Scientology, the religion of stars such as Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kate Ceberano, is growing so fast the church wants to add four floors to its Sydney headquarters.
The Church of Scientology has lodged a development application with City of Sydney Council for a glass-fronted tower on the roof of its heritage building on Castlereagh Street.
A giant Scientology cross will top the building, dwarfing the rather run-down, historic sandstone 1859 St George’s Presbyterian Church next door.
“We have been in this building for 30 years and we need to expand as we have so many people coming in here now,” said Vicki Dunstan, president of Scientology Australia.
She laughed when asked if James Packer was paying for the $11.8million expansion.
“You’d have to ask him if he is donating, but the money is being raised from donations from our parishioners,” she said.
Mr Packer, Australia’s richest man, was introduced to the church by Cruise and will soon be married in a Scientology service in France.
Scientology publicists say he is just one of many people joining the church founded by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard.
The church claims to have 250,000 followers in Australia, even though in the 2001 census only 2000 gave their religion as Scientology.
“Many people come in and do Scientology courses and still think of themselves as Christians,” Ms Dunstan said.
“We are expanding rapidly and we want to bring the building up to the standard it needs to be to present Scientology in its proper light.
“We need a chapel space and counselling rooms for the one-on-one sessions we have with people.”
The pastor for St George’s Presbyterian Church, the Rev John McCallum, said his church officials had not yet met to discuss the Scientology expansion. “I do have some concerns as the building is right next door but until we meet to discuss it I have no comment.”