The Freedom of Misdirection

The current edition of Scientology’s Freedom Magazine, distributed across Clearwater in spite of private gates and locked doors, is filled with facts, statistics and figures. Drawn from the Scientology requested impact study done by FSU, these figures are used to prove to Clearwater just how much of an asset COS truly is.

An article titled The Big Picture by John F. Sugg is focused on illustrating Scientology’s “benefit to the city of Clearwater, it’s spiritual home since 1975.” Sugg relies heavily on the FSU study, quoting from it that “The team’s findings found the Church’s economic impact in Clearwater to be a big positive for every Clearwater citizen.”

He includes an impressive pie graph, created to exactly match the graphs used in the study, that breaks down this impact into various financial sections. The graph is headed “FSU economists examined massive amounts of financial records, including surveys and interviews, to quantify the impact of the Church of Scientology and its members in Clearwater, Florida.”

Amongst the figures, Sugg notes that COS’ charitable contributions were $131,317,815.00.

This is indeed quite the impact in Clearwater, Florida, a city roughly 40 square miles with, as of 2017, a population of 116,000 people.

Curious about this figure I went to the source and contacted Dr. Julie Harrington, Director, Center for Economic Forecasting and Analysis Florida State University. Dr. Harrington is one of the researchers listed on the original study and I asked her for any clarification she might be able to offer for such an outstanding amount of donations. Her response to me was as follows;

“Hello Stefani,

Yes, we completed an economic study for the Church of Scientology (in the Clearwater area) in 2014 (almost 6 years ago).

The primary data we used was verified by the CPA’s NSBN LLC (see below for contact info).

For the survey (secondary) data, you’d mentioned it was quoted there were annual charitable contributions to the City. If so, the Freedom pub misquoted that.

We did not collect survey information on annual charitable contributions to the City, only charitable contributions from the residents, in general (i.e., not to their specific areas of contributions).

Also, the survey data results for charitable contributions were estimated to be $58,533,757 (or $60,043,433 in inflation-adjusted dollars, see first column “Direct” of Table 5) based on the survey data.

We then estimated the indirect and induced impacts using our economic impact model IMPLAN (based on the direct charitable contributions), with total economic results of $131M.”

In fact, according to the study the area involved in this collection of survey data was far more extensive than simply Clearwater. It was comprised of six counties with 35 zip codes.

Once again Scientology plays fast and loose with the truth, twisting data in order to create the appearance they wish people to see. These are the manipulations and games of semantics used. Where this study encompassed six counties including the entirety of Pinellas County, not just Clearwater, Suggs barely glosses over this pertinent information, instead focusing on Clearwater itself.

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