tall tales

What Do HRC + Scientology Have In Common? Inflating Their Memberships


The Human Rights Campaign writes in every press release that it is “the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization.” Claiming 750,000 members, that might be true. But HRC counts membership by including anyone who’s ever donated $1 — even if that donation came in a year that begins with “19.” (UPDATED: HRC responds with clarifications. See below.) Similarly, California’s Courage Campaign claims 700,000 members, a significant number given it’s been alive for a fraction of HRC’s lifetime, though it won’t say how it reached that figure.. What’s amusing, then, is that these Gay Inc. groups share the same arithmetic methods as Tom Cruise’s place of forceship.

The Church of Scientology claims 10 million members around the globe. It gives that number to any journalist who asks, and journalists then repeat those numbers.

It turns out, that’s a big fat lie.


In reporting on former Scientologist Marc Headley’s new inside-the-church tome Blown for Good, Village Voice editor Tony Ortega notes, “Years ago, we watched church president Heber Jentzsch (whose title is largely ceremonial) admit under oath in a court deposition that when Scientology claimed millions of members, it was referring to all of the people who had ever bought a manual or taken a class in the organization’s entire history (the church was founded in Los Angeles in 1954).” (Emphasis ours.)

So how many members does Scientology really have? Probably somewhere in the low five-figures. Reports Ortega:

On numerous occasions, Headley writes about the fabrication of “e-meters,” the small devices that are supposed to work something like lie detectors. Scientologist auditors use them in counseling sessions, but they’re also used during interrogations — called “sec checks” — during which church workers suspected of wrongdoing are pressured to confess their “crimes.”

Headley mentions that the devices cost the church about $40 to make, but were then sold for about $3,000 each. What really caught our attention was Headley’s assertion that Miscavige demanded that enough of a new line of e-meters be manufactured so that every member in the world could purchase two of them. (Headley says each working Scientologist is supposed to have a backup unit in case the other fails.)

In order to have that many, Miscavige demanded that 30,000 be built, Headley writes.

We asked Headley, doesn’t that imply that there are only 15,000 Scientologists in the world?

“The actual number is more like 10,000. You had to make more than that because various orgs [facilities] needed to have extra on hand,” he says. “That figure can be cross-checked so many ways.”

When the New York Times recently reported that a French court had found that Scientology was a fraud, it dutifully cited Scientology’s own claim that the church has 10 million members worldwide. But the Associate Press this week reported that a survey of Americans and their religious affiliations suggested that this country only has about 25,000 active Scientologists.

[…] Headley says there was another method that confirmed his estimate. At especially important events — like the time Tom Cruise was awarded a “Medal of Valor” in 2004, or at New Year’s Eve celebrations — about 4,000 Scientologists could be counted on to show up at a venue like the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Every other “org” around the world, watching the event on a video feed, would report their own attendance figures. “You added it all up, at every big event, it would always add up to about 10,000. It would never fall to 2,000 or go up to 20,000. It was always about 10,000,” Headley says.

But adding additional millions to their membership role makes the Church of Scientology sound so much more influential! Oh, that’s HRC’s trick too?

UPDATE: HRC spokesman Michael Cole writes in with this clarification: “Yes, HRC has 750,000 members and supporters. That number includes all members who have contributed $5 or more in the past 24 months and supporters who have taken part in an action alert in the past 24 months.”

We asked for clarification of that clarification, such as, what does it mean to have “taken part in an action alert”?

Cole responds: “Taking part in an action alert means that someone’s engaged in an action we’ve encouraged such as writing or calling a Member of Congress that we’re able to track. It is not a tabulation of simply ‘subscribing’ to our alerts. Contributed means just that – given more than $5 to the organization which includes merchandise purchases. And again, both are within the last 24 months. The Blade story from more than five years ago is not accurate as to how we count our members and supporters. The information I’ve provided is where the 750,000 members and supporters number comes from.”

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  • Lady Ga-Gasp

    Why don’t you settle this clearly important “dispute” like the guys on your previous posting. Can we all just grow up?

  • Mary McConnell

    The membership counts announced by unaccountable organizations like Scientology, are frequently fraudulent, using ‘mirrors and blue smoke’ where and whenever possible. So nice to see you saw through them. Maybe HRC will be a better group and allow it’s active membership count to be made known.

  • Tim

    How many Catholics are there and Buddhist? How are they accounted for? Is it where they are berried? No one knows. I know people will try to give their opinion, but the fact remains that no one has the facts.

    If you have the facts please provide the source. Oh, almost forgot…. Gossip sites are not sources neither are message forums.

  • Tim

    How many Catholics are there and Buddhist? How are they accounted for? Is it where they are buried? No one knows. I know people will try to give their opinion, but the fact remains that no one has the facts.

    If you have the facts please provide the source. Oh, almost forgot…. Gossip sites are not sources neither are message forums.

  • Tim

    Let’s look at religion as a whole.

  • Helix Barkaway

    At least the people who donated $1 to HRC, probably still believe in it.

    Of the few million who ever took a Scientology course or bought one of their books, 99% of them do not consider themselves to be Scientologists in any way and the majority of them are actually aware it is a con.

    Scientology has fewer than 100,000 members worldwide, yet in typical Scientology lie-to-KSW (Keep Scientology Working) they will say anything to make their group of Xenu-believing brainwashed space cadets sound mainstream or widespread.

  • Brian (The Original)

    What Do HRC + Scientology Have In Common?

    Ahhhh, they both raise a lot of money and make little sense.

    Accountability sucks.

  • Mary McConnell

    Hey Tim, I’ll answer so you won’t have to post thst again.

    You point is moot. Those other religions do not go around spouting membership mumbers to the media like Scientology does (and lies while doing so.)

  • Jimbo Sankiwitz

    Years ago, when I got sucked in to Scientology they were claiming 15,000,000 members world wide, regularly and in print. Then, as now, they claimed to be the world’s fastest growing religion. It is hard to take anything they say seriously. They are pulling the same scams in the USA that they did in France. Can’t we do something about it here?

  • Mark Philly

    HRC lies about everything. That’s how they stay in business.

  • StopHRC.com

    Frustrated with HRC? Join our movement.

  • Seriously

    What exactly is the fucking point of this post? This gossip blog is losing blood pressure fast. We all know HRC has big problems and Solmonese should probably be kicked to the curb, maybe shut the whole fucking thing down. But the Courage Campaign? Why throw them in this mix. The Courage Campaign are the only people I know offering free training to hundreds of activists throughout California so we can actually make a difference in whatever the next fight is here in Cali. I don’t get why you just bash people for the sake of bashing. Ugh, why am I even writing this. What a waste of time.


    The Godless Cult called Scientology’s real membership numbers are even lower than you think.

    Just go to any cult study room and count how many people are there.

    There are no more than four or less each and every day.

    I was a scientologists for 18 years until, their healing methods nearly killed me.

    This cult is a fraud, a scam and the biggest lie in the world.

    Ask any ex-scientologist and you will learn the truth.


  • Frank G

    The raw datum is that Hubbard sold more than 100,000,000 books.
    I remember that I considered myself a Scientologist even before going to any church of Scientology.
    Probably we should use the same criteria to count the number of members in any religion.
    A way could be to find the number of people that are actually reading books of their own religion.

  • John (still that one from England)

    @ Robot and Jimbo

    What took you so long? WHY did you all believe? Why were you all so desperate to believe what these people were saying??

    I know life isn’t black and white but any religous organisation really shouldn’t be as money orientated or extremist as these guys…..but you stayed. One for 18 years!

    I guess humans desp need to worship something…anything…

  • taken

    Scientology offers humanity a lot more than any of the negative commenters or this website ever will.

    What crimes have you all committed that you feel it necessary to bludgeon something positive?

    Evil lurks.

  • Brian (The Original)

    @ Taken:

    You said: Scientology offers humanity a lot more than any of the negative commenters or this website ever will.”

    Not true. Same for HRC.

    Well, HRC doesn’t have a spacecraft… yet.

  • Gia

    Thank you very much. It’s about time someone started telling the truth about $cientology’s ludicrous claims of “millions” of members. A recent survey estimated there are a mere 25,000 praticing $cientologists in the U.S., and that number is MUCH lower in other countries.

    “Fastest growing “religion” my ass.

  • Helix Barkaway


    Scientology “offers” a lot, but what do they actually accomplish? It is an absurdly overpriced rip-off scam, that dangles non-existent “clear” and “super powers” before its hypnotized membership like magic carrots. $300,000 to learn about Xenu, or you might get pneumonia and die if you just read about Xenu on the web? No one is buying this BS anymore, except some high school dropout nuts in Hollywood. Hubbard’s trips to Venus and the Van Allen Belt? Come on, Scientology is insane.

    Their drug program Narconon, gets a few people off drugs, by keeping them very busy and away from drugs, but they charge $20,000, and it is banned in many areas for being a medical fraud.

    Most of Scientology’s charitable activities are publicity stunts, and ways to indoctrinate the vulnerable into a lifetime of paying into Scientology.

  • John NYC

    What Do HRC + Scientology Have In Common?

    Sadly, gullible people believe in them.

  • Emily

    During PRIDE, HRC gives memberships to anyone that gives $1 or more. That is where your $1 members comes from.

Comments are closed.