Tracey McManus, writing for The Tampa Bay Times covers newly elected City Councilman Mark Bunker’s first attempt to address Scientology’s creeping spread across Clearwater.
Ignoring the continuing dishonesty, manipulations and outright bully tactics, the majority of the Council seem intent upon including COS in Clearwater’s future wellbeing.
Instead of linking arms in a show of solidarity with David Miscavige, this misguided Council needs to rethink their choices. So intent upon being all inclusive and neighborly with the cult that snuck into their midst under cover, attempted to personally and politically destroy then Mayor Gabe Cazares, reduced downtown to a virtual ghost town and has since contrived to buy up vast quantities of city real estate, they are completely missing one vital bit of truth.
They are dealing with The CHURCH of Scientology.
What other “church” in the country purchases tens of millions of dollars worth of real estate under assumed names, through their parishioners and using fake LLCs?
How does a power struggle between a tax exempt, nonprofit religion and a city reliant upon tourism revenue even happen?
Development of commercial ventures designed to enhance the experiences of visitors to Clearwater is not a spiritual matter. Local Catholic, Baptist or other Protestant churches have not offered slick proposals for Imagine Clearwater. None of the other religions in the city have suddenly gobbled up real estate and demanded a voice in the creation of entertainment and dining venues. Bishop Parkes of the Diocese of St. Petersburg has not proffered his vision of opening a dinner theater on the waterfront.
March 2019, David Miscavige did just that. Miscavige presented his proposal for the development of downtown, including his vision of how both entertainment and retail ventures should proceed.
Over the years The Church of Scientology has used multi millions of their tax exempt income, often paying in cash, for vital real estate. These purchases were not for the spiritual edification of the church or it’s members. Rather it was to ensure Miscavige had a position of input and a semblance of control, however small, over the financial future of the City of Clearwater. If this is untrue, then why the tantrum and the order for Scientologists to not patronize local businesses after he was denied the Clearwater Aquarium lot?
In point of fact this truth is further borne out simply by looking at the hundreds of hotel rooms currently owned by Scientology for their exclusive use. Millions in potential revenue denied the city in many properties designated as hotel/motel space but are tax exempt instead.
How can anyone of right mind believe that Scientology has the best interests of the City at heart? None of this is spiritual or charitable.
Miscavige is inserting his church into the commercial and financial interests of a community whose survival is dependent upon tourism. Something Scientology is already hindering with their privatizing of hotels and emptying of downtown.
What appears to have been completely lost under the planning, impact study, covert purchasing, arguing, threatening and presentations is that none of this should be happening in the first place.
According to Scientology they are a CHURCH.
Their tax exemption means they are restricted to activities directly pertaining to the religious and spiritual which are what define such an entity.
Hotels, restaurants, theaters, green space, and retail traffic are not spiritual, charitable or religious endeavors.
Miscavige is, in every sense, acting as a commercial real estate developer, not the spiritual leader of a religion. If he is a religious leader, then his job and focus is the spiritual welfare of his followers. If he is a real estate mogul, then the wheeling and dealing, plotting, planning and commercial interests should not be funded by the tax exempt monies received from his parishioners through donations.
Somehow this basic truth has been lost amid the noisy deflection of Scientology.
Miscavige’s self acknowledged job is that of keeping the purity of their tech and scripture intact. No part of such a calling includes an entertainment complex or retail space.
Scientology’s raison d’être is to clear the planet of war, crime and insanity. This is their stated goal. No part of this mission statement includes dining, dancing and theater for tourists.
With the exception of Mark Bunker, the other members of the Council seem to have forgotten that the CHURCH of Scientology is a tax exempt religion and should have no right to interfere or influence the profitable, financial life of the lay city they inhabit.
Bunker is right in that this entire situation desperately needs investigating.
In contrast, “‘If you have documented evidence, that needs to go to an attorney or a police department or whatever those venues are, it’s not a City Council venue for that,’ Beckman said. ‘I just think it antagonizes people and I don’t think it’s real productive that way.‘”
Bunker’s suggestion that the FBI be spoken to concerning the subject is proof he is fully aware that the City Council does not have the authority in this mess. But it also shows the seriousness of the situation, that he is attempting to inform the Council and get their support. That he feels there is enough information available to reach out to law enforcement should be acknowledged and gravely considered for the good of the City they help protect, rather than allowing fear of antagonizing Scientology to intimidate.
Sitting back doing nothing only allows Scientology to continue unchecked.
One only need look to downtown to see how well that’s been going.