CLEARWATER — The Church of Scientology’s proposal to bring retail and entertainment downtown is a novel new development, but the recent rollout of its plans has a tone that goes back decades.
Scientology’s long-standing zeal for expansion and penchant for secrecy have manifested in several ways: the scale of its plans for Cleveland Street, its private meetings with elected officials and its hushed effort to snap up millions of dollars worth of property after promising the city it wouldn’t.
It’s an assertive approach that comes up time and again in teachings by founder L. Ron Hubbard and other writings. When it comes to handling governments and widening its influence, the church’s strategy is a matter of scripture.
In a 1961 series of letters on church policy called “Keeping Scientology Working,” Hubbard writes about skirting government approvals.
“Do they think a society in this shape will approve Scientology into power? Hell no! And to hell with this society. We’re making a new one. So let’s skip the approval button from a lot of (non-Scientologists) and settle down to work to make new people and better people.”
Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw said in a statement that other religions like Christianity and Judaism also seek to make people spiritually better, and he objected to a non-Scientologist wanting to interpret the passage.
The context of Keeping Scientology Working, Shaw said, “is something you could not be expected to understand, and your inference as to its meaning is both inaccurate and inappropriate.”
But the meaning of that and similar passages is just what it sounds like, said Mike Rinder, who spent 25 years as a senior Scientology executive before defecting in 2007. Once the church’s international spokesman, Rinder said Scientology leader David Miscavige’s retail plan for downtown is an embodiment and fulfillment of its preachings “to take over governments.”
“Really it’s not specifically Clearwater,” he said. “Scientology believes that they…