December 7, 1979
plans action against Scientologists
by Deborah Blum
Clearwater city commissioners set out Thursday to show alarmed citizens
that government – not the Church of Scientology – is running the
In the wake of the
current outrage over reports that the Scientologists have been trying to
"control Clearwater," the commissioners repeated earlier calls
for a federal investigation of the organization.
They also approved
a resolution to let Pinellas County officials know that Clearwater is
willing to join in any legal action to make the church pay taxes.
Commissioner Richard Tenney called for a second anti-Scientology rally
at 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, in Jack Russell Stadium. A rally in
downtown Clearwater last Saturday drew a crowd of 3,000.
Tenney added that
he visited U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Tip O’Neill Thursday
morning to lobby for an in-depth congressional investigation of the
Scientologists. He said O’Neill, who is in town for the JC Penney Golf
Classic, seemed very interested.
William Nunamaker said that Florida Attorney General Jim Smith has
agreed to attend a town meeting in Clearwater, to discuss the
Scientology situation. Nunamaker said the meeting will probably be in
January. He plans to also invite several members of Florida’s
congressional delegation as well.
In addition, the
· To send
city staffers to Washington to acquire all Scientology documents
relative to Clearwater in church files recently released by a
federal court. The documents were made public after nine
Scientologists pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal from the
federal government and obstruct justice.
· To send to
county and state officials a proposed bill to limit strictly all
religious tax exemptions drafted by city attorney Tom Bustin. The
commission refused to endorse the bill in October because several
local ministers objected. But Thursday’s endorsement was
· To instruct
Bustin to contact other states about laws charging religious
institutions service fees for such things as police and fire
· To write
the National Congress of Cities and ask for that organization’s
help in pushing a congressional investigation of the Scientologists.
The church began
acquiring property in Clearwater in 1975 and now owns buildings,
assessed at $7 million. Scientology, founded by science fiction writer
L. Ron Hubbard in 1954, is a method of identifying and treating
organization’s arrival, government officials have been concerned about
the strength of the local movement and the city’s eroding tax base as
Clearwater has in
the past approved resolutions calling for a congressional investigation
and repeatedly offered the county officials aid in their tax battles
with the church.
tax officials have been battling the church in court since 1976 over its
refusal to pay taxes. The county has refused the church a religious
exemption because Scientologists will not open their financial records.
appraiser Ron Schultz appeared before the commission Thursday morning,
saying he will fight "any attempt to use my office as a vendetta
against any group."
He asked the
commissioners not to interfere in the county’s current lawsuit, which
is now before the Florida Supreme Court.
assured him that they were only offering support in this lawsuit and any
further legal action that might be necessary and that they plan to stay
strictly within legal confines themselves.
action we take will be under the U.S. Constitution, the Florida
Constitution, and our own city charter," Commissioner Karleen De
Blaker said. "We certainly do not want to create any mass hysteria.
I would never subscribe to that."
LeCher praised Tenney for raising the city’s consciousness concerning
the Scientology problem. But he stressed that "what we need now is
a period of calm, a time to give the laws a chance to work."