Letter from David Miscavige to Bernie McCabe
re: The Lisa McPherson criminal case

22 January 1999




January 22, 1999
Mr. Bernie McCabe
State Attorney
14250 49th St. North
Clearwater, FL 34622

Re:Case Number CRC 98-20377-CFANO-S
Dear Mr. McCabe,

I am aware of the Williams & Connolly letter to you, but want to approach the problem from another perspective: How to achieve a peaceful resolution to the charges your office has brought against my religion.

As you know, this is not the first time I have attempted to pursue peace. I have met with your office on two occasions, first with Mr. Crow and Mr. Burgess on November l8th and second on November 23rd with these individuals as well as Mr. McGarry and, most significantly, with you. As I pointed out to you, these meetings were preceded by other attempts to resolve matters. Indeed, I have been working with the City of Clearwater since last May to bring an end to counter-productive hostilities and prejudicial treatment of the Church and Scientologists for two decades. If there was any doubt that peace was my objective, it should have been dissipated by the cover story on me in the St. Pete Times of Sunday, October 25, 1998. Even the Times could not help but hear my message:

"In his first-ever newspaper interview Miscavige told the Times that Clearwater is the scene of 'possibly the last long-running confiict' for Scientology. He said he wants to take 'big steps' to end hostilities there."

That is why I came to your office, almost immediately after the indictment was issued, attempting to bring about a constructive resolution to this matter. My reasons are obvious. Although I certainly do not believe the charges are well-founded, as I communicated to you, nobody is happy concerning the unfortunate circumstances regarding

I see it as my duty to do what I can to take fair responsibility for this matter. Obviously I cannot bring back, but I can address the situation for the good of the Church and the community so that wounds can heal and we can both move forward.

The seriousness with which the religion takes on that responsibility is best exemplified by my personal participation. I am not a member, officer or director of the Flag Organization, but I am very concerned about anything that affects Scientology as a whole. These charges surely do.

The best evidence of my sincerity in addressing this situation is the Church's restraint in dealing with the press, something you personally acknowledged. Whatever my personal feelings about the investigation or, indeed, the history of the treatment Scientology has received in Clearwater, I maintained the view that our concern should be the future, taking steps not only to address the case at hand, but on a far broader scale, the Church's relationship with the entire community.

This case is a very sensitive one for your office. That is why in our initial meeting I did not attempt to argue the facts or the fairness of your charge. I recognized that, with charges having been brought against the Church, the most productive course was to address them head-on in a meaningful and just way. Putting it bluntly, I realize that once charges have been brought, there are political consequences connected with any resolution. I do not think anyone failed to note that the only charges brought were corporate in nature, typically less severe than individual charges. However, as I explained to you, the implications of a charge are far different for a church. This would not be seen as a mere "corporate charge" against the entity that happened to own theFt. Harrison Hotel (where stayed), but instead would impact on the entire worldwide religion of Scientology and its thousands of churches, missions and missionary activities.

To illustrate my concerns, I showed you the headlines in the St. Petersburg and New York Times where the corporation charged is not mentioned. Instead, the headlines speak of "Scientology". As I explained, this is no different from headlining "Catholicism", "Buddhism", "Judaism" or any other religion. The fact is the charge has the effect of branding the religion as a whole .

I think you recognized that the Church's refusal to accept any form of guilty plea was not arbitrary or merely an attempt to "take a stand" but, rather, was based on very serious concerns as to what a plea would mean m terms of damage to all of our churches and members. There are good reasons for not charging churches with crimes. One must ask, "Who is being charged?" That is the question I am being asked by parishioners around the world.

The Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization is unique in the religion of Scientology. Its congregation is composed not only of members from the Clearwater area, but from all parts of the globe. indeed, its congregation is probably the largest of any church in the United States, Scientology or otherwise . That is because it is the Mecca of our religion and Scientologists from every one of our churches ultimately come to the Flag Organization. The prejudicial burden of having our Mecca labeled "criminal" is obvious. And for what? Let's put aside for the moment any argument as to the cause of death. Certainly the parishioners of the Church had nothing to do with it. Or is the state alleging that the practice of the religion itself is at fault? Similarly, well over a thousand church staff of the Flag Organization were not involved. Ironically, those who did deal with have not been charged. Most have been immunized, including two out of three members of the Board of Directors, one of whom is the chairman.

I can understand the need in some criminal proceedings to leave a person with a "guilty" record, the purpose being to taint the person with a stain he can never remove. That is precisely why the Church cannot accept a plea as a form of justice. A church is not like another corporation. If criminal charges are leveled against a business corporation, it necessarily concerns conduct in the line of business - an attempt to increase profit through improper means. When charges are leveled against a corporation, that does not affect its shareholders like a charge against a church affects its adherents. No parishioner should ever have to have this discussion:

Q: "What church do you attend?"

A: "Scientology."

Q: "The church with a
criminal record - the only one ever in the United States?"

And yet these are precisely the conversations that are bound to occur.

That is why I invited you to come over to take a look around. I guarantee a picture different from what you currently perceive. The Church is a dynamic and thriving community. Its members are drug-free and dedicated to helping their fellow man. They not only aren't freaks, they are contributing members of society and many are extremely prominent in their respective fields.

Law enforcement often resolves corporate charges short of a guilty plea in order not to cripple a corporation's capacity to conduct business. I referred you to the Met Life case where the company paid a fine in lieu of further criminal proceedings because a guilty plea would have prevented it from conducting business. In that case, unlike this case, billions were at issue, the conduct was intentional and the corporation did benefit. But, it did not have to live with "guilty" tattooed on its head. In that case, also unlike this case, the corporation law enforcement made an accommodation for was a for-profit business . My concern is far different; it is to prevent the branding of the entire Church, all its members and the religion as a whole. Such a result does not reflect the reality of the case.

I still remain convinced that a resolution short of years of litigation is in the best interests of the community and the Church. I recognize that any emerging religion goes through a tough time in its formative years. I also recognize past mistakes of the Church. More importantly, I recognize that resolving conflict does not always require a war to the end, even when one is right. The Church won its suit against the City. But that did not result in peace for the Church, or lead the City to treat us in a better fashion. I believe the Church would be vindicated in the present case. Yet I am just as convinced that protracted litigation would not only be counter productive but, in fact, destructive to the Church and the community.

Just as certainly, I recognize the need for any organization to take responsibility for its acts. I could argue all day about the circumstances surrounding the unfortunate death of and how the Church is not to blame. But resolution, not talk or argument, is what is required, Responsibility, not blame, is what must be addressed. That is why I made the proposal to you which I continue to believe is in the best interests of all.

Let me reiterate that proposal.


1) That the Church accept a pre-trial intervention on the medical charge.

2) That the Church institute a "compliance program" to include:

a) Employing on a full-time basis a licensed medical doctor, who need not be a Scientologist, to service our Church facilities including the many hotels we maintain for visiting parishioners.

b) Implementing a policy that such a medical doctor would perform on the premises only routine medical services limited to treatment of minor injuries (cuts and bruises) and garden variety illnesses (colds and flu). All other illnesses or injuries would be referred to a hospital or clinic not on Church premises.

c) Precluding the boarding, in any of our facilities, of anyone with an illness that is more than minor or garden variety in nature.

d) Providing to all local hospitals and doctors a standard protocol for treatment of Scientologists that would make clear that the only treatments precluded by Scientology scripture are those in the field of psychiatry. This Church-authored protocol would also make clear that although Scientologists are opposed to psychiatric treatment, they are certainly not opposed to receiving medical treatment.

e) Clarifying that those who dealt with violated longstanding Church policy barring the housing or care of psychotics on Church premises.

3) That the Church pay the full costs of the police investigation.

4) That the Church donate $500,000.00 to the county Emergency Medical Services Trust as a sign of its commitment to using available services whenever necessary.

This proposal offers this community much more than the State could obtain in any formal proceeding. As we both understand, the ultimate outcome of any prosecution is a maximum fine of $15,000.00 in addition to possible payment of investigative costs.

What I have offered is well in excess of that. Indeed, I am offering many things that the State would never be able to obtain, most important of which is directly addressing the situation itself to prevent reoccurrence . From your perspective the proposal offers the following:

1) In accordance with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the proposal is a much less intrusive means of dealing with the Church, allowing you to avoid the fatal flaws of the Felony Information.

2) Acceptance of the proposal would avoid a protracted battle which would be very costly to the taxpayers and further destructive of Church-community relations.

3) The proposal reflects adoption of a program by a major institution to prevent any similar incident.

4) It includes a donation far in excess of the fine otherwise available to the State.

5) The proposal allows all parties to move forward on a constructive path, a significant concern to both the Church and the City of Clearwater.

I asked that you give serious consideration to this proposal. I further told you that I had flexibility to incorporate or delete particulars as the State believed appropriate to bring about a full, meaningful and responsible resolution of the matter. You indicated I would receive a response.

I believe you recognized the serious nature of my proposal. Following the Thanksgiving weekend, having heard no response, our counsel contacted your office. Mr. Crow informed counsel that you were contemplating a counteroffer and went on to say that there had better be no statements to the press regarding our discussions or "all bets are off." We agreed.

After that phone call came the annual summit of out-of-town anti-Scientologists exploiting the death of Lisa McPherson. During that week of protest we were subjected to a non-stop assault on our religion, not only in Clearwater, but around the world. However, taking heed of Mr. Crow's warning, I felt it important to stay true to our word. As a result, the Church did not make any response to the media concerning the charges or our perceptions of this prosecution.

More time passed without a response. Once again, our counsel contacted your office. After a few hours delay, Mr. Crow relayed to counsel that he had just spoken to you and that you had stated the offer submitted was unacceptable. He refused either to expand on the reasons for rejection or to make any counteroffer.

What am I to think when faced with these circumstances? On the one hand I am told in no uncertain terms to make no mention to the press concerning the Church's sincere efforts to resolve the case, and I am given the unmistakable impression that a response would be coming from your office. We then endure a week of anti-Scientology bashing, only then to be told, "all bets were off in the first place.

Nevertheless, I remained of the opinion that we should continue to meet and resolve the case and once again asked counsel to contact your office. This contact was made through Mr. McGarry which was apparently offensive to Mr. Crow. When he next contacted counsel, he began by warning him, "Don't you ever go around me again", and then proceeded to say you would not meet with anybody. I assure you, the indictment of the Church is of far greater concern to me than a turf war. Since Mr. McGarry apparently had no problem in taking the call from counsel, this dialogue makes it seem as if Mr. Crow has a personal stake in this matter.

But let me be clear: I have no desire to upset anybody in your office. It was neither significant to me that counsel contacted Mr. McGarry (as opposed to Mr. Crow) nor something I imagined would cause upset. I continue to be willing to meet any of the persons in your office.

Let me add, however, that when I did meet with Mr. Crow prior to our meeting, he made it clear that while he was #3 in the office, and had been for some time, he could not respond to any offer without first discussing it with you. Therefore, if rapid, responsible and meaningful resolution of this case is to be achieved, you and I are the persons to do it.


Perhaps the best proof that this case is perceived - not as a narrow "corporate charge" but, rather, as an indictment of the entire religion - is what it has generated in anti-Scientology activity and how the media have communicated the case to the world.

Prior to the indictment, the volume of media attention this case generated was unprecedented. Since the indictment, that volume has reached preposterous proportions. With this letter I am providing you with a binder of what has appeared:

•Calculation shows a circulation in excess of 96 million.

•Of the 96 million reached, only 3% of the coverage even mentions the charges as against the Church of Scientology, Flag Service Organization , the corporation technically charged.

•31% refer to "Scientologists" or "Scientology" - the religion itself.

• A full 66% refer generically to the "Church of
, making no distinction to any corporate entity.

To take two well-known recent examples of the publicity given to these charges:

The Arts & Entertainment channel ran a two-hour documentary on Scientology and 20/20 allocated an hour to the subject. Both made mention of the case and both described the charges as having been brought against the Church and the religion as a whole.

Possibly the best example of how everybody perceived the charge as against the entire Church is the court notice received by Flag wherein the caption merely states:

Church of Scientology. (No mention of Flag Service Organization or FSO.)

Let's not forget that shortly after the investigation began, the Medical Examiner went on tabloid TV ( Inside Edition ) announcing her conclusions that the Church had denied water for "up to 17 days." This created an impression that carries forth to this day that the Church intended to kill Yet as even the charging affidavit now makes clear, that did not occur. But unfortunately this cannot change the media background upon which the charges are now superimposed.

As for the annual celebration of death by anti-Scientologists, let me stress that these pickets did not merely appear in Clearwater. They appeared around the world, from Canada to Australia, across Europe in England, Sweden, Germany, Denmark and other countries, as well as cities across the United States. I have included pictures as evidence of this international assault.

Law enforcement does not write headlines or design the picket signs of anti-Scientologists. That is true, but it is just as true that in charging the Church, these results were as predictable as the sun rising and setting each day. it is precisely what happens when the government targets an entire religion. Let us also not forget these pickets only began when the Clearwater police put this investigation on the Internet. And while some would argue that the investigation was not conducted in collusion with anti-Scientologists (though there is evidence to the contrary), it certainly has provided them with a springboard for the harassment of my religion.

The deplorable conduct of the protesters bears mentioning. While marching in front of our building, they carried a coffin on the sidewalk with the words, "Scientology Kills." They carried signs that said, "Blood on Scientology Hands" , "My name was Lisa McPherson and I was murdered by the Church of Scientology" and "Thank god L. Ron Hubbard is dead" .

Eerily reminiscent of the unconstitutional methods of earlier years were signs proclaiming, "Honk if you hate Scientology" . Meanwhile, county buses carried anti-Scientology " advertisements " (placed anonymously) including, "Don't Walk, RUN! Quit $cientology!" , "Find Out Why so Many People Oppose Dianetics & Scientology" , "Are you REALLY happy in the Sea Org?" (Scientology's religious order), and "Think for Yourself...QUIT SCIENTOLOGY" . It should be noted the bus boards were so offensive that a Commissioner of the City of Clearwater felt it necessary to bring them to the attention of the full Commission.

One cannot doubt the case has become a cause celebre for anti- Scientologists. Holding a press conference upon their arrival in Clearwater, they began with an announcement- "Welcome to Occupied Clearwater." Another indication of how the State's charges affect the religion and its members as a whole, is what protesters were saying on video, but out of earshot of the media;

"Tell David (Miscavige) I'm coming, and I'm coming with a dick so big, it will knock his goddamned spine out!"

The conduct of the anti-Scientologists does not reflect "protest", it reflects "hatred." Although I am sure you do not condone this conduct, when an entire church is charged, that tends to send a message that such conduct is acceptable since no distinction is drawn as to who has been charged - every member has.

And let there be no question, these protesters are not, and were not friends. The Church and its members were. When alive, these anti-Scientologists treated in the same manner they now treat the rest of the Church and its members.

But put those concerns aside. What does this do for the City of Clearwater and what image does it create? The City is engaged in a serious program of redevelopment and rejuvenation under the banner of "One City, One Future." We are a prominent part of that City. But the image generated by the State's indictment and commensurate anti-Scientology activity is very harmful to the City. Certainly it does not help bring tourists or students on spring break.

Please understand, the majority of these "protesters" are not dissident ex Scientologists and most were never members of the Scientology religion. They truly are anti-Scientologists. And, let there be no mistake, we had to do more than ignore the assault. Given their outrageously abusive conduct toward our members, the Church showed great restraint, as even the City Manager acknowledged, even implementing measures to bus parishioners between buildings so as to avoid these people while they occupied the entire sidewalk and front door of our building.


At our meeting you indicated you were aware of the 11th Circuit decision and acknowledged my description of it as setting forth "a history of illegally attempting to destroy the Church in Clearwater." The circumstances surrounding the case cannot be taken in isolation and are inextricably tied to the history of Clearwater and its Police Department. I am convinced you are not fully aware of the details of this history and because the purpose of this letter is to bring about a resolution to avoid further conflict, I have not set forth those details. However, if you remain unconvinced of the pervasiveness of that prejudicial treatment or its relationship to this investigation, then I ask you let me take you through those details. Not hyperbole, but documented details. At a minimum, you would get a preview of what will be brought forth if we are forced to litigate.

Following the Church's protest of the CWPD, in December of 1997, based on parishioner concerns about the continuing pattern of prejudicial treatment by the police, I recognized that a major change was needed and took steps to change dramatically the Church's relationship with the City.

This was confirmed by the City Manager in the December 27th, 1998 edition of the Miami Herald , in statements such as this:

"The city and the church had a very contentious relationship for many years. A lot of mistakes were made on both sides. Now both sides are trying to work very hard to find compromises and move forward."

I have met with City officials on many occasions both before and after the Felony Information and I know they join in the desire for resolution. As I mentioned earlier, prosecution will inevitably entail rehearsal of the whole history of the Clearwater Police Department and its unlawful crusade against the Church, which is legendary. No good can come from putting it on trial too. Such a trial of the police would cut against the grain of what Scientology and its membership have tried to accomplish in community betterment activities.

In the past year alone, more than 167,000 hours of volunteer work was performed by our members in Clearwater. As just one example, a group of 170 local Scientology parishioners have worked thousands of hours helping to rehabilitate prison inmates. Another group provides 250 hours per week of free tutoring to youth in need. Efforts like these have made an impact on community redevelopment plans.

In that regard, on November the 21st 1998, we broke ground and began construction on a new 370,000 square foot Church facility in downtown Clearwater. We will also shortly begin construction on a new 4,500 seat auditorium which will be available for all local community events when not being used for Scientology events.

I know of two large corporations that have noted the stable Church presence in the downtown area as a reason for locating in Clearwater. It has been estimated that our economic impact in the community will rise to $150 million per year by 2001.


As you acknowledged at our meeting, this is not a typical case.

More importantly, you know that nobody in the Church of Scientology intended any harm. Prior to the indictment, I publicly stated my opinion that the history in Clearwater showed that some people were waiting for something to occur so they could "get the Church" That death has disgracefully become a cause for celebration amongst anti-Scientologists supports that concern. Although you may not agree with all of this statement, you did confirm that your investigation had not found evidence of anybody intending harm to

These are virtually the first charges ever brought against any church. One has to return to the last century to find that having occurred. Even in another high profile case conducted by your office concerning Reverend Lyons, your office chose to prosecute individuals and not the religious organization even though the individuals involved in the alleged fraud included the elected Chief Executive of the organization who was acting in behalf and for the benefit of the organization and the religious organization itself subsequently ratified Reverend Lyons' acts and conduct.

It is critical to note that this Church has been attacked for the conduct of individuals who did not follow or forward Church policy. I do not understand anyone to say otherwise. Indeed, the alleged conduct violated Church policy which fully supports medical care and has long been opposed to housing psychotics on Church premises. The issuance of these charges contrasts sharply with what happens when a death occurs to an adherent of Christian Science or Jehovah's Witnesses . Although those who practice those religions have had many instances of failing to enable medical care, neither church has ever been charged as we have. And in charging this Church, the Felony Information will affect every Church staff member not involved, every Church parishioner not involved and, ultimately, the religion itself.

Can this really be said to forward the interests of justice?

As I have noted, I have met with the City on numerous occasions, both prior to and since the charges were filed. I know that feelings are mutual this matter should be resolved. With the circumstances that exist, with the proposal I have made to resolve this case in a responsible manner, prosecution of the Church is not in the best interests of the City.

If the intent of this indictment was to smear the religion of Scientology and tarnish its reputation internationally and the State has determined that nothing short of that goal is acceptable, then I can understand moving forward with the prosecution.

However, if the concern is for the Church to take responsibility for this matter in a significant way, then I have made a proposal that addresses those concerns.

The Church could simply pay a $15,000.00 fine and be done with the whole matter. I believe any non-church corporation would do just that. But because you are dealing with a church, there are consequences which prohibit that course of action.

If the Church wished to ignore this matter and prolong its resolution, it would choose to litigate. It is my belief that if we fail to achieve a settlement, the case will be dismissed on constitutional grounds. But for sake of argument, assume it is not. We would then be looking at years of litigation. If the intention were to not take responsibility, this would be the obvious course of action. In my opinion that is not the approach either of us should take.

On the other hand, assume we proceed with motions and the charges are dismissed. Even that would not be a wholly positive resolution of this matter. A victory for the Church and a loss for the State says: the Church and the community are still at war . While some might prefer that outcome, I do not . I strongly prefer moving forward in a cooperative effort.

I do not understand why my proposal was unacceptable. I especially do not understand why no counter-proposal was offered. What I have proposed is a final and permanent resolution, thus allowing my Church to move on with its religious objectives and your office to deal with its law enforcement responsibility in a community where, unfortunately, crime is so prevalent. It seems there is a new violent crime committed every day, usually by those on drugs, a problem in its own right. Dealing with that sort of crime is a responsibility of yours that I don't envy. I would rather help you by dedicating my Church to getting people off drugs and thus lessening the crime that so often results.

Why let this case distract you from those efforts when a full, meaningful and fair resolution of it can readily be achieved?

I am currently in Clearwater and am available to meet and resolve this matter now.


David Miscavige

copy from LMT Int site

Read Bernie McCabe response or return to Lisa index