By Rev. Brian Anderson
Vice President for Special Affairs, Church of Scientology
Flag Service Organization
hen 5,000 Scientologists staged a peaceful protest in Clearwater on December 5, you likely heard something about it. It made headline news in the press and on television. But whether or not what you heard was accurate is another matter entirely, particularly if you read the St. Petersburg Times. One purpose of the demonstration was to blow open an irrational mixture of bigotry and extortion. The demonstration also focused on the central role played by Police Chief Sid Klein and certain editors of the Times. If the Times coverage of the demonstration failed to enlighten you on what it was all about, that might explain why.
If nothing else, the protest served one purpose very well. In the face of that demonstration, the Times could not stop people asking, What is going on? As a result, a number of important matters which have been kept under wraps are now being discussed out in the open. And that is good news, because the more things are brought into the light of day, the more likely the truth will emerge.
The seeds of that hidden truth were sown nearly two decades ago. A handful of then-city leaders recruited out-of-town help in efforts opposed to the Church of Scientology which were ultimately described by one of the highest courts in the land as patently offensive to the First Amendment.
Although it is considered among the most important civil rights rulings, and it concerned the city of Clearwater, you may never have heard about this court decision or that the process consumed millions of dollars of Clearwater taxpayer funds. The city officials responsible werent interested in mending their ways, much less sharing with you the details. Neither was the St. PetersburgTimes which played a central role in fomenting the climate where intolerance and violence were rife. Whats more, in some quarters, the prejudice described by a high court as sectarian fervor hasnt died. Instead, Police Chief Sid Klein and a handful of others have worked overtime in an effort to twist the unfortunate death of a Clearwater Scientologist to suit their corrupt ends.
There is a lot more in the way of dishonesty and misconduct exposed in these pages. And, frankly, its a lot worse. And that has everything to do with why Scientologists took their message to the streets.
By the time you finish reading this special edition of Freedom, you will know the true picture you have been denied. Whats more, you wont find any of those incriminated denying the particulars of what is laid bare in these pages. Not the St. Petersburg Times, not Sid Klein, not Mayor Rita Garvey, not Medical Examiner Joan Wood, and not automobile-accident lawyer Kennan Dandar.
But in naming the names of those involved, there is one thing that must not be forgotten: they are few in number. The tiny corrupt clique is not only at odds with the Church of Scientology, but out of step with the vast majority in Clearwater. I know this from my own experience, but also from comments I regularly hear from the Scientologists who visit Clearwater from all over the world. Those whose experience of the city comes from meeting its people uniformly comment on how friendly it is here.
It is not for nothing that when an out-of-state newspaper picked up on the St. Petersburg Times coverage, the only city employee they could get to say anything negative was Mayor Rita Garvey. She was clearly not speaking for the city, but instead confirming her membership in that tiny club of unhappy souls unable to overcome the irrationality of prejudice. She is the last remaining elected city official involved in the judicially condemned 1980s Charitable Solicitation Ordinance debacle which ultimately cost taxpayers several million dollars when it was ruled unconstitutional.
That the Church is still here, still growing, still holding its doors wide open and welcoming one and all, speaks for itself. If one hundredth of the accusations brewed in the cauldrons of the St. Petersburg Times were true, the Church would almost certainly not exist in Clearwater or anywhere.
But for Scientology in Clearwater, innocence is not enough. The Church has survived and flourished because it has the resources and determination to stand up to corrupt officials who empty the public purse to fund their personal prejudices. We know other groups exist, targeted by the same bigots, who are less able to appropriately respond. Some have nowhere to make their voice heard. Therefore, in this issue of Freedom you will also hear from others who have experienced injustice.
Finally, if the controversy has left you wondering what Scientology and Scientologists are truly all about, feel free to contact me or visit our web site at www.scientology.org. Or visit the Church for a tour, a film or just to see it for yourself.
And, as always, I welcome your comments.
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