Earlier today I chatted briefly with Michael Smerconish on CNN. Unfortunately, there is no embed code for the video so you have to click HERE to watch it.
It was a VERY short piece, not really enough time to explain such complex issues, but it is good to see national media paying some attention to this issue. Hopefully more media outlets than just the Tampa Bay Times will want to dig in to this.
Tracey McManus also published a new story concerning community reaction to middle-of-the-night distribution of Freedom magazines. As usual, the glossy hype of scientology’s PR effort does nothing but worsen the public perception of scientology. It is reminiscent of the Freedom they put out after the Truth Rundown series that caused many scientologists at the time to jump ship.
I covered my thoughts about this expensive, glossy hype in my earlier piece Scientology BS Grows Deeper.
The Tampa Bay Times also published an editorial concerning the story that ran last Sunday:
I am more cynical about the future of downtown Clearwater than the Times editorial board.
I do not believe the city should be spending more taxpayer money to try to create facilities that might persuade people to come downtown. Short of getting rid of the scientology presence, I doubt anything will persuade non-scientologists to go to this area other than a concert in the park. And they cannot hold concerts every day — concerts alone cannot sustain any businesses that might be attracted to the area. And of course it goes without saying, scientologists alone cannot support a flourishing downtown.
The only hope for downtown Clearwater is:
a. Bring enough pressure on law enforcement and the IRS to act and bring an end their tax exempt status
b. Find some massive development project that could overwhelm (or at least match) the presence of scientology in downtown. This may not be possible as most property is now owned or controlled by them — only city and county property remains available. One or the other (or both) would have to relocate and a huge, self-contained retail/hotel/condo/entertainment complex would need to be developed that would act as a magnet to get people into the downtown core in enough numbers to balance the presence of scientology. This may be an impossible task. Seems like a. above is more likely.
Removing scientology’s tax exempt status will not only restore massive amounts of property to the tax rolls, it will allow oversight of what scientology is spending money on and force accountability for the organization. They operate as a law unto themselves currently. They don’t have to disclose how much of their tax free money they spend on private investigators, lawyers and campaigns to smear their enemies. They don’t even have to account for how much they spend on their supposed “charitable activities” — they collect hundreds of millions of dollars and spend only enough to hire camera crews to “document their good works.” They are not bound by labor laws. And many other things that flow from being an exempt religious organization, not the least of which is claiming protection from court/governmental interference in their affairs based on the First Amendment.
The city fathers and stakeholders should be united and doggedly determined to insist the appropriate government agencies do their jobs. Clearwater is being destroyed for lack of it. As I said to Michael Smerconish, the single biggest loser on earth when scientology was granted tax exemption was the City of Clearwater. And the loss is growing with compound interest.
Well done Mike!
Cat W. says
Mike, I loved the smile on your face when he ended the interview abruptly. An odd combination of resignation to the realities of a major media corporation and satisfaction at having got some of the truth out there. Made me laugh.
Mike Rinder says
He obviously understood also that this was far from adequate time to cover anything meaningful about this subject. I am going to be on his radio show on Sirius XM on Tuesday morning. I will get the information about it out broadly tomorrow.
Mary Vellia says
Maybe Clearwater could pass a tax law that limits the percentage of ownership by any religious organization. Or perhaps Clearwater could limit the amount of land that can be tax free to a religious organization. Sounds simple but I am not a tax expert.
jere Lull (39 years recovering) says
Mary, They tried something of that sort IIRC, but it ran afoul of the 1st Amendment and scientology successfully fought them on it.
Nice work, Mr. Rindahhh!
Regarding the Borg and their nearly 5 decades of domestic terrorism in Clearwater
and Los Angeles:
Death by a thousand cuts. It’s gonna take time. For those who are on social media, please keep forwarding all of the information you can about this toxic cult and its seriously evil history of criminality and abuse…
The interview was short but packed a real punch by reading Scn goal which is to take over and force government to bend to their will. There were 127,000 views of this interview in 24 hrs! That is great coverage putting the truth out there bWell done Mike!
Wognited & Out says
Good job Mike Rinder. You just help the world know about this cult everyday.
You are saving lives.
Marie guerin says
What wognited said and thank you!
Annie Oakley says
Yes, THIS! When I heard him read that on national news I gasped aloud – Bravo Mike!!! People need to understand this is their goal! That statement says it all in all its creepiness!
At this point, Scientology could strategically eradicate downtown Clearwater by turning it into a ghost town block by block, and buying out the remnant businesses for pennies on the dollar. Maybe encourage some homeless to sleep on the curb until they own it all.
With the way they pay and tread their own SO members, they likely already have an entire contingent of homeless people who could sleep on the streets.
Believe or Else says
You are correct. This is exactly what is happening right now in 2019.
jere Lull (39 years recovering) says
Your tense is incorrect, unelectedfloofgoofer; They’ve already made the downtown a ghost town, not that there was a whole lot back in the ’70s whenwe/they moved in — I was in the first van-load of EPFers to arrive from the Daytona Beach, but haven’t seen the place since ’80 except in pictures/videos.
unelectedfloofgoofer, Please don’t give DM any ideas.
Well done Mike. You came across as very clear and well-spoken. I was hoping to have heard about some “dangers” for the ordinary citizens of CW as well as Americans in general as a result of what this cult is doing in CW.
I was also hoping you could have briefly discussed some of the more egregious practices of this cult (like fair game, disconnection, false imprisonment and how this conduct poses a clear danger to Americans in general. But I must admit that may have been entirely inappropriate in the context of that interview.
In addition, I had also hoped you would have explained how their TES enables them to grab financial advantages in ways that ordinary citizens cannot and why this cult truly does not deserve those advantages because they do not behave like any real church – maybe saying they are just a phony scam and an easy way for them keep a huge amount of money with which they should be paying taxes.
Unfortunately, I am just not very familiar with this issue and how it affects people in CW as well as other Americans. The truth may well be that it would have seemed ridiculous had you started talking about fair game, disconnection, false imprisonment, physical beatings and mind control. But I was hoping you could have explained some issues that pose a “clear and present” danger to either citizens of CW or Americans in general. I must admit the truth may well have been that would just not have been appropriate.
It may just be “wishful thinking” on my part to hope that after seeing this interview, ordinary Americans might have become angry at some cult buying up an entire city. I just don’t know how to explain why this represents a real danger for Americans. Perhaps it doesn’t represent any real danger and it would make you look bad if you started talking about things that were not really linked to what is going on in CW.
I recently read some Youtube articles where it was said the President and his family and advisors seem to feel very strongly about terminating this TES. Maybe that would have caused Americans to become angry thinking why the President would have difficulty arranging the termination of their TES. I would have wanted Americans to ask the question, “Why is it that given the POTUS wants to see this status revoked, how can this cult block him from accomplishing that?
Just to be clear, I’m certainly not criticizing your participation in that interview. I just wish there was some way to cause Americans to understand how absurd it is to allow some dangerous cult to effectively “own” an entire city.
Skyler, not to rain on your parade, but how was he supposed to say all that when he wasn’t even given time to point out that although most of those buildings which had been purchased in the past few years were owned by private scientologists, they were sitting empty so they were not bringing in the tax revenues they could have if they had been occupied and producing.
He had a severely limited time. He had a severely limited subject matter. He did great.
You nailed it Mike – get rid of their tax exempt status.
Ammo Alamo says
When managers or city councils have spending authority beyond their experience and competence, they tend to get starry eyed, unable to see through the slick-talking developer who spins a good yarn. The waterfront project was always a way for developers to get the city to commit to a big pile of debt, money which they could then dive into, and make off with some chunk of it, before leaving town. They leave behind a city with a big headache, and taxpayers liable to foot the bill for decades to come. How many lowly elected city council members can cope with these slick developers and their shiny projects? The council members almost never come from a background of being a top level CEO familiar with how to accurately value the impact of large investments. It is way over their pay grade, so these big-money decisions need a strong group of experienced and hard-nosed city planners to review them in depth. When the basic ingredients change, as has happened with downtown Clearwater $64 Million project, the whole idea needs to be re-evaluated, and sent back to square one.
If the project goes forward, the developers will take their cash off the top, and move on sucker the next community into paying for one of their pie-in-the-sky projects. Ordinary citizens can read the news and see that such projects have gone wrong all across the country – but do the banks, or the developers, or the promoters every suffer? Never, or almost never. It is always the poor and middle class taxpayer who gets stuck with the bills.
In the worst case, cities stuck with too much debt have to hound the poor and middle class with regressive forms of taxation. They raise fees, they raise fines, they send out their police with quotas to write tickets for ‘failure to signal a lane change’ or some other nonsense. Soon the city has a debtor’s prison environment. People making four or five hundred a week can’t afford to pay a two or three hundred dollar fine for ‘crossing the street against the signal’. Unpaid tickets lead to arrest warrants, which lead to impounded cars, lost jobs, broken families, and worse. Fines and fees are compounded, warrants are issued, until suddenly the harassed and stressed-out citizen finds himself face-down on the street, handcuffed, and charged with felony ‘resisting arrest’.
Face it, reviving downtown Clearwater is a lost cause. Move on. Fight some other battle.
The IRS doesn’t have the money to take on Scientology. It doesn’t matter how much pressure is brought to bear; you’re trying to squeeze blood from a stone with this one. The first thing that has to happen for there to be a possibility of the IRS going after Scientology is for the IRS to be properly funded. (In which case it’ll be going after a lot more than just Scientology.) Contact your representatives for that, but it’s going to be a long and hard road.
I think Clearwater’s best bet now is to move its “downtown.”
Mary Kahn says
I truly don’t understand this. How much money does it take to prove 501c3 violations. I think it’s cuz they don’t have the guts.
For anyone who was around when LRH was still alive, they have got to get quite a chuckle out of Smerconish as a last name since, according to LRH, scientology’ biggest nemesis was Smersh
John Burciaga says
During a 20 year ministerial settlement in Clearwater (1977-97) I engaged the CoS after defending them vs a proposed Solicitation Ordinance which would have put at risk contributors to any other religious organization by securing, and thus exposing, such orgs they contributed to–the outcome of which could have financially ruined any number of churches, synagogues, etc. Another of their defenders in that regard was a Constitutional expert from Harvard, and he and I were two of several testifying before the City Council; the burden of his remarks were that the Ordinance would be unconstitutional. The Ordinance subsequently failed. CoS took my stance as meaning I was on their side, which I was not, leading to constant calls to my church office urging my support for other programs, initiatives, etc. they wished to carry out in the city. I was invited to their offices in the Ft. Harrison for similar purposes, at which time I stated my objections to many aspects of their relationships with the community; further attempts to win my support included an invitation for me to speak at a church-service type meeting of their membership. I did so, but took opportunity to inform and advise the large gathering of CoS’ history in Clearwater, its various illegal activities and other allegations thereof, and compared the types of belief, conduct and practices of CoS with those conducted by other religious congregations. I was surprised that the comments were met with enthusiastic applause, but had no idea of the outcome and how far this may have influenced newer members who had no prior idea of anything I mentioned. The break in their efforts to win my support came when I invited the local leader to my cable access show, “Religiously Incorrect,” patterned after Bill Maher’s popular format of the time. The leader showed up expecting to have an uninterrupted hour to promote Scientology but I opened by reading a number of Times’ news articles and copies of legal reports documenting its illegal activities. The program became a heated exchange as I was accused of trying to smear the CoS, and ended with bitter exchanges between us while being relieved of our recording wires and lights were turned out.
The foregoing is but an overall summary of my experiences with the organization at that time.
Mike Rinder says
Thank you so much for coming here and providing this direct personal information.
Gerald Hack says
Mr. Burciaga. Thank you for this comment. It says so much about the “Church”. I imagine there is no way to listen to the recording of that particular radio show?
Just Wondering says
I found a good way for people to communicate with the IRS about Scientology’s tax exempt status. The directions are on Jeffrey Augustine’s website, The Scientology Money Project, under the “How to Communicate with the IRS” tab. Here is the direct link to get to that page.
Thank you JW. That site contains some excellent info and I really enjoyed reading the info at that site.
Just Wondering says
You’re welcome Skyler. And thank you to John Burciaga for sharing your experiences.
sandra marcial says
What they should be spending their $$ on is helping all the homeless living in the streets and cleaning up downtown from all the drug addicts and gangs that run the streets right outside their doors
Komodo Dragon says
Well remember, Scamology views homeless people and those with addiction problems as Downstat. There is NO WAY they would ever lower their “standards” to aid those whom they view as “out exchange”.
Michelle Papes says
While I was there during the Jazz Fest, first time in 22 years being local, I also wondered why the city would spend $64 million dollars on a few acres that nobody is coming to. All I could see were Sea Orgs walking back and forth with empty storefronts except where Clear Sky is. Until Scientology is gone, it’s just wasted money….