Tuesday, April 24, 2018
News Roundup

Romano: Scientology's problems on Clearwater land deal are of its own making

I've been bothered by these questions all week:

What if it had been the Roman Catholic diocese? What if it had been the Jewish Federations of North America?

What if it had been any religious organization other than the Church of Scientology being snubbed by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in a land purchase deal?

I can't say for certain, but I assume there would have been some consternation. A lot of hand-wringing. Maybe even some people in positions of prominence talking about religious discrimination.

After all, the Scientology folks offered more than triple the price the city of Clearwater agreed to pay the aquarium for a coveted piece of downtown land.

The church's lawyers have certainly suggested the deal is shady. As the Tampa Bay Times' Tracey McManus reported, the church has complained to the state attorney general, the auditor general and other elected officials about a nonprofit organization that receives taxpayer funds and then turns around and cuts a sweetheart deal with a government entity.

Eventually, I came to these conclusions:

1. Philosophically, the Scientologists have a point.

2. Realistically, they got what they deserve.

In the end, this wasn't about religion. Not in the theological sense.

Frankly, I don't think most people care about Scientology's religious doctrines, auditing exercises or past life theories. Pretty much every religion requires its own peculiar leaps of faith.

This is about Scientology's reputation in the community. And that's a mess.

Scientology has invited almost all of its problems with an aggressive, vindictive and bullying manner when it comes to dealing with anyone questioning the church's mission.

That includes elected officials, journalists, former members and even parents, children and siblings who are outside the church.

Defending your religion is entirely understandable. Hiring private detectives or conducting smear campaigns — and there seems to be ample evidence that this happens routinely — is something completely different.

Does the church have a right to be disappointed by the aquarium's land sale? Of course.

Does it have a right to question how a nonprofit could ignore the huge difference in offers? Absolutely.

But it seemed counterproductive to deliver an extensive and accusatory portfolio to the Pinellas County Commission that aquarium officials contend was rife with half-truths.

Commission chair Janet Long said it was ironic that the church accused the aquarium of acting in bad faith after Scientology officials assured her more than a year ago that they were not buying additional land in downtown Clearwater, only to snatch up numerous parcels under the guise of anonymous corporations.

"They are not honorable, trustworthy partners,'' Long said. "They intimidate. They bully. They lie. Those are not qualities you normally think of when you're talking about a church.''

I know very little about Scientology other than one of its core beliefs is that the truth is what you witness. And, around here, there are plenty of witnesses to the church's darker impulses.

Sadly, it doesn't need to be that way.

Comments
USF extends Mark Harlan’s contract

USF extends Mark Harlan’s contract

As expected, USF athletic director Mark Harlan has signed a contract extension that will keep him at the school through the 2020-21 school year.Harlan recently entered the final year of the original five-year deal he signed in March 2014 that paid hi...
Updated: 3 minutes ago
Buckhorn urged to name woman as fire chief in wake of discrimination suit

Buckhorn urged to name woman as fire chief in wake of discrimination suit

TAMPA — In the wake of a female firefighter’s victory against the city in a discrimination lawsuit, Mayor Bob Buckhorn is being urged to name a high-ranking woman to replace retiring fire Chief Tom Forward.Earlier this month, Buckhorn said he will na...
Updated: 10 minutes ago
So far, Pasco’s tourism base: Floridians, Canadians

So far, Pasco’s tourism base: Floridians, Canadians

NEW PORT RICHEY – The typical tourist in Pasco County this year most likely is a Floridian.But there are lots of Canadians here as well. Nearly 80 percent drove, rather than flew, to the region. Forty percent stayed in hotels, but more than a quarter...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
Girls hockey could replace boys lacrosse on Pasco tourism calendar

Girls hockey could replace boys lacrosse on Pasco tourism calendar

NEW PORT RICHEY – Hockey pucks could replace lacrosse balls as the required sports equipment for the holiday tourism season in Wesley Chapel.The Wickenheiser World Female Hockey Festival, founded by Canadian hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser, is seek...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
Attorneys: Seminole Heights murder suspect might be mentally ill

Attorneys: Seminole Heights murder suspect might be mentally ill

TAMPA — Attorneys for the man accused of four Seminole Heights murders want a psychologist to determine if their client is mentally ill.The lawyers filed a formal request late Monday for a judge to appoint an expert to assess whether Howell Emanuel D...
Updated: 18 minutes ago
There’s a five-year waiting list at the New Tampa rec center. That’s changing

There’s a five-year waiting list at the New Tampa rec center. That’s changing

For years, frustration mounted in New Tampa. As the population boomed, some residents say, services lagged.One sore point was the long waiting list for gymnastic and dance programs at the New Tampa Recreation Center in Tampa Palms. In recent years, k...
Updated: 22 minutes ago
Tampa man faces murder charge in September slaying

Tampa man faces murder charge in September slaying

TAMPA — A 68-year-old Tampa man faces a charge of first-degree murder following his arrest Monday in the September death of an Osceola County woman.Evidence from the crime scene led officers to James Jackson, police said.According to police, the body...
Updated: 24 minutes ago
FHP: Riverview motorcyclist critically injured in crash on I-4

FHP: Riverview motorcyclist critically injured in crash on I-4

TAMPA — A Riverview motorcyclist was critically injured Monday night in a crash on Interstate 4, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.Around 7:15 p.m., Cristobal Padilla was riding eastbound in the outside lane, west of County Line Road, FHP said....
Updated: 1 hour ago
Important questions and answers about Bucs’ draft parrot

Important questions and answers about Bucs’ draft parrot

The final days leading up to the NFL draft can be a busy time, but rarely do you call someone you trust from a team and say: "What can you tell me about the parrot?"Yes, the Bucs will have a parrot — specifically a Catalina macaw named Zsa Zsa ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
A surf champ from Florida’s West Coast? Believe it

A surf champ from Florida’s West Coast? Believe it

The surfers got on their boards, ready to ride the waves at New Smyrna Beach.These were not the conditions that left boards shattered or bodies battered. After all, this is the land of thigh-high surf. The peaks were well-defined but only produced ab...
Updated: 1 hour ago