A Message to Clearwater
20 Aug 2001

I read an editorial in the SP Times yesterday. This piece, by Diane Steinle, was in response to a series of letters to the paper expressing people's displeasure with Scientology. In it, she expresses her confusion about how so many people could be unhappy with Clearwater. Then she tries to pass of Scientology as merely a small part of the overall picture. Residents do not seem to agree. She would have you think that Clearwater is some major tourist destination, and in her community boosterism, glosses over the serious problem Scientology poses for the future of the city.

In the interest of clarification, I have undertaken the task of explaining not only what a world class tourist destination really is like, and how Clearwater has traded that option in favor of being a world headquarters for a criminal enterprise masquerading as a religion. I grew up in San Diego, and have firsthand knowledge of its evolution from a Navy town to an international convention and tourist Mecca. You've seen San Diego. We hosted the Repulican Convention and Superbowl 1999. We will be hosting Superbowl festivities again in 2002, I believe. And what kind of national coverage does Clearwater get? Dead cult members. Harassment of a Scientology watchdog group. A potential financial disaster involving the city and a Scientology-owned robotic parking garage. Well, you get the idea. Here we go...

Back in the 60s, San Diego was beginning to evolve from a sleepy little Navy town to a valuable tourist destination. Blessed with a mild climate, palm trees, beautiful bays and beaches, and the fabulous San Diego zoo, it was an ideal place for tourist development. Forty years later, it has become a major attraction for both families and conventions.

Clearwater shares many of the same attributes. Sun, sand, beaches, and palm trees, it could be a desirable place to take a vacation. The potential was there, until a group moved in and started buying up property under an assumed name, "United Churches of Florida." That group was actually the Church of Scientology. Once entrenched, the organization began making moves to take over the town.

In 1976, Scientologists released a "fact sheet" on Mayor Cazares and hiswife, accusing them of all manner of business and personal crimes; trying to discredit him with rumours pertaining to his sex life, and attempting to frame him in a hit-and-run accident.

Subsequent FBI raids of church offices in 1977 revealed several plans directed at controlling the Clearwater media and local government by infiltrating public services and business organizations.

What followed their arrival was a Gordian knot of lawsuits and antics as Scientology attempted to rid the city of critics, suppress free speech, and gain a greater control over the local government. These activities continue to this day, to the detriment of Clearwater's reputation and potential as a desirable convention and tourist destination, as well as its economy.

Meanwhile, during the same time period, San Diego continued to grow. Sea World was built on Mission Bay. A major new Convention Center attracted a growing client base, bringing millions of dollars in revenue to the city. Hotels sprang up to support the Convention Center. New housing developments were being built everywhere.

Compare this scene with Clearwater. Scientology's heavy presence will keep downtown in a state of decay. People simply don't want to visit a place that has a frightening presence, and people are clearly frightened by Scientology's reputation. Nor do they wish to enjoy themselves in an environment monitored by Scientology cameras. The organization's stranglehold on Clearwater guarantees that the city's goal of being a tourist destination will never be realized.

When I read a statement from a Clearwater city representative hopefully declaring "a new era of understanding" with Scientology, I can't help but be reminded of another doggedly hopeful politician, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain of England. He took office in 1937. During his time in office, Germany merged with Austria. Following that union, forbidden by the Versaille Treaty, Hitler demanded and was given the Sudentenland, which was handed over in a misplaced belief that this act would avoid war with the Third Reich. This document, the Munich Agreement, was signed by Chamberlain, Hitler, and Mussolini. The deluded Chamberlain returned to England and declared,

"My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time... Go home and get a nice quiet sleep."

It is said that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. It appears that Clearwater city officials are doing just that. They are doggedly clinging to a fantasy in which Scientology and the community can "just get along." Moreover, Clearwater is bending over backward to accommodate Scientology to the extent that ridiculous farce is being played out in its courtrooms against those who speak out, and certain illegal activities, such as assaults, have been ignored, even when captured on video!

There is plenty of evidence available, which shows Scientology to be a totalitarian cult which will not hesitate to break the law when it suits their purposes. Scientology likes to say, "we don't do that any more," as it continues the activities they were investigated for in the 70s and 80s.

It is interesting to note that, when Scientology is criticized for its illegal and unethical behavior, it trots out the banner of religious intolerance and persecution. The issue that city government seems to be avoiding is this: it's not about religion, it is about the abuse of people and the law.

It is evident that non-Scientology Clearwater residents don't like the cult in their midst. Videos of pickets show a nonstop flow of public support from drivers; honks, waves, and thumbs up. Letters to the SP Times are overwhelmingly critical of Scientology and its influence in Clearwater. The majority of residents are afraid to speak out however, fearing the retribution Scientology is famous for.

That the city seems to favor a criminally convicted organization with a continuing history of fraud, lies, and harassment is mystifying to me. The Lisa McPherson Trust is blamed for creating this environment of fear and conflict, as well as wasting city resources through the police department, which has to respond to calls involving Scientology and the Trust. It would be interesting to compare the two groups' requests for police assistance. I suspect that the majority of calls come from Scientology, and are merely nuisance calls utilizing the Clearwater police force as their personal enforcement tool against their perceived enemies.

Blaming the Lisa McPherson Trust for Clearwater's problems makes as much sense as blaming the chickens for attracting the fox. The Lisa McPherson Trust certainly is not the cause of this conflict. Its goal is to educate the people of Clearwater about Scientology and help those who wish to leave. To the Scientology organization, however, this is viewed as harassment. Picket signs are perceived as harassment as well, as exposing the group's totalitarianist agenda certainly impedes their attempts to be accepted in the community as a benevolent asset to Clearwater. In its pursuit of this goal, Scientology rides roughshod over the First Amendment, attempts to frame and intimidate people who speak out against them, has placed a hundred cameras around downtown, and investigates people who write letters to the local paper.

Even its attempts to promote itself as a civil asset explodes in controversy of its own making, the memorial brick project in the alley being a good example.

Forty years can and should make a difference in a community's development. The city of Clearwater has made its aspirations quite clear as far as becoming a tourist destination. It would love to share in the benefits of becoming a world-class attraction, yet, there is little to entice travelers to stop and spend. The downtown area is moribund, plagued by decaying, empty storefronts. San Diego's downtown, by contrast, is booming. Thousands of people pour in on the weekends to dine, shop, take in a movie, and see the historic Victorian ambience San Diego has to offer. Twenty years ago, this district was dead, as shopping malls took the business away from the area. Now restored, the Gaslamp Quarter teems with tourists from all over the world.

San Diego has evolved into a vibrant, productive, successful community, which has achieved its goals of being a world-class tourist destination, while Clearwater's similar goals are still just wishful thinking.

The main obstacle to achieving these goals is Scientology, period. The city needs to make a compete assessment and decide which will be the better path; does Scientology benefit the city's future to the same degree that tourism could? The stark reality is, you can't have both. You will either continue with a frightening, monitored community dominated by Scientology, or a potentially golden future as a tourist Mecca.

Clearwater needs to take stock of its image nationally. You have a stagnant downtown dominated by the new, prison-like Superpower Building , which will be topped by the Scientology double cross. You have an atmosphere of fear and distrust, local residents avoid downtown, and this is not conducive to attracting outsiders to play and spend money.

Your first step will be to curtail Scientology's influence and let them know that their unethical activities must stop. You must restore an atmosphere of tranquility to Clearwater so that people will be able to enjoy themselves. You must also restore the human rights that Scientology is working so hard to strip away from your community. Until then, "Go home and get a nice quiet sleep." If you can.

Chaplain, ARSCC
http://www.geocities.com/bwarr_2000/ mirror site

"Every week, every month, every year, every decade and now every century, Scientology does weird and stupid things to damage its own reputation." -Steve Zadarnowski

"Comparing Scientology to a motorcycle gang is a gross, unpardonable insult to bikers everywhere. Even at our worst, we are never as bad as Scientology." -ex-member, Thunderclouds motorcycle "club"


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