It embraces deceit with passionate abandon, choosing instead to twist, edit or even omit facts when it suits them.
There is no part of this corporate cult capable of honesty or integrity and nowhere is this better illustrated than in their infiltration of the city of Clearwater, FL.
From the beginning Scientology lied.
Creeping in under false identity and pretext and through the entire campaign against Mayor Gabe Cazares deceit reigned. From the creation of hundreds of LLCs in order to hide their involvement in the steady consumption of Clearwater land to the spurious attacks on anyone who dare challenge them. Scientology proves to the City they are willing to use any means to achieve their objective.
This cult wants the City of Clearwater and it is willing to do anything to get it.
David Miscavige is leading a Cold War against the City and Council while operating behind the screen of congeniality and cooperation.
In the current political race for Clearwater City Council Scientology has been particularly vocal about their importance and benefit to the City.
An especially favored tactic is to point to the study done in 2014 by the Center for Economic Forecasting and Analysis, Florida State University, designed to highlight the financial impact of Scientology on the Clearwater area.
As recently as February 16th Expose Network tweeted Scientology’s favorite go-to “fact” from the study amongst other tweets designed to show scorn towards those opposing them in the upcoming election, especially Mark Bunker who is running for a seat on the City Council.
@ExposeNetwork dramatically trumpeted “$900 MILLION, The total impact of The Church of #Scientology on #Clearwater.”
This tweet included one of Expose Networks favorite hashtags; #FactsMatter.
Facts do matter, especially when they are being used to support Scientology and for this reason a closer look is warranted.
COS wants the people of Clearwater to understand, from this statement, repeated as often as possible, that Scientology is a positive, productive contributor to the City. Not only a contributor but one of the largest, a vitally important benefactor providing revenue as well as thousands of jobs.
They constantly “quote” from the 2014 study as a way to bolster their credibility.
$900 million is a huge amount of money paid into the City’s coffers. One can only marvel at the financial impact such a monumental number would have on a city the size of Clearwater.
Except that it isn’t quite what Scientology would have one believe.
The study was conducted not exclusively on Scientology’s impact on the City of Clearwater, or even on Clearwater as an entity including outside the city limits.
Florida State University’s data was collected from 23 zip codes beyond simply Clearwater City as well as 10 zip codes outside downtown. In all there are 35 zip codes in the study encompassing what FSU refers to a the “Clearwater Area”.
The $900 million contribution is not solely for the City of Clearwater, but is, in fact, the combination of Scientology’s presence in 35 areas including Tampa, St Petersburg, Largo and Palm Harbor amongst others.
Scientology’s insistence upon their financial, humanitarian and employment support in the City is in direct response to the current campaign for seats on the City Council. Attacking The Tampa Bay Times and especially journalist Tracey McManus for exposing COS’ activities to the citizens, deriding and heckling candidate Mark Bunker and creating numerous misleading articles painting the cult in a glowing, rosy light are all desperate attempts to sway public opinion in their favor. Exaggerating Scientology’s contribution by using the $900 million figure is beyond deceptive in that this amount was obtained through data collected from 35 zip codes of which all but 2 are outside the city limits. Clearwater’s City Council election is for a governmental body that is “…the legislative and policy-making body of the City, responsible for approving the budget and determining the ad valorem tax rate on all real and personal property within the corporate limits of the City.”
Therefore, the use of the figure stated in the FSU Economic Study is not relevant to Scientology’s presence within those corporate limits.
It is misleading and erroneous to cite a $900 million contribution in this manner.
As for Scientology’s contributions to the city itself, the FSU study was done during a time of intense multi million dollar building and renovation which would naturally inflate the financial and employment figures. Scientology is now no longer engaged in the same level of construction and development, ergo that figure would be much less today.
While it is true that millions of dollars was spent within the city for the construction projects, that inflow has slowed to a trickle now that the majority of projects have stopped or been completed.
In fact one may consider that not only is COS’ financial contribution to the City of Clearwater not $900 million, rather they are causing this city of tourism to lose millions in potential income.
Scientology does pay some taxes to the city this is true.
Conveniently left unmentioned is the fact that COS owns properties designated as “Hotel/Motel” that are exempt. It doesn’t need an economic study to understand that hotels are a financial lifeline in any vacation destination city. The revenue generated by tourists directly reflects upon the financial well being of the locals both in the form of tax dollars as well as in the patronage of businesses.
Every room that is excluded from use by potential vacationers is money denied the city.
Candidate Mark Bunker when asked about the Scientology properties sitting stagnant where tourism could be producing income responded “It’s so true. Since 72% of their properties are off the tax rolls, we calculate that an additional $17 million a year would come in with them losing the tax exemption. That doesn’t begin to factor in the damage of scaring people and businesses away from downtown for decades.”
The FSU study used historical data supplied to the researchers by Scientology for years 1999-2013 then the figure was adjusted to reflect 2014 dollar value. This is 14 years of data, covering survey and information from 35 locations to arrive at the $900 million figure.
Just focusing on the City of Clearwater and using the estimate provided by Mark Bunker would show $238 million dollars of potential lost revenue. ($17 million x 14 years)
As Bunker stated, this figure does not include the fact that downtown, which should be a vibrant area of shopping and dining, sits silently like a ghost town.
With the upcoming election in March looming just around the corner it would benefit the citizens of the City of Clearwater greatly to seriously consider Scientology’s claims.
COS knowingly twists the reality of their importance to the city by deceptively changing the facts of the FSU study. More importantly they are denying Clearwater millions in potential revenue, hampering the success of local non Scientology owned businesses by their hostile, paranoid behaviors and threatening the further development of the City with their attempted interference with the Imagine Clearwater project.
They do not contribute $900 million to the City of Clearwater.
Scientology may be one of the largest property owners, however they are not the epic contributors they claim to be.
One cannot help but wonder what the City of Clearwater might look like today if it were allowed to be the thriving, vibrant tourist destination it should be had a deceptive cult not crept in and begun to spread like mold.
March is fast approaching. The citizens of the City have the golden opportunity to make a loud, public statement to the cult in their midst.
Here’s hoping this is not an opportunity lost.