Strength in their numbers | Aug. 2
Don't overlook the good Scientology does
I think it is disgusting that you chose to tear apart Scientology and Scientologists. You discriminate against and attack a religion that has much to praise and respect. Have you actually taken a look at what local Scientologists do for their communities?
Take Clearwater for instance. There is Criminon, a group of dedicated volunteers who work with criminals in jail to help them change their lives so that they will be worthwhile individuals when they get out and not repeat offenders.
Narconon is also right here in Clearwater, helping people get off drugs and alcohol so they can lead productive lives without addiction.
The Citizen Commission on Human Rights works tirelessly exposing psychiatry nightmares and helping those who have been abused.
The Clearwater Community Volunteers have been working for 17 years to make Clearwater a better place to live. They provide the incredible holiday village that is open for three weeks every December, giving the gift of the holidays to the thousands of visitors every year. This toy and food drive has provided literally thousands of pounds of toys and food to the needy so that they can enjoy the holidays. A free Easter Egg Hunt in Coachman Park thrills thousands of children every Easter.
This is just a sampling of the volunteer groups led by Scientologists that make their community a better place to live!
Why don't you start reporting on the awesome results of these groups rather than attacking a religion that you obviously know nothing about?
Pam Ryan Anderson, Clearwater
A handful of naysayers
I was on staff at Scientology's highly respected Sea Organization for 30 years and had direct personal contact with several of the people mentioned in your recent articles. David Miscavige is a sincere and caring individual, very driven and demanding as any true leader must be.
Out of the 30 years I was in the Sea Organization I spent four in the Rehabilitation Project Force. I can tell you from personal experience that the RPF is a tight-knit, disciplined team whose members look out for each other and get through the program they need to do. This is effective rehabilitation. I have also witnessed Miscavige and senior executives checking out the program to ensure that we had everything we needed.
I live in this town. I shop at Publix. I eat in restaurants. I go to the movies and go bowling. Every weeknight I study L. Ron Hubbard's works in the Coachman Building at the corner of Fort Harrison and Cleveland. I notice that your whole story revolves around a group of 15 naysayers. Well, every night, in my course room alone, there are about five times that many people studying away and very happy to be Scientologists. And there are several more course rooms full of people.
I resent having my religion being portrayed falsely in your newspaper. The idea that we have freedom of religion just so long as you practice an approved religion violates everything the Founding Fathers wrote about when they drafted our Constitution.
My Clearwater neighbors should come down to the church and see for themselves. If you are there about 10 p.m., you'll see just droves of people coming out, all very happy and telling anyone who will listen the great things the parishioners discovered on course that day.
Curtis Vanaudestrade, Clearwater
Bad for business
As a business owner who was basically put out of business in "downtown" Clearwater because of our speaking out against Scientology, I just want to emphasize one point. This bogus tax exemption that Scientology enjoys has created a cancer on a potentially great city, and it's a shame because the core of Scientology is clearly an enterprise.
That's my complaint with the organization, because it's possible that the teachings of Dianetics help some people and that's great. But they collect money at every stage of this "help" and therefore their tax exemption is bogus and unfair to other businesses in Clearwater that do pay property tax, sales tax, employment tax, etc.
Because of their overwhelming presence in "downtown" Clearwater, they without question make the place very undesirable to operate a business in or to visit. I for one would never go "downtown" for any reason, and I know many people that feel the same. That's a shame.
F. Charles Gordon, Clearwater
A path to success
Your paper's malicious attempt to malign my religion, my church and its leader is outrageous. To only interview former disgruntled staff members of our church is nothing short of flagrant, irresponsible bad reporting. I can't help but wonder what the story would read like if former, disgruntled employees of the St. Petersburg Times were interviewed for a national news story!
How about letting your readers hear other sides of the story? I'm a 62-year-old woman who is a mother, grandmother, CEO of a national PR firm, host of a national talk radio show and author. And I attribute the successes in all areas of my life to the counseling and knowledge I've gained from my years as a parishioner of the Church of Scientology.
I'm also a former staff member of the Church of Scientology, and the business and management tools I gained while on staff at the Miami church enabled me to build not only a successful business that has been around for nearly 20 years, but also one that is prospering through these difficult economic times while other businesses are folding.
As your paper continues to run its one-sided story, I, like millions of people all over the world who apply the principles of Scientology to our daily lives, would like your readers to know that the personal gains we share almost unanimously have endowed us with improved health, happiness and a higher sense of responsibility for all mankind. Our religion is expanding all over the globe and, thankfully, people in all corners of the world are living better lives for it.
Marsha Friedman, Clearwater
I'd like to thank Scientology for mailing me the Freedom magazine. A good waste of its tax-free dollars. It made me dig Sunday's report about them out of the recycle bin to read.
I found the St. Petersburg Times article well written and very interesting. I found Freedom's article lame. They used derogatory nicknames for the sources throughout the article, and seemed to be able to read the minds of all parties, knowing their thoughts and motives! It was very slanted. It was creepy how they had to note every date and time, or list things. I sure am glad I'm free not to be a Scientologist.
Sherri Harvester, St. Petersburg
It's a lifesaver
With regard to the series of anti-Scientology articles that you have recently published, I would like to share my personal experience with this religion.
In 1987, after years of drug and alcohol abuse, I discovered Scientology. After spending just one weekend with a Scientology counselor I was able to give up drugs permanently.
I can truly say that without Scientology I would not be here, and that it is the reason I live a very happy and productive life today.
Mark Barbee, Clearwater
A force for justice
In response to your most recent editorial on Scientology (Scientology's ugly truths revealed, Aug. 4) I must respond on behalf of the First Amendment's protection of religious freedom.
I am neither a Scientologist, nor do I hold religious beliefs of Scientology, but your reporting on this religious organization is quite biased. As a Roman Catholic ethicist and theologian (Master of Divinity and Master of Theology from Duke University; three years of Ph.D. studies in ethics from the University of Notre Dame), I have been quite impressed with this organization's commitment to social justice, human rights and being a voice for those who are marginalized.
Whether it was in response to human trafficking or in response to forced incarceration of those labeled "mentally ill," Scientology stands for justice, and I wish that your news reporting would highlight such positive societal contributions rather than use the media as a forum to promote bigotry and religious discrimination.
Robert King, St. Petersburg
If even half of what's been testified to about Scientology in your Sunday article is accurate, then it is a very frightening cult. And to be fair, if David Miscavige's behavior is also being recounted honestly, and I believe it is, then he is nothing but a punk and a bully hiding behind "religion" to push his weight around. Still, the people who put up with this abuse have only themselves to blame. Anyone so spineless and intimidated by this pint-sized ruffian as to take physical abuse must have a desperate need to be controlled. I hope as a result of these reports by the Times that there will be a plethora of lawsuits that will foreshadow the downfall of this cult. But with their money, intimidation tactics and apparent influence (even over the IRS), that seems unlikely.
What's really sad is that there are so many ignorant, gullible people out there who will be willfully recruited by the misleading promises of this "church" and its abuse-dispensing "leader." He should take heed of a passage I read in the Bible once: "What measures ye mete out, so shall be meted out to you." After reading this article, I hope they will be.
Ron Thuemler, Tampa
Helped to a better life
I've been a Scientologist for 25 years now. It amazes me what disgruntled ex-employees will say. I have worked for the church, and I have been simply a parishioner. I have never seen any abuse — only help. I have been so thoroughly helped by Scientology and by the staff who work at the church. I have learned so much about myself and how to be more myself. I've gained confidence and ability.
There was a time I felt I could never own my own business let alone be successful at it. Through the courses and the counseling I received at the Church of Scientology, something I couldn't even dream about is now a reality. I have a wonderful, successful business with 160 staff in Clearwater. I've made the time to be a volunteer in my city and also to donate hundreds of thousands of postcards to all different nonprofits around the Tampa Bay area and beyond. Yes, I worked hard to get here, but I never could have done it without the education and counseling I've gotten from Scientology.
Joy Gendusa, Clearwater
I received a slick, expensive-looking magazine in the mail the other day from the Church of Scientology. I found the content frightening and extremely vicious.
We were told by the escapees, featured in your in-depth report, to expect an aggressive attack from the "church" because of their revelations. Boy, they weren't kidding.
If anything, this magazine did more to add credence to the detractors' reports than it did to refute them.
Deborah Wiss, St. Pete Beach
An effective religion
Here's truth: Thanks to the books, lectures, counseling techniques and dedicated staff of Scientology, I got off drugs, got rid of unwanted conditions, became a successful business owner, and have a great family. Even a handful of disgruntled former staff members don't deny that Scientology works.
Bottom line, the reason Scientology has doubled in size the last few years and is the fastest growing religion in the world is because it works.
Mike Kaplan, Clearwater
Return to sender
Boy, were we ever disgusted to receive a big, fat, glossy magazine full of Scientology propaganda in our mail. It boggles the mind to contemplate the cost of sending these all over the area.
Do these people really think we are going to read that drivel? Do they really think people are going to swallow the lies? I'm sending the dang thing back to them. How dare they?
B.J. Mitchell, St. Petersburg
I applaud your paper and the victims of this cult. So, now what do we do? They have a city to call their own. Riding in my car down some of the side streets "they" glare and stare at you as if you don't belong.
I've lived here for 40 years and watched how Scientology took over a beautiful area of town and continue to do so. They will own Clearwater if they don't already.
S. Moskowitz, Dunedin
An incomplete story
I suppose one could find humor in the appalling lack of professional journalism displayed by Thomas Tobin and Joe Childs, as their "Scientology story" was written in absence of any interview with the top star of the "story," David Miscavige.
Oddly enough, all interviews for the "story" were done with disgruntled church members.
I've been a Scientologist for 25 years and would have loved to have been interviewed, but I guess I didn't "fit the story."
Gracia Bennish, Tarpon Springs