The church of Scientology was none-too-pleased about Bay Buzz noting that U.S. Rep. David Jolly planned to appear at the church's upcoming concert to celebrate the city of Clearwater's centennial.
The item, which was also post on the Buzz with a different headline, noted that the Indian Shores Republican running for U.S. Senate is listed as a guest of honor at the Aug. 29 event titled "Clearwater: A Century in Music." It will take place at the Fort Harrison Hotel, one of the church's signature buildings in the city's downtown. Jolly's spokesman said he is attending to present a proclamation to Mayor George Cretekos to celebrate the city's 100th birthday.
The post referenced the controversy that has swirled around the church for years, most recently by HBO's release of Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. And the post noted that Jolly's wife Laura will be appearing as a model in the church's annual charity fashion show next month.
"Your article 'David Jolly and his wife hang with the Scientologists' is another bigoted cheap shot by the Tampa Bay Times at the Church of Scientology," church spokeswoman Karin Pouw writes in a two-and-a-half page letter sent via email Thursday afternoon. "One can only imagine the public mea culpas the Times would be issuing had it published an equally snarky article with a headline stating that an elected official and his wife hang with the Jews.'"
Pouw countinues: "By your logic, because Alex Gibney and HBO released a discredited made-for-TV propaganda piece, elected officials must shun thousands of voting constituents they represent in the Clearwater area solely because of their religion. Furthermore, Times logic seems to argue that public officials should be harassed and interrogated if they attend any events in Clearwater in which the Church is a participant, including an official celebration of the City's centennial and a charitable event to feed homeless children in Pinellas and Pasco Counties."
Here's the letter in its entirety:
Dear Mr. Marrero:
Your article "David Jolly and his wife hang with the Scientologists" is another bigoted cheap shot by the Tampa Bay Times at the Church of Scientology. One can only imagine the public mea culpas the Times would be issuing had it published an equally snarky article with a headline stating that an elected official and his wife "hang with the Jews."
By your logic, because Alex Gibney and HBO released a discredited made-for-TV propaganda piece, elected officials must shun thousands of voting constituents they represent in the Clearwater area solely because of their religion. Furthermore, Times logic seems to argue that public officials should be harassed and interrogated if they attend any events in Clearwater in which the Church is a participant, including an official celebration of the City's centennial and a charitable event to feed homeless children in Pinellas and Pasco Counties.
Your article indicated you are aware of the Church's voluminous response to Gibney's propaganda, yet you ignored it completely. Did you watch:
Had you reviewed the Church's responses to Gibney's film in detail, you would have noted that he refused to answer over a dozen letters from the Church simply asking for an opportunity to address any allegations, that he never sent one fact to check and that in more than two years of working on the film he never even so much as asked to visit or film inside of a Church or one of its facilities. Please confirm that you have viewed each of the above listed videos.
You also fail to mention that Gibney's key sources include three individuals whose conspiracy to suborn perjury was first revealed in the Times' pages in 2009. Nor do you mention that the linchpin of Gibney's film is a lawsuit brought by two disgruntled expelled ex-staff members alleging "clergy abuse" that was thrown out of federal court on summary judgment as meritless. In affirming the dismissal, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal held:
Rather, the record overwhelmingly shows that the Headleys joined and voluntarily worked for the Sea Org because they believed that it was the right thing to do, because they enjoyed it, and because they thought that by working they were honoring the commitment that they each made and to which they adhered.
You can see all of this material here: http://www.freedommag.org/goingclear/white-papers/documentary-sources.html.
But, of course, as a journalist, you should have studied this information to provide a balanced report. The Times' coverage of the Church predictably involves scraping the bottom of the barrel for any excuse to disparage the Church and its parishioners, while turning a blind eye to the unprecedented expansion taking place before your very eyes.
As an example, the Times ignored the opening on July 11 by Mr. David Miscavige, leader of the Scientology religion, of the new Scientology Information Center in the Clearwater Bank Building and six new facilities for the Church's global humanitarian programs. The event was attended by 4,000 people.
Indeed, the Church's worldwide growth is manifest, as most recently illustrated in new Church openings in Basel, Switzerland; Bogotá, Colombia; and in Tokyo, Japan. Under Mr. Miscavige's leadership, the Church has grown more in the last 10 years than in its previous 50 years combined. That is one of many reasons Scientologists worldwide hold him in the highest esteem, regardless of what a struggling media dinosaur like the Tampa Bay Times and a bigoted, one-sided filmmaker like Alex Gibney want them to believe.
The year you started working at the Times, Joe Childs and Tom Tobin had the opportunity to interview Mr. Miscavige, but instead rushed a profile of him to press and cancelled the interview. The Church advised the Times that the sources Tom Tobin and Joe Childs relied on were biased against the Church, but that did not bother the Times.
We have long since proven the sources were lying. Today, they no longer even pretend to be anything other than the anti-religionists they are.
If you are searching for an embattled corporation, look no further than your own front yard. The Church's Freedom Magazine has investigated the Times' corporate and financial circumstances. According to public accounts, the Times has a $28 million original loan which your employer does not seem able to repay.
That said, in relation to your offending article, I expect to hear back from you that you have:
a. watched the videos listed above with the links provided; and,
b. have added to your article a link to the Church's response (www.freedommag.org/going-clear/) so as to give a semblance of fair reporting coverage.
cc: Neil Brown, Tampa Bay Times Editor and Vice President