COLUMBUS, Ohio—State lawmakers welcomed the opening of a gleaming new Church of Scientology in Columbus last weekend, praising the work done in Central Ohio by the controversial church.
The 50,000-square-foot building, just northwest of downtown, was opened to great fanfare on Saturday, with a brass band playing “Hang On Sloopy” and speeches delivered by Scientology leader David Miscavige and state Rep. Adam Miller, among others.
Miller and Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, a Perry County Republican, also signed a commendation on behalf of the Ohio House of Representatives congratulating the Church of Scientology on its new Columbus location.
“Over the years, the Church of Scientology of Central Ohio has outgrown four buildings, and it has provided a source of moral guidance and spiritual motivation for each member of the congregation,” the commendation states. “On the opening of their new facility, these fine individuals have accepted the challenge of carrying their beliefs into the future, and we applaud them on their tremendous efforts.”
The Church of Scientology has faced massive scrutiny and vilification for decades, with critics accusing it of being a cult that has exploited and abused its members. Scientology leaders have consistently denied any wrongdoing.
Miller, a Columbus Democrat, said in an interview that he agreed to speak at Saturday’s grand opening at the request of some local Scientologists who live in his district. Miller said church members have been very involved in organizing neighborhood block watches and promoting anti-drug campaigns in local schools.
“That’s a valuable effort, and I’m not going to pick and choose between churches when …a constituent asks me to come and wish a new church well in my district,” said Miller, who said he personally is not a Scientologist, but rather a member of the United Churches of Christ.
Miller added later: “They’re just like anybody else that I represent, whether they belong to a synagogue, a Catholic Church, or – in this case – the Church of Scientology.”
In a release, the Church of Scientology stated that its new building in Columbus will serve the entire Central Ohio region, from Dayton to Mansfield. The facility includes a public information center, a chapel, a cafe, and an entire wing of rooms for “auditing” sessions, during which people are questioned with an e-meter (a machine that resembles a lie-detector test) to locate areas of “ spiritual distress.”
The Church of Scientology has been active in Columbus since 1974, according to the Ohio House’s commendation. Phone calls to Scientology officials seeking more details about its new Columbus church and its work in Central Ohio were not immediately returned Tuesday afternoon.