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Sara's choice

The Church of Scientology pressured Sara Goldberg to "disconnect" from her son, a church outcast. She refused. Church clergy then forced her to make a nightmarish choice: Son or daughter.

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"Inside Scientology" is a multi-part investigative series by the Tampa Bay Times. Dating back to 2009, the reports shed unprecedented light on the inner workings of the secretive church, which has its spiritual headquarters in Clearwater.

The multimedia presentations feature first-hand accounts from Scientologists, former Scientologists and many others, as well as documents, recordings and video interviews.

Click here for the Times' previous reports

Inside Scientology

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  1. Scientology-related Narconon rehab center may have violated law

    Special Topics

    When the Scientology-affiliated Narconon drug treatment center in Spring Hill was told by Hernando County it could not expand its residential facility, the center didn't try to make do with existing space.

    The Narconon program in Spring Hill rented three facilities, including one at 11033 Hearth Road, after the county rejected its plans to expand. Director Tammy Strickling says Narconon patients were shuttled to this site for “daily therapeutic classes.’’
  2. Operators of Scientology rehab center to open Clearwater halfway house

    Special Topics

    Operators of a drug rehabilitation center in Hernando County, which uses Scientology-affiliated Narconon treatments under intense scrutiny in several states, plan to open a 60-bed halfway house in Clearwater.

    And they won't say why.

  3. Judge: Scientology leader not required to give deposition

    Special Topics

    Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige has sidestepped giving a deposition in a high-profile harassment lawsuit filed in Texas by Monique Rathbun, wife of vocal church critic Marty Rathbun.

    David Miscavige, 53, has led the church since 1986.
  4. Pam Bondi's Clearwater fundraiser organized by Scientologists

    Special Topics

    Attorney General Pam Bondi, who already has raised millions for her re-election campaign, can expect to pull in more dollars tonight at a Clearwater fundraiser where all six organizers are prominent members of the Church of Scientology.

    Pam Bondi is aware Scientologists are staging the event, said campaign spokeswoman Christina Johnson. [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  5. Outside experts call for Clearwater and Scientology to work together

    Special Topics

    CLEARWATER — For downtown Clearwater to thrive, city leaders and the Church of Scientology should work together and communicate better, a group of outside experts recommended Friday.

    The Church of Scientology’s seven-story Flag Building dominates an entire block of downtown Clearwater.
  6. Scientology bans couple from wedding

    Special Topics

    Beautifully plated filet mignon. Attentive servers. A rocking band.

    The Vasilaroses of Clearwater rented the Crystal Ballroom in the Church of Scientology Fort Harrison Hotel for their daughter’s wedding. As part of the rental agreement, they agreed to send the church the guest list in advance. Last Thursday, the church informed them that a Clearwater lawyer and his wife could not attend.
  7. Scientology group's flier causes stir at Memorial Day service

    Special Topics

    PALM HARBOR — The Citizens Commission on Human Rights presented itself as a group working to help veterans avoid suicide and asked to put inserts in the program for the annual Memorial Day service Monday at a local cemetery.

    Guests bow their heads Monday morning during the 28th annual Memorial Day Services at Curlew Hills Memory Garden. An insert in the program for the service came from a group linked to the Church of Scientology and attacked mental health care for veterans and suggested the federal government is responsible for “psychiatric drugging gone rampant.”
  8. Scientology foe gets little comfort from federal judge

    Special Topics

    TAMPA — The long fight between Tampa lawyer Ken Dandar and the Church of Scientology didn't end Monday, but a federal judge offered scant support to Dandar as he tries to escape more than $1 million in sanctions by a state judge.

    Tampa lawyer Ken Dandar says the Church of Scientology is illegally trying to restrict his practice, violating his civil rights.
  9. Scientology critics gather for weeklong conference

    Special Topics

    CLEARWATER — Several critics of the Church of Scientology, including the great-grandson of church founder L. Ron Hubbard, are scheduled to speak this week at a local conference organizers say will draw attention to "human rights abuses'' within the Scientology community.

  10. Florida charter school management company under federal scrutiny

    K12

    TALLAHASSEE — The state's largest charter school management company has come under scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Education for potential conflicts of interests in its business practices, federal authorities have confirmed.

  11. Scientology's leader reaches out to mend fences with Clearwater

    Special Topics

    CLEARWATER — After months of discord between his church and the city, Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige reached out this week to Clearwater leaders, arranging a sit-down in the church's Fort Harrison Hotel to iron out their differences.

    Scientology leader David Miscavige.
  12. Scientology clergy force a mother to choose: son or daughter (w/video)

    Special Topics

    The Church of Scientology pressured Sara Goldberg for months to kick her son out of her life. She wouldn't do it. So the church put her on trial one night in a Scientology building in Clearwater. It was scary. Goldberg cried. She had been a devoted Scientologist for 36 years. Now her church was accusing her of …

    Ashley Lister quit school at 16 to join Scientology’s religious order, the Sea Org. “Ashley kept insisting, ‘I’m joining the Sea Org. I want to go,’ ” her mother, Sara Goldberg said. “My daughter is extremely strong-willed.”
  13. Disconnection, according to the Church of Scientology

    Special Topics
    Church of Scientology founder 
L. Ron Hubbard in May 1968.
  14. Letter from Scientology offers mother no choice but to disconnect from son

    Special Topics

    Scientology denies it orders disconnection. This letter undermines that claim. In June 2012, a few days after Nick Lister threatened suicide, his mother, Sara Goldberg, wrote Mike Ellis asking for permission to stay connected to Lister, a supressive person. She said he needed her. Ellis' reply is clear: No.

  15. Scientology lawyer: Confrontations with defector were 'peaceful protests'

    Special Topics

    NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas — As Monique Rathbun sees it, the Church of Scientology and its operatives tried to intimidate her for years — following, spying, aggressively confronting her and her husband, and playing tricks at her workplace to make colleagues think less of her.

    That's why she sued.

    Monique Rathbun chats with her husband, Marty Rathbun, before a hearing last September regarding her lawsuit against  the Church of Scientology, its leader, David Miscavige, and others involved in allegedly harassing her, in the Comal County Courthouse, New Braunfels, Texas.