Understanding Scientology, by Margery Wakefield - Next - Previous

Chapter 13

Not So Clear in Clearwater -- Scientology Takes Over a Town

... the Church of Scientology has engaged in a public relations campaign to present itself to the citizens of Clearwater as a legitimate, law-abiding, nonprofit religious organization while actually operating ... in disregard and in violation of civil and criminal laws. The actual conduct of the Church of Scientology adopted as written corporate policy, includes the following: (1) burglary; (2) larceny; (3) infiltration; (4) smear campaigns; (5) extortion; (6) blackmail; (7) frame-ups; (8) deceptive sales and recruitment policies; (9) deceptive uses of legal releases and bonds; (10) suppression of free speech and association; (11) deviation from acceptable standards of medical practice and educational requirements; (12) use of tax-exempt funds for unlawful purposes; (13) overtly fraudulent policies designed to extract large sums of money from unwitting and uninformed individuals; (14) extortionate and/or improper use of highly personal information fraudulently procured from individuals based on false promises of confidentiality; (15) the use of unlawful and covertly harassive means to prevent individuals who have been defrauded from obtaining legal redress; (16) and the use of overtly fraudulent policies such as the "minister's mock-up" and "religious image checksheet" to present a "religious front" to the public while actually engaged in the business of unlicensed psychotherapy for the purpose of making money.
-- Final Report to the Clearwater Hearings, 1983

By the autumn of 1975, Hubbard knew that the Sea Org's days at sea had come to an end. The ports of the Caribbean were proving just as unfriendly as those of the Mediterranean. The final straw came when the Apollo was ordered out of the port of Curacao by the Dutch Prime Minister, who referred to the Apollo as the "ship of fools."

It is also possible that Hubbard, still convalescing from his latest and most serious heart attack, was himself feeling the need for a more stable and permanent place to roost.

So, in October of 1975, the Sea Org came ashore. The crew was divided into groups and traveled as inconspicuously as possible, one group to New York, another to Washington, D.C. and a third group to Miami, where they established "Flag Relay Offices" in the existing orgs. A fourth group took up residence in a motel at Daytona Beach, Florida, while scouts were sent to locate a suitable property for a "Flag Land Base."

Hubbard, who traveled from the Bahamas with his aides bearing false passports and a million dollars in cash, was temporarily situated in another motel in Daytona, not far from his crew.

The scouts soon returned with good tidings: an ideal property had been found in Clearwater, a sleepy tourist town on the west coast of Florida.

The name "Clear"water would have a certain appeal to a Scientologist! A decision was soon made to buy the old Ft. Harrison Hotel in downtown Clearwater.

The owners of the hotel were approached by representatives of the Southern Land Development and Leasing Corporation, who said they represented United Churches of Florida who wished to buy the property.

The hotel was purchased for $2.3 million in cash, and a nearby bank building was also purchased for $550,000 in cash.

Reporters asking who was behind Southern Land Development and United Churches were told only that the purchases were made by a property investor who wished to remain anonymous. United Churches, they were told, was a non-profit organization dedicated to church unity, which would be sponsoring a series of Sunday morning radio broadcasts by local clergy.

The Sea Org began to occupy their new headquarters. Swarms of uniformed Scientologists were suddenly visible on the streets of downtown Clearwater as they moved between the two buildings with cleaning and painting supplies.

An uneasy suspicion was beginning to grow regarding the new tenants of the Ft. Harrison Hotel. Clearwater Mayor Gabe Cazares voiced the perplexity felt by many when he stated, "I am discomfited by the increasing visibility of security personnel, armed with billy clubs and mace, employed by the United Churches of Florida. I am unable to understand why this degree of security is required by a religious organization." (1)

Meanwhile, two reporters, Bette Orsini of the St. Petersburg Times and Mark Sableman of the Clearwater Sun were beginning to discover that "Southern Land Development" and "United Churches of Florida" didn't seem to exist. Nowhere was there a record of either organization.

Bette Orsini of the St. Petersburg Times was the first to make the connection to Scientology. But just as the paper was about to print the truth, a Scientology spokesman from Los Angeles, Arthur Maren, arrived in Clearwater and announced to the press that it was the controversial Church of Scientology which had purchased the buildings.

At first he denied that the hotel would become a Scientology center; he said that the hotel would be open to all churches for conferences and retreats. However, the next day he said that if Scientology failed to bring religious harmony to all religions, then the hotel would become a center for Scientologists. And a few days later he admitted that the center was to be used exclusively for Scientology training.

After telling the people of Clearwater that Scientologists were nice, friendly people who wanted to fit in with the community, Scientology launched lawsuits against Gabe Cazares and the St. Pete Times, both of whom responded with countersuits of their own against the "church."

Hubbard, meanwhile, was ensconced in a suite of apartments in the nearby town of Dunedin. But not for long. He engaged the services of a local tailor, who happened to be a science fiction fan. In the course of conversation, Hubbard revealed his identity. The tailor spread the news to his wife and friends, and before long a reporter showed up outside Hubbard's door. Panic stricken, Hubbard immediately fled the scene with two aides who drove him to safety in Washington, D.C.

The Ft. Harrison Hotel was being advertised as the "Mecca of Technical Perfection," and was becoming a place where well-to-do Scientologists from all over the world could come and receive the very best that Scientology had to offer.

The public preclears would fly in from Los Angeles, Zurich, Frankfurt or Mexico City. They would pay the huge fees, play backgammon, swim, sunbathe, listen to tapes by Hubbard, and be given special PR briefings by a smartly uniformed host or attractive PR girls....

Diners in the Hour Glass Restaurant, which is part of the Ft. Harrison Hotel, were, and are to this day, served by waiters with black suits, bow ties, and crisp white shirts. The talk would usually drift to the great wins each was having in his auditing. (2)

The Guardian's Office was also hard at work in Clearwater. Gabe Cazares, who had by now become an official enemy of the "church," was the subject of an extensive investigation referred to by the G.O. as "Operation Taco-Less."

The G.O. investigation of Cazares is of interest because it shows to what lengths Scientology will go in investigating anyone they perceive to be an "enemy."

In the write-up of this "operation," the major target was stated as:

To insure that all investigative leads and strings left unpulled on Mayor Cazares are followed up on to discover further data about him which when released will ruin his political career and remove/restrain him as an opponent of Scientology....

Some of the steps included in their investigation of Cazares were:

  1. Compile a list of all clubs, associations, organizations, etc. which Gabe is or has been a member of or which he publicly supports. Obtain membership lists to these groups.

  2. Compile a list of all the people who have written letters in the press in support of Cazares. Investigate any people who show up in both of these lists.

  3. Conduct interviews under suitable guise with people at Bedford Air Force Base in Massachusetts to see what can be dug up about Cazares.

  4. Obtain property records in El Paso to see which property is owned by Cazares or his wife. Interview the inhabitants of the house to see what can be learned about the Cazares.

  5. Locate and investigate all of Cazares' relatives, including Arthur, Joseph and Edmond Cazares (brothers), and Cora P., Marjorie C. and Solidad A. (sisters). They should be investigated to find any scandal or criminal backgrounds they or their family may have.

  6. Investigate any unknown property deals of Gabe or his wife.

  7. Check the backgrounds of Gabe's parents in Mexico and the circumstances of their coming to this country.

  8. Check the name of Gabe's first wife, when and where divorced and why.

  9. Check grammar and high school records of Gabe.

  10. Check all financial disclosure forms for the disbursement of his campaign funds. Check campaign contributors. Insure that he keeps within the letter of the law regarding contributions.

  11. Obtain a copy of Gabe's military records.

  12. Check political backgrounds and affiliations of all Cazares' campaign staff, looking for people with Commie or heavy leftist backgrounds, or with backgrounds which will discredit Cazares.

  13. Obtain marriage records for the first marriage of Cazares' wife, and also the records of the divorce.

Apparently, the G.O. didn't come up with much as a result of this investigation, so they changed their tack. A plan was made to frame Cazares in a hit-and-run accident designed to ruin his political career, which it nearly did.

It was known that Cazares was to attend a Mayors' Conference in Washington, D.C. He was met at the airport by a young man posing as a reporter and his female friend. Both were Scientologists. The female, a G.O. agent named Sharon Thomas, volunteered to show Gabe the sights of the city, which Gabe gladly accepted.

As they were driving through Rock Creek Park, Sharon, who was driving, hit a pedestrian, who crumpled on the ground behind the car. The "pedestrian" was G.O. agent Michael Meisner, who, of course, was not seriously hurt. Sharon drove on without stopping to see if the "pedestrian" had been hurt.

Somehow this event was "leaked" to the press, and made its ways into the headlines in Clearwater, costing Cazares his election as a congressional candidate.

The G.O. had also drawn up plans to have someone in Mexico forge a document that Cazares had been married in Mexico twenty-five years earlier, making his current marriage bigamous. This "operation" was apparently never carried out.

The Guardian's Office did manage, however, to seriously disrupt Cazares' political career, and to make life quite miserable for him and for his wife for a number of years. Cazares' lawsuit against the church was settled out of court in the mid-1980s.

The G.O. was involved at this same time in a complex series of plans known as "Operation Goldmine," in which Scientology funds were to be spent in "taking over" the town of Clearwater.

In one part of this plan, called "Power Project 3: Normandy," the Major Target was given as:

To fully investigate the Clearwater city and county area so we can distinguish our friends from our enemies and handle as needed.

Some of the steps in this plan were:

  1. Locate all local medical societies, clinics, hospitals, etc. Gather the names of the main officials and directors of each. Fully investigate each one and recommend handling.

  2. Locate all local intelligence agencies (e.g., police, intelligence, FBI office, etc.). Gather the names of the heads of each. Fully investigate each one. Recommend handling.

  3. Locate all local PR firms. Gather the names of the main officials and directors of each. Fully investigate each one and recommend handling.

  4. Locate all local drug firms. Gather the names of officials and directors and fully investigate each. Recommend handling.

  5. For each government agency listed below do the following:

    a. Locate the heads or senior officials in charge.

    b. Investigate each one for enemy connections.

    c. Compile a full report on each one with time track (a consecutive history of their lives).

    d. To each report add your recommended handling of the person, i.e., "ops" (operation), penetration, keep an eye on him, or he's a potential ally, etc.

    Do this in full for the following agencies:

    • City Council
    • City Health Department
    • City Mental Hygiene Department
    • City Building and Safety Department
    • City Police Department
    • City Consumer Affairs Office
    • City Attorney or Prosecuting Attorney
    • County Commissioners
    • County Health Department
    • County Mental Health Department
    • County Building and Safety Dept
    • County Licensing Department
    • County Sheriff
    • County Attorney or Prosecutor
    • Florida State Attorney's local office
    • Board of Medical Examiners
    • Florida State Health Department
    • Florida State Mental Health Dept
    • Florida State Senators (local)
    • Florida State Representatives (local)
    • local U.S. Congressmen
    • local U.S. Senators

  6. Locate all local media companies. Gather the names of officials and directors of each, fully investigate and recommend handling.

  7. Locate all local psych groups (mental health groups, psychiatric societies, clinics, hospitals, etc.) Gather the names of the officials and directors of each, fully investigate and recommend handling.

  8. Locate all local finance institutions (banks, investment houses, etc.) Gather the names of the heads of each, fully investigate and recommend handling.

Another part of "Operation Goldmine," called "Power Project 4: Tricycle" goes even further. The Major Target of Tricycle states:

To proof up ourselves against any potential threat by taking control of the key points in the Clearwater area.

Any obstacle or opposition ... that arises must be removed to the point of no further threat or barrier to obtaining the Major Target.

Some of the steps in this plan were:

  1. List out all news media and the heads or proprietors of news media that are distributed or broadcast in the Clearwater area Work out a way to gain control or allegiance of each. (Note: Control can mean buying the media or controlling interest in it or it can mean holding a powerful position with the media).

  2. Locate key political figures (ones who influence the area). Work out a way to get control or allegiance of each.

  3. Locate the key financial influences in the community. Work out a way to gain control or allegiance of each.

  4. Locate the people or groups peculiar to the Clearwater area which exert the greatest control/influence in the area (possible example: Board of Realtors). Work out a way to gain the control or allegiance of each.

  5. Submit all plans to the G.O. for approval. Implement approved handlings when received.

Operations Normandy and Tricycle were just two parts of the Operation Goldmine master plan. It is probably safe to assume that there was much more to "Goldmine" than what is revealed here.

This is the systematic way in which the Guardian's Office in Scientology goes about taking over, or "neutralizing," a city such as Clearwater. The same strategy could be applied to any city, anywhere. By all appearances, "Operation Goldmine" has successfully achieved its objectives in Clearwater.

In the early 1980s, opposition to the presence of Scientology in Clearwater was loud and vocal. Frequent rallies were held at the City Hall behind the hotel, protest marches regularly circled the Ft. Harrison Hotel, lively discussions were aired daily in the Clearwater Sun newspaper, cars passing by the hotel and honking their horns created a real problem for Scientologists trying to audit in the quiet of their rooms.

Today, the situation is quite different. There is a sense of apathy among the residents of Clearwater. Many of the local businesses have closed down or relocated from the downtown area to the suburbs, giving Scientology a more complete occupation of downtown Clearwater, where they now own a large percentage of the land and buildings.

The newspaper most vocally opposed to Scientology has gone out of business. The articles printed by the surviving Clearwater Times are cautious and temperate, carefully avoiding anything provocative to the litigious Scientologists.

Scientologists hand out tickets for free personality tests on Clearwater beach. A number of Clearwater natives or their children have become involved in Scientology. The public relations campaign waged tirelessly by the church: that Scientology is against drugs, for the rights of the aged, pro-family -- any of the local "buttons" they can find -- has been successful.

The position of the community has slowly changed from that of angry defiance to a position of powerlessness and grudging acceptance.

A series of hearings on Scientology held in Clearwater in the early 1980s uncovered much interesting sociological information about the cult, but efforts to translate the findings of the hearings into meaningful action have been hampered by bureaucratic red tape and legal problems.

Many people in Clearwater sense something sinister about Scientology, but admit that they know little about the actual beliefs and practices of the cult. They remain puzzled and perplexed by the swarms of uncommunicative and uniformed young people inhabiting their town. It is as if their town has been invaded by aliens.

Clearwater remains today an occupied city, a city under siege.

And no one seems to know quite what to do about it.


  1. Miller, p. 337
  2. Corydon, p. 122

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