“The Church of Scientology itself would say that they have a large and steady membership growth here in Denmark. They stress that there's a constant expansion. But I find that hard to see, even though it is true that there's recruitment happening all the time,” he told Politiken.
The new church, strategically placed in Copenhagen's iconic Nytorv square, opened last weekend, reports Politiken.
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According to the organisation itself, more than 2500 people attended the opening day celebrations. The Church of Scientology stated its new building in Denmark was “the next step in the growth of the church.”
Peter Birkelund Andersen, an associate professor of cross-cultural and regional studies at the University of Copenhagen, who has studied Scientology for many years, calls the move a “rearmament.”
“They went for a central location. And it's a deliberate move to open the church a stone's throw from (the pedestrian street) Strøget, with lots of passers-by which the Scientologists want to get in touch with,” Birkelund Andersen told Politiken.
“This is a sign that they are rearming for something they believe could become a new expansion,” he said.
Copenhagen is also the home to the Church of Scientology's European headquarters, with members from all over the world visiting the course centre on Jernbanegade.
Apart from the new Nytorv church, there is one more church in Copenhagen, and one in Aarhus. But the new church stands out from the others, according to Birkelund Andersen, in that it invites passers-by to come inside from the street.
“I believe that to be a strategic choice, which gives you a good picture of what Scientology wants: to get more people inside and show that they have beautiful and newly-refurbished premises, compared to the yellow exhibition tents with folding tables at Strøget, for instance, where they have invited people until now,” he said.
According to Anette Refstrup, head communications at the Church of Scientology in Denmark, the organisation employs around 1000 people in the country, 170 of whom work at the new church in Nytorv.
She also stated that the Church, which is not recognised as a religious community in Denmark, sends out members' magazines to around 25,000 people in the country. But not all of these are active members.
“I would estimate that around 4000-5000 have been active lately,” Refstrup told Politiken.
But Birkelund Andersen thinks the figures are exaggerated, estimating Denmark has a total of 2000-4000 Scientologists.