Scientology buys the historic Fort Harrison Hotel in downtown Clearwater under an
Before the press can reveal the purchaser's true identity, Scientology announces its
presence in Clearwater.
Scientologists release a "fact sheet" on Mayor Cazares and his wife, accusing
them of all manner of business and personal crimes; try to discredit him with
rumours pertaining to his sex life, and attempt to frame him in a hit-and-run
The FBI raids church offices and seizes thousands of documents
high-ranking church officials -- including L. Ron Hubbard's wife, Mary Sue --
are subsequently convicted of felonies and sent to prison.
The raids uncovered, among other things:
Scientology's Operation Snow White, an elaborate plan to infiltrate
various government and business offices and destroy negative or incriminating
files pertaining to Scientology and/or its founder;
Operation PC Freakout, a project to
present the author of a book critical of Scientology as insane and discredit
her through various overt and covert illegal activities;
Operation China Shop, a project to
gain control of the Clearwater Sun);
Project Vatican Passport, which was
a series of actions designed to establish legitimacy for the United
Churches of Florida, one of the assumed names used by Scientology when
they first arrived in Clearwater; and
Operation Tricycle, or Hubbard's Guardian
Office Program Order 261175, which instructs Scientologists to work to "take
control of key points of Clearwater," including the Sun and Channel 13 TV.
Eleven high-ranking church officials are convicted and imprisoned as a result of
the 1977 FBI raids on church offices, exposing the church's intelligence and espionage
arm's illegal covert operations and other crimes.
It was claimed that the eleven were acting independently, and Scientology claimed
that they would be forever barred from serving as Scientology staff. However, in
1995, one of the eleven, Richard Weigand was listed in internal Scientology publications
as currently heading up a project in Colombia, and was active on TNX-L
, a private
Scientology Internet mailing list, as recently as April of 1995.
Tanja C. Burden of Las Vegas says that L. Ron Hubbard, his wife Mary Sue, and
the Clearwater church enslaved her for more than four years. The case eventually
settles in 1986, at which point Scientology attorneys have the files sealed.
The papers in this court case are among the sealed cases the Times
tries to have
opened in 1988.
The City Commission of Clearwater holds hearings about Scientology,
concerned about complaints that the church was a cult. Over 500 people
signed petitions in support of the hearings. The Scientologists sue to
block the hearings and lose. Scientology lawyer Paul B. Johnson walks out
of these meetings without presenting his church's side.
Police raid more Scientology offices, this time in Canada, and discover
about 2 million stolen government documents. Scientology lawyers say they
will donate money to charity if the charges are dismissed; Ontario
Attorney General Ian Scott declines their offer.
Clearwater passes an ordinance that officials said was designed to reduce
fraud by any group claiming to be charitable. It meets strong resistance
from Scientology; after an eleven-year legal battle, the church finally
gets the ordinance repealed in late 1995.
Scientology lawyer Paul B. Johnson is brought to trial in Oralndo
for allegedly bribing Hillsborough County commissioners to favor his
client, Hubbard Construction Company. Johnson is later defended by F.
Summer -- Scientology purchases an apartment complex to house staff
members, serving the existing tenants notice to leave when their leases
August -- Scientology settles four lawsuits out of court:
Gabe and Maggie Cazares sue the Church of Scientology for invasion of
privacy and malicious prosecution (a slander lawsuit which was thrown
out of court as frivolous).
Tanja Burden sues for "fraud, breach of contract and intentional
infliction of emotional distress."
The McLeans sue, alleging invasion of privacy and malicious prosecution
(as in the Cazares case, a slander suit filed by the church was dismissed
Margery Wakefield sues, claiming the church "fraudulently promised to cure
her mental illness and instead mentally abused her."
The files were sealed over the plaintiffs' objections.
September -- Scientology purchases the Boheme
cruise ship and sails
it away, leaving St. Petersburg's small port facility tenantless.
December -- More than 400 current and former Scientologists file a $1-billion
class-action suit against the church alleging that the church tried to
compromise or pay off two Florida judges and divert $100-million to
foreign bank accounts.
The suit contends that church officials or their representatives committed
fraud and breached fiducary duties. It alleges further that information
obtained from members during "auditing" (confessional-like, purportedly private
church 'service' sessions costing thousands of dollars) is used for "purposes of
blackmail and extortion."
The suit also alleges that in April of 1982, David Miscavige (Chairman of the church's
Religious Technology Center) ordered the payment of $250,000 to "set up" and frame US
District Judge Ben Krentzman (of Clearwater) in a scheme to compromise his integrity
with drugs and prostitutes. It similarly contends that thousands of dollars were
ordered spent to "pay off" Florida Circuit Judge James Durden, who was presiding over
a Scientology-related case.
The church reached out-of-court settlements for undisclosed amounts with at least
fourteen former members, and settled a suit brought by Gabe and Maggie Cazares.
A project is launched to discredit California lawyer Charles O'Reilly, who
represented Lawrence Wollersheim in his winning case against the church;
according to former Church lawyer Joseph Yanny, plans were made to steal
O'Reilly's confidential files from the Betty Ford Center and other
substance-abuse treatement centers. Yanny said the Scientologists figured
that such records could be used to blackmail O'Reilly.
In an article in the business section of the St. Petersburg Times
1 July 1987, a Largo shredder dealer talks about his business.
"I've sold the Church of Scientology several shredders," said Becklund.
"They shred everything. As a matter of fact, when the city of Clearwater
was investigating them they bought shredders from us. They'd bring in 15,
20 4-drawer legal files and they'd shred them. Oh, yeah. Lots of maintenance."
reports that every year since 1982, Scientology has
sought a tax exemption and Pinellas County property appraiser Ron Schultz
has denied it. "The Church of Scientology ... was the first instance in
my office where I found an institution calling itself a church that the
courts agreed was not a not-for-profit institution," Schultz said.
A representative of CoS hand-delivers a letter to the St. Pete Times
that threatens to sue the newspaper if it writes a story about the book
L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman?
by Bent Corydon. The letter accuses
the paper of intending to "attack and denigrate the Church through any
vehicle you find available." The letter, signed by Scientology lawyer Timothy
Bowles, threatens action against the Times
for libel, slander,
conspiracy and violation of civil rights if it should "forward one of
[Corydon's] lies." The letter concluded with "we know a lot more about
your institution and motives than you think."
St. Pete Times
seeks to unseal files in four lawsuits against
Scientology that settled in 1986. Although court files are normally open, the
judge granted the church's request to seal these cases over the
objections of opposing lawyers. The Church wanted to keep them closed.
lawyers argued in a motion in October that closing the files
violated the First Amendment, interfering with the newspaper's right to
gather and publish news. The suits alleged that Scientologists invaded
the plaintiff's privacy and abused the courts by filing malicious
Earle C. Cooley, national counsel for the Church of Scientology said, in
reference to Scientologists opposing the Times'
motion to unseal the
files, "I don't know where the press gets the idea that it has a right to
intervene in an agreement entered into by both parties and approved by
"Mr. Cooley's memory is failing him," responded plaintiff's attorney
Walter D. Logan. "We never agreed to seal the court files."
Patricia Fields Anderson, an attorney for the Times
, said case law
requries that court records be open, "and the burden of proof is on them
to show why these cases should be closed."
U.S. Magistrate Paul Game unseals the 1986 files, sayingthat they
were sealed without following federal rules for closure that allow ten
days for response.
Tax case is filed in US District court in Tampa (IRS v.Church of
Scientology Flag Service Org, Inc.), seeking financial records to determine
if they've been involved in commercial operations which should be taxed. The
inquiry concerns 1985, 1986, and 1987.
June -- Pinellas County tells the church that if it does not pay its
tax bill for 1986, five of its twelve properties in downtown Clearwater
will be auctioned to the highest bidders.
July -- Scientology asks a federal judge to jail, fine and make
Margery Wakefield repay $240,000 from an out-of-court settlement for
talking to reporters and talk-show hosts. The settlement was supposed to
lay to rest her charges against Scientology of fraud, breach of contract,
false imprisonment, and practicing medicine without a license. Within the
settlement, Wakefield was to receive $200,000, but was gagged from even
talking about the amount of the settlement.
In interviews aired on WUSF-FM Tampa and WMNF-FM Tampa (both are
public radio stations), the $200,000 amount was disclosed. Wakefield did
not know why Scientology was asking for another $40,000.
She also discussed the secret Operational Thetan upper training levels of
Scientology, which are not discussed in any of Scientology's introductory
August -- More City Commission hearings on Scientology. Again, the church
attempts to shut them down, but fails.
October -- Secrecy order lifted in Scientology tax case.
The Supreme Court refuses to revive a copyright lawsuit over an unauthorized
biography of L. Ron Hubbard by Jon Atack; the justices let stand a decision
throwing out allegations of copyright infringement against the publisher.
Scientologists sue Gabe Cazares for tossing them out of a Democratic Party meeting.
Scientology is in court with the county over $4.5-million in unpaid
back taxes, which Scientology refuses to pay. Clearwater's 1990 budget is
$113.5-million, $17.1-million of which is raised through property taxes.
January -- Cazares calls for a grand jury investigation of Scientology from the
State's Attorney's office.
February -- The IRS brings its long court battle with the Church of Scientology to
federal court in Tampa. The IRS contends that the Clearwater organization may be
involved in commerical activities that should be taxed.
May -- The Clearwater Sun
, one of the targets in Scientology's initial
attack on the city, folds.
July -- Clearwater Chamber of Commerce president David Stone reacts
to the church's announcement that they plan to build a $1-million
Scientology museum downtown: "I certainly don't view it as any kind
of an asset to the community."
City Commissioner L. Regulski says, "I think it's a far-out situation
for a so-called religious organization to use to promote its product."
He said the museum would put "an emphasis on something that the
downtown doesn't need emphasis on."
August -- "Affinity Publications" beings to publish a weekly
Scientology-oriented community newspaper to "fill the void" left by the
departure of the Clearwater Sun
December -- Five local companies sue the CoS for more than $127,000,
claiming that the organization has failed to pay its bills for work and
construction equipment. Besides these lawsuits, the Scientologists have
settled five others in the previous two years from companies that claimed
they were owed more than $39,000 for items ranging from travel services
to construction materials.
Companies involved in suit:
APG Electric, Inc. (claims it is owed $35,391 plus interest for
electrical work at the Sandcastle and Coachman buildings)
J.R. Industrial contractors (construction bills)
Twincraft, Inc. (specialized toiletry items)
Sun Services of America (laundry equipment)
Bill Byington and Associates (remodeling work in Coachman building)
In one of the above court cases, records showed a 1987 credit statement
for the organization that listed "Estimated annual sales" of more than
$90-million. This was apparently the first time such information was made
public, according to the Times
. The 1987 statement also listed
estimated annual purchases of $13-million.
The Scientologists had previously said in court filings that their annual
operating expenses were about $26-million.
Each of these figures apply only to the main Clearwater-based Scientology
group, called the Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization, not to
the others based in California and abroad.
February -- A Federal judge upholds the City of Clearwater's ordinance
requiring nonprofit organizations to report fundraising activity within
city limits. Scientology appeals.
A bomb threat evacuates several hundred people from Ft.
Harrison Hotel; police report that the threat was phoned in to the Church
of Scientology switchboard. After 40 minutes of police and Scn staff searching the
building, the occupants return without incident.
May -- TIME
magazine prints the issue in which Scientology makes the
cover: "The Thriving cult of Greed and Power," and Time-Warner is
immediately sued. (In 1995, 90% of Scientology's case is thrown out of court)
June -- Church of Scientology International President Heber Jentzsch, when
asked about some of his organization's unpaid bills in the Clearwater area:
"Thanks for bringing this to our attention."
During the past year, the Times
reports, Scientology settled or
obtained voluntary dismissals of at least 10 lawsuits from plaintiffs
that sued for more than $300,000. Most of the creditors suing said Scientology
simply left them with unpaid bills for construction work, equipment,
furniture, and more than $125,000 worth of food supplies. Other suits
include those of Michigan resident Mark Lewandowski and Maria Echavarria
of California, who both sued the church to get their money back: Mark for
$13,300 and Maria for $28,000.
October -- Deputy Sheriffs notice deplorable conditions while
performing an anti-drug presentation for children at the Scientology
Cadet Org school. An HRS investigation ensues, and Scientology
successfully has the results legally sealed.
January - City officials begin inspecting Hacienda Gardens (a Clearwater
apartment complex the church purchased to serve as staff berthing) after
receiving reports that too many people are living there. Inpsectors find
34 of around 200 apartments to be overcrowded.
13 members of Church of Scientology in France are charged with fraud
and practicing medicine illegally in Paris. (In 1990, the Lyons branch of
the CoS was similarly charged and their bank accounts frozen).
Howard Mintz sues the church in Clearwater for failing to refund $68,764.
April -- Scientology is again cited for overcrowding at Hacienda Gardens.
The head of security at the Clearwater church, Bill Johnson, allegedly chases
a former member through the streets, screaming death threats. He stops only
when she ducks into a martial arts academy and he is barred from following.
Scientology Attorney Paul B. Johnson explains that the threats were only a figure
March -- Internet critics from all over the United States come to Clearwater to
church's policies of harassment. Other pickets occur in other cities in the United
States, England and Australia. Although the church attempts to dismiss the picketers
in Clearwater as insignificant, top officials in the church fly in from Los Angeles
and Washington to handle damage control with the press.