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Scientology complaints resurface

Title: Scientology complaints resurface
Date: Friday, 18 August 1989
Publisher: St. Petersburg Times (Florida)
Author: Curtis Krueger
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CLEARWATER — Complaints about the Church at Scientology unexpectedly surfaced again before the City Commission on Thursday, and some commissioners think they've heard enough.

The commissioners two weeks ago presided over a stormy session in which a group of people spoke against the Scientologists, claiming the organisation is a cult. Scientologists denied those claims, and said they were offended by what they called attacks on their religion.

On Thursday, commissioners heard a dialogue that was shorter, but similar.

A Tampa couple, Javier F. and Elba Mulero, said they have been unable to contact their daughter, who they said is staying at a Tampa house with other Scientologists. Javier Mulero said he was threatened by a Scientologist after he attempted to contact his daughter. He said he reported the matter to Tampa police.

A Clearwater man, Lee Lawrence, refuted comments made about him in the previous meeting by Paul Johnson, an attorney for the Scientologists.

The comments came during a portion of the meeting that is reserved for residents who want to speak on issues not on the agenda.

Scientology spokeswoman Jamie Gourgon urged commissioners to rule that the commission meeting was not a proper forum for the debate.

"Citizens have the right to speak," Mayor Rita Garvey responded. "Free speech means free speech."

But Commissioner Don Winner pointed out that many issues presented — such as whether the Scientologists' house in Tampa meets building codes — are outside the city of Clearwater's jurisdiction

He later said he may ask the city attorney to research whether the commissioners could limit such discussions.

Commissioner Bill Nunamaker said during a break in the meeting that he was getting tired of the debate. "I would think that eventually the commission is going to have to take some action to limit that type of publicizing" of the issue, he said.

But Commissioner Lee Regulski said he wouldn't change the way the commission has handled the discussions.

He pointed out that the commission already imposes a three-minute limit for people who speak. He added that Scientology is still a relevant issue in Clearwater, and pointed out that the city is still in a legal battle with the organisation over an ordinance that requires certain organizations to disclose financial information.

Commissioner Dick Fitzgerald pointed out that attempts to limit similar debates might impinge on the right to free speech.

The Scientologists base their teachings on the writings of L. Ron Hubbard. author of Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.

The organization is often attacked by people who accuse it of being a money-making organization or a cult. Scientologists vigorously deny the allegations.