CLEARWATER (florida), SCIENTOLOGY CAPITAL
scientology could be sued once again
Copyright Le Figaro,
Between the Mexico's gulf and palm trees, on a sparkling sand beach, Clearwater has everything of an Eden postcard. A name attracting tourists searching water games. A sun warming retired people rather fortunate . And this atmosphere - relatively rare in Florida - of a true provincial town: the main street, bank, Greyound's bus station and a lot of churches.
Alas, in this model train's landscape, something is not running really well. Behind its calm white columns, the bank is not a bank. Hotel Fort Harrison, with its white and red ornaments for feasts, refuses the traveller. No children play between the faked cottages of "Christmas Wonderland". If you look at it more attentively, even the policemen in bermudas pedaling quietly on the road look a bit as extras.
Wellcome in scientology! It's in Clearwater that the dianetics' "pope" L. Ron Hubbard decided to install its devouts' army in 1975, after eight collective errand's years aboard of the ship of the cult.
The harbour, sun and mainly the name "Eau Claire" in english, probably seduced the ageing guru. As well as the possibility to get some rich people easy to seduce. This bath town became a bridgehead for the cult. "Make money, make always more money", did he declare once. The question is not to know why, neither how: just make it !"
Documents seized by the FBI during a raid in Los Angeles headquarters exposed some years later the secrets of the "Snow White" operation mounted by L. Ron Hubbard. Infiltrating Clearwater without exposing who one was, doing the same in businesses and parishes, discreditating every opponent and finally getting the control of the city through its management. In the 70s, the cash register's cult was not so well considered by Washington's IRS authorities. In Clearwater, more time was needed to understand who was the vamp, and who the witch...
L. Ron Hubbard, the admiral's cap prophet, finally joined back in 1986 its aeternity and the Galactical Federation dominating the Universe since 95 millions years. But his missionnaries are always there, more numerous and influential. In twenty years, scientology found in USA and sometimes elsewhere, a true front of respectability.
The sect/cult pretends 8 millions members to-day and says having gotten 600000 new ones during 1997. For the american officials, it's now a church like others, with the same very profitable taxes' exemptions. Hollywood and show-biz give it some international advertisment, from Tom Cruise to Chick Corea. American diplomats defend its cause, calling for Human Rights rules, against a supposed intolerant German Country. Even the President Clinton 'could be ready to assist it' if you believe Travolta, the other star proselytising this creed.
Some years ago, documents seized by the FBI during a raid in Los Angeles HQs (our photo) revealed Hubbard's secrets of the "operation Snow White": infiltrating Clearwater businesses or parishes, discreditating every opponents and get into the management of the town.
In Clearwater, the city's management holds on, despite 5 to 7000 scientologists installed. They are easy to discern: walking in battallions through the town center, exact like swiss watches, showing a bland grin and always looking before them. Men, women, children, they are often dressed with the organisation's uniform, and looks a bit US Navy's marines. With stripes and identity badges. Being ashore, american or european tourists do not seem to be surprised.
"It's no motive to accept them"says angrily the Mayor Rita Garvey, recently named against the cult's candidate. His predecessor Gabriel Cazares experienced twenty years ago this army's invasion. Then, nobody could discern the Hubbard's cult from the "Church Reunified" label searching a location for its HQ in Clearwater. "Scientologists lied from the exact second they set afoot here," says the ex-mayor with a deluded grin. "We are since the only town in US under occupation's statute."
The Silence Rule
M. Cazares, a veteran of WW2 having landed in Normandy with his troops, is exxagerating but only a bit. A very very rare fact in a country who does not look to have any fear to expose anything before television cameras, Clearwater's people allow themselves to speak to journalists only under anonymous screens - if they do not refuse bluntly any answer. The same prudence applies in St Petersburg Times' offices, a newspaper very dedicated to break the silence rule, or in the Police's office of Clearwater (CWPD).
Under such circumstances, it is quite easy to get a portray from that town, a portray having only few similarities with the Top Gun's or Saturday Night Fever's sparkling smiles . In twenty years, Church of Scientology bought more or less a third of the town. With millions of dollars, it bought two of the most remarkable buildings, the Bank and the Fort Harrison, as well as a collection of schools, buildings, and motels most on the Sea front.
Unknown from tourists, an invisible line divides the city center. As said Mayor Cazares, there is "home" and there is "foreigners". Bookshops, restaurants, and certainly churches are from a party, or from the other. It has been envisaged to get two competing police forces in Clearwater, till Sid Klein, the "real" Police Chief, finally stopped the intimidating system of security guards that the cult got used to use - with very similar uniforms as CWPD, even for its cyclist brigade: they happened even to control identities!
The californian cult's HQ - which commands everything in its Floridian strange colony, depicts a certainly more warming picture. Clearwater could be the scientologian Lourdes, for the best profit of anybody. Under the guidance of some hundreds of uniform wearing execs, thousands of North-Americans, Germans, Dutchmen, English people, Frenchies or Italians come here to cloister at the sources of dianetics. Those pilgrims "study and pray during periods from 6 days to six months" - said a spokesperson - "all this being evidently paid for."
How much did they pay? In Clearwater continues the enquiry about the suspiscious death of Lisa Mc Pherson, an american 36 years old scientologist, gave us some inklings about the sums: 97000 US $ in two years, from the accounts studied by police: this is 600000F for two years. L. Ron Hubbard, from his galactical paradise, keeps on getting money. With his methods denounced by opponents as eyewash, or as far as mental torture.
The "affair" has yet a limited echoe on US, used to every sectarian abuses. After a benign traffic accident on Clearwater streets, Lisa Mc Pherson went to her scientologist friends in the Fort Harrison Hotel. She was to die two weeks later, 5th of December 1995, from pulmonar emboly: a thrombus into left lung artery. What the problem is here is that the young woman was deprived to drink her last five to ten days.
After two years harsh enquiries, Clearwater Police has delivered the folder into the hands of the Prosecutor in Florida - this is more or less the Parquet in France - recommanding criminal suits. Speaking for the cult, Laura [Lise in the original article] Vaughan speaks of a "sudden as much as accidental unexpectable death", and of a "deliberately suspect autopsy". But for this matter, scientology already enrolled as much as two dozens attorneys.
(you can get here, in french, the reply from scienos - they asked for a "response's right" - le droit de réponse - plus my letter to Figaro redcation to protest that said right)
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