Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Cases shine a light into Scientology

The judges in two separate lawsuits against the Church of Scientology have made the right call to keep the focus on the church's behavior and reject its efforts to sidetrack the cases. The church should address the accusations of misconduct directly rather than delay and obfuscate by trying to force its accusers to change lawyers.

Judges in Tampa and Texas this week properly rejected the church's attempt to force the plaintiffs' lawyers off the cases, which would have stalled the lawsuits and made it difficult for the church's critics to proceed. In Tampa, U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore ruled that two South Florida lawyers can continue to represent a California couple who accuse the church of fraud. In Texas, a state court judge rejected the church's argument to remove lawyers representing the wife of a former high-ranking church officer who has accused the church of harassment.

The lawsuits go to the heart of some of the most serious accusations against the Church of Scientology. One involves onetime devoted church members who generously contributed to the church. The other involves the family of a former high-ranking staff member who joined former Scientology colleagues in describing in a series of articles in the Tampa Bay Times how the church mistreated staffers, intimidated them and tracked down those who left. The lawsuits could shed further light on the church's activities, so it is no surprise Scientology lawyers are distracting the courts with side issues.

The church continues to operate in unpredictable ways under a cloud of secrecy. In August, in defiance of the city of Clearwater's warning, it cut down two large trees near its downtown headquarters to clear space for a November event and was fined $2,000. This weekend it expected to draw thousands of Scientologists to Clearwater for the opening of its enormous Flag Building, which has been under construction for almost 15 years. That event was abruptly canceled last month without explanation. Without comment, the church also paid $3 million for part of a key city block that had long been considered by Clearwater officials as a key factor in redevelopment.

The Tampa lawsuit could shed more light on how the Church of Scientology raises and spends money. Rocio and Luis Garcia of California accuse the church of fraud and argue the church used deceptive, high-pressure pitches to get them and other Scientologists to donate millions. The Garcias donated more than $420,000 to the Flag Building and claim the church deceptively raised millions more than was needed to build the enormous project.

The Church of Scientology has consistently insisted its fundraising practices and its treatment of its staff are aboveboard and legal. If that is true, then it should instruct its lawyers to drop their stalling tactics and directly address the merits of the legal claims against the church that paint a far different picture.

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Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18