Editor's note: The Church of Scientology has written this response to the St. Petersburg Times' recent series about the church's fundraising and an editorial.
Each year, Times reporters Joe Childs and Thomas C. Tobin weigh in with another installment in their apparently endless vendetta against the Church of Scientology. This series is no different.
The origins are clear: The Times resents that tax policy provides for an exemption for religious institutions. With our church, however, it goes well beyond that and we have been living the equivalent of a two-decade-long version of the movie Groundhog Day. Yet again, the Times has collected distorted and exaggerated tales from a few disaffected apostates to paint a negative picture of the church. Yet again. the Times has chosen to ignore all information that is inconsistent with its recurring themes. Yet again, the Times has used the same reporters to present articles full of hyperbole and exaggeration culminating in an editorial attacking Scientology's tax-exempt status for the umpteenth time since 1993. The tax experts cited in your series specifically conclude that the Times' assertions are not valid.
The Times' carefully choreographed "investigation" in this series, going through the motions of responsible journalistic inquiry, is consistent with its past coverage: the Times giving voice to false and misguided complaints from a handful of individuals with an ax to grind. The Times is well aware of church policy on fundraising and that compliance to those policies is strictly enforced. Indeed, the Times' primary source for allegations of violations of policy was disciplined himself for his own misconduct. It is this same individual, describing that misconduct, the Times uses to tarnish the church. The fact is that the assertions regarding donations, if they were all true (which they are not), when put in perspective add up to a mere 0.25 percent of the donations raised in the period discussed. The overwhelming majority of donors were thrilled with their contributions to their church.
The real story is that the church has raised substantial funds from thousands of parishioners for new Ideal Churches in major cities throughout the world, for the Flag Building and related projects in Clearwater and to support the church's religious mission worldwide. These funds are from parishioners who, except for the few the Times dredged up, are fully in accord with the church's goals and means. And yet the Times saw fit to quote not a single parishioner who freely and enthusiastically donated to help fund these religious, social and humanitarian objectives. While the Times reports having worked on the story for more than a year, it first contacted the church 10 months after it began and of the 144 pages of information the church provided, the Times only included 3 percent in the "special report." (The church has made the information the Times ignored available at scientologynews.org/ScientologyResponse.)
This ongoing theater of the absurd has become almost surreal. Indeed, the Times failed to report on the brand new Church of Scientology of Inglewood, Calif., and its Compton Community Center, which opened their doors in the two weeks preceding the articles, both made possible by contributions to the International Association of Scientologists. The donations generously given by Scientology parishioners will continue to be used wisely to erect our churches and expand our social and humanitarian programs to help all people, even the Times.
Karin Pouw, Church of Scientology International, Los Angeles