Scientology plans $6m church

Big plans: Scientology plans a $6m church in Rivervale. Picture: Getty Images

The Church of Scientology plans to build a $6 million church in Rivervale with capacity for nearly 200 people to serve what it says is a growing membership.

The proposed development would be the third of its kind in Australia and include a chapel, classrooms, in-house cafe, library and offices.

If approved by planning officials it would allow the church to move out of its rented Murray Street, Perth, headquarters to the site in the City of Belmont. The church believes more than 1000 people would use it.

Similar “ideal churches”, as they are called, were built in Melbourne and Sydney in 2011 and last year respectively — the latter reportedly at a cost of $14 million.

Such sites are intended as churches and community hubs.

Church of Scientology Australia spokeswoman Virginia Stewart said membership was rising steadily and the new building would suit its predicted expansion in Perth.

“A new purpose- designed building will enable us to have the church, theological study course rooms and administrative offices where we co-ordinate our social betterment programs exactly designed to our needs, ” she said.

“We will also have a public information centre which offers introductory films on dianetics and Scientology beliefs and practices as well as showcasing the many social betterment programs the church supports, including the areas of anti-drug education, drug rehabilitation, literacy, human rights education and reform.”

According to Australia’s 2011 census, 2163 people identified as Scientologists, down 13.7 per cent from 2006.

Scientology is a comparatively new religion created by one-time science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard.

Followers believe they are immortal beings whose experiences go beyond a single lifetime.

The religion has had many high-profile followers, including actor Tom Cruise, singer Kate Ceberano and billionaire James Packer. Mr Packer has reportedly left the church in recent years.

The Rivervale development has been recommended for planning approval at a metropolitan central joint development assessment panel this month. Conditions include restricting maximum numbers to 196 people.

The church intends to provide religious education, counselling and studying seven days a week in addition to a Sunday service.

It will also be open for tours.

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