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    The Scientology Cross is perched atop the Church of Scientology in Los Angeles on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016.

    Open Season: Scientology Turns to Bollywood, Europe for Young Celebrities – Book

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    No Western celebrities are interested in joining the notorious religious cult because of high membership costs and bad associations, a new book about the Church of Scientology says.

    The Church of Scientology, a sect recognised as a religion in some states, has reportedly turned towards Bollywood and other parts of the world for new celebrities to recruit into its ranks, says the book by Tony Ortega and Paulette Cooper.

    In the book, entitled "Battleship Scientology: Exposing L.Ron Hubbard's Dangerous Religion", Ortega makes a point that the controversial sect only has so many Western Celebrities — Tom Cruise being the most notable example — who are getting old, and no young celebrities are interested in joining the cult due to its high membership costs and bad reputation.

    What's worse, more and more famous former members have become outspoken critics of the organisation.

    Actress Leah Remini, for example, was a member for 35 years, before she left. According to Remini, she donated $5 million during her time in the sect.

    "You'd have to be a complete moron to be an up-and-coming celebrity who gets involved in Scientology without Googling it and finding out that getting involved will cost you a lot of money and potentially destroy your family", says Mike Rinder, a former Scientology executive turned outspoken critic.

    According to Rinder, the church has therefore been forced to look to other places for new members.

    "There are places where they are having success", Rinder said. "One is Taiwan. The others are Eastern Europe and Russia".

    A spokesperson for the sect told The New York Post that "Scientology has been practiced in Russia, other Eastern European countries as well as in Asia for decades".

    Hubbard's teaching entered Russia during the chaos that followed the fall of the Soviet Union, along with hundreds of other sects and destructive cults that have since been mostly busted over monetary scam charges.

    One of the newest additions to Scientology's pantheon of celebrities are Indian actress Sheena Chohan, 31, and Mexican singer Michael Ronda, 22, who have recently been enlisted to perform at a Celebrity Centre graduation ceremony for members who have completed certain courses. Chohan has also been named a "Celebrity Centre Ambassador", for the church, The New York Post reports.

    Geoff Levin, a 50-year-long member who left the fold in 2017 and worked directly with Hubbard, said that the church deliberately focuses on wealthy businesspeople and influencers. According to Rinder, however, the church made a mistake by relying on celebrities so much, because famous members make evenly famous critics when they decide to defect.

    "They have created their own nightmare with their reliance on celebrities", said Rinder, referring to the church's longtime strategy of using stars to normalise founder Hubbard's far-out teachings. "You have Leah [Remini] and [Director] Paul [Haggis] turning around [in their beliefs] for all the world to see".

    Even Tom Cruise, who has famously defended his religion in the past, now "insists that people do not ask about it", he added.

    The group also implemented a strategy of buying lush real estate in order to create an image of proliferation. However, the buildings remain "virtually" empty, according to Levin, and the church's bad publicity, which includes, among other things, the mysterious deaths of some of its members, has a lot to do with this.

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    Beyond Politics, Cult, celebrities, religion, Church of Scientology, India, Eastern Europe
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