Clearwater, Florida, is used to having Scientology’s Sea Organization members in suits walking around all day, along Cleveland Street toward Fort Harrison Avenue, because this is where the Church of Scientology is located. However, over the past few weeks, fewer members have been spotted around.
According to Tampa Bay Times, the Sea Org members would sometimes outnumber the passersby on the street. It was not until last Thursday that the streets cleared up.
Community Redevelopment Agency Director Seth Taylor said that there is a possibility that Sea Org instructed their members to boycott the shops on Cleveland Street.
We started hearing from merchants earlier this week that they noticed a slow down in business, and they heard from Sea Org members they were instructed not to patronize Cleveland Street. It seems to be the mom and pop stores that are suffering the most.
According to Scientology, Sea Organization “is a religious order for the Scientology religion and is composed of the singularly most dedicated Scientologists — individuals who have committed their lives to the volunteer service of their religion.”
Scientology also notes that the members “work long hours and live communally with housing, meals, uniforms, medical and dental care, transport and all expenses associated with their duties provided by the Church.”
Though boycott could be one of the reasons no Sea Org members were spotted on Cleveland Street, Ben Shaw, a Scientology spokesperson, told the Times that “there is absolutely not any boycott downtown by either staff or parishioners.” Shaw said the Sea Org has received a query about the uniforms since some of its members were requesting to wear normal clothes.
“We wish to avoid doing anything that would upset anybody. If you don’t recognize staff, it is because they aren’t in uniform when frequenting downtown.”
Lina Teixiera, the owner of Studio 617, said that the Downton Development Board is concerned about the boycott.
“The fact remains we are the collateral damage,” Teixeira said about the effect on local businesses.
The Scientology Church also delivered a 300-page formal complaint on April 24, after the city bought land to build an aquarium. The complaint said that there are financial and ethical practices maligned by the Pinellas County Commission.
“The timing of this speaks for itself, and it’s pretty evident that if, in fact, they have been instructed not to patronize downtown businesses, this would be a response to the property purchase,” Taylor said. “I’d like to put a message out saying downtown is open for everyone. Speaking on behalf of the business community, I know they would say everyone is welcome to shop and patronize downtown.”
Business is not the only problem Scientology faces at the moment. On Saturday, May 6, the Tennessee Scientology branch was charged with a kidnapping case, according to Daily Beast.
As the branch reportedly runs its own “self-proclaimed treatment centers,” there were allegedly kidnapping two people, holding them against their will.
Cannon County Police discovered the victims being held in small cabins with “no obvious amenity for life.”
One of the victims even told the police that they were being kept there because they were told they had to be “cleansed through Scientology.” The other victim, “described as handicapped woman,” was isolated and locked in a cabin for 14 hours every day.
The police were able to charge Marc Vallieres, the operator of the facility, with two felony counts of kidnapping, while two other caretakers were charged with false imprisonment.
A judge has already ordered the treatment centers to be closed down. Reports say that the facilities were not “officially” operated through the Church of Scientology, though the authorities said Vallieres was trained by the church.
Investigation on both cases are still ongoing.
[Feature Image by AP Photo/Richard Vogel]