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(St. Petersburg Times -- March 19, 1976)
By MARY McKEY
St. Petersburg Times Staff Writer
CLEARWATER -- Margaret Cazares, wife of Clearwater Mayor Gabriel Cazares, filed a $1-million slander suit Thursday against the Church of Scientology, one of its spokesmen and United Churches of Florida.
A spokesman for the Scientologists immediately labeled the suit part of a "hate campaign" being waged by the mayor in an effort to "keep his name on the front pages . . . and further his political career."
Named as defendants in the suit are the Church of Scientology of California, United Churches of Florida Inc. and Arthur Maren, publicity director for the Church of Scientology nationwide.
THE SUIT CENTERS around a press conference called by the church Jan. 30 and a "fact sheet" handed out at that meeting to members of the news media.
The sheet challenged Cazares' statements on his place of birth and educational background, questioned the mayor's involvement in Clearwater land deals and said he had violated city law by not filing a financial disclosure form.
A week and a day later the Church of Scitnology filed a $1-million lawsuit against the mayor alleging libel, slander and violation of the church's civil rights. Three weeks later he countersued for $8-million, charging the Scientologists, United Churches of Florida, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and church spokesman Maren, with libel.
Mrs. Cazares' suit contends that the "fact sheet" is "libelous and defamatory" and that it "falsely, maliciously and by way of innuendo" charged her with:
Through the suit Mrs. Cazares contends that Maren, acting for the Scientologists, knew the statements were false but published them out of "actual malice."
The suit contends that as a result she has been exposed to "public hatred, contempt, ridicule and distrust" in her capacity as a registered real estate saleswoman.
A total of $1-million in damages is requested for the "great mental anguish, pain, suffering and humiliation" she says she has undergone and for the financial loss she says she has suffered and will suffer as a businesswoman.
Steve Heard, a spokesman for the church's public affairs office, said Mrs. Cazares filed the suit because "she is trying to be a good wife and back up the mayor."
"FOR TWO PEOPLE who have a reputation for helping minorities and upholding civil rights, it is amazing to me to see Mr. and Mrs. Cazares involved in a hate campaign against the Church of Scientology," Heard said.
He said "it is obvious there are ulterior motives to these suits," and when questioned he elaborated by charging that Cazares is using them to gain publicity for his future campaign plans.