Scientology Critical Information Directory

This site is best viewed using a highly standards-compliant browser

Scientology church gives county spending records

Title: Scientology church gives county spending records
Date: Thursday, 27 April 1978
Publisher: St. Petersburg Times (Florida)
Author: Susan Denley
Main source:
Alternate and/or complementary:

Disclaimer: This archive is presented strictly in the public interest for research purposes. All the copyrights of materials reproduced here are the properties of their respective owners.

CLEARWATER — The Church of Scientology has given Pinellas County their records showing how the church spends its money, but those records are being kept confidential under a court protective order.

The records were turned over to county attorneys Monday in preparation for a civil trial that begins today to determine whether the church's Clearwater property should be tax-exempt.

he property in question in the lawsuit — which deals specifically with 1976 taxes — is the former Fort Harrison Hotel and the former Bank of Clearwater building, both in downtown Clearwater. Since moving its headquarters to Clearwater in 1975, the church has used the former bank building as offices and classrooms and the hotel primarily as offices and living quarters for staff and for visitors seeking religious training, Scientology spokesmen say.

But Pinellas Property Appraiser Ronald J. Schultz has contended that during 1976, portions of the property were used for profit-making purposes and that although financial data provided by the church has been "inconsistent and incomplete," it indicates the property "may have been used for a profit-making venture."

LAST SEPTEMBER, a tax specialist hired by the county to arbitrate tax disputes found that the church had not provided enough information to determine whether it is truly nonprofit and that there are indications that the organization levies substantial charges for its religious activities.

Earlier this month, Circuit Judge Harry W. Fogle ruled that the Scientologists must provide information on how church funds are spent. But he rejected a county request for names of donors to the church.

The 1976 taxes levied on the property amount to about $50,000. Taxes for 1977, which are being contested in a separate suit, amount to $54,622.

The Scientologists also have applied for an exemption from 1978 property taxes. Two of Shultz's assistants Wednesday made a short-notice inspection of the church's Clearwater facilities to see whether the buildings are used for religious purposes.

ALTHOUGH CHURCH officials labeled the inspection visit "harassment," they led Schultz Administrative Assistant Sam McClelland, Exemption Director Helen Braun and a St. Petersburg Times reporter on a tour of most of the former hotel's 11 floors.

The visitors saw:

* A full-fledged movie studio, used to produce training films for church counselors, said spokeswoman Kathy Heard.

* A group of Scientologists in a "chapel" singing "Onward Christian Soldiers."

* Neatly kept, hotel-style rooms — residences for counselors and students, said Mrs. Heard. Each was equipped with an "E-meter," an electronic device wired to tin cans. The E-meter, said to measure emotional states, is a church "artifact" used to aid counseling, she said.

The sixth and seventh floors of the former hotel were not included in the tour. Mrs. Heard said the room son the those floors were in use for church counseling.

MRS. HEARD AND Nancy Reitze visited Assistant County Atty. James Helinger Jr. earlier Wednesday to tell him of a Scientology victory earlier this week in a tax case in Los Angeles.

"We thought we should really share our legal victory with you," Ms. Heard told Helinger. She said the church had been "harassed" in the California case, but won after a six-year battle.

Church spokesmen have often accused Helinger, chief lawyer on the case, of malice.

"I don't want you to think I'm operating under any bad faith," he told Ms. Heard and Ms. Reitze Wednesday. "But our statutes require us to look at financial information. If I wasn't doing that, I wouldn't be doing my job."