Scientology: A Religion in South Africa

David Chidester

University of Cape Town

South Africa



     The Founding Church of Scientology was formed as a religious society in Washington, DC, on 21 July 1955 for “the propagation of the religious faith known as Scientology and to act as a Church for the religious worship of that faith.” Over the next thirty years, the Church of Scientology expanded dramatically to become a global religion. Like any religion, the religion of Scientology is anchored in specific places of worship. The social organisation of the international Church of Scientology is based on a hierarchy of five different types of religious centres.

     First, Scientology missions provide introductory services and auditing to the level of Clear. Although missions are primarily engaged in outreach to people who are unfamiliar with Scientology, they also are authorized to deliver all the basic “routes to the Bridge.” When a mission achieves a sufficient size, it can become a church.

     Second, Scientology churches provide all the auditing, training, and other religious services available at the missions. However, churches also offer advanced training for auditors and have the authority to ordain ministers. Regular Sunday services are held.

     Third, Saint Hill Churches and Advanced Organisations are religious centres for advanced auditing and training. Located in Sussex, Copenhagen, Los Angeles, and Sydney, these centres specialize in the religious technology for achieving the initial levels of Operating Thetan.

     Fourth, the Flag Service Organisation, located in Clearwater, Florida, is the spiritual headquarters for the international Church of Scientology. The centre provides all Scientology religious services, including the higher levels of training as Operating Thetan and the highest degree of training for auditors.

     Fifth, the Flag Ship Service Organisation, which conducts its services on board the Freewinds, a 440-foot ship based in the Caribbean, is the only Scientology centre that offers the highest level of auditing. In addition, the Flag Ship Service Organisation provides special courses and religious retreats for spiritual advancement.

     This hierarchy of religious centres functions under the authority of the Mother Church in Los Angeles, the Church of Scientology International. Responsible for preserving and propagating the Scientology religion, the Church of Scientology international has established several subsidiary divisions. Golden Era Productions produces and disseminates a wide range of publications, films, and recordings. Two publishing companies – Bridge Publications in Los Angeles and New Era Publications in Denmark – handle the publication of the books of L. Ron Hubbard. Although it looks like a modern corporate structure, this ecclesiastical organisation serves religious interests by overseeing the preservation and expansion of the religion of Scientology all over the world.


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