Tampa Bay Times: Inside Scientology

    1. Scientology sends city a message: Don’t let religious bias affect land deal

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — A Church of Scientology lawyer says the city’s recent decision to back away from a land swap with the church was “unfounded,” and she signaled in a letter that her clients will be watching to see if religious discrimination might be at play.

      A rendering of the proposed L. Ron Hubbard Hall, a 3,600-seat auditorium the Church of Scientology is talking about building along Fort Harrison Avenue in Clearwater. [Freedom Magazine]
    2. Update: Scientology cancels planned mock FBI raid on downtown building

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — The Church of Scientology planned to film a mock FBI raid on a downtown building Monday afternoon, but the actors and cameras never showed up to the location disclosed to the city.

      According to Clearwater Police, the Church of Scientology plans to hold a mock FBI raid at 3 p.m. Monday at this vacant building at 305 N Fort Harrison Ave. Police announced the raid in advance to alert the public. They said they did not know the reason for the event. [Google Earch image]
    3. Clearwater City Council to vote today on land swap with Church of Scientology

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — The City Council will vote today on whether to swap land with the Church of Scientology, the first negotiation to emerge since the church in April lost to the city on buying a crucial downtown property it needed for its campus.

      A rendering of the proposed L. Ron Hubbard Hall, a 3,600-seat auditorium that the Church of Scientology is talking about building along Fort Harrison Avenue in Clearwater. Photo: Freedom Magazine.
    4. Clearwater in negotiations with Scientology for land swap

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — Two months after the Church of Scientology lost out to the city on buying a crucial downtown property it needed for its campus, church leaders are now negotiating a land swap to fulfill both parties’ redevelopment needs.

      A rendering of L. Ron Hubbard Hall, a 3,600-seat auditorium the Church of Scientology wants to build on Fort Harrison Avenue.
    5. Scientology’s uniformed Sea Org staff clearly absent from downtown Clearwater

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — There’s been a glaring shift in the everyday image that has defined the city’s downtown for decades.

      The uniformed Scientologists who typically bustle between church buildings were nowhere in sight Thursday morning.
    6. Documents detail FBI investigation of Scientology that never resulted in charges

      Special Topics

      The FBI conducted a criminal investigation of the Church of Scientology in 2009 and 2010 that focused on allegations of human trafficking, according to documents released Wednesday.

      An aerial look at the Church of Scientology's international headquarters near Hemet, Calif. In 2009 and 2010, FBI agents conducting a human trafficking investigation focused on the treatment of church workers at the facility, according to witnesses who talked to the agents and newly released FBI documents. [MAURICE RIVENBARK | Times]
    7. Church of Scientology takes aim at Clearwater Marine Aquarium after being denied land

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — The Church of Scientology has launched a statewide campaign blasting the ethics and financial practices of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, a move that follows the aquarium’s recent decision not to sell the church a prized downtown property.

      The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is asking the Pinellas County Commissionfor for $26 million in tourist tax dollars, but the Church of Scientology says the facility doesn't deserve it. The church sent a complaint to local and state officials, alleging the aquarium has a number of financial problems and should be denied the money. Aquarium director David Yates says the church's allegations are unfounded. The aquarium last week sold a prime piece of downtown land to the city, against the church's wishes. [JIM DAMASKE | Times]
    8. Clearwater City Council votes 5-0 to buy downtown parcel coveted by the Church of Scientology

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — The City Council on Thursday voted unanimously to buy a vacant but high-profile downtown lot from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, intercepting a crucial piece of land the Church of Scientology said it needed for its campus.

      Iracema Drysdale of Clearwater addresses the city council at Clearwater City Hall in Clearwater, Fla. on Thursday, April 20, 2017. "They take over the city," she said. Clearwater City Council voted Thursday on whether to buy the aquarium's 1.4 acre lot that the Church of Scientology also wants. The aquarium rejected the church's $15 million offer earlier this month in favor of selling it to the city for $4.25m.
    9. Clearwater City Council votes tonight on buying land eyed by Church of Scientology

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — The City Council will vote today on whether to purchase a 1.4 acre vacant lot from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which the Church of Scientology is also lobbying to buy.

      A view looking east along Pierce Street on Clearwater's downtown bluff. At right is a grassy parcel owned by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and coveted by both the city of Clearwater and the Church of Scientology. The City Council will vote Thursday on whether to purchase the land from the aquarium for $4.25 million. The aquarium has rejected the church's $15 million offer. [JIM DAMASKE | Times]
    10. Scientologists and others step up the pressure as Clearwater nears vote on prized parcel

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — The $19 million Skyview condo being built downtown with a penthouse for actor Tom Cruise could be the last investment developer Cleman Agami ever makes in the city.

      Should the Clearwater City Council vote this week to buy a prized piece of downtown land from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium? Or should it decline and allow the Church of Scientology to buy it? Opinions are strong on both sides as the Thursday vote approaches. The vacant parcel in question is between City Hall in the foreground and the multi-story building to the south, which is the church's Oak Cove retreat. [JIM DAMASKE | Times]
    11. Scientology leader David Miscavige presents Clearwater retail plan to downtown stakeholders

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — The evening began with appetizers and drinks on the rooftop patio of the Fort Harrison Hotel overlooking downtown.

      The Church of Scientology wants to acquire the lot between its Oak Cove religious retreat, top, and Clearwater City Hall, bottom. The city has a chance to buy the 1.4-acre lot next week.
    12. Church of Scientology ups bid for Clearwater Marine Aquarium land to $15 million

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — The Church of Scientology has offered the Clearwater Marine Aquarium nearly four times what the city is preparing to pay for a vacant downtown property.

      The Church of Scientology has offered the Clearwater Marine Aquarium $15 million for this piece of land.
    13. In downtown Clearwater, Scientology’s bid for an expanded role is a matter of scripture

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — The Church of Scientology’s proposal to bring retail and entertainment downtown is a novel development, but the recent rollout of its plans has a tone that goes back decades.

      This is a westbound view of Cleveland Street in downtown Clearwater, where the Church of Scientology is planning to develop a retail and entertainment district.
    14. Scientology leader David Miscavige ups offer for aquarium property before Clearwater vote on land deal

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — The city may be poised to vote next month on whether to buy a vacant downtown lot from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, but that hasn’t stopped the Church of Scientology from trying to acquire the property.

      The Clearwater Marine Aquarium owns the vacant downtown lot between City Hall (bottom) and the Church of Scientology's Oak Cove religious retreat (above.) The church really wants that lot.
    15. Scientology retail plan is rare, as few churches back non-religious businesses

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — Scientology has long set its practices apart from other tax-exempt religions by charging members for auditing sessions and courses required to advance through the faith.

      Churches creating retail districts, like Scientology plans to do on Cleveland Street in downtown Clearwater, are unusual but not unique.
    16. Scientology’s David Miscavige talks about Cleveland Street redevelopment and entertainment center backed by Tom Cruise

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — Scientology leader David Miscavige on Tuesday revealed privately to City Council members the church’s downtown redevelopment strategy, which focuses on recruiting businesses to Cleveland Street and bankrolling a facade overhaul for the main thoroughfare rather than controlling the entire downtown …

      Tom Cruise attends the Tokyo Premiere of the Paramount Pictures "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" on Nov. 9, 2016. [Photo by Ken Ishii | Getty Images for Paramount Pictures]
    17. Legal glitch delays Clearwater vote on property Church of Scientology covets

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — The City Council’s vote scheduled for Thursday on whether to buy a 1.4-acre downtown lot coveted by the Church of Scientology has been delayed a month because it wasn’t properly advertised.

      Clearwater and the Church of Scientology both want the Clearwater Marine Aquarium-owned lot across from City Hall.
    18. Dynamic of City Council meetings with Scientology leader a rarity

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — It’s not unusual for an elected official to venture into the community to meet with a citizen, but a major organization summoning each city council member out from City Hall to lobby a single issue? That almost never happens.

      A 1998 photo of David Miscavige (Times files)
    19. Clearwater City Council unconcerned about learning of Scientology’s detailed plan from newspaper

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — One afternoon in late October, City Manager Bill Horne was invited to the Fort Harrison Hotel where Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige shared details about the church’s long-rumored retail strategy.

      City Manager Bill Horne said he didn’t report specific details of his October meeting because it was “concep?tual.”
    20. Scientology plans control of downtown Clearwater for retail makeover

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER

      The Church of Scientology is maneuvering to control all downtown real estate to create a master retail district that will operate under its management and oversight.

      The Church of Scientology, whose orange-roofed Fort Harrison Hotel headquarters is seen at right, wants to recruit a few major national retailers to anchor a downtown district, filling the grid with handpicked businesses all at one time.
    21. Scientology leader to visit Clearwater officials a week before vote on property purchase

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — In three decades as the Church of Scientology’s leader, only one time has David Miscavige ever held formal meetings with all five City Council members.

      A 1998 photo of David Miscavige (Times files)
    22. A Scientology battle like no other: Miscavige versus Miscavige

      Special Topics

      It says in Chapter 36 that the Church of Scientology is great for families.

      In May, Ron Miscavige, left, released <i>Ruthless, </i>a tell-all book about how he found Scientology, saw his son, David Miscavige, right, leader of Scientolgy, soar to its peak, then escaped - disillusioned over the church's "off the rails" culture.
    23. Clearwater downtown blueprint ignores Church of Scientology, the ‘elephant in the room’

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — The latest downtown revitalization plan unveiled this week calls for walkable green spaces and a bustling town square peppered with outdoor dining and retail shops to fill the vacant storefronts.

      The Flag Building proclaims the Church of Scientology’s presence in Clearwater. “We’re trying to draw people downtown regardless of the elephant in the room,” said Hoyt Hamilton.
    24. Illegal house rental nets Clearwater lawyer $46,000 fine; she blames attention from Scientology

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — The sun was about to set on a July evening in 2013 when Betsy Steg heard a knock at the door.

      The house, at 302 Cedar St., had been rented out dozens of times and is now the focus of a criminal trial. The battle began after the owner allowed an ex-Scientologist to use the house for a 2013 wedding. A neighbor, who is a Scientologist, then made multiple complaints to the city.
    25. Billboard seeking to reunite broken Scientology families coming to Clearwater

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — The same, desperate plea Phil and Willie Jones plastered across a billboard in Los Angeles is scheduled to go up on East Bay Drive next week.

      A billboard put up in Los Angeles by Phil and Willie Jones is dotted with dozens of faces representing Scientologists who have separated from their families, including their two children, Mike and Emily. A similar one will be going up sometime next week on East Bay Drive in Clearwater.
    26. Scientology leader meets one-on-one with city officials over key downtown Clearwater parcel

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — Scientology leader David Miscavige has met one-on-one with each City Council member to discuss a key piece of waterfront land — the first gesture of its kind in the decades-long struggle between the Church of Scientology and the city over downtown real estate.

      Officials for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium say the Church of Scientology has offered them $4.25 million for a key piece of property on the downtown waterfront. The city of Clearwater, meanwhile, is interested in exploring other uses for the vacant property. The undeveloped land, pictured here, sits between Clearwater City Hall in the foreground and the church's 13-story Oak Cove building seen just to the south. [JIM DAMASKE | Times]
    27. Father of Scientology leader: Church is ‘manipulative, coercive and, in my mind, evil’

      Special Topics

      The father of Scientology leader David Miscavige issued a blistering indictment of the church he introduced his family to more than 45 years ago, describing his son as a tyrant who has turned the organization into a destructive influence.

      Ron Miscavige, 80, left the Church of Scientology in 2012 after 27 years on staff. He first brought his family into Scientology more than 40 years ago. [St. Martin's Press]
    28. A father speaks out against his son, David Miscavige, revealing deep rifts in Scientology’s first family

      Special Topics

      The father of Scientology leader David Miscavige appeared on the ABC News show 20/20 Friday night, but the hour-long program added little to the narrative that has been unfolding in the decade since top church insiders began leaving and speaking out.

      The Church of Scientology's cross tops its Flag Building in downtown Clearwater, a building spearheaded by church leader David Miscavige. Miscavige's father, Ron, has left the church and is speaking out against his son in an ABC News interview and in a new book to be released May 3, 2016. [MAURICE RIVENBARK | Times]
    29. Former Scientologists tell federal judge: Church thwarted process to get money back

      Special Topics

      TAMPA — In an attempt to resolve their $1.3 million lawsuit against the Church of Scientology, a federal judge last year required Luis and Rocio Garcia to submit to “binding religious arbitration” set up by church officials.

      Luis Garcia and his wife Rocio are pictured in their California home in 2011. On April 13, 2016, the couple filed a motion in their federal lawsuit in Tampa that alleges the Church of Scientology has put up roadblocks to an arbitration that could result in them getting their money back. [MAURICE RIVENBARK | Times]
    30. Parents use billboard to reach children inside Church of Scientology

      Special Topics

      There’s a billboard in Los Angeles dotted with dozens of faces representing Scientologists who have separated from their families. It reads: “To my loved one in Scientology . . . call me.”

      Workers install a billboard in Los Angeles earlier this month that is dotted with dozens of faces representing Scientologists who have separated from their families. It reads: "To my loved one in Scientology . . . call me." The message is the work of Phil and Willie Jones, former members of the Church of Scientology who say they have lost their two adult children to a church practice known as "disconnection." [Photo courtesy of Phil Jones]
    31. Memoir by father of Scientology leader scheduled for May

      Special Topics

      NEW YORK — A much-anticipated memoir by the estranged father of Scientology leader David Miscavige is coming out this spring.

      A photo provided by St. Martin's Press shows the cover of the book, "Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me," by Ron Miscavige. The memoir will be released on May 3. [St. Martin's Press via AP]
    32. Appeals court rules in favor of Tampa attorney in years-long fight with Scientology

      Special Topics

      A state appeals court has dealt the Church of Scientology a blow in its efforts to collect a $1.07 million judgment from its long-time nemesis, Tampa lawyer Ken Dandar.

      Tampa lawyer Ken Dandar. [Times files]
    33. City attorney to Clearwater police: Protests on sidewalk in front of Scientology building are legal

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — Police have been directed to ignore any requests from the Church of Scientology asking officers respond to peaceful protesters “exercising their First Amendment rights” on public sidewalks near the church’s downtown Flag Building.

      A city official says police won’t respond to protests outside of the downtown Flag Building unless it’s a criminal matter.
    34. Two local theaters drop Scientology documentary ‘Going Clear’

      Movies

      Two Pinellas County multiplexes have dropped plans to show an Emmy-winning documentary critical of the Church of Scientology.

      Director Alex Gibney thinks the church pressured Clearwater theaters to drop Going Clear.
    35. Former Church of Scientology accountant’s novel strategy: Get insiders to help topple David Miscavige

      Special Topics

      In the 1980s, the Church of Scientology trusted devout parishioner James J. Jackson with a heavy responsibility: Do church leader L. Ron Hubbard’s taxes.

      James Jackson, a tax attorney and accountant, looks over documents in his Los Angles apartment and office. He has lost about 150 of his 200 Scientologist clients since being declared a "suppressive person'' by the Church of Scientology, he says. [MAURICE RIVENBARK | Times}
    36. Father of Scientology leader has reported book deal

      Special Topics

      The father of Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige has reportedly signed a deal to write a book about his son’s life. But the working title, If He Dies, He Dies, suggests the story may not be a flattering one.

      The working title of Ron Miscavige’s book is If He Dies, He Dies, referring to a 2012 incident in Wisconsin.
    37. Court records link Scientology to convicted email hacker

      Special Topics

      Federal court documents made public this week have linked the Church of Scientology to a private investigator convicted of illegally culling personal information from dozens of email accounts.

      Mike Rinder, a former Scientology spokesman, was hacked.
    38. Scientology critics bringing book tour to Clearwater

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — Paulette Cooper is a legendary name among people who watch the Church of Scientology.

      Paulette Cooper
    39. Police report: Scientology leader spied on his dad ‘no matter where he went’

      Special Topics

      When two police officers in West Allis, Wis., stopped the man who was walking around the neighborhood — surveying one resident’s yard, peering through another home’s front door, looking to neighbors like a drug dealer — he told them only part of the truth.

      David Miscavige [Times files (1998)]
    40. Scientology head’s father was spied on, police report says

      Special Topics

      For 18 months private detectives tracked every move made by the father of David Miscavige, leader of the Church of Scientology, as they eavesdropped, spied on his emails and planted a GPS unit on his car, according to police records.

      David Miscavige was said to fear his father, who left the church, would say too much.
    41. HBO documentary ‘Going Clear’ tackles the question: Why Scientology? (w/video)

      Special Topics

      Eight minutes and 13 seconds into his much-talked-about documentary on the Church of Scientology, writer-director Alex Gibney hits a sweet spot, going right at one of the key questions he sets out to answer.

      What is Scientology’s allure?

      One of Scientology's signature buildings at its Pacific Area Command Base in Los Angeles is sometimes referred to as "Big Blue.'' [Photo by Sam Painter, HBO documentary "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief"]
    42. Federal judge to rule on validity of Scientology’s refund process

      Special Topics

      TAMPA — A federal judge on Thursday urged both sides in a lawsuit over the Church of Scientology’s fundraising tactics to settle matters on their own before he is forced to make “a difficult decision” after two days of hearings.

      Plaintiffs Luis and Rocio Garcia spent $1.3 million on church services and causes.
    43. Former Scientologist disputes church claims about granting refunds

      Special Topics

      TAMPA — A closely watched lawsuit over the Church of Scientology’s fundraising tactics is expected to reach a pivotal point today in U.S. District Court.

      A judge will decide whether Scientology’s internal justice system takes precedence over the U.S. legal system when it comes to former church members who want their money back.
    44. Church of Scientology works behind scenes against Clearwater Marine Aquarium

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER

      Does the Church of Scientology just want downtown Clearwater all to itself?

      A rendering shows the entry for a possible aquarium at the current site of City Hall on S Osceola Avenue.
    45. Ex-Tampa mayor Dick Greco: Clearwater should work with Scientologists

      Special Topics

      Check out the Church of Scientology’s latest glossy Freedom magazine, and you’ll see some advice for the city of Clearwater from former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco.

      Former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco is listed as author of an op-ed piece in Scientology’s Freedom magazine.
    46. Scientology starts collecting $1 million judgment from longtime Tampa nemesis

      Special Topics

      The Church of Scientology has begun collecting a $1.07 million court judgment from one of its chief challengers, Tampa lawyer Ken Dandar, who has waged high-profile legal fights against Scientology off and on for 17 years.

      Ken Dandar agreed never to sue the church again, lawyers say.
    47. Scientology-related Narconon rehab center may have violated law

      Special Topics

      When the Scientology-affiliated Narconon drug treatment center in Spring Hill was told by Hernando County it could not expand its residential facility, the center didn’t try to make do with existing space.

      The Narconon program in Spring Hill rented three facilities, including one at 11033 Hearth Road, after the county rejected its plans to expand. Director Tammy Strickling says Narconon patients were shuttled to this site for “daily therapeutic classes.’’
    48. Operators of Scientology rehab center to open Clearwater halfway house

      Special Topics

      Operators of a drug rehabilitation center in Hernando County, which uses Scientology-affiliated Narconon treatments under intense scrutiny in several states, plan to open a 60-bed halfway house in Clearwater.

      And they won’t say why.

    49. Judge: Scientology leader not required to give deposition

      Special Topics

      Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige has sidestepped giving a deposition in a high-profile harassment lawsuit filed in Texas by Monique Rathbun, wife of vocal church critic Marty Rathbun.

      David Miscavige, 53, has led the church since 1986.
    50. Pam Bondi’s Clearwater fundraiser organized by Scientologists

      Special Topics

      Attorney General Pam Bondi, who already has raised millions for her re-election campaign, can expect to pull in more dollars tonight at a Clearwater fundraiser where all six organizers are prominent members of the Church of Scientology.

      Pam Bondi is aware Scientologists are staging the event, said campaign spokeswoman Christina Johnson. [EVE EDELHEIT | Times]
    51. Outside experts call for Clearwater and Scientology to work together

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — For downtown Clearwater to thrive, city leaders and the Church of Scientology should work together and communicate better, a group of outside experts recommended Friday.

      The Church of Scientology’s seven-story Flag Building dominates an entire block of downtown Clearwater.
    52. Scientology bans couple from wedding

      Special Topics

      Beautifully plated filet mignon. Attentive servers. A rocking band.

      The Vasilaroses of Clearwater rented the Crystal Ballroom in the Church of Scientology Fort Harrison Hotel for their daughter’s wedding. As part of the rental agreement, they agreed to send the church the guest list in advance. Last Thursday, the church informed them that a Clearwater lawyer and his wife could not attend.
    53. Scientology group’s flier causes stir at Memorial Day service

      Special Topics

      PALM HARBOR — The Citizens Commission on Human Rights presented itself as a group working to help veterans avoid suicide and asked to put inserts in the program for the annual Memorial Day service Monday at a local cemetery.

      Guests bow their heads Monday morning during the 28th annual Memorial Day Services at Curlew Hills Memory Garden. An insert in the program for the service came from a group linked to the Church of Scientology and attacked mental health care for veterans and suggested the federal government is responsible for “psychiatric drugging gone rampant.”
    54. Scientology foe gets little comfort from federal judge

      Special Topics

      TAMPA — The long fight between Tampa lawyer Ken Dandar and the Church of Scientology didn’t end Monday, but a federal judge offered scant support to Dandar as he tries to escape more than $1 million in sanctions by a state judge.

      Tampa lawyer Ken Dandar says the Church of Scientology is illegally trying to restrict his practice, violating his civil rights.
    55. Scientology critics gather for weeklong conference

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — Several critics of the Church of Scientology, including the great-grandson of church founder L. Ron Hubbard, are scheduled to speak this week at a local conference organizers say will draw attention to “human rights abuses” within the Scientology community.

    56. Florida charter school management company under federal scrutiny

      K12

      TALLAHASSEE — The state’s largest charter school management company has come under scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Education for potential conflicts of interests in its business practices, federal authorities have confirmed.

    57. Scientology’s leader reaches out to mend fences with Clearwater

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — After months of discord between his church and the city, Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige reached out this week to Clearwater leaders, arranging a sit-down in the church’s Fort Harrison Hotel to iron out their differences.

      Scientology leader David Miscavige.
    58. Scientology clergy force a mother to choose: son or daughter (w/video)

      Special Topics

      The Church of Scientology pressured Sara Goldberg for months to kick her son out of her life. She wouldn’t do it. So the church put her on trial one night in a Scientology building in Clearwater. It was scary. Goldberg cried. She had been a devoted Scientologist for 36 years. Now her church was accusing her of …

      Ashley Lister quit school at 16 to join Scientology’s religious order, the Sea Org. “Ashley kept insisting, ‘I’m joining the Sea Org. I want to go,’ ” her mother, Sara Goldberg said. “My daughter is extremely strong-willed.”
    59. Church of Scientology founder 
L. Ron Hubbard in May 1968.
    60. Letter from Scientology offers mother no choice but to disconnect from son

      Special Topics

      Scientology denies it orders disconnection. This letter undermines that claim. In June 2012, a few days after Nick Lister threatened suicide, his mother, Sara Goldberg, wrote Mike Ellis asking for permission to stay connected to Lister, a supressive person. She said he needed her. Ellis’ reply is clear: No.

    61. Scientology lawyer: Confrontations with defector were ‘peaceful protests’

      Special Topics

      NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas — As Monique Rathbun sees it, the Church of Scientology and its operatives tried to intimidate her for years — following, spying, aggressively confronting her and her husband, and playing tricks at her workplace to make colleagues think less of her.

      That’s why she sued.

      Monique Rathbun chats with her husband, Marty Rathbun, before a hearing last September regarding her lawsuit against the Church of Scientology, its leader, David Miscavige, and others involved in allegedly harassing her, in the Comal County Courthouse, New Braunfels, Texas.
    62. South Florida business agrees to stop forcing Scientology on workers

      Special Topics

      Miami Herald

      MIAMI — A handful of employees — now ex-employees — of a South Florida chiropractic office say they got more than a paycheck for their labors.

    63. Judge: Scientology leader can be deposed

      Special Topics

      Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige must submit to a deposition in a lawsuit filed against him and two church entities by Monique Rathbun, wife of high-profile church critic Marty Rathbun, a Texas judge ordered Friday.

      Scientology’s lawyers have tried to keep David Miscavige distanced from the legal action.
    64. UK woman wins right to marry in Scientology chapel

      Special Topics

      BC-EU—REL-Britain-Scientology,127

      UK woman wins right to marry in Scientology chapel

      AP Photo LON804

      Eds: APNewsNow. With AP Photos.

    65. Clearwater approves Scientology event that could draw 8,000

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — On Thursday, the city approved another major Church of Scientology event that is estimated to attract 8,000 church members downtown.

    66. Clearwater board says Scientology violated sign laws

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER— A wrap that until Tuesday covered a massive Church of Scientology tent downtown violated the city’s sign laws, a municipal board ruled Wednesday.

      The wrap covered a tent near the Church of Scientology’s Super Power Building in Clearwater. It has since been removed.
    67. Church of Scientology removes controversial wrap from massive tent

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — After the Church of Scientology removed a wrap from a massive tent Tuesday, it’s up to Clearwater’s code enforcement board to decide if the church should pay a fine for violating the city’s sign laws.

    68. Stars come out for dedication of Scientology’s ‘Super Power’ building in Clearwater

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER

      Actors Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kelly Preston joined a smaller than expected crowd of Scientologists on Sunday to dedicate what the church calls its most important project ever, its massive Flag Building.

      A live image of Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige is projected on a screen on Fort Harrison Avenue on Sunday during the Flag Building dedication.
    69. A city divided over Scientology for nearly 40 years weighs a fresh start

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — If Mayor George Cretekos could wave a magic wand, Clearwater would feel like Salt Lake City.

      Scientologists walk past the new Flag Building on their way to the Friday opening night of the church’s week of celebration.
    70. Scientologists kick off days of celebration in downtown Clearwater

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — Amid tight security and with their “cathedral” brightly lighted, thousands of Scientologists gathered in downtown Clearwater Friday night for the first in a series of events leading up to the dedication of the church’s Flag Building on Sunday.

      Scientologists gather Friday during opening night of the Church of Scientology’s week of celebration surrounding the dedication of its new Flag Building, where church leader David Miscavige is expected to speak.
    71. A look at what’s inside Scientology’s long-delayed Flag Building

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — The Church of Scientology has purchased and remodeled dozens of buildings since it established its spiritual headquarters here 37 years ago. This weekend, it will open yet another.

    72. Scientologists and city draw close to agreement on Flag Building dedication

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — The city and the Church of Scientology drew closer Tuesday to a final agreement on city approval for a dedication of what the church calls its “cathedral.”

      The Church of Scientology’s seven-story Flag Building dominates an entire block of downtown Clearwater, west of South garden Avenue, south of Pierce Street. Also known as the “Super Power” building, the structure is to Scientologists what the Vatican represents for Catholics or the Mormon Tabernacle to Mormons, according to church spokeswoman Pat Harney. Scheduled to be dedicated on Sunday, Harney said it will be used for “Scientology counseling and studies,” and has spiritual significance for church members.
    73. Clearwater issues conditions Scientology must meet to hold its events

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — The city gave the Church of Scientology a list of conditions Friday that the church must meet if it wants a permit to hold a high-profile Nov. 17 dedication of its downtown Flag Building.

      To gain an occupancy certificate for the huge tent across from the Flag Building in downtown Clearwater, Scientology must obtain permits for other illegally constructed tents and fences.
    74. Scientology accused of more Clearwater code violations

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — The Church of Scientology has run afoul of city ordinances again, prompting city officials to say that if the church doesn’t begin complying with city laws, it won’t get permits for a major event this month and an annual New Year’s celebration.

      The fence bordering Court Street and the small tent next to the large one were erected on Scientology property without the required permits from Clearwater officials.
    75. Scientology schedules world convention in Clearwater over Thanksgiving weekend

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — The Church of Scientology has scheduled an international meeting of its powerful fundraising arm in Clearwater the weekend after Thanksgiving.

    76. Scientologists give Clearwater dates for Flag Building dedication, other events

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — The Church of Scientology notified city officials Monday of plans to dedicate its new Flag Building on Nov. 17 in a private event the church says will draw 10,000 Scientologists to downtown Clearwater.

      The Church of Scientology wants to dedicate its new Flag Building, left, on Nov. 17 in an event the church says will draw 10,000 Scientologists to downtown Clearwater. The church wants the city to close Fort Harrison Avenue for most of that weekend, as well as erect a temporary fence “to create a perimeter” to keep uninvited guests at a distance.
    77. Clearwater says huge Scientology sign will soon collect fines

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — Church of Scientology representatives made their pitch to a key city official Thursday, attempting to convince him that a colorful wrap covering the church’s massive tent downtown isn’t a sign, but a crucial part of several upcoming church celebrations.

      The Church of Scientology told the city its lettered cover is crucial to upcoming celebrations. The tent has a permit.
    78. City to Scientology: Take down your sign

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — Memo to the Church of Scientology from Clearwater: Take down the sign. Immediately.

      A huge mural is draped over a large tent on the Church of Scientology's campus in downtown Clearwater. The multihued design appears to contain the letters K, S and W, letters the church uses as an acronym for "Keep Scientology Working."
    79. Scientology erects giant mural in downtown Clearwater

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — An enormous mural draped Monday over a massive tent that was erected downtown by the Church of Scientology might violate city sign laws, city officials said.

      A huge mural is draped over a massive tent on the Church of Scientology’s campus in downtown Clearwater. The multi-hued design appears to contain the letters K, S and W (letters the church uses as an acronym for “Keep Scientology Working”).
    80. Scientology official discusses ‘Super Power’ building with Clearwater activists

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — A Scientology official didn’t have much to say about recent church activities, but she told a gathering of Clearwater neighborhood activists Monday that answers would be coming soon.

      The church’s Pat Harney tells a group of activists the building will open by the end of 
the year.
    81. Judges in two cases reject Scientology efforts to disqualify opposing lawyers

      Special Topics

      TAMPA — Judges in two states have rejected the Church of Scientology’s attempts to undercut lawsuits that allege activities ranging from fraud to spying.

    82. Scientologists cancel Flag Building dedication scheduled for Oct. 6

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — Two decades ago, the Church of Scientology announced it would build a blockbuster of a building in downtown Clearwater to contain a program the church’s founder said would enable Scientologists to “create a new world.”

      A large tent, next to the Church of Scientology’s “Super Power” building, is expected to be up through the end of the year.
    83. Clearwater demands more details about dedication of Scientology building

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — City officials have given the Church of Scientology two deadlines to provide more details about the Oct. 6 dedication and grand opening of the church’s massive Flag Building.

      The Church of Scientology’s long-dormant Flag Building is to be dedicated Oct. 6. In early November, an international Scientology convention normally held annually in England will be held in Clearwater, with 8,000 people expected to celebrate in a huge tent being shipped here from England.
    84. Wife of Scientology critic details alleged church harassment

      Special Topics

      NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas — All Monique and Marty Rathbun had to do was show themselves, and trouble would follow.

      Attorneys approach the bench after an objection in a preliminary hearing regarding Monique Rathbun's lawsuit against the Church of Scientology, its leader David Miscavige, and others in Texas District Judge Dib Waldrip's courtroom in the Comal County Courthouse, New Braunfels, Texas,
    85. In Texas lawsuit, judge orders Scientology and its leader to stop harassment

      Special Topics

      A Texas judge has issued a temporary restraining order against Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige, two church entities and two men alleged to be church operatives — part of a lawsuit that contends they have waged a campaign of surveillance, dirty tricks, intimidation and harassment against the wife of a …

      Scientology leader David Miscavige has been sued by Monique Rathbun.
    86. Twin sister of Scientology leader pleads guilty to lesser charge

      Special Topics

      LARGO — A plea deal with Pinellas prosecutors has ended an awkward chapter for the Church of Scientology and its long crusade against drugs, allowing the twin sister of the church’s worldwide leader to avoid a marijuana conviction.

      Scientology leader David Miscavige’s twin sister, Denise Gentile, was arrested on DUI and marijuana possession charges. She pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of reckless driving Monday and have to attend DUI school and pay $800 in court fees. Scientologists believe that mind-altering substances, including illegal and psychiatric drugs, impair spiritual growth.
    87. Scientology leader David Miscavige’s twin sister faces marijuana charges

      Special Topics

      The black Dodge Durango was parked next to the house that had been such a problem for St. Petersburg police. Street cop Terrence Nemeth was watching. Shortly before 7 p.m., the Durango went out the back way. It turned into an alley and then drove into the street, nearly hitting an ambulance.

      Denise Gentile, whose tenant said he often paid her with pot, was arrested in January.
    88. Niece of Scientology leader describes rocky youth in church

      Special Topics

      She was 6 years old and dreamed of being a princess. But her life was far from a fairy tale.

    89. Couple’s lawsuit accuses Church of Scientology of fraud, deception

      Special Topics

      TAMPA — A federal lawsuit filed Wednesday accuses the Church of Scientology of using fraudulent, deceptive and high-pressure practices to coax millions of dollars from its members.

      Ground was broken in 1998 for Scientology’s Super Power building in downtown Clearwater.
    90. New book on Scientology features celebrities, intrigue

      Special Topics

      On his way to a dinner party in Los Angeles, Marlon Brando cut his leg helping a stranded motorist. When the legendary actor arrived in pain, John Travolta offered to help him with a Scientology procedure known as an “assist.”

    91. Church of Scientology responds to Times series about FBI investigation

      Special Topics

      June 24, 2012

      Re: Your Inquiry regarding the Church of Scientology

      Dear Messrs. Childs and Tobin:

    92. FBI Scientology investigation gets a fresh witness, but hits a legal roadblock

      Special Topics

      Was John Brousseau for real — a runaway?

      Avoiding harassment: John Brousseau joined Scientology’s Sea Org when he was 21. In April 2010, 
he fled the group’s California compound and began talking to the FBI about abuses he witnessed there. 
Fearing harassment by Scientologists, he would wear disguises when meeting with agents.
    93. FBI’s Scientology investigation: Balancing the First Amendment with charges of abuse and forced labor

       

      Special Topics

      John Brousseau hadn’t been seen for hours, not at the afternoon muster and not at the dinner break. That’s when they got concerned.

      JOHN BROUSSEAU drove away from the Church of Scientology’s compound east of Los Angeles at 6 one morning and was gone more than 12 hours before church staffers 
found his goodbye note.
    94. Scientology defectors describe violence, humiliation in “the Hole”

      Special Topics

      For years in a desert compound east of Los Angeles, dozens of managers for the Church of Scientology endured an unusual trial by fire. The church called it “ecclesiastical discipline,” part of the religion. But some managers came away with stories so troubling they attracted the attention of the FBI. They tell of …

      David Miscavige has been Scientology’s leader since 1986.
    95. Sunday Conversation: Jane Murphy, executive director of the Healthy Start Coalition, on building stronger families

      News

      Ten years ago, Jane Murphy became the executive director of the Healthy Start Coalition of Hillsborough County, though she’d always planned on staying a social worker. That was a job she did for 25 years, first at Tampa General Hospital, then at St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital. • “I kind of evolved into this. It …

    96. Private investigators’ lawsuit against Church of Scientology comes to an end

      Special Topics

      In a quiet end to a colorful and revealing case, two private investigators have ended their Texas lawsuit against the Church of Scientology and its leader, David Miscavige.

    97. Push-up challenge a simple way to get in shape

       

      News

      Before we go any further, please set this column aside for just a moment and hit the floor. Time to do some pushups.

    98. Scientology critics allege church tried to influence Pinellas legal community in Lisa McPherson case

      Special Topics

      Scientology critics allege in recently filed court papers that the church hired local lawyers to schmooze Pinellas judges and gave gifts to a prominent attorney trying to gain influence during the legal saga that followed the 1995 death of Scientologist Lisa McPherson.

    99. Two detectives describe their two-decade pursuit of an exiled Scientology leader

      Special Topics

      SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Nearly 25 years ago, the Church of Scientology hired two former California cops to do a job.

      Spy on Patrick D. Broeker.

    100. Church of Scientology paid two private investigators millions to trail David Miscavige’s rival, lawsuit claims

      Special Topics

      Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige ordered surveillance on one of his former church rivals in a secret operation that lasted 25 years and ate up millions in church funds, a Texas lawsuit alleges.

    101. Appeals court upholds dismissal of wrongful death suit against Church of Scientology

      Special Topics

      A federal appeals court has upheld the dismissal of an aggressively contested wrongful death lawsuit filed against the Church of Scientology and three parishioners after the apparent suicide of a Virginia man who died while visiting his Scientologist father in Clearwater.

    102. Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘The Master’ is infused with many references to Church of Scientology

      Special Topics

      The artists who gave us The Master have downplayed any connection between their much anticipated film and the Church of Scientology.

    103. Review: Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘The Master’ unpredictable, triumphant

      Movies

      Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master is both freed and fettered by its inspiration, which is clearly the origin of Scientology orchestrated by self-styled messiah L. Ron Hubbard. Freed since the subject is exceptional for cinema, despite the church’s integration into Hollywood culture. Fettered because …

      With brooding intensity and flashes of blazing fire, Joaquin Phoenix plays an abrasive bootlegger who becomes enmeshed in the Cause.
    104. Defectors Claire and Marc Headley say Church of Scientology tried to bargain for info on critics

      Special Topics

      The Church of Scientology tried to bargain with two of its most high-profile antagonists after defeating them in civil court recently by offering to wipe out a $42,000 debt in exchange for information about other church critics.

      The Headleys say the church wanted to know about their interactions with high-profile defector Marty Rathbun, above, and other critics.
    105. Deaths at Scientology drug treatment program Narconon bring investigation

      Special Topics

      Already shaken by a series of high-level defections, accounts of abuse among its staffers, and the high-profile breakup of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, the Church of Scientology now faces scrutiny over its controversial drug treatment program, Narconon.

    106. Ex-Scientology leader Debbie Cook moving to Caribbean island

      Special Topics

      Former Scientology officer Debbie Cook, who rocked the church early this year with damaging testimony before agreeing to stay silent forever, will move this week to the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, friends say.

      Former Scientology executive Debbie Cook and her husband, Wayne Baumgarten, were in civil court in San Antonio, Texas.
    107. Former Clearwater Scientology leader Debbie Cook settles lawsuit with church

      Special Topics

      Only weeks ago, after delivering hours of damaging testimony about the Church of Scientology, former church official Debbie Cook sounded as if she was just getting started.

      Debbie Cook hugs her lawyer Ray Jeffrey in a Texas courtroom in February after testifying about physical and mental abuse in the church.
    108. Ex-Scientology leader Debbie Cook tells of fear and pursuit by church officers

      Special Topics

      Starting new lives in San Antonio, Texas, after working decades for the Church of Scientology, they picked up the phone in August 2009 and were stunned when church security officer Kathy True said she and two other staffers were in town to see them.

      Could they come to the couple’s home?

    109. Church of Scientology drops motion for temporary injunction against Debbie Cook

      Special Topics

      SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS — Stung by damaging testimony about its inner workings, the Church of Scientology abruptly ended its effort to silence former Clearwater leader Debbie Cook on Friday, beating an uncharacteristic legal retreat and emboldening Cook to keep talking.

      Debbie Cook hugs her attorney, Ray Jeffrey, Friday after a Scientology lawyer withdraws a temporary injunction request.
    110. Ex-Clearwater Scientology officer Debbie Cook testifies she was put in ‘The Hole,’ abused for weeks

      Special Topics

      SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Scientology executive Debbie Cook was on the phone with church leader David Miscavige when she heard someone pounding at her office door at a church compound in California.

      “He came up as if he was going to choke me,” ex-Scientology executive Debbie Cook says, describing church leader David Miscavige.
    111. Church lawyer tells judge: ‘Only Scientology law applies’

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — The Church of Scientology, defending itself against a $35,000 refund claim, told a Pinellas judge Friday that the courts cannot meddle in its religious affairs.

    112. Church of Scientology sues longtime Clearwater leader over New Year’s Eve email

      Special Topics

      The Church of Scientology has sued its longtime Clearwater leader Debbie Cook after she publicly questioned the church’s aggressive fundraising tactics and other practices.

      The Church of Scientology, which has its worldwide spiritual headquarters in Clearwater, says news of a former Clearwater church leader’s emails reached over 24 million people.
    113. In letter, former Scientology leader Debbie Cook renews concerns about church fundraising

      Special Topics

      Debbie Cook, the high-profile Scientologist who on New Year’s Eve launched a surprise effort to reform the Church of Scientology’s aggressive fundraising practices, has renewed her call for action but insists she’s not picking a fight with the church.

    114. In new year’s message, Scientology insider blasts ‘extreme’ fundraising

      Special Topics

      The new year brought a big surprise for the Church of Scientology: One of its most respected and widely known figures went public in dramatic fashion, calling for internal reforms and decrying heavy-handed fundraising practices she says have allowed the church to amass reserves of more than $1 billion.

    115. Judge dismisses wrongful-death lawsuit against Scientology

      Special Topics

      A wrongful-death lawsuit filed against the Church of Scientology and three church parishioners after the apparent suicide of a 20-year-old Virginia man who died in Clearwater while visiting his Scientologist father has been dismissed by a Tampa federal judge.

    116. Ruth Eckerd Hall calls off Scientology event to benefit Capitol Theatre

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — What began as a joint fundraiser by Scientology and Ruth Eckerd Hall devolved into chaos this week, with the hall declaring the fundraiser cancelled but the church stating the show must go on.

      People gather outside the Capitol Theatre before a performance in October by Lindsey Buckingham, formerly of Fleetwood Mac.
    117. Giant ‘Super Power’ building in Clearwater takes a pause, yet millions keep flowing in

      Special Topics

      Maybe they’re out of money.

      That speculation — irresistible to many Scientology watchers in Clearwater — never died after the church suddenly stopped construction on its massive, downtown “Super Power” building.

      One of Scientology’s symbols is an eight-pointed cross representing the eight “dynamics” of life. Scientologists seek to survive across those dynamics: the urge to exist as an individual, in a family unit, through a group, through all mankind, with other life forms such as animals, in the physical universe, as spiritual beings and toward infinity.
    118. Tax experts: Church’s money-raising practices don’t appear to threaten tax-exempt status

      Special Topics

      FOR 40 years beginning in the 1950s, IRS officials sorted through the maze of corporate entities that compose Scientology, trying to make sense of the organization. So when the church made a bid in the early 1990s to have its tax-exempt status reinstated, the agency had questions.

    119. Church of Scientology responds to questions about fundraising, tax exemption

      Special Topics

      Excerpts from the Church of Scientology’s response, in the words of its spokeswoman, Karin Pouw:

    120. Some Scientologists give until they’re bankrupt

      Special Topics

      Church of Scientology fundraisers tell followers that it’s worth it to stretch their finances for the good of the church and the future of the planet. But some parishioners stretch too far. • Bankruptcy filings and other court records from around the country reveal how some Scientologists donated …

    121. Scientology amped up donation requests to save the Earth starting in 2001

      Special Topics

      Lynne Hoverson and Bert Schippers quickly pitched in with a $12,000 donation when Seattle Scientologists started raising money for a new church in 2000. They later boosted their gift to $160,000.

      Lynne Hoverson and husband Bert Schippers gave $1.5 million to Scientology. “When you’re a Scientologist,” Schippers said, “it’s not your money anymore.”
    122. Church of Scientology responds: Parishioners donate ‘because they enthusiastically support their chosen faith’

      Special Topics

      The Church of Scientology disputes the accounts of its former members.

    123. Church of Scientology runs afoul of widely accepted best practices for fundraising

      Special Topics

      Many American churches freely show their hand when it comes to money, going so far as to publish detailed financial statements online.

    124. Scientology couple who gave $1.3 million: Church mission ‘has been corrupted’

      Special Topics

      Luis Garcia devoted a quarter-century to reaching Scientology’s spiritual pinnacle. He and his wife, Rocio, spent $300,000 on services while advancing up the church’s spiritual progression, the Bridge to Total Freedom. They donated nearly $1 million more to church causes.

      Rocio and Luis Garcia were Scientologists for 25 years. In 2001 Luis noticed a change in the church. Fundraisers “would come to the business, come to the house, looking for not just money for services, but straight donations.”
    125. Pervasive pitch: Scientology book and lecture series, ‘The Basics,’ unleashes a sales frenzy

      Special Topics

      Tom Cruise applauded vigorously as Scientology leader David Miscavige strode to center stage at Clearwater’s Ruth Eckerd Hall. John Travolta and Kelly Preston beamed from the front row.

      Luis Garcia was fascinated by Dianetics when he read it in 1982. He then went door to door in Laguna Beach, Calif., asking strangers if he could tell them about the book. He reached Scientology’s highest spiritual level, Operating Thetan VIII, in 2007.
    126. Shifty business: Times inquiry finds secret debits, deception after Scientology ‘Basics’ released

      Special Topics

      BY JOE CHILDS AND THOMAS C. Tobin Times Staff Writers

      Carisa Marion had more than $350,000 in her church account when “The Basics” went on sale. “Because I had this money there, I was a target for staff who actually stole money off my account many times for unauthorized book purchases,” Marion wrote in a complaint.
    127. Church responds to St. Petersburg Times series

      Special Topics

      Excerpts of 144 pages of response from Church of Scientology’s spokeswoman Karin Pouw:

    128. Just what is in ‘The Basics’?

      Special Topics

      Inside ‘The Basics’

      What is in “The Basics,” the vast collection of L. Ron Hubbard books and lectures released by the church in 2007?

    129. About the latest St. Petersburg Times investigative series on Scientology

      Special Topics

      About the series

      Tom Tobin
    130. Former Scientology insiders describe a world of closers, prospects, crushing quotas and coercion

      Special Topics

      Hy Levy lived in terror of what would happen if he didn’t make his number, a weekly sales target of $200,000. The money was due every Thursday by 2 p.m.

      No excuses.

      Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard had a sales credo.
    131. Church of Scientology responds to St. Petersburg Times series

      Special Topics

      The St. Petersburg Times provided the Church of Scientology with 33 pages of detailed statements from former members, along with questions and followup questions. Church spokeswoman Karin Pouw provided 144 pages of response. Below are excerpts:

    132. About ‘Flag’: Scientology has 67 properties in Clearwater

      Special Topics

      The Church of Scientology established its “Flag Land Base” on Dec. 1, 1975, buying Clearwater’s historic Fort Harrison Hotel and a handful of other properties under an assumed name.

      The “Super Power” building, foreground, and the Fort Harrison Hotel across the street anchor the sprawling “Flag Land Base” 
in Clearwater, Scientology’s worldwide spiritual headquarters.
    133. How Scientology generates revenue on multiple fronts

      Special Topics

      Church revenue sources

      The Church of Scientology says it is in the midst of the greatest period of growth in its history, boasting of new properties, book campaigns and humanitarian efforts. But former members say the growth has come at a cost, as church fundraisers have become more heavy-handed. Today’s …

      The Ideal Org in Nashville sells “The Basics,” a $3,000 set of 18 books and 280 recorded lectures, along with church services.
    134. A young man looked for answers, found a ‘money-hungry cult’

      Special Topics

      How much do you have in the bank?

      Brian Culkin describes a relentless series of urgent requests for donations, sometimes with Scientologists clustered around him, begging.
    135. Scientology gets closer to removing nemesis lawyer from wrongful death lawsuit

      Special Topics

      An appeals court in Atlanta has given the Church of Scientology a leg up in its effort to remove local attorney Ken Dandar from a federal wrongful death case in Tampa.

    136. Will Clearwater press Scientology to pay $450,000 fine in full?

      Local Government

      CLEARWATER — For years the Church of Scientology’s unfinished Flag Building, its biggest structure in the world, stood fenced off and frozen in time.

      This building was an empty shell for so many years of delayed construction that Clearwater set a daily fine in 2006.
    137. Clearwater mayor irked as Scientology to buy more downtown land

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — Pinellas County is preparing to sell five buildings in downtown Clearwater to the Church of Scientology — much to the annoyance of Clearwater’s mayor.

    138. Lawsuit claims Church of Scientology violated child labor and wage laws

      Special Topics

      A runaway from the Church of Scientology’s restrictive religious order, the Sea Org, alleges in two lawsuits filed Friday that the church violated California laws regulating child labor, wages and school attendance.

      The headquarters for the Church of Scientology International in Los Angeles is where Montalvo left with church defectors.
    139. FBI investigating Scientology, defectors say

      Special Topics

      FBI agents investigating human trafficking have interviewed several high-ranking defectors from the Church of Scientology who spoke out to the St. Petersburg Times over the past two years about abusive and coercive practices within the church.

    140. Scientology starts collecting bed tax when county questions why it wasn’t

      Special Topics

      For 34 years, thousands of Scientologists traveled to Clearwater and stayed in hotels owned by their church, enjoying a free ride from the 5 percent tourist tax that other visitors pay at Pinellas’ commercial hotels.

      Oak Cove, 
210 S Osceola Ave., 240 rooms
    141. Scientology benefits when Miami dentist runs up patient bills

      Special Topics

      MIAMI

      Rosa Hernandez remembers this about her dentist: He sure could close a deal.

      Monica Albarello, 27, a law student, paid Dr. Rene Piedra $5,000 up front for treatments she never finished. Her loan ballooned to $9,000 with interest. “It’s hard to want to go to a dentist again.’’
    142. Piedra, Blyskal today

      Special Topics

      Dr. Rene Piedra, 41

      Dentist in Miami area since 1998.

      Divorced, one child.

    143. Church of Scientology’s comment

      Special Topics

      SCIENTOLOGY’S comment

      Church of Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis said neither the church nor any of its related entities were involved in any way in the management of Dr. Rene Piedra’s former dental practice.

    144. Federal court hearing ends impasse between judges

      Special Topics

      TAMPA — An unusual impasse between two area judges came to a close after a hearing Tuesday in federal court.

    145. It’s judge vs. judge in battle over Scientology lawyer

      Special Topics

      Usually it’s the lawyers who tussle back and forth in court. But a dispute involving the Church of Scientology has two of the area’s most notable judges locking horns, each saying the other stepped outside his jurisdiction.

    146. Federal judge tells Pinellas judge to back off in Scientology lawsuit

      Special Topics

      TAMPA — A federal judge has ordered a Pinellas judge and the Church of Scientology to halt their efforts to severely punish Ken Dandar, a Tampa lawyer who is taking the church to court for the second time in his career.

    147. Judge dismisses two lawsuits aimed at Scientology

      Special Topics

      The Church of Scientology won an important victory in federal court Thursday when a judge dismissed two lawsuits that accused the church of labor law violations, human trafficking and forced abortions.

      Claire Headley watches a movie with son Kaiden, 2, as husband Marc goes to run an errand in May. Headley said she was forced to have two abortions while working for Scientology’s Sea Org.
    148. She fought Scientology for the child they wanted to abort

      Special Topics

      Twenty years ago, when Natalie Hagemo was 19, pregnant and working for the Church of Scientology, she couldn’t wait to be a mother.

      Visiting Clearwater. Shelby spent much of 2008 and 2009 at Scientology’s spiritual hub, training so she could work at her community church in Minneapolis. Her mother, who sometimes came to get counseling services, says it was only in January that Shelby got back to being herself. “She’s happy again. She’s the happy-go-lucky, on-the-verge-of-a-giggle daughter that I sent out there. And that is not the girl I got back.’’
    149. Church of Scientology’s response

      Special Topics

      Church of Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis says the accounts of Natalie Hagemo and her daughter, Shelby LaFreniere, are untrue.

    150. No kids allowed

      Special Topics

      Laura Dieckman was just 12 when her parents let her leave home to work full time for Scientology’s religious order, the Sea Organization. At 16, she married a co-worker. At 17, she was pregnant.

      Sunny Pereira
    151. Church of Scientology response

      Special Topics

      Church spokesman Tommy Davis provided a general response in a six-page letter. Here are excerpts:

    152. Church of Scientology: The Headley Lawsuits

      Special Topics

      The HEADLEY LAWSUITS

    153. Scientology and abortion

      Special Topics

      Scientology and abortion

    154. Robert S. Minton, a former Scientology critic, dies of heart ailment

      Special Topics

      Robert S. Minton, a retired investment banker who poured millions into efforts to fight the Church of Scientology in the 1990s, has died. He was 63.

    155. Scientologists and money

      Special Topics

      Spending it

      Depending on how long they participate and how far they advance, Scientologists can spend from a few thousand dollars to sums well into six figures. Much of the money pays for training and for counseling sessions called “auditing.” Smaller sums are paid for books, recorded …

    156. Larry Anderson profile

      Special Topics

      Larry Anderson, 58

      Joined Scientology: 1976

      Left Scientology: 2009

      Career: Actor and pitchman. Appeared in more than 30 television shows, including The Young and the Restless, Days of Our Lives, Matlock, Night Court, Beverly Hills 90210 and The …

       

    157. Larry Anderson, star of Scientology’s ‘Orientation’ film, wants his money back

      Special Topics

      If you watched TV in the past three decades, you probably saw Larry Anderson. He appeared on more than 30 shows, including Charlie’s Angels, Mork and Mindy, Desperate Housewives and Mad Men. He hosted three game shows and had bit parts in eight movies.

      Dick Van Dyke (1974) was among the actors who learned magic from Anderson for TV specials.
    158. Scientology releases restoration of Hubbard works

      Special Topics

      The Church of Scientology has finished a long-running project to recover and restore many of the writings and recorded lectures of its late founder L. Ron Hubbard. It’s the first time Hubbard’s original works — some previously unavailable — have been broadly accessible to parishioners, the church says.

    159. Three of Scientology’s elite parishioners keep faith, but leave the church

      Special Topics

      They advanced to the Church of Scientology’s highest spiritual level, to “Operating Thetan VIII,” a vaunted realm said to endow extraordinary powers of perception and force of will.

    160. Recent high-profile defectors

      Special Topics

      These four longtime Scientologists say they left the church because the behavior of top management was at odds with the teachings of the church. They say they still believe in Scientology.

      JAck airey, 67

      Joined Scientology: 1975

      Left Scientology: 2009

    161. Climbing The Bridge: A journey to ‘Operating Thetan’

      Special Topics

      People practice Scientology by moving up the “Grade Chart,” officially known as the “Classification Gradation and Awareness Chart of Levels and Certificates.” It outlines a series of steps one must take in sequence to reach the highest levels of awareness. The progression also is referred to as …

    162. Scientology’s response

      Special Topics

      Church of Scientology International

      December 23, 2009

      VIA: ELECTRONIC MAIL & FIRST CLASS MAIL

      Mr. Joe Childs and Mr. Tom Tobin

      St. Petersburg Times

      490 First Ave South

      St. Petersburg, Florida 33701

      Dear Mr. Childs and Mr. Tobin:

    163. Caught between Scientology and her husband, Annie Tidman chose the church

      Special Topics

      The subject of this story, Annie Tidman, denied through her attorney that the following events happened. The attorney would not make Tidman available to be interviewed. This account comes from interviews with her ex-husband and four former Church of Scientology staff members.

    164. Man overboard: To leave Scientology, Don Jason had to jump off a ship

      Special Topics

      Parishioners from around the world flocked to Scientology’s spiritual headquarters in Clearwater, bringing the church about $1.5 million a week.

    165. Don Jason’s route out of Scientology

      Special Topics

      1 August 1996: Working at Scientology’s Flag Service Organization in Clearwater, Don Jason is told that the church is going to discipline him for something he felt was unfair. He leaves the next day without permission and drives on I-4 to Daytona Beach. He takes back roads north to Fernandina …

 

    1. The Scientology response

      Special Topics

      SCIENTOLOGY’S RESPONSE:

      The Times asked the church to respond to Don Jason’s account that he was locked in his berth, watched 24/7 by cameras, blocked from leaving the gangway and felt his only way to escape was over the bow and down a mooring line. The church responded that Jason voluntarily went to …

    2. Who’s who in this installment

      Special Topics

      DON JASON, 45

      Joined Scientology: 1984

      Left Sea Org: 1996

      Career highlights: Chief officer of the Flag Service Organization, the church’s primary entity in Clearwater.

    3. How Scientology got to Bob Minton

      Special Topics

      Robert S. Minton seemed to surface out of nowhere in late 1997. • A retired investment banker and millionaire from New England, he began to show up at anti-Scientology demonstrations in Boston and Clearwater. He gave millions to groups critical of the church. • He became the money man behind a …

      The line. Bob Minton bought a building just 30 feet from the church’s stately property, the former Bank of Clearwater building. The city of Clearwater painted white lines in the street, where Minton was not allowed when Scientologists boarded their buses.
    4. Scientology: What happened in Vegas, Part 2 of 3 in a special report on the Church of Scientology

      Special Topics

      They squeezed into a two bedroom apartment, all they could afford. Two couples and a single guy had left the Church of Scientology and joined up in Las Vegas, starting a mortgage business near the Palace Station Casino.

      They were faces in the crowd.

      Janis Gillham and L. Ron Hubbard on a photo shoot at a winery near Setubal, Portugal. She was about 16.
    5. Who’s who in this installment

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      THE LAS VEGAS GROUP

      Five Scientology defectors started new lives together in Las Vegas.

      MARK FISHER, 51

      Mark Fisher and Dave Lubow on the stairway of the Las Vegas apartment Fisher shared with two couples, the Gamboas and the Gradys. Lubow moved into the same apartment complex, the Polo Club, taking a unit in the background of this photo, across the parking lot from Fisher and the others.
    6. The Scientology response

      Special Topics

      The church said its leader, David Miscavige, and other church officials did not hire private investigators, church attorneys did. The church directs that its attorneys and their agents follow all laws and regulations and adhere to the highest ethical standards. “If Rathbun and Rinder used PIs to ‘abuse poor …

    7. Ex-officer says Scientology policy didn’t match directive

      Special Topics

      Marty Rathbun said he participated in a criminal act to protect the church against a possible security breach.

    8. Has Scientology been watching Pat Broeker for two decades?

      Special Topics

      Pat Broeker could say what no one else in Scientology could: He outranked David Miscavige.

      Pat Broeker, in this 35-year-old photo, was named a “loyal officer’’ by L. Ron Hubbard, the highest rank the church founder bestowed.
    9. Scientology’s response

      Special Topics

      Church spokesman Tommy Davis says the Times’ sources admitted they left Scientology because they could not meet the church’s strict ethical standards. Now they are lying, he says, and the Times is helping advance their agenda. Here is the Church of Scientology’s response to their allegations, submitted as a …

    10. Chased by their church: When you try to leave Scientology, they try to bring you back

      Special Topics

      For years, the Church of Scientology chased down and brought back staff members who tried to leave.

    11. Who’s who in this installment

      Special Topics

      David Miscavige, 49

      Born: Suburban Philadelphia

      Joined Scientology: As a child, with his parents; joined Sea Org at age 16.

    12. L. Ron Hubbard on ‘Leaving and leaves’

      Special Topics

      LEAVING AND LEAVES

      In the mid 1970s, L. Ron Hubbard ran his church from aboard his ship, the Apollo,sailing from port to port. He handwrote his notes, in red ink for a bulletin, in green ink for a policy letter. He said two things about …

      The green volumes: L. Ron Hubbard’s writings on administration of the church are in books referred to as the green volumes. He detailed Scientology religious practices in the red volumes.
    13. From Scientology’s files

      Special Topics

      The church said the Times is relying on sources who, before they left Scientology, admitted in sworn declarations, affidavits and confessions that all responsibility was theirs and they held the church blameless. For every person but one (Sinar Parman), Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis …

      Responding to written questions, church spokesman Tommy Davis sent a binder addressing issues with individual sources.
    14. Scientology glossary, lingo, acronyms

      Special Topics

      Scientology has a language of its own. Here are some terms used in these stories.

    15. ‘I just want to get on with my life’ after Scientology

      Special Topics

      Sixteen years later, Betsy Perkins is sobbing as she talks about the day she ran away from Scientology.

      Betsy Perkins. Her mother, Betty Jane Wilhoit, says it wasn’t easy to maintain contact during her daughter’s years in Scientology. “I knew … they were reading her mail. And I knew that if I said too much, they would cut us off or really pressure her to cut ties with her family.’’

 

    1. Strength in their numbers: More Church of Scientology defectors come forward with accounts of abuse

      Special Topics

      They are stepping forward — from Dallas and Denver, Portland, Las Vegas, Montana — talking about what happened, to them and their friends, during their years in the Church of Scientology.

    2. Church of Scientology’s response: ‘Character assassination’ by liars

      Special Topics

      This is the Church of Scientology’s response to the St. Petersburg Times story that, in addition to the four church defectors the newspaper wrote about in June, quotes 11 more defectors who have provided accounts of physical or mental abuse by Scientology leader David Miscavige.

    3. Allegations against Scientology leader David Miscavige are out there, but all else is normal

      Special Topics

      CLEARWATER — Allegations of physical abuse, destruction of evidence and punishment rituals in the upper echelons of the Church of Scientology left some local political leaders saying they were shocked and disturbed.

    4. Scientology: Ecclesiastical justice, Part 3 of 3 in a special report on the Church of Scientology

      Special Topics

      The four high-ranking executives who left Scientology say that church leader David Miscavige not only physically attacked members of his executive staff, he messed with their minds.

    5. Leaving the Church of Scientology: a huge step

      Special Topics

      Those who join the Sea Org dedicate their lives to Scientology and sign a 1-billion-year contract, to symbolize their commitment to serve in this life and the next ones. Many of those who leave undergo a “security check” to see if they have ill intentions for the church, and many are cut off from contact with …

    6. Church of Scientology investigation gets worldwide response

      Special Topics

      The Church of Scientology is a hot topic any day on the Internet. But now the blogosphere has lit up with comments about the St. Petersburg Times‘ special report on Scientology leader David Miscavige and the details …

You have reached the end of this branch of the internet.

 

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