Revealing the church's inner workings
I have criticized the St. Petersburg Times for what I believe to be bias in reporting or, in one recent case, missing the entire point of a story. Having said that I must now applaud the Times for a job well done on this three-part series on Scientology.
Joe Childs and Thomas C. Tobin are to be congratulated for a well written and unvarnished picture of life inside this so-called religion.
Childs and Tobin create a movie in readers' minds that's part soap opera and part escape thriller. These are stories of real people and real-life horrors they endured at the hands of people playing God and worshiping only their narcissistic desire for control. The series exposes the extent to which Scientology will go to destroy critics even if it destroys the person — a real dichotomy considering Scientology sells itself on relieving mental burdens and making one whole.
These personal stories need to be told in order for those who believe the Scientology propaganda and sales brochures to see the organization for what it is: a money-grubbing tax dodge created by a third-rate science fiction writer to feed his own agnostic antiauthority ego.
What is painfully obvious is that most who join this organization are missing something, looking for something that they did not have in family or religion. Scientology plays on these weaknesses to gain total control of individuals, leaving them unable (or so they believe) to function outside the cult. Therefore many return after leaving with a feeling of abandonment and guilt similar to hostages who identify with their captors, i.e., the Stockholm Syndrome.
Dennis G. Roper, Clearwater
A waste of space
There is plenty going on in the world today that most people would appreciate being updated on daily. However, you choose to let Thomas C. Tobin and Joe Childs waste space with pages and pages of attacks on the Church of Scientology.
Your heading, Inside Scientology, couldn't be further from the truth as you are really outside with no facts as you have never obviously read or experienced anything the Church of Scientology has to offer, otherwise you would not allow such garbage to be printed.
These kind of articles belong in the tabloids or some other unsavory publication, not in a newspaper that supposedly reports news. Scientology endorses a world without crime, war and street drugs and promotes decency, honesty and respect per "The Way to Happiness" by L. Ron Hubbard. Obviously you do not.
Wendy Russell, Belleair
As a former parishioner and staff member for many years, having left without anyone's approval, I had a few comments I wanted to make on your recent articles.
The basic concept of any religion is to better yourself and thus improve areas of your immediate life. That was the whole premise for my involvement for many years.
This religious philosophy as developed by L. Ron Hubbard respected your belief in God, Mohammed, Buddha or whomever you believed God to be.
With that said, there are common troubles in life which Scientology eased and I found this to be a useful way of bettering conditions, thus influencing those around you to lead a better life. My whole family believed this to be true, until …
In the late '90s, David Miscavige took the reins, if you will, won an IRS "battle" and from then on, changes started to occur which have led to many "old-timers" to leave.
The church claims that these people are leaving because of their own misdeeds. But "Attacks on Scientology" (a policy letter written by L. Ron Hubbard) will clarify for you and the readers, that the attacks on those who are leaving only occur due to falsehoods on the part of the church. These include falsifying the "unprecedented growth," by rewriting L. Ron Hubbard's books and rerecording his original taped series in a completely altered way. Parishioners are required to buy these, and staff members sell these, or else. And when I say "or else" I'm not kidding. Thus the growth.
"Or else" — that is the point that is being missed and the reason so many people have left and will continue to leave, and attacks will continue to occur.
The article that appeared on Nov. 1 had an excerpt from a letter from Tom Davis, who denies that people are not allowed to speak to their families. It is a complete lie.
Those who continue to support this would rather pretend it's not so, while hoping they aren't forced to be part of an enforced interview and other scare tactics which have nothing to do with the spiritual freedom and integrity for which it supposedly stands.
We can go on and on with this, but the bottom line is that truth and integrity are not based on altered versions in any way, shape or form.
I am ashamed to see that members of the senior hierarchy of the church are playing along.
Shame on all of you who are privy to this.
Christine Kester, Palm Harbor
Paper is out of synch
As a Scientologist, I'm sure your expected response to another tsunami of column inches attacking my religion would be one of defense of Scientology. Not the case. I know how valuable Scientology is for me, and the vast majority of its members.
Most Scientologists are regular folks, trying to survive in very trying times right now. Which brings me to my major point: With unemployment as it is, foreclosures, bank failures and unprecedented stress in our society, I feel the priorities of your paper are not in synch with the general population. Perhaps this is why your circulation is shrinking and your ad revenue is collapsing.
Is this attack on Scientology a cheap shot to increase your circulation for a little while? Beware though. To refresh your memory, there used to be another newspaper, the Clearwater Sun, that many years ago dedicated itself to attacking Scientology constantly for years. All that is left of that paper is an empty lot where the building used to be. I guess even non-Scientologists back then got a little tired of their endless hack job and obvious slanted reporting.
William Witter, Dunedin
I appreciate the St. Petersburg Times allowing everybody to freely express their thoughts on their special report on Scientology, as seen in the comments section of each article on the Times' Web site.
On the other hand, the Church of Scientology doesn't allow this sort of easy, free flow of opinions on their own "special report" at freedommag.org. I ask the Church of Scientology: Why is this?
Raymond Hill, Candiac, Quebec
A needed deterrent
That was riveting information in the three-part Scientology expose series. I have witnessed this cancer grow in downtown Clearwater over many years. Hopefully, these news reports will help deter any further growth.
Maryce Garber, Clearwater
More important things
I'm not a Scientologist and don't know much about it. I am not really interested in knowing about it either. But I have to wonder why the paper is spending so much time and effort vilifying a particular religion.
There are other "acceptable" religions that are at least as corrupt. More importantly, there's a lot going on in the world, and in this community, that is far more important to us than Scientology. Returning corruption in the mortgage business, for instance. So why all this attention to one small religion that, like other religions, likely has its good and bad points?
Roberta Dever, Tampa
All about the money
Kudos to authors Thomas Tobin and Joe Childs for your ongoing expose of the unbelievably corrupt and mercenary cult of Scientology.
Founder L. Ron Hubbard is reported to have said that "if you really want to make a million (dollars), the quickest way is to start a religion." However, Scientology is a "religion" only in the sense that the only thing the executive leaders worship is money!
At the "higher level of awareness," Scientologists learn that 75 million years ago, an alien galactic ruler (named Xenu) put frozen people into spaceships and sent them to planet Earth. This story gets even more bizarre, but I'll spare readers any more detail.
For the IRS to declare Scientology a religion in 1993 (with federal and state tax exemptions) is nothing but a travesty. At that time, the IRS refused to disclose any terms or the reasoning behind their decision. Suffice it to say that "money talks."
Bob Lindskog, Palm Harbor
Get back to news
Aren't there any more important newsworthy events to cover? Who cares about this weird cult.
The country and world are in trouble and you write about some nuts playing God who operate from their getaway boat. Let's report the news, good or bad.
Robert Petrosky, Spring Hill
All too common
Scientology's response by Tommy Davis to your investigation was enlightening. Essentially, he says, "We didn't do it, it wasn't wrong, and we've stopped doing it."
The truly scary part about his response, however, was his correct assertion that the tactics used by Scientology to perpetuate itself are not materially different than those of other religions. The forced indoctrination of children and the use of emotional and cultural coercion and blackmail to prevent defections are indeed essential tactics used by all religions to perpetuate themselves.
Ed Bradley, Lithia
Don't let recession endanger our shores Nov. 4, Sue Carlton column
Tourist industry should take a stand on drilling
Thanks to Sue Carlton and your paper for keeping the drilling issue in news. It's time for the hotel/resort industry and all others who benefit from the "tourist tax" to form a grass-roots movement to fight this shadowy group trying to ruin our state.
If the affected industries would use the model set by Barack Obama in going directly to the people via the Internet, their chances of raising enough money to fight this scourge and getting the votes, if necessary, to keep drilling away from our shores would be very good.
If the industry thinks drilling won't affect their businesses, they need to take a trip to the western Gulf of Mexico for a reality check.
Kay Kelly, Clearwater
Oil and tourists
Chatting on the beach at Indian Rocks with a regular visiting family from England, the conversation turned to oil drilling. The English family was incredulous that we would put at risk our gorgeous world-class beaches.
Evidently, Europeans have seen more than enough beaches despoiled by oil spills and long-term cleanups, and they are adamantly opposed to drilling near beaches. In fact, they said they would find another vacation spot if drilling was started a few miles offshore. They wouldn't wait for an actual spill.
We should remember that oil drilling revenues and service jobs are many years away, despite optimistic projections, and by then our economy will probably have recovered and our desire for a quick buck will seem very shortsighted.
Can we risk our birthright of ageless, pristine beaches and our important tourist business for a few million in short-term oil dollars?
B. Thompson, South Pasadena
Troubles remain at kids shelter | Oct. 30, story
Unfortunately, this is another example of good intentions gone awry. The annual cost to taxpayers of $170,000 per child is astounding, and it would only drop to $92,000 per child if the complex were full. This is more than enough to provide a middle-class lifestyle for a family of four!
There has to be a better way to accomplish the goals of the program, and not just because times are tough now for many families.
This was depressing enough until I read the new AARP Bulletin. It seems that Medicaid and Medicare paid $100 million in 1997 to buy or lease power wheelchairs, and now pay more than $1 billion. Besides the usual fraud and abuse, Medicare and Medicaid are routinely paying $4,000 to "suppliers" who buy them from manufacturers for $1,000.
It seems efforts to address this have been "stymied" by lobbyists who paid over $6 million in presidential and congressional campaign contributions last year.
This tells me two things: Term limits are needed more than ever, and don't think for a minute that the latest health care legislation will reduce costs and lower the deficit.
Peter Ford, Tierra Verde