12/19/2005 03:16 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Let's Take Them At Their Word, Shall We?

Today's Los Angeles Times contains the paper's second consecutive report on Scientology's Gilman Hot Springs headquarters, this one focusing on Tom Cruise's studies (and other activities) there. But, while the piece goes into exhaustive detail, based on eyewitness accounts of former Scientologists, about the cossetting of Cruise and David Miscavige, the organizatiion's chief, writers Claire Hoffman and Kim Christensen take one of the key facts, or un-facts, about Scientology only from the horse's mouth:
As Scientology's highest-ranking figure, Miscavige, 45, has found in Cruise, 43, not just a fervent and famous believer but an effective messenger whose passion the church has harnessed to help fuel its worldwide growth.

"Across 90 nations, 5,000 people hear his word of Scientology — every hour," International Scientology News proclaimed last year.
More than any other celebrity, Cruise has helped fuel the growth of the church, which claims a worldwide membership of 10 million and in the last two years has opened major centers in South Africa, Russia, Britain and Venezuela. Cruise joined Miscavige last year for the opening of a church in Madrid.

How about checking with someone else about the organization's claims to "worldwide growth" and "worldwide membership of 10 million"? Those claims are important recruitment tools, yet the Times, which seems to carer a lot about checking the kind of cotton in Miscavige's shirts, makes no effort to verify them.