Alex Klein reports (link now fixed) on the latest chapter of the ever-darkening saga of Scientology – a real-estate scam labeled “Ideal Org” that sapped millions of dollars from members:

It’s no secret that Scientology is pay-to-play; the prices for its services and teachings, from books to audits to seminars, seem to know no ceiling. But this moneymaker is different: The building drives ask for straight-up cash donations of fixed amounts — many times larger than traditional Scientology buy-ins — and, according to former executives, go straight to the central church’s kitty.

When two friends began to question the shady “Ideal Org”:

[Tony] DePhillips complained to a staff member that the aggressive, post-purchase, empty-building fundraising “went against [founder L. Ron] Hubbard’s financial policy.” The staffer responded by suggesting he report himself to the church’s Ethics department, which would help him “get [his] shit together.” He ultimately resigned and was branded a “suppressive,” a church enemy with whom no Scientologist is allowed to communicate.

Next, the church’s “counselors and security checkers” descended on [Bert] Schippers, insisting he agree, in writing, to never talk to his friend again. He demurred, tried to reason with the church. “Tony’s a good person,” he urged. That fell on deaf ears. He was later ushered out of the church and branded suppressive as well. His stepson and daughter, still in the church, no longer speak to him. “I moved up the ranks because I wanted the spiritual salvation,” says Schippers. “But I never got it. The spiritual salvation I was looking for turned into spiritual rape.”

(Photo: The Church of Scientology’s Flag Building, the centerpiece of a construction campaign for the church, is seen on May 22, 2008 in Clearwater, Florida. By Paul J. Richards / AFP-Getty Images)