expected that those current numbers will increase given the recent opening of the Flag Building (providing additional specialized religious training and counseling services), on November 17, 2013."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this update reported that the listener who was critical of our coverage of Scientology's new metro Atlanta church was a Scientologist. That is not confirmed. The update audio has been edited to reflect this correction. (6/17/2016)