The Flag Issue:Celebrating Scientology's New Spiritual Center
Giving Back to the Community
Drug Prevention Scientologist Marjorye Henry knows how to reach young people. After all, she is a 20-something herself and manages a Clearwater rock band. She and her band’s three musicians, also Scientologists, do not believe in the stereotype that rock ’n roll goes with drugs. “That’s not who we are,” Henry says.
To make known the facts about drug abuse, Scientologists support the Truth About Drugs, one of the largest nongovernmental drug education and drug abuse prevention programs. In Tampa Bay, Scientologists have distributed more than 250,000 copies of Truth About Drugs, fact-filled booklets on the most common street drugs, and reached thousands with drug education lectures.
“I decided I needed to do something about drug abuse,” Henry said. She trained as a drug education specialist and has spoken to many hundreds of children and adults on the truth about drugs. “We have to break through a lot of the wrong information, and we tell kids, ‘Drugs are basically poison.’ I want people to have the information they need to make better decisions,” she said. “This is one of the most rewarding experiences—to blow away false information and see children make the decision to be drug-free.”
What drives Henry’s humanitarian efforts are her religious beliefs. She is one of more than 10,000 Scientology parishioners and 2,300 Church staff members who live in the Tampa Bay area. They are engaged in virtually every profession, occupation and civic organization, from business executive to teacher to Scout leader. Above all, they are good citizens. Scientologists are involved in 150 nonprofit and charitable groups in the Tampa Bay area—and they contribute more than 200,000 volunteer hours each year.
Each of us has the personal ability to see something wrong, and decide that helping is important enough to make it a high priority in our life.”
Human Rights Dustin McGahee is yet another young Scientologist inspired to help others. He grew up and lives in Clearwater. A talented basketball player, he opted out of playing in college so he could become a human rights advocate.
“Each of us,” he said, “has the personal ability to see something wrong, and decide that helping is important enough to make it a high priority in our life. So my personal life of hanging out with my friends and wasting time didn’t seem so important anymore.”
McGahee became interested in human rights from his father and from the extensive human rights programs of the Church of Scientology dedicated to popularizing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a document ratified by the United Nations in 1948.
“Did you know,” he said, “that behind every major problem in the world there are human rights violations? It is impossible to name an exception.”
Since the founding of the Church in 1954, Scientologists have supported human rights, a central Scientology belief that all people are entitled to inalienable rights. This support has manifested in a worldwide nongovernmental educational program aimed at making the Universal Declaration known everywhere—Youth for Human Rights International, launched in 2001 and expanded to more than 300 groups in 74 countries, and its parent organization, United for Human Rights.
These initiatives sponsor myriad activities and educational resources to help government agencies, schools and individuals become aware of human rights. Available in 17 languages, these resources include the booklet What Are Human Rights? that presents the subject in terms anyone can understand; 30 PSAs, one for each right delineated in the UDHR; and The Story of Human Rights, an award-winning educational film.
McGahee and several friends organized human rights “walks” in countries around the world. Their first was December 10, 2009, International Human Rights Day. The walk kicked off and one by one, youth activists in more than 20 countries and four continents hit the streets. “Ultimately, I would like to see a million people stand up and march for human rights,” he said.
Moral Values Marlin Anderson, a Tampa accountant, says his civic mission is to defuse violence in his city. In 2012, for example, at the Republican National Convention, the potential existed for violent outbreaks by demonstrators.
“We went right into the area where the protesters were. We talked to them,” Anderson said. At the heart of the message were precepts from L. Ron Hubbard’s book The Way to Happiness, a common sense, nonreligious guide to morals and ethical conduct.
“We saw the whole situation change,” he said, with The Way to Happiness and positive actions by police. “Things calmed down and there was no property damage.”
The Way to Happiness was written to restore the brotherhood of man, reduce violence, crime and racism, and to remedy deteriorating levels of morality. Since the book’s first publication in 1981, more than 100 million copies have been distributed in 112 languages.
Another initiative by Anderson and fellow parishioners of the Church of Scientology of Tampa was undertaken in East Tampa, an area of high poverty and rising crime. Anderson organized a project that put The Way to Happiness in all 12,000 homes in the area. He started the distribution after senseless shootings in East Tampa and Ybor City.
“I felt that it was vital for us to help the community be safer,” he said. “Kids are not taught right and wrong. There’s no moral compass. We needed to provide that compass.”
Knowledge is always the critical key for success in life.
Education For years, Milton James has been spreading the word about literacy and education, especially among low-income youth in the Tampa Bay area.
“I have always been a person who believes in working toward improving communities,” said James, who as a young man in the 1960s and 70s was active in the civil rights movement. After becoming a Scientologist in 1971, he quickly became active in anti-drug and human rights initiatives.
His passion, however, was directed at helping people, especially African-American young people, turn academic failure into success. James said he found that many people “feel ashamed” because traditional education does not seem to work for them.
Recognizing the failings of the educational system as early as the 1950s, L. Ron Hubbard developed a technology of learning. These breakthroughs, known as Study Technology, provide anyone with the ingredient missing in modern education—the ability to learn how to learn. Globally, nearly 135,000 educators have adopted Study Technology, resulting in increased reading levels and graduation rates for 38 million students.
Using the study methods developed by Mr Hubbard, he operated a volunteer center in Tampa’s Seminole Heights area, and later contributed to a tutoring center in a Pentecostal Church in Tampa.
James is currently president of Ebony Awakening, a group of African-American Scientologists who have contributed to raising money to reopen the Martin Luther King Center in the North Greenwood community in Clearwater. “One of our top jobs will be to begin tutoring,” James said. “We want each person to fulfill their potential. That begins with teaching them how to learn.”
Disaster Response Gracia Bennish is involved in so many humanitarian endeavors, she fans out an array of business cards indicating her various activities. As a professional, she is an artist and photographer. As an activist she heads an effort to further knowledge of human rights in schools. And when crises strike around the nation and world, Bennish steps forward as a Scientology Volunteer Minister.
In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, with New York’s emergency response infrastructure overwhelmed, Volunteer Ministers—including Bennish and some 200 others from the Tampa Bay region—provided assistance to rescue workers suffering from physical and spiritual trauma and exhaustion. For many weeks following 9/11, the Volunteer Ministers remained at Ground Zero providing aid to rescue workers.
Since then, Volunteer Ministers have been active in relief efforts at more than 200 of the world’s worst disaster sites, trained 200,000 people to provide the group’s unique assistance, and helped some 18 million victims one-on-one.
Tens of thousands of Scientology Volunteer Ministers are part of the United States disaster response network and have worked with some 1,000 civic organizations and government agencies, from the International Red Cross to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Members of the Tampa Bay Volunteer Ministers chapter give their time and energy to local and state disaster relief efforts while supporting the program internationally, from hurricanes to tsunamis, from earthquakes to flood relief—all in demonstration of their motto, “Something can be done about it.”
One of the worst natural calamities in recent years was the 2010 earthquake that leveled much of Haiti. Bennish and scores of other Volunteer Ministers were among the first responders. “Much of our work,” she recalled, “was at the hospitals. The doctors asked us, ‘Can you help?’ and we said ‘Yes!’ We assisted in surgery, inventoried medical supplies. It’s one thing to believe in doing good, but it’s making the beliefs into reality that counts.”
For decades, the Fort Harrison has been open to many of the humanitarian efforts supported by the Church’s members. Since March 2009, more than 5,000 area residents from a broad cross-section of faiths, ethnicities and 26 community groups have utilized the Fort Harrison for a variety of charitable activities. The Fort Harrison serves as the venue for numerous local benefits, such as auctions to aid local children’s charities, including Tampa Shriners Hospitals for Children and the Nourish to Flourish charitable program.
The Fort Harrison also hosts “Harlem Nights” fundraisers for the benefit of the Willa Carson Foundation, the Martin Luther King Neighborhood Coalition, Spiritual Change, Artists in Action and many other nonprofit organizations in the community.
The Sunscreen Film Festival Benefit Concert is held annually in the Fort Harrison’s Grand Ballroom to raise funds for the nonprofit film festival and its educational programs. The Boy Scouts District Council regularly holds awards ceremonies in the Fort Harrison. To honor Pinellas County’s Centennial, the Church presented an evening of jazz featuring multiple Grammy winner Chick Corea.
In addition to the events at the Fort Harrison, each year many Church-supported activities are held throughout the community, with some 20,000 people participating and thousands more benefiting from the charitable events.
Since 1994, Clearwater Community Volunteers (CCV), the Scientology volunteer force in the Tampa Bay area, has sponsored and conducted numerous events and fundraising activities for local charities throughout the year. “The number of kids we have helped is in the tens of thousands,” said Pam Ryan Anderson, CCV President.
The best-known activity is Winter Wonderland, sponsored annually by the Church of Scientology and CCV. The Alpine village with pony rides, Santa, a petting zoo and local performers drew nearly 10,000 visitors in 2012 who brought 2,000 pounds of food and toys as voluntary “admission fees,” donated to the Children’s Home and the Homeless Emergency Project. CCV also presents an annual Easter egg hunt in Coachman Park for 5,000 children and their parents.
These are only a sampling of the commitment of Scientologists to their communities in Tampa Bay and around the world—all in demonstration of the words of Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard: “A being is only as valuable as he can serve others.”