Church of Scientology sparks backlash in Chicago with new ‘ideal’ branch offering students at nearby Columbia College ‘spiritual counseling’

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The Church of Scientology has incurred the wrath of locals and university students after shutting down an entire city block to open its new ‘ideal branch’ in Chicago.

The grand opening ceremony in South Loop saw followers block access to an entire block of South Clark Street on Sunday.

‘While before that Windy City ribbon comes cascading down, this is also the moment to recognize what you already know, how just as Chicago was once reborn, so today there is room for a new beginning,’ controversial leader David Miscavige told the crowd outside the brick building of 650 South Clark Street.

‘And thus, room for restoring to individuals the ability to live a better life, in their own estimation and with their fellows and the playing of a better game’ he said at the building’s opening.

The opening sparked backlash from some students at Colombia College, which has a residential hall next door to the new building.

Devin Schwieters, a freshman told the Chicago Tribune the location may attract young students to the Church which is ‘disturbing.’

‘The first week of school in September when we got here, they did have all these tables set up in front of our dorm with their free stress testing, and they were auditing for students, which was always kind of weird,’ she explained.

‘When they first started setting up on Saturday, they had all these tables set out again, where it was like, ‘Hey, Columbia, like thank you for being our new neighbors.’

‘They were giving out free doughnuts and stuff, and it was just a weird taste in my mouth about it. It’s very obvious what they’re trying to do’ she added.

Roisin Darby, a sophomore at Columbia told the Tribune the grand opening was ‘entirely disrespectful to the residents.’

‘Not only were we as students blocked from our building, having to sometimes physically push past people, but most every business on our street had to close that day,’ Darby said.

‘Columbia College Chicago is committed to working with the Church of Scientology as a neighbor,’ spokesperson for the college Jacqueline Partridge said.

‘Our team plans to meet with representatives in the upcoming weeks.’

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