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Someone Apparently Forgot to Notify the VA that Scientology is a Religion

ReligiousSymbols2Our thanks to a sharp-eyed reader who brought to our attention an interesting page at the website of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The page contains an eclectic rundown of all the religious symbols the VA recognizes and will put on grave markers in our national cemeteries. If you’ve ever been in one of our national cemeteries, you may remember that some headstones carry symbols, some don’t, and you’ll see a lot of Christian crosses and Stars of David, and a few other types.

We didn’t realize that there’s an official list of such symbols. And it’s interesting to see that the VA is rather catholic about it (lower-case “c”), with everything from Eckankar to Wicca to atheism (see photo, right) to the Hammer of Thor available for our fallen heroes of minority faiths (or no faith at all).

Interestingly, there’s one symbol that is noticeably missing.

Sure, look for yourself: There’s no Scientology double-cross on the list.

Say what? How could the “fastest growing religion” in the world, with ten million members, dwarfing Eckankar (with tens of thousands), not have its symbol on this list?


Surely, it’s just a government snafu, right?

Or, it might be yet another piece of evidence that Scientology is nowhere as big as it says it is.

We’ve explained in the past that experts we’ve consulted tell us there are probably no more than 30,000 to 40,000 active Scientologists around the world, and several different lines of evidence suggest that those numbers are steadily declining.

But how many members does the church claim to have?

Turns out, that’s a trickier question than you might think.

In 1972, James Meisler, spokesman for the Church of Scientology in New York, told Nation magazine that Scientology had 15 million members around the world.

In the years since then, we’ve seen claims by church officials that Scientology had 6 million, 8 million, 10 million or more.

However, another reporter brought to our attention that in recent years, Scientology spokespeople have stopped giving specific numbers. These days, church mouthpiece Karin Pouw tends to refer only to “millions” of parishioners.

If you can find Pouw attaching a number to those millions in the last couple of years, we’d like to see it. We searched around in vain recently.

“Millions of Scientologists around the world embrace the religion,” Pouw told the Washington Post in January.

Why would the church suddenly be shy about quoting specific numbers? Could it be that even Scientology has come to realize that its large claims are simply too hard to believe?

If Pouw won’t cough up a specific number, we do have this whopper from a television ad that ran last year…


That’s a rate of 367,000 new people every month. The ad ran in February 2012, and assuming that there were at least 4.4 million members at that point (you wouldn’t claim an annual growth rate larger than the entire size of the current church, right?), that gives us a total of about 10.6 million today.

Gosh, it’s fun to make up big numbers. Karin, you better get that call into the VA lickety split!

On Sundays, we like to reveal the latest mailers and fliers that our tipsters have forwarded to us. This week we have a few items for your perusal.

In this exciting update on fundraising in the western U.S., it’s neck and neck between the San Fernando Valley and San Diego! Can you believe it?


Hey, let’s hear it for the Charlie and T.L. for helping to clear the planet. Hip, hip, hooray!


Another veteran in the trenches…


Also, our recent story about Scientology attempting to influence Google about search results brought in this remembrance from a reader…

I worked for Microsoft in the search engine department ( – remember that?) back about 10 years ago. The Church of Scientology would call my manager (he was a very patient and kind soul, and as such he had the luck of taking their calls since other managers and directors refused) every single week to ask why certain results were shown, why the official Scientology site was not the number one result, and how to get certain websites banned etc. Every single week. Hundreds of times.

Thanks again to our great tipsters!


Posted by Tony Ortega on July 14, 2013 at 07:00

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