Scientology Grows Fast, Sparks Debate

Last month, Germany’s Federal Finance Office granted the Church of Scientology full tax-exempt status, clearing the way for the organization to be recognized as a bona fide religious group. Scientology was founded in the United States nearly 50 years ago by L. Ron Hubbard, an engineer and novelist. Many political leaders in Europe have accused the group of being a cult and the German decision comes at a time when here in the United States, a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the church awaits trial.

By the church’s own estimate, Scientology has spread to more than 150 countries since the organization was first founded in 1954. Church officials say as many as 640,000 people may be joining the Church of Scientology each year. And 80 percent of these people boast an annual income that’s higher than the U.S. national average. More than half of all Scientologists say they were Christian before joining the group.

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