03/02 Church critics plan night vigil in memory of
By CHERYL WALDRIP of The Tampa Tribune
Published in The Tampa Tribune March 2, 1997
CLEARWATER - In her life, Lisa McPherson was a pretty blond woman who worked hard and
In death, she has become a symbol for critics of the Church of Scientology, some of
whom will be in Clearwater on Saturday to hold a candlelight vigil in her honor.
Some 25 to 30 critics from around the country will gather at the courthouse downtown
about 11 a.m. Saturday. They plan to protest peacefully during the late morning and early
afternoon. Protest organizer Jeff Jacobsen said the night vigil will begin at 7.
They plan to march around the Fort Harrison Hotel, Scientology's world spiritual
headquarters and the place where McPherson spent her final days. She arrived dead at a
Pasco County hospital on Dec. 5, 1995. She was 36.
Jacobsen also organized an anti-Scientology protest last March. He said this year's
theme will be: ``Stop Hurting People, Scientology.'' In a prepared statement about the
protest, Jacobsen said protesters will ``focus on the church's policies that hurt both
critics and members of the church.''
``These are the same people who have been in cahoots with the Clearwater police for a
long time,'' Scientology spokesman Brian Anderson said in a prepared statement.
``They come here to support the Clearwater Police Department's campaign of bigotry and
hatred against the church. It's the same thing the CWPD did in the early 1980s, bringing
in a dog-and-pony show.''
Anderson said the protesters didn't care about McPherson.
``They just want to get their names in the newspaper and foment hatred in the
community,'' he said. ``How low can they sink?''
He said many of the protesters have axes to grind against Scientology.
The Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's office determined that a blood clot brought on by
severe dehydration and inactivity formed behind McPherson's knee. It moved to an artery
between her heart and left lung and caused her death. Medical Examiner Joan Wood said
bites on McPherson's bruised body were probably caused by cockroaches. Wood said McPherson
was comatose for the last 24 to 48 hours of her life.
Scientology officials and attorneys say the medical examiner is lying about the facts
and that police who are investigating McPherson's death have a long-standing vendetta
They say McPherson's death may have resulted from a fast-acting staph infection. Wood
said McPherson's death was not caused by an infection. Scientology officials also say
McPherson was conscious and talked w ith other Scientologists on the day she died,
something Wood said is medically impossible.
Jacobsen also has created an Internet site called the Lisa McPherson Memorial page.