The current edition of Scientology’s Freedom Magazine, dedicated to aggressively forwarding its campaign to take control of the city of Clearwater, FL is filled with articles painting COS as a benign benefactor who only wants what’s best for the city. Certainly this poor, misunderstood organization, so wrongly persecuted and attacked for no reason is only trying to be part of the community? The suspicion and rejection is completely unfounded, surely?
Or so one is expected to believe.
The Miscavige propaganda begins with the very first piece; a soothing editorial that outlines the theme of the periodical; there is nothing to fear from Scientology.
David Miscavige wants the citizens of Clearwater to believe that Scientology is nothing but beneficial for the community. This edition of Freedom Magazine is filled with articles designed to show that those opposing the infiltration of this cult are misguided and, unlike Scientology, do not have the best interest of the city at heart. Indeed, the intended take away is how much Scientology does for the community.
In reality however, the running theme is not about Clearwater.
It is about Scientology.
“Featured in this magazine are some who share all the same reasons for thinking of Clearwater when they say ‘home is where the heart is.’ But they also have one other thing in common: They are all Scientologists. And they, their parents or their grandparents, came to Clearwater to be near their Church’s international spiritual headquarters… Flag is the religion’s international religious retreat and every Scientologist from every corner of the globe aspires to come to Clearwater when ready to participate in the advanced religious services Flag provides. That means in the 44 years since Flag was established, literally hundreds of thousands of Scientologists have visited.”
Continuing, various Scientologist owned businesses are mentioned pointing out that these companies provide jobs to the community. It is pragmatically asserted that anyone could be a Scientologist including “…your doctor, dentist or even your next-door neighbor.”
One’s doctor or dentist may equally be of any faith, however what other church snuck into the city under false pretext?
Did the Bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg concoct an operation designed to utterly destroy the character and credibility of the Mayor?
When was the last time the Catholics snuck past locked doors, trespassing on gated communities to leave copies of Guideposts hanging on everyone’s front door?
This segues into the meat of the editorial; an attack on the Tampa Bay Times.
“They are all remarkable stories. Equally remarkable is that no mention of any of them has ever appeared in the pages of the local news rag. But what’s new? The Tampa Bay Times has an agenda. And it is not just Scientology. Scientologists are far from alone in recognizing the Times no longer reports unbiased news. Whatever undeserved reputation the paper may have had a generation ago, it is now universally despised—not only for being untrustworthy but because the bias on every topic is so blatant…Despite countless Times articles and editorials ‘about’ Scientology, the newspaper has never once attempted to actually tell the true story. It is an endless effort to redefine Scientologists into whatever fake stereotype the newspaper’s propagandists create. Reading the Times, you wouldn’t even know they are your neighbor next door. The Times would have you believe the Church is just a local institution.”
This is the same “poor us, we never get to tell our side of the story” tactic COS used during every season of Leah Remini’s Scientology and the Aftermath. In spite of constant invitations to participate, Scientology declined, preferring instead to attack from the shadows with their ugly, malicious Fair Game Policy.
Claiming that the Times has never once attempted to tell the “true” story is beyond disingenuous on Scientology’s part.
In one recent Times article by Tracey McManus, Scientology Spread its Magazine Across Clearwater. Residents Aren’t Happy, she reports “Somebody had entered the three buildings of the Imperial Pines complex — where Zullinger is president of the condo association — and hung copies of the Church of Scientology’s Freedom Magazine on all 168 doorknobs.
‘We have gates. Each building has a lobby that’s locked,’ said Zullinger, the Imperial Pines condo association president. ‘They felt violated. They were very upset about it.’”
Is this not true? Did McManus make up the fact that somehow, Freedom Magazine ended up on everyone’s doorstep in spite of locked doors in a private, gated community? Perhaps a vigilante stole thousands of copies of the Scientology periodical and passed them out for the sole purpose of making COS look bad?
The Times feature piece Clear Takeover states “THE CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY and companies run by its members spent $103 million over the past three years buying up vast sections of downtown Clearwater.”
The fact is that Scientology has spent millions buying the indicated properties and they have doubled their footprint in the city.
David Miscavige set his sights on a lot owned by the Clearwater Aquarium, threatening that if he did not get his way, he would stop spending money developing and improving Clearwater. In time honored fashion, Miscavige accused those involved in the Aquarium deal of bigotry against Scientology.
Notice a pattern here?
Lea Remini is bigoted against Scientology, A&E is bigoted against Scientology, Disney, Tracey McManus, The Times, Clearwater Aquarium…
Foiled in his attempt to secure the property, David Miscavige proclaimed a boycott against all downtown businesses by Scientologists.
Of course, this entire episode was duly reported in various media outlets, not the least of which was The Tampa Bay Times.
Was it all made up by bigoted, biased journalists?
The notion is ridiculous.
Miscavige lashing out in anger when refused is not an isolated incident but rather an example of how Scientology regularly responds to being stymied.
Going back to the earliest actions of Scientology concerning Mayor Gabe Cazares, considering that they were caught through a federal investigation and their plots to destroy the Mayor were documented on paper, claiming the Times or any other respectable reporting agency is biased and somehow out to get Scientology is laughable.
Frankly neither Tracey McManus nor any other journalist needs to fabricate stories about the cult as Scientology’s own antics provide enough grist for the mill.
Moving on, the editorial then lists several examples of things one never sees printed in the Times, including the accusation; “In all the Times articles about the Church of Scientology in Clearwater, it is never mentioned that the Church is also downtown’s largest taxpayer—contributing $3 million per year in property and tourist taxes.”
Also included on this list is the complaint that the Times never announced that sixteen years ago, the Church began a program to create seventy new Church organizations located all over the world as well as neglecting to proclaim “In January 2019, more than 4,000 guests attended the grand opening of the Church of Scientology’s newest Advanced Organization. Located in Johannesburg, South Africa, the facility stands on 22 acres and serves as the spiritual headquarters for Scientologists throughout the continent.”
To the first complaint, of course Scientology pays more property taxes than anyone else, they own more property than anyone else.
This is not newsworthy, it’s the law.
As to the rest of the complaints, the goings on of Scientology is relevant to the members of COS, it is not the responsibility of The Tampa Bay Times or any other media to print such matters. It is when the actions of Scientology directly affect the public that news is made. Accusing any newspaper of bias simply because they do not have a running column dedicated to the inner activities of any alleged church is beyond the pale. To include such things for every church, group, club and organization would render it impossible for any pertinent news to be published.
It is at this point that the author details a few other examples of neglect by the Times, none of which has anything whatsoever to do with Clearwater and then ends the editorial with the suggestion that if one truly wants good news one should watch Scientology TV.
In this opening essay, the intention is to portray Scientology as a harmless, wronged, misunderstood entity just offering the reader “their side of the story”. Instead it gives yet another glimpse into the defensive, angry organization it truly is.
Asking it’s audience to believe COS seeks only the good of their adopted city while at the same time throwing accusations of bias and bigotry at community members is not good PR. Especially when those accusations are untrue.
With a verifiable history of misdeed, Fair Game, manipulation, dishonesty and tantrums, it is in the best interest of the Clearwater voting public to think carefully about exactly who and what Scientology is before casting their votes.