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.


"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



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

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    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.
  2. Scientology clergy force a mother to choose: son or daughter (w/video)

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    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.”
  3. Disconnection, according to the Church of Scientology

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

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    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.

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

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    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.
  6. South Florida business agrees to stop forcing Scientology on workers

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    Miami Herald

    MIAMI — A handful of employees — now ex-employees — of a South Florida chiropractic office say they got more than a paycheck for their labors.

  7. Judge: Scientology leader can be deposed

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    Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige must submit to a deposition in a lawsuit filed against him and two church entities by Monique Rathbun, wife of high-profile church critic Marty Rathbun, a Texas judge ordered Friday.

    Scientology’s lawyers have tried to keep David Miscavige distanced from the legal action.
  8. UK woman wins right to marry in Scientology chapel

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    UK woman wins right to marry in Scientology chapel

    AP Photo LON804

    Eds: APNewsNow. With AP Photos.

  9. Clearwater approves Scientology event that could draw 8,000

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    CLEARWATER — On Thursday, the city approved another major Church of Scientology event that is estimated to attract 8,000 church members downtown.

  10. Clearwater board says Scientology violated sign laws

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    CLEARWATER— A wrap that until Tuesday covered a massive Church of Scientology tent downtown violated the city's sign laws, a municipal board ruled Wednesday.

    The wrap covered a tent near the Church of Scientology’s Super Power Building in Clearwater. It has since been removed.
  11. Church of Scientology removes controversial wrap from massive tent

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    CLEARWATER — After the Church of Scientology removed a wrap from a massive tent Tuesday, it's up to Clearwater's code enforcement board to decide if the church should pay a fine for violating the city's sign laws.

  12. Stars come out for dedication of Scientology's 'Super Power' building in Clearwater

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    Actors Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kelly Preston joined a smaller than expected crowd of Scientologists on Sunday to dedicate what the church calls its most important project ever, its massive Flag Building.

    A live image of Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige is projected on a screen on Fort Harrison Avenue on Sunday during the Flag Building dedication.
  13. A city divided over Scientology for nearly 40 years weighs a fresh start

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    CLEARWATER — If Mayor George Cretekos could wave a magic wand, Clearwater would feel like Salt Lake City.

    Scientologists walk past the new Flag Building on their way to the Friday opening night of the church’s week of celebration.
  14. Scientologists kick off days of celebration in downtown Clearwater

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    CLEARWATER — Amid tight security and with their "cathedral" brightly lighted, thousands of Scientologists gathered in downtown Clearwater Friday night for the first in a series of events leading up to the dedication of the church's Flag Building on Sunday.

    Scientologists gather Friday during opening night of the Church of Scientology’s week of celebration surrounding the dedication of its new Flag Building, where church leader David Miscavige is expected to speak.
  15. A look at what's inside Scientology's long-delayed Flag Building

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    CLEARWATER — The Church of Scientology has purchased and remodeled dozens of buildings since it established its spiritual headquarters here 37 years ago. This weekend, it will open yet another.