Scientology Leader Gave ABC First-Ever Interview

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Sawyer: Radio broadcasts are prepared, audiotapes reproduced by the thousands on high-speed copiers, original music created, all of this to encourage more people to join the movement, and join they do. The church says it now has centers in over 70 countries, with more on the way. Church leaders say this place, 520 acres south of Los Angeles, a place they call "Gold," is a sign of their rapid expansion. It is here where top church officials are planning the future. "Gold" is run by people who believe so strongly they've signed billion-year contracts with the church, a kind of priesthood, dressed in uniforms, working over 13 hours a day, earning just $30 a week. The church says these men and women are only the most dedicated of eight million members worldwide. Church of Scientology president Heber Jentzsch. (interviewing) How do you get to call them members?

Heber Jentzsch, President, Church of Scientology: Because they joined and they came in and they studied Scientology.

Sawyer: They took one course, maybe.

Jentzsch: Well, that's how valuable the course is. Eight million people, yes, over a period of the last-- Since 1954.

Sawyer: Critics say the actual figure is closer to 100,000, but unquestionably, thousands of people, including well-known celebrities, do swear by what they call "a technology of the mind."

Chick Corea, Jazz Pianist: And this really directly affects my relationship with people, with individuals around me, with my loved ones, and also with audiences.

Sawyer: Psychological techniques they say help them feel better and act more effectively. And there's a promise of something more.

Ken Rose, Defector: From the very beginning, there was an air of mystery, there was an air of somewhere up this path there was something extremely potent and very sort of seductive and attractive.

Sawyer: The introduction begins when you walk into a Scientology center. Problems in your life? Take a personality test. "Evaluators" are ready to tell you what's wrong. In fact, the counselors are operating from a script that tells them exactly what to say. For instance, "You are capable and overt as a person, but probably not to the degree that you should be or would like to be." And the script always ends the same:

1st Scientology "Evaluator": That you are capable and overt, meaning open, as a person--

2nd Scientology "Evaluator": Just not to the degree that you feel that you could be or should be, and this is where Dianetics can help you.

Sawyer: The script tells the evaluators to sell hard: "The more resistive" -- meaning resistant -- "or argumentative he is, the more the points should be slammed home." And it works. Students often spend thousands of dollars to take more and more courses and counseling called "auditing." They find problem areas by using an "E-meter," which Scientologists claim can read thoughts, or by modeling with play-dough. The goal is to become what they call "clear," free of the influence of negative past experiences. For all the praise of Scientology from church members, there are equally vocal critics. This past spring, Time magazine published a cover story on the church, calling it "the cult of greed and power." Reporter Richard Behar.

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