Scientology church gives county spending records
April 27, 1978
by Susan Denley
The Church of Scientology has given Pinellas County their records
showing how the church spends its money, but those records are being
kept confidential under a court protective order.
The records were turned over to county attorneys Monday in
preparation for a civil trial that begins today to determine whether
the church's Clearwater property should be tax-exempt.
The property in question in the lawsuit - which deals specifically
with 1976 taxes - is the former Fort Harrison Hotel and the former
Bank of Clearwater building, both in downtown Clearwater. Since
moving its headquarters to Clearwater in 1975, the church has used the
former bank building as offices and classrooms and the hotel primarily
as offices and living quarters for staff and for visitors seeking
religious training, Scientology spokesmen say.
But Pinellas Property Appraiser Ronald J. Schultz has contended
that during 1976, portions of the property were used for profit-making
purposes and that although financial data provided by the church has
been "inconsistent and incomplete," it indicates the property "may
have been used for a profit-making venture."
Last September, a tax specialist hired by the county to arbitrate
tax disputes found that the church had not provided enough information
to determine whether it is truly nonprofit and that there are
indications that the organization levies substantial charges for its
Earlier this month, Circuit Judge Harry W. Fogle ruled that the
Scientologists must provide information on how church funds are spent.
But he rejected a county request for names of donors to the church.
The 1976 taxes levied on the property amount to about $50,000.
Taxes for 1977, which are being contested in a separate suit, amount
The Scientologists also have applied for an exemption from 1978
property taxes. Two of Shultz's assistants Wednesday made a
short-notice inspection of the church's Clearwater facilities to see
whether the buildings are used for religious purposes.
Although church officials labeled the inspection visit
"harassment," they led Schultz Administrative Assistant Sam
McClelland, Exemption Director Helen Braun and a St. Petersburg Times
reporter on a tour of most of the former hotel's 11 floors.
The visitors saw:
� A full-fledged movie studio, used to produce training films for
church counselors, said spokeswoman Kathy Heard.
� A group of Scientologists in a "chapel" singing "Onward Christian
� Neatly kept, hotel-style rooms - residences for counselors and
students, said Mrs. Heard. Each was equipped with an "E-meter," an
electronic device wired to tin cans. The E-meter, said to measure
emotional states, is a church "artifact" used to aid counseling, she
The sixth and seventh floors of the former hotel were not included
in the tour. Mrs. Heard said the room son the those floors were in
use for church counseling.
Mrs. Heard and Nancy Reitze visited Assistant County Atty. James
Helinger Jr. earlier Wednesday to tell him of a Scientology victory
earlier this week in a tax case in Los Angeles.
"We thought we should really share our legal victory with you," Ms.
Heard told Helinger. She said the church had been "harassed" in the
California case, but won after a six-year battle.
Church spokesmen have often accused Helinger, chief lawyer on the
case, of malice.
"I don't want you to think I'm operating under any bad faith," he
told Ms. Heard and Ms. Reitze Wednesday. "But our statutes require us
to look at financial information. If I wasn't doing that, I wouldn't
be doing my job."