All of them, those in power, and those who want the power, would pamper us, if we agreed to overlook their crookedness by wilfully restricting our activities.
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Roy seemed adrift. He was 14 and headed for trouble. But when he entered a Scientology school, the transformation was swift. Within two years, he was working alongside the Church of Scientology's most senior executives.
The church reels off dozens of success stories like Roy's. But it doesn't mention a Clearwater boy named Carlo.
Carlo, 15, didn't go to school. He worked from 8:30 in the morning until 10 at night for $30 a week. He told police that he couldn't contact his own father because his father had run afoul of the church. His mother lived in Clearwater, but not with Carlo.
These are glimpses of Scientology's children. The stories in this two-day series will give you more glimpses. What they will not give you is the definitive story of Scientology's children because for the most part they exist behind a shroud.
More than 200 children of Scientologists live in the Tampa Bay area. Clearwater is the church's international spiritual headquarters. It is home to 600 staff members who work with thousands of visiting Scientologists each year.
Scientology is a most visible presence: The staff's uniforms give downtown Clearwater the look of a naval base. But the daily lives of Scientologists — and their children — are kept far from view.
Richard Haworth, the church spokesman, says, "Scientology families are among the happiest there are." And 180 Scientologists wrote letters to the Times saying the church helped them or their children.
But the Times' requests to interview children or parents on Scientology's staff were declined for months. The Times turned to former Scientologists and other sources. They remember a lifestyle quite different from what Haworth describes. They say that for some children, home is a crowded apartment.
Haworth blamed a handful of disgruntled ex-members for those accounts, and accused the Times of malice toward the church.
But whatever their motives, the critics' stories are consistent. And troubling.
Beginning July 29, Times reporter Curtis Krueger asked Scientology spokesman Richard Haworth eight times for permission to interview Scientologist parents and children. No such interviews were arranged. On Friday, after learning these articles were to run this weekend, Haworth called the newspaper and offered to schedule interviews at a later date, but not with Krueger, whom he called biased. The Times said it would be willing to do the interviews today, but declined to switch reporters. Haworth rejected that offer.
Curtis Krueger covers social issues, Pinellas County politics and the Church of Scientology. He came to the St. Petersburg Times in 1987 alter working at the Fort Wayne, Ind., JournaI-Gazette. Krueger, 33, is from Bloomington, Ind., and has a bachelors degree in journalism from Indiana University.