[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Warning: This page contains material of a nature which may offend some readers.
This site is not affiliated with the Church of Scientology.
In 1996, a friend of mine -- and fellow critic of the "Church" of Scientology -- took me on a fact-finding excursion to the Clearwater courthouse. It was the first time I had seen the "Flag Land Base", the cluster of buildings owned by Scientology. This page records my impressions of the experience.
We went into Clearwater to check out some files at the courthouse. Finding the ones we wanted was difficult, since there were a couple hundred civil suits involving the Church of Scientology -- many of them consisting of mortgage foreclosures and contract disputes.
Civil Case #91-18290-CI was fascinating. I'm really interested in seeing what's in the sealed portion of its files. Judging from the unsealed parts, they contain one or more reports from the HRS (Health and Rehabilitative Services) concerning child abuse and/or neglect at the Scientology Cadet School. There was an HRS inspection in October 1991, based on information from the observations of seven Deputy Sheriffs who had been at the school earlier to perform a puppet show.
(One of the Scientology lawyers pointed out to the judge that these shows were normally performed by only two Deputies, rather than the seven who were there that day. While two of them performed the show, the other five apparently had a look around, and what they saw was deemed by the HRS to be sufficient cause for an inspection.)
At least two reports were produced from the HRS inspection, and on 16 October 1991, Scientology lawyers from the firm of Johnson and Johnson moved that the documents be sealed because, among other things, they contained the names of minor children. Prior to their motion, however, the Sheriff's Department had shown those reports to at least one newspaper.
(So far, the details of the HRS reports are still unknown to me.)
After we had finished in the courthouse, we took a little tour of downtown Clearwater.
They own buildings everywhere. Most of them are unmarked -- no names on them, and the windows are either so dark that you can't see in them, or there's paper put up inside so that the windows are entirely covered. I'm not talking just a few storefronts here and there, I'm talking entire blocks like this! Many of the buildings look abandoned, but people go in and out of them all the time.
Flag Service Org was an interesting building. Adorning one face was a squared-off circle with a "T" inside it (at first I thought it was a representation of the Bridge to Total Freedom, but it turns out that it's a stylized representation of "OT"), and elsewhere was a gold relief of a mountain surrounded by water (Hawaii before the nuclear bombardment?) We only passed by it briefly, and didn't hang around to get too good of a look at it.
For other pictures of Flag, click here or here.
At lunchtime, the Fort Harrison Hotel disgorged a crowd of Sea Org people. I couldn't believe the sheer numbers of them -- they swarmed to lunch. They took up the entire sidewalk, and would not step aside for any wogs -- anyone who wasn't wearing a uniform had to step off the sidewalk to avoid being run over; apparently, clearing the planet means you no longer have to bother with such things as courtesy.
I can't adequately describe what the experience was like. Everywhere I looked, uniformed men and women rushed here and there. They didn't run (except for a few who were late coming back from lunch at 12:30), but they walked very quickly. Rarely did I see people conversing or smiling; everyone looked straight ahead and simply moved. Almost everyone I saw in a Sea Org uniform was between the ages of 18 and 40, and with one notable exception, Caucasian. (The one exception had a great number of medals, ribbons and cords on his uniform; I couldn't help wondering who he was.) The uniforms and utter humorlessness of the people reminded me of nothing so much as a police state.
There's a school called "A to Be" which is apparently run for children of Sea Org personnel; we passed by it on our way to lunch. Many of the children wore ill-fitting clothes, some of them had obviously home-done haircuts, and not one of them was smiling or laughing. They were preternaturally silent, unlike any group of children I've ever seen on a school playground.
We found what we believe to be the local OSA headquarters. It's another unmarked building, painted white, with a small Scientology cross embossed in gold on one of the doors. It looked for all the world like an abandoned building except that there were autos in the parking lot and a steady traffic of OSA uniforms going in and out.
There was a used bookstore on one street. It had some nice books, some very old (I'm going back for some of them). It had an extensive selection of L. Ron Hubbard books, but for some strange reasons the only books I could find which addressed the subject of psychology or psychiatry were the ones that portrayed it in a bad light. For some reason, the proprietor removed an entire section of books from the Hubbard section soon after we came in, though he was helpful in showing us where the less expensive used Scientology books were (the ones I originally intended to purchase cost $40 and $75, respectively, as they were first editions).
The former Clearwater Bank building had a guard on the front door, and while we saw a number of people enter through it, a group of people in RPF jumpsuits had to go around the side of the building. Although the sign reading "Clearwater Bank" is still on the building, "CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY" is carved into the façade and into the lintel above the large green front door.
We saw the headquarters for the Citizens' Commission for Human Rights, but the windows were so dark that we couldn't see inside. We also saw a number of interesting buildings, such as the Flag Service Org Treasury; many of the buildings looked neglected, though they were obviously still in use (the Fort Harrison Hotel and the Clearwater Bank buildings, which are used as showpieces, were immaculately clean). There were newspaper boxes containing free copies of Freedom everywhere.
As we were leaving Clearwater, we saw a woman in an RPF jumpsuit, walking by herself on a side street. All of the Sea Org personnel who passed by her turned their heads and looked away.
She had a bruise on her left cheek.