Tonight's episode of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath will focus on the collection agency within the organization, which is responsible for securing the steep fees members are expected to pay during the course of their participation with the so-called religion.
Hosts Leah and Mike will sit down with former Scientologists to discuss the "different ways ... they were made to give the church money they couldn't afford," and ultimately answer the question: "Is this a church or is this a collection agency?"
So, how much does Scientology really cost?
Over the course of the last two seasons of Leah's show, the actress has explored some of the ways members bury themselves in debt to continue with the organization. "There's no other religion that I know of that requires two and a half hours of your day, a quarter million dollars minimum, and at least 40 years of your life," she said back in Season 1. Leah herself claims to have spent "millions" (about $5,000,000 according to her book) over the course of her 35 years in the church.
But what exactly do members get in exchange for the millions they might be forced to shell out to the organization? The answers are about as sketchy as you'd expect, but one thing is for sure: the more advanced and "Clear" you want to get in Scientology, the steeper the fees become.
1. Intro classes.
If you've ever walked past (or God help you, inside) a Scientology org, you might have been solicited to take an introductory Scientology course or personality test. You'll be curious, because that's what led you there in the first place, but don't fall for this attractive initial fee. Although intro classes can be as low as $35, Leah calls these "throwaways" that don't even count toward the requirements of "going up the Bridge to Total Freedom" in Scientology.
As one person on reddit helpfully explains, "new people coming in is essential to the survival of an org," so the low intro cost is basically just a way to bait curious parties like you and me into signing thousands of dollars away later.
2. Books, books, and then more books.
If you're going to set foot in Scientology's club, it's imperative that you read (and also purchase) every single book its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, has written. And guess what, he was a really prolific writer, so there are tons.
As Leah explained back in Season 1 when she walked viewers through her Scientology library, the basic package of 12 introductory books cost about $4,000. Also, those books get updated all the time and members are made to purchase each new edition.
In addition to all that, Scientology "encourages" members to buy more copies of the books to donate to libraries. Oh yeah, and on top of L. Ron's books, members are peer-pressured into purchasing recorded lectures and CDs.
3. The, there's the actual courses.
"The Bridge to Total Freedom" is the actual list of courses members complete to get "Clear" and reach spiritual actualization. There are levels beyond this, called Operating Thetan (OT levels) that take parishioners ever further through the lore and philosophy.According to Leah, these courses cost about $650 a pop. It could cost much more in time, as some courses mandate students devote their whole days, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.
It's unclear how members balance that insane schedule with having a job or, you know, a life outside of the constricting schedule. But to put things in perspective, Leah, who devoted 35 years of her life to the org, only made it up to OT V of the program. Levels have their own initiation fees — to reach the highest level currently available, OT VIII, members have to shell out $130,000 for the course, which is only offered on the church's cruise ship, the Freewinds.
4. Audits, which are mandatory.
Audits, AKA Scientology's word for therapy sessions, are mandated by the church. In their words, these $800/hour sessions help members "find and handle areas of distress," but for those of us in the know, they're basically just hours during which Scientologists tape your secrets to blackmail you with if you ever threaten to leave Scientology later.
These sessions, which Leah says are administered to members as young as 6, last a minimum of two and a half hours. If you're rich and don't want to spend much time on Scientology, intensive auditing is the fastest (but most expensive) route to clear.
5. If Scientology suspects you've broken any church rules, you also have to pay for a secondary audit called a "Sec Check."
If you've seen Going Clear, you might remember how Scientology administrators perform "security checks" on members they suspect are having doubts about the organization or are potentially breaking the church's rules. These intensely long sessions consist mainly of auditors trying to get members to confess to their suspected wrongdoings. As Mike mentioned in Season 1 of the show, "Many times, an interrogator will try to get what they believe is the truth out and the subject will finally just tell them what they want to hear."
Costs of security checks are constantly changing, but you can be assured members foot these bills as well.
6. If you ever make it to the end of the course, you'll still be hit with more fees.
The higher up the bridge you get, the higher the fees climb. When Leah and Mike met with a lady who made it all the way to OT VIII, she said the courses, like the books, are subject to frequent updates, and so she had to pretty much start back at square one the second she was done.
She also had to live on a boat called the Freewinds for the duration of her enrollment in the OT VIII course, which is why it comes iwth that six-figure price. It pretty much goes without saying the boat is chartered at the members' expense.
Although it's tough to calculate the exact amount an average person spends on the religion, just the cost of courses to get to level OT VIII come out to about $460,805.50, per one redditor's calculations. "However, the OT has likely spent 3-4 times that much on donations, auditing, sec-checks, lodging during courses and travel," they explain.
So, what's David Miscavige's net worth?
Given the exorbitant costs to members and Scientology's famously tax-exempt status, one would expect the Church is rolling in dough. Jeffrey Augustine, author of the blog The Scientology Money Project, told Forbes that "the Church has a book value of $1.75 billion," with about $125 million coming solely from member auditing costs.
As for Religious Technology Center Chairman of the Board David Miscavige, his figures are blurry. It seems the organization has done a good job of scrubbing his personal wealth from the internet. Some sources say he's taking no money from the religious group, while others claim he's worth about $50 million.
Don't miss tonight's episode of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath and learn more about the hidden costs of Scientology tonight at 9PM on A&E.