Wednesday, June 20, 2018
News Roundup

Scientology critics bringing book tour to Clearwater

CLEARWATER — Paulette Cooper is a legendary name among people who watch the Church of Scientology.

After she wrote a book in the 1970s that was critical of Scientology, the church's security agents framed her for bomb threats.

Now Tony Ortega, a journalist who runs a blog criticizing Scientology, has written a book about Cooper. The two are on a book tour, and on Sunday, they will come to Scientology Central — the city of Clearwater.

They're appearing at 2 p.m. at the Clearwater Main Library at 100 N Osceola Ave. in downtown Clearwater, a stone's throw from the church's spiritual headquarters.

The library is not coordinating this event. Instead, a nonprofit group called the Center for Inquiry-Tampa Bay has reserved a meeting room at the library.

"It's not a city-sponsored event. It's just somebody who's using one of our rooms," said Clearwater library director Barbara Pickell. "They're open to any not-for-profit community group doing a program that's free and open to the public. We allow them all, and we don't censor what people say."

Cooper was one of the first journalists to take on Scientology. Her scathing 1971 book, The Scandal of Scientology, pushed her to the top of the church's roster of enemies.

The church's legal and investigative arm, the Guardian Office, framed her for supposedly sending bomb threats to the church. Cooper was indicted in 1973 and was fully exonerated when the FBI raided Scientology offices and discovered the plot against her in 1977. By then, she had spent nearly $20,000 in legal fees and $6,000 on psychiatric treatment.

Ortega's book about her is called The Unbreakable Miss Lovely, published in May.

"As with our appearance at the Steve Allen Theater in Hollywood on May 17, which was just two blocks from Scientology's Los Angeles headquarters, I think it's important to talk about the book in the areas where you can actually run into a Scientologist in this country, as rare as that is," said Ortega, who was featured in the recent HBO documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.

The church would not comment to the Tampa Bay Times about the book tour or the book. In a statement disseminated to other media, church officials denounced the book and called Ortega "a parasite" for using "bigotry and false allegations about the Church of Scientology to create a cottage industry of hate."

The church said it settled all claims with Cooper in 1985 and had "disbanded the rogue unit with which she was having trouble long before then."

Contact Mike Brassfield at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. Follow @MikeBrassfield.

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