Compiled by Maggie Council DiPietra and Jeff Lee
A Brief History of Scientology in Clearwater: 1975 to 1995
from records of the Clearwater Courthouse, files seized from
Scientology by the FBI, and archives of the St. Petersburg Times
(now Tampa Bay Times),
and the now-defunct Tampa Tribune
and Clearwater Sun.
The newspaper archives from which much of this page was derived only
extended to 1995 at the time research was conducted.
Scientology buys the historic Fort Harrison Hotel in downtown Clearwater under the name “United Churches of Florida.”
Before the press can reveal the purchaser's true identity, Scientology announces its presence in Clearwater.
Scientologists release a "fact sheet" on Mayor Cazares and his wife,accusing them of all manner of business and personal crimes.
During this time, there are attempts to discredit Cazares with rumors pertaining to his sex life, an attempt to frame him in a hit-and-run accident, and an attempt to destroy his campaign to unseat Bill Young in a Senate race (see Nov. 1979).
The FBI raids church offices and seizes thousands of documents. Among items the raids uncovered included details on specific operations undertaken by the Guardian’s Office against perceived threats to Scientology’s goals:
Scientology's Operation Snow White, an elaborate plan to infiltrate various government and business offices and destroy negative or incriminating files pertaining to Scientology and/or its founder;
Operation PC Freakout, a project to present Paulette Cooper, the author of a book critical of Scientology, as insane and discredit her through various overt and covert illegal activities;
Operation China Shop, a project to gain control of the Clearwater Sun;
Project Vatican Passport, which was a series of actions designed to establish legitimacy for the United Churches of Florida, one of the fictitious names used by Scientology when they first arrived in Clearwater; and
Operation Tricycle, or Hubbard's Guardian Office Program Order 261175, which instructs Scientologists to work to "take control of key points of Clearwater," including the Sun and Channel 13 TV.
Eleven high-ranking church officials are convicted and imprisoned as a result of the 1977 FBI raids on church offices, exposing the church's intelligence and espionage arm's illegal covert operations and other crimes.
claimed that the eleven were acting independently, and Scientology
claimed that they would be forever barred from serving as Scientology
However, in 1995, one of the eleven, Richard Weigand was listed in internal Scientology publications as currently heading up a project in Colombia, and was active on TNX-L, a private Scientology Internet mailing list, as recently as April of 1995.
The CW Sun reports that “Dunedin Police Chief Edward Smith was investigated by the Church of Scientology because he seemed “prejudiced” against the sect.”
According to an April 1977 memo between Guardians Office employees Brian and Joe, Smith was considered “prejudiced” because in the course of his duties he asked questions at the Ft. Harrison pertaining to four guns that were found at King Arthur Courts Apartments, one of which was engraved with the initials LRH.
Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney James Russell was also branded an ‘enemy’ of the church because he pushed for an investigation of the guns’ ownership. It was also revealed that “extensive data had been collected on the police chief and his department over the last year.”
CW Sun reprints an Associated Press report from Washington, DC that Scientology had planned to blackmail the IRS. This plan, “Juicy Clanger,” was outlined in papers seized by the FBI in 1977 and admitted in court, released in November 1979 by U.S. District Judge Charles R. Richey.
According to the files, church operatives stole IRS records of famous Americans and planned to threaten to release them unless an IRS audit was found favorable to the church. A church memo dated December 1975 states, “Legal could also inform the IRS of the receipt of the data and that we are holding off on using it as an added pressure on them to finish the audit (favorably).”
There was no indication that the plan was ever launched. But the intelligence was gathered.
Another memo said “We have the intel on [former California governor] Edmund Brown, Jr. [Calif governor at the time] and Tom Bradley [who was mayor of Los Angeles]. The church reportedly also had information on Frank Sinatra.
Tanja C. Burden of Las Vegas says that L. Ron Hubbard, his wife Mary Sue, and the Clearwater church enslaved her for more than four years. The case eventually settles in 1986, at which point Scientology attorneys have the files sealed. The papers in this court case are among the sealed cases the Times tries to have opened in 1988.
The City Commission of Clearwater holds hearings about Scientology, concerned about complaints that the church was a cult. Over 500 people signed petitions in support of the hearings. The Scientologists sue to block the hearings and lose. Scientology lawyer Paul B. Johnson walks out of these
meetings without presenting his church's side.
Police raid more Scientology offices, this time in Canada, and discover about 2 million stolen government documents. Scientology lawyers say they will donate money to charity if the charges are dismissed; Ontario Attorney General Ian Scott declines their offer.
Clearwater passes an ordinance that officials said was designed to reduce fraud by any group claiming to be charitable. It meets strong resistance from Scientology; after an eleven-year legal battle, the church finally gets the ordinance repealed in late 1995.
Scientology lawyer Paul B. Johnson is brought to trial in Orlando for allegedly bribing Hillsborough County commissioners to favor his client, Hubbard Construction Company. Johnson is later defended by F. Lee Bailey.
Summer -- Scientology purchases an apartment complex to house staff members, serving the existing tenants notice to leave when their leases expire.
August -- Scientology settles four lawsuits out of court:
and Maggie Cazares sue the Church of Scientology for invasion
privacy and malicious prosecution (a slander lawsuit which was thrown out of
court as frivolous).
Burden sues for "fraud, breach of contract and
infliction of emotional distress."
McLeans sue, alleging invasion of privacy and malicious
(as in the Cazares case, a slander suit filed by the church was dismissed as
Wakefield sues, claiming the church "fraudulently promised
cure her mental illness and instead mentally abused her."
The files were sealed over the plaintiffs' objections.
September -- Scientology purchases the Boheme cruise ship and sails it away, leaving St. Petersburg, Florida's small port facility tenantless.
December -- More than 400 current and former Scientologists file a $1-billion class-action suit against the church alleging that the church tried to compromise or pay off two Florida judges and divert $100-million to foreign bank accounts.
contends that church officials or their representatives committed
fraud and breached fiduciary duties. It alleges further that
information obtained from members during "auditing"
(confessional-like, purportedly private church 'service' sessions
costing thousands of dollars) is used for
"purposes of blackmail and extortion."
also alleges that in April of 1982, David Miscavige (Chairman of the
church's Religious Technology Center) ordered the payment of $250,000
to "set up" and frame US District Judge Ben Krentzman (of
Clearwater) in a scheme to compromise his integrity with drugs and
prostitutes. It similarly
contends that thousands of dollars were ordered spent to "pay off" Florida Circuit Judge James Durden, who was presiding over a Scientology-related case.
The church reached out-of-court settlements for undisclosed amounts with at least fourteen former members, and settled a suit brought by Gabe and Maggie Cazares.
A project is launched to discredit California lawyer Charles O'Reilly, who represented Lawrence Wollersheim in his winning case against the church; according to former Church lawyer Joseph Yanny, plans were made to steal O'Reilly's confidential files from the Betty Ford Center and other
substance-abuse treatment centers. Yanny said the Scientologists figured that such records could be used to blackmail O'Reilly.
In an article in the business section of the St. Petersburg Times on 1 July 1987, a Largo shredder dealer talks about his business:
"I've sold the Church of Scientology several shredders," said Becklund. "They shred everything. As a matter of fact, when the city of Clearwater was investigating them they bought shredders from us. They'd bring in 15, 20, 4-drawer legal files and they'd shred them. Oh, yeah. Lots of maintenance."
reports that every year since 1982, Scientology has sought a tax
exemption and Pinellas County property appraiser Ron Schultz has
denied it. "The Church of Scientology ... was the first instance
in my office where I found an institution calling itself a church
that the courts agreed was not
a not-for-profit institution," Schultz said.
representative of CoS hand-delivers a letter to the St. Pete Times
that threatens to sue the newspaper if it writes a story about the
book L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman? by Bent Corydon. The letter
accuses the paper of intending to "attack and denigrate the
Church through any vehicle you find
available." The letter, signed by Scientology lawyer Timothy Bowles, threatens action against the Times for libel, slander, conspiracy and violation of civil rights if it should "forward one of [Corydon's] lies."
The letter concluded with "we know a lot more about your institution and motives than you think."
St. Pete Times seeks to unseal files in four lawsuits against Scientology that settled in 1986. Although court files are normally open, the judge granted the church's request to seal these cases over the objections of opposing lawyers. The Church wanted to keep them closed.
Times lawyers argued in a motion in October that closing the files violated the First Amendment, interfering with the newspaper's right to gather and publish news. The suits alleged that Scientologists invaded the plaintiff's privacy and abused the courts by filing malicious injunctions.
Earle C. Cooley, national counsel for the Church of Scientology said, in reference to Scientologists opposing the Times' motion to unseal the files, "I don't know where the press gets the idea that it has a right to intervene in an agreement entered into by both parties and approved by the court."
"Mr. Cooley's memory is failing him," responded plaintiff's attorney Walter D. Logan. "We never agreed to seal the court files."
Patricia Fields Anderson, an attorney for the Times, said case law requires that court records be open, "and the burden of proof is on them to show why these cases should be closed."
U.S. Magistrate Paul Game unseals the 1986 files, saying that they were sealed without following federal rules for closure that allow ten days for response.
Tax case is filed in US District court in Tampa (IRS v Church of Scientology Flag Service Org, Inc.), seeking financial records to determine if they've been involved in commercial operations which should be taxed. The inquiry concerns 1985, 1986, and 1987.
June -- Pinellas County tells the church that if it does not pay its tax bill for 1986, five of its twelve properties in downtown Clearwater will be auctioned to the highest bidders.
-- Scientology asks a federal judge to jail, fine and make Margery
Wakefield repay $240,000 from an out-of-court settlement for talking
to reporters and talk-show hosts. The settlement was supposed to lay
to rest her charges against Scientology of fraud, breach of contract,
imprisonment, and practicing medicine without a license. Within the settlement, Wakefield was to receive $200,000, but was gagged from even talking about the amount of the settlement.
In interviews aired on Tampa public radio stations WUSF-FM and WMNF-FM, the $200,000 amount was disclosed. Wakefield did not know why Scientology was asking for another $40,000.
She also discussed the secret Operational Thetan upper training levels of Scientology, which are not discussed in any of Scientology's introductory "public" material.
August -- More City Commission hearings on Scientology. Again, the church attempts to shut them down, but fails.
October -- Secrecy order lifted in Scientology tax case.
The Supreme Court refuses to revive a copyright lawsuit over an unauthorized biography of L. Ron Hubbard by Jon Atack; the justices let stand a decision throwing out allegations of copyright infringement against the publisher.
Scientologists sue Gabe Cazares for tossing them out of a Democratic Party meeting.
Scientology is in court with the county over $4.5-million in unpaid back taxes, which Scientology refuses to pay. Clearwater's 1990 budget is $113.5-million, $17.1-million of which is raised through property taxes.
January -- Cazares calls for a grand jury investigation of Scientology from the State's Attorney's office.
February -- The IRS brings its long court battle with the Church of Scientology to federal court in Tampa. The IRS contends that the Clearwater organization may be involved in commercial activities that should be taxed.
May -- The Clearwater Sun, one of the targets in Scientology's initial attack on the city, folds.
July -- Clearwater Chamber of Commerce president David Stone reacts to the church's announcement that they plan to build a $1-million Scientology museum downtown: "I certainly don't view it as any kind of an asset to the community."
City Commissioner L. Regulski says, "I think it's a far-out situation for a so-called religious organization to use to promote its product." He said the museum would put "an emphasis on something that the downtown doesn't need emphasis on."
August -- "Affinity Publications" beings to publish a weekly Scientology-oriented community newspaper to "fill the void" left by the departure of the Clearwater Sun.
December -- Five local companies sue the CoS for more than $127,000, claiming that the organization has failed to pay its bills for work and construction equipment. Besides these lawsuits, the Scientologists have settled five others in the previous two years from companies that claimed they were owed more than $39,000 for items ranging from travel services to construction materials.
Companies involved in suit:
APG Electric, Inc. (claims it is owed $35,391 plus interest forelectrical work at the Sandcastle and Coachman buildings)
J.R. Industrial contractors (construction bills)
Twincraft, Inc. (specialized toiletry items)
Sun Services of America (laundry equipment)
Bill Byington and Associates (remodeling work in Coachman building)
of the above court cases, records showed a 1987 credit statement for
the organization that listed "Estimated annual sales" of
more than $90-million. This was apparently the first time such
information was made public, according to the Times.
The 1987 statement also listed estimated
annual purchases of $13-million.
The Scientologists had previously said in court filings that their annual operating expenses were about $26-million.
Each of these figures apply only to the main Clearwater-based Scientology group, called the Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization, not to the others based in California and abroad.
February -- A Federal judge upholds the City of Clearwater's ordinance requiring nonprofit organizations to report fundraising activity within city limits. Scientology appeals.
A bomb threat evacuates several hundred people from Ft. Harrison Hotel; police report that the threat was phoned in to the Church of Scientology switchboard. After 40 minutes of police and Scientology staff searching the building, the occupants return without incident.
May -- TIME magazine prints the issue in which Scientology makes the cover: "The Thriving cult of Greed and Power," and Time-Warner is immediately sued. (In 1995, 90% of Scientology's case is thrown out of court)
June -- Church of Scientology International President Heber Jentzsch, when asked about some of his organization's unpaid bills in the Clearwater area: "Thanks for bringing this to our attention."
During the past year, the Times reports, Scientology settled or obtained voluntary dismissals of at least 10 lawsuits from plaintiffs that sued for more than $300,000. Most of the creditors suing said Scientology simply left them with unpaid bills for construction work, equipment, furniture, and more than $125,000 worth of food supplies.
Other suits include those of Michigan resident Mark Lewandowski and Maria Echavarria of California, who both sued the church to get their money back: Mark for $13,300 and Maria for $28,000.
October -- Deputy Sheriffs notice deplorable conditions while performing an anti-drug presentation for children at the Scientology Cadet Org school. An HRS investigation ensues, and Scientology successfully has the results legally sealed.
January - City officials begin inspecting Hacienda Gardens (a Clearwater
apartment complex the church purchased to serve as staff berthing) after
receiving reports that too many people are living there. Inspectors find 34
of around 200 apartments to be overcrowded.
13 members of Church of Scientology in France are charged with fraud and practicing medicine illegally in Paris. (In 1990, the Lyons branch of the CoS was similarly charged and their bank accounts frozen).
Howard Mintz sues the church in Clearwater for failing to refund $68,764.
April -- Scientology is again cited for overcrowding at Hacienda Gardens.
April 1993 - CoS retools
designs for the $40-million Super Power building. Super Power was
developed in 1978 by the late LRH, but has remained
confidential to most Scientologists. The building was first
proposed in 1991, saying construction could begin as early as that year. Later mailings to church members solicited contributions for the facility and drew large contributions from such widely known Scns as John Travolta.
May 1993 - CoS adds a 13th property to its list of CW holdings and unveils plans for a 2,500-seat auditorium that will be available for public rental most of the year. The auditorium is designed as part of the Super Power building planned. The Church claims the building will help revitalize downtown CW. The Downtown Development board president Phil Henderson remarks that the need for convention/meeting rooms outweighs the current need for auditorium space, and does not believe the "Church of Scn is a factor for downtown development."
The new parcels of land were purchased by T.J.M. Holdings of St. Petersburg. This same company purchased the Super Power site before turning it over to the CoS Religious Trust in August of 1991. The total price for the new parcels as purchased by T.J.M. - $687.500. T.J.M's owner, Terence J. McCarthy, had recently pled guilty to two charges in a scheme to falsify federal home loan applications and had agreed to pay a $100,000 fee.
1993 - The SP Times
and the CoS go to the Florida Supreme Court after the
church got an injunction blocking public discourse of police
to a child abuse investigation at a Scientology school. CoS attorney
Paul B. Johnson said Pinellas County Sheriff Everett Rice
his client that the records had been requested by the Times and gave the church time to take the issue to court. A spokesperson for the sheriff's office said Rice didn't notify the church and doesn't know how the church discovered that the Times had requested the records.
August 1993 - CoS purchases 14th property in CW, one of the city's most historic storefronts, and swaps it for a parcel needed to complete their ownership of the entire block that once held the Gray Moss Inn.
-CoS beings major renovations at the Heart of CW Motel at Cleveland St. and Greenwood Avenue.
Sept 1993 - Fla Supreme Court rules to block the release of police records involving the CoS. The Times and Pinellas County Sheriff Rice ask for a new hearing. The Times motion claims that "This is not a case about children’s privacy, but about institutional secrecy."
Oct 1993 - CW City leaders agree to close Ft. Harrison Avenue on one day's notice to accommodate the safety of 3,000 Scientologists attending a large event.
says the CoS and its myriad entities don't have to pay federal income
taxes, ending a 40-year battle with the CoS. 30
were issues by the agency that exempted 153 Scn missions,
corporations from paying federal corporate income taxes. The
reports that this decision could "tip the balance in the organization's efforts to avoid paying property taxes on its CW holdings, a tab that is nearing $7-million after more than a decade of withholding the payments."
Pinellas County property appraiser remarked, "The fact remains: They [Scientology] are a for-profit corporation.
-The IRS decision is seen as having a potential negative impact upon Clearwater by some city officials and local businesspersons. One downtown business owner is quoted in the Times, "In 10 years, you might as well call this Hubbardville." This businessperson was one of the few willing to talk on the record about Scn, the Times stated. One business owner tried to rip pages out of a reporter's notebook after a discussion of the effects of the IRS decision.
Anything that cuts city revenues limits the city's ability to fund projects to upgrade the downtown area, especially when more funds are tied up in litigation. City Commissioner Fred Thomas states, "the citizens of Clearwater are going to pay through the nose for this."
Pinellas County appraiser and CoS go back to mediation over
in back taxes and penalties the county claims the church owes. Scn
lawyer Paul Johnson tells the Times
"If we were to try this case now, it
would cost thousands and thousands of dollars. Both the county and
client benefit [from mediation]."
-The church announces it will spend $114-million to preserve the writings of LRH. Photos of work on the underground vaults constructed to contain steel plates etched with Hubbard's work, already in progress, were submitted to the IRS with papers requesting tax exemption.
-The Times reports that the highest-paid Scientologists are recruiters and fundraisers who are not on church staff. Field Staff Managers, or FSMs, earn a commission of money they collect from new Scns and donors, according to IRS records. ""This practice...extends the influence of the church into society by encouraging individual proselytization," Scn lawyers explain.
-CoS says it will spend over $38-million on its Clearwater properties in renovation and new construction [As recently as 1994, contractors who worked on these renovations were complaining about not being paid].
- CW businessman F. Gordon Charles writes to the Times
"For 3 months
I have been trying to obtain a loan to hold onto the building I
leasing for 12 years. Seven banks have turned me down and every
I've spoken to has told me that he would not invest in
Clearwater for the obvious reason that it's a loser...Scientology is a business and it should be taxed accordingly, as my business is and all legitimate businesses are."
- Groundbreaking for the Super Power building has been pushed
since its announcement in March 1991. The new date is March 13,
1994. A fund-raising letter to Scns says another $6.2-million
is needed by the end of the year to meet that groundbreaking
- Scn complains that Scns have filed reports on incidents
and the police didn't investigate them. The Times
1991 incident where a man stuck his head and shoulders out of a car
passing a group of uniformed Scns and yelled "you goofy
18-year-old man was arrested for disorderly conduct." Any harassment is motivated by the hatred stirred up in the media and by those who have a hidden agenda", says Scn spokesperson Richard Haworth.
-CW City Commissioner Fred Thomas calls for a new State law that would allow cities to stop tax-exempt groups from expanding their land holdings - and taking that property off the tax rolls. Unless it caps the amount of land tax-exempt groups can own, Thomas said, the city's ability to provide services will gradually erode. 'We're bleeding to death as a city," Thomas said. "How do you stop the bleeding?"
-CoS settles with property appraiser Jim Smith after a battle lasting over a decade. The appraiser agreed to take most of CoS's property -- about $19-million worth-- off the tax rolls. In return, Scn will pay $2.5-million in back property taxes. The county will give up in its effort to collect another $5.5-million in back taxes and interest. Sc will start paying roughly $186,000 a year in property taxes. The deal ends 13 separate lawsuits filed since 1983 against the Pinellas County property appraiser.
lawyer writes an "urgent request" to CWPD Chief Sid Klein,
asking to keep
closed city police investigation files detailing a 13-year
Scn, complete with police reports alleging fraud and other crimes.
already reported the existence and content of the files,
gained access to them through the State's public records law. Scn also obtained the files but then said they should be kept closed based on the constitutional rights of individuals. The organization threatened a civil rights lawsuit; the city voted unanimously to hire a lawyer to take the case to Pinellas County Civil Court. The files are the most extensive in CWPD on any one organization.
- CoS wants to loosen city housing codes to allow more Scientologists
to be housed in their Hacienda Gardens apartment complex. The change
would cut in half the required living space and eventually
for the 300 new Scn staff members needed for the Super Power
Groundbreaking for the building is set for March 1994, but Scn has yet to submit construction plans to the city.
The request is later withdrawn when CW officials questioned whether Scn had shown a hardship that would justify cutting in half the housing code's standards for living space. Neighbors to Hacienda Gardens had also expressed concern that the extra Scns would overwhelm an already malfunctioning sewer lift station in the neighborhood.
April 1994 - Scn spokesperson Richard Haworth got off with a warning from CWPD Chief Sid Klein not to interfere with a police investigation again. Klein said in a letter that Haworth could have been booked into a county jail for obstructing an investigation into an alleged battery of a Scientologist.
According to a police report, Haworth intervened when police were investigating a shoving match between a Scientologist and a man identified as a transient. Haworth demanded that the transient be arrested for assault and battery. Police said there had been no battery, and they could make no
arrest because they hadn't seen any crime. Haworth was told several Times to
stop interfering with the investigation, the report said.
The next day, Haworth met with Lt. Frank Daly, asserting that officers were not doing their job and an arrest should have been made in the case. In a memo to Klein, Daly said he told Haworth "'we can't just arrest everyone we suspect of a crime.' At that, Mr. Haworth became very irate and slammed his
fist onto the table stating 'I don't want to hear can't'."
Klein's letter to Haworth says, "In the future, if you have doubts about the conduct of a CW police officer, then you should learn to control yourself in a civil, lucid manner."
In the police report, three Scientologists describe the incident this way: the transient asked the Scientologist for money, was denied, and bumped and pushed and insulted the Scientologist. The Scientologist pushed back and a shoving match developed. The Scientologist feared a fight would break out, and phoned a CoS security guard.
The transient's version goes like this: he asked the Scientologists for work, didn't get any, and the next thing he knew, he was detained by a CoS guard, who told him he was under arrest. Klein's letter addresses this incident and points out that "to pose as, or take actions that may be construed as those of a police officer is not only dangerous, it is illegal."
Nov 1994 - Brian Anderson is by this time the PR spokesperson for the Church of Scientology in Clearwater. Richard Haworth is not heard from in the press until April of 1995.
-Liberty Mutual Insurance Company claims in a lawsuit that CoS's Flag Service Organization owes $378,873 in premiums and fees assessed after an audit turned up employees who had been covered under the policy, but were "not yet paid for."
October - The head of security at the Clearwater church, Bill Johnson, allegedly chases a former member through the streets, screaming death threats. He stops only when she ducks into a martial arts academy and he is barred from following. Scientology Attorney Paul B. Johnson explains that the threats were only a figure of speech.
March -- Internet critics from all over the United States come to Clearwater to protest the church's policies of harassment. Other pickets occur in other cities in the United States, England and Australia. This is the first internet-inspired picket. Although the church attempts to dismiss the picketers in Clearwater as insignificant, top officials in the church fly in from Los Angeles and Washington to handle damage control with the press.