Longform Nonfiction: A Buzzfeed Inspired Listicle

10 Ways that the Church of Scientology has Isolated Downtown Clearwater

When the Church of Scientology first set up their headquarters in Clearwater, Florida, they began with the purchase of a single hotel, but as year passed, the Church began to amass more and more property in the area, which has left the majority of downtown clearwater under the control of the Church, and cutting off the downtown area from the remainder of the city.

Scientology’s presence in Clearwater cannot be diminished, especially in the downtown area, where the Church created it’s own sub-city and isolated downtown Clearwater from the rest of the city.

1. Arrival in 1975 and the Original Flag building
Tampa Bay Times |

When Scientology Leader L. Ron Hubbard was looking for a place to settle the headquarters for Scientology, many factors drew him to Clearwater, namely, it’s proximity to an international airport. The church then bought and established “Flag”, which serves as an international campus for pilgrimages and spiritual meetings. The original plan established by Hubbard had allowed for potential expansion into the Clearwater area.

2. Keeping the Church “Insulated”
Los Angeles Times/

Past members of Scientology have claimed that the Flag building is supposed to be an “insulated oasis”. Mat Pesch, a former Sea-Org member, said that the presence of any Non-Scientologists posed a threat to the church’s operation, leading the Flag building to be well controlled and isolated away from the remainder of Clearwater and society.

3. Infiltrating Clearwater Government
Tampa Bay Times

When the Church first began their bid for control, the goal was to gain the more power and influence that would allow for easier expansion to help promote the ideals of Scientology. According to the Tampa Bay Times, some of the Church’s internal documents revealed plans that would place Scientologists into high-ranking organizations throughout Clearwater and the rest of Florida State. With detailed assignments to place these spies into the state attorney’s office, the Clearwater Sun, and the Clearwater Chamber of Commerce.

4. Set Aside Money for Real Estate Expansion
Jeremiah Y. Khokhar

After the Church’s initial arrival in Clearwater, plans for expansion arose, and the Church allegedly set aside around 10 Million Dollars for real estate properties around the Flag building and downtown Clearwater.

5. Their Parishioners’ Companies and Purchases
Martha Asencio Rhine | Tampa Bay Times

In the early 2000’s many Scientologists began buying properties at an unprecedented rate, especially those in the downtown area. Making the majority of properties in the area either owned by the Church or it’s members, however there is very little distinction between what is or isn’t considered church property. Former executive of real estate Tom De Vocht said to the Tampa Bay Times that “the church owns it’s parishioners” so any property that belongs to a Scientologist belongs to the church itself.

6. Buying Properties at Outrageous Prices
Florida Politics | Associated Press

Not only have church members been buying many properties across the city, but they have been paying near double or triple their original listing price. In many cases, the buildings or lots that have been purchased are bought from small business owners. Though these citizens may resent the presence of Scientologists, a million dollar offer for a small building can be enough to persuade even the most cynical. It is estimated that approximately 92 properties have been purchased from 2017-2019, spending a total of $103 Million with nearly 96% being paid for in cash.

7. Preventing City Renovations
Chris Urso | Tampa Bay Times

When the city began planning for a renovation effort, Imagine Clearwater, back in 2016, the Church quickly came out to buy several properties for their own supposed renovation effort. Scientology leader, David Miscavige would enter into meetings with the city, claiming that the church would revitalize their purchased properties if the city could buy a vacant lot that lay across from the Clearwater City Hall. Miscavige would not end up with the aspired lot, and the 6 original purchased downtown properties would be removed from the Imagine Clearwater plan and remain in the church’s hold.

8. Relations with the City
Church of Scientology Flag Service Operation

After the debacle surrounding Imagine Clearwater, Miscavige would cut off ties from the city. When the deals surrounding the vacant lot did not favor Scientology, Miscavige threatened to prevent further discussions or deals until after the Midterm elections, wherein, a new council would be elected, one that would–hopefully–support the Church’s dealings.

9. Amassing Vacant Properties
Tampa Bay Times

As mentioned previously, the Church and it’s members own a large portion of commercial property in downtown Clearwater, but very few of the businesses are being used. The empty buildings merely sit there, in the property of the Church for unknown future reasons. The lots will remain empty, preventing anyone else from purchasing and infringing upon the Church’s downtown territory.

10. Their Presence
Richard Vogel | associated press

The few properties left downtown that are not under the control of Scientologist have been purchased by real estate companies looking to sell them to non-church affiliates. However, the overt presence of Scientology prevents other companies from building hotels or condos, claiming that they do not wish to be in such close proximity to the church. While the Church of Scientology does not own everything in downtown Clearwater, their influence cannot be denied, and throughout the years the property that they have purchased has chased away many potential buyers, leaving them with large control over the downtown area and an isolated headquarters, which was their original mission back in 1975.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *