Attorney General Pam Bondi, who already has raised millions for her re-election campaign, can expect to pull in more dollars Tuesday night at a Clearwater fundraiser where all six organizers are prominent members of the Church of Scientology.
Bondi’s “special guest,’’ the invitation says, will be U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores.
Hosting the event are Liz and Michael Baybak, owners of a 23rd-floor penthouse in the swank Water’s Edge condos downtown. The tower, perched on a 40-foot bluff, affords stunning views of Clearwater Harbor to the west and, in every other direction, Scientology’s many buildings....
06/30/14 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.
Bondi's "special guest,'' the invitation says, will be U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores.
Hosting the event are Liz and Michael Baybak, owners of a 23rd-floor penthouse in the swank Water's Edge condos downtown. The tower, perched on a 40-foot bluff, affords stunning views of Clearwater Harbor to the west and, in every other direction, Scientology's many buildings....
06/11/14 Special Topics
Beautifully plated filet mignon. Attentive servers. A rocking band.
Sophia and Jack Vasilaros wanted a first-class reception for their daughter Marina, who married Louis Michaelos on Saturday afternoon in Clearwater. They got it.
"My phone's been smokin' with people saying they had a great time," Jack Vasilaros said Tuesday.
Not in that group, and unhappy about it, are a well-known Clearwater couple who have been close friends with the Vasilaroses for nearly 30 years....
05/19/14 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.
The church argues that Dandar violated a decade-old agreement never to sue Scientology again. Dandar said he never agreed to that and the church is illegally trying to restrict his practice, violating his civil rights. ...
05/04/14 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.
Called "Flag Down 2014,'' the conference is a series of presentations planned today through Friday at various mid and North Pinellas venues. On Saturday, organizers plan a public protest of Scientology in downtown Clearwater. ...
03/14/14 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 committing a crime against Scientology — not "disconnecting'' from her renegade son. Goldberg had raised Nick Lister as a Scientologist. But in 2009, he befriended an ally of church whistle blowers. That made him a threat in the eyes of the church. At her trial, Goldberg felt trapped. If she didn't cut off contact with Nick, the church could label her a "suppressive person,'' someone to be shunned. Her grown daughter Ashley, a loyal Scientologist, likely would abandon her. "You're giving me Sophie's choice,'' Sara Goldberg said, sobbing. Son or daughter....
01/08/14 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.
But Scientology lawyers on Wednesday offered a different take. They said the church's actions were justified and legal — all part of a religious dispute with Rathbun's husband, Marty. He worked as a church executive for decades before leaving in 2004. In 2009, he began speaking out against church management. ...
12/13/13 Special Topics
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.
The ruling was a blow to Scientology's legal team, which had tried to keep Miscavige distanced from the contentious action. Miscavige has testified in only a handful of cases during his 27 years as the church's leader....
11/17/13 Special Topics
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.
Church leader David Miscavige presided in a ceremony that lasted just eight minutes and was marked by a burst of confetti that rained down like golden tickets. His remarks couldn't be understood outside the church's perimeter....
11/16/13 Special Topics
CLEARWATER — If Mayor George Cretekos could wave a magic wand, Clearwater would feel like Salt Lake City.
A decade ago, Cretekos attended a wedding there. He was apprehensive about visiting a city dominated by Mormons.
"But I found Mormons very friendly. They made me feel welcome. I didn't feel intimidated. I was glad that I was there," he said. "If I had one wish, it would be that when people come to Clearwater and they see the Church of Scientology, they will also feel welcome."...
11/15/13 Special Topics
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.
Dressed in evening wear, church members stood in long lines waiting to clear a checkpoint and be admitted to a giant tent for an evening of presentations hosted by the Church of Scientology's leader, David Miscavige....
11/14/13 Special Topics
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.
But this one — a seven-story behemoth with more than 300,000 square feet — is being touted by the church as a game changer.
On the fifth floor, Scientology will make available to its members for the first time a "Super Power'' program developed in the 1970s by church founder L. Ron Hubbard....
10/03/13 Special Topics
TAMPA — Judges in two states have rejected the Church of Scientology's attempts to undercut lawsuits that allege activities ranging from fraud to spying.
In both cases, the church attempted a rarely used legal strategy: Try to get the other side's lawyers disqualified.
But in federal court in Tampa and state court in Texas this week, the answer was no.
U. S. District Judge James D. Whittemore heard four hours of testimony on Thursday before ruling that two south Florida lawyers can continue to represent a California couple who brought fraud claims against the church in January....
09/12/13 Special Topics
NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas — All Monique and Marty Rathbun had to do was show themselves, and trouble would follow.
Walk down the front steps of their home. Take out the trash. Sit on their back deck. Climb into their pickup. A group of Scientologists called the "Squirrel Busters'' were always there, taunting, pointing cameras at them, telling Marty Rathbun to stop what he was doing. They often rolled up in a golf cart, coming from a rented house down the street....
08/21/13 Special Topics
A Texas judge has issued a temporary restraining order against Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige, two church entities and two men alleged to be church operatives — part of a lawsuit that contends they have waged a campaign of surveillance, dirty tricks, intimidation and harassment against the wife of a church critic.
Monique Rathbun, 41, filed the lawsuit last week in Comal County, Texas, near San Antonio. She is married to Marty Rathbun, a former church executive who once worked at Miscavige's side but since 2009 has been a high-profile critic of the leader....