Looking Good, Clearwater

Clearwater Building

What’s it take to make a great city?

Beautiful buildings big and small, sure. And people, good people who want to attain the best for themselves and their fellows. Institutions that work for people, and not for their own benefit. Top schools, parks and open spaces.

Freedom Magazine. “Clearwater Building” issue cover

The glue to keep all of that together is community spirit. A great city must—yes, absolutely must—have citizens who believe in each other, who will work together to solve problems, who know that diversity isn’t an obstacle, it’s a necessity. The viewpoints of the multitude are all heard with respect, and consensus is the fuel that energizes progress.

If you’re looking at a crystal ball trying to find such a city, there are good examples—but far too many burgs miss greatness because of infighting, ethnic division and, sadly, civic stupidity.

Clearwater, Florida, has wonderful assets. But with all that Clearwater has, it lacks adequate social betterment and humanitarian endeavors. True, a lot of public agencies and nonprofits work hard to fill the gaps, but much more work is needed.

That’s a challenge facing the Church of Scientology. Its international spiritual headquarters is, by far, the largest private entity in Clearwater, and it’s growing. And while much of the Church’s energies are directed at its core mission—serving Scientologists from around the world who travel to Clearwater for advanced spiritual services—it also has a long history of hosting activities for neighbors and the community. From the founding of the Church in the mid-20th century, L. Ron Hubbard made clear his goal was to help better mankind, stating: “A being is only as valuable as he can serve others.”

About a year ago, Church community affairs staff made a new step in that direction, creating a Charity Coalition of nonprofit groups whose bimonthly meetings total well over 100 people. The result? Communication, networking, ideas—and a better Tampa Bay area.

For decades, the Church of Scientology has sponsored and supported an array of humanitarian enterprises. They’re all active in Florida and they have remarkable success stories that are chronicled in this issue of Freedom.

The Church has more than 50 buildings in Clearwater, the most stunning of which is the religion’s spiritual headquarters, the Flag Building. But none housed the Church-supported humanitarian and social betterment organizations, so active around the world. With its substantial presence in Clearwater, the ecclesiastical leader of the religion, Mr. David Miscavige, recognized an imperative for the Church and its parishioners to work with all stakeholders and become a catalyst for building a truly great city.

That has now become reality. One of the original buildings the Church acquired in Florida, the Clearwater Building, a former bank at the intersection of Fort Harrison Avenue and Cleveland Street, is now the Church’s open door for the public. It’s an information resource on what Scientology is, how the religion works, and what made Mr. Hubbard such a visionary man. The building’s two-story lobby is itself a visual treasure worth a tour.

A stroll north on Fort Harrison Avenue from the Clearwater Building is the real heart of the Church’s offering to Clearwater and the rest of Florida. Citizens concerned about drugs, human trafficking, the problems of the burgeoning prison system, immorality and corruption—there are organizations in which hundreds of volunteers are engaged in tackling all of those thorny issues and more. You’ll see their names emblazoned on each of their colorful new headquarters: Foundation for a Drug-Free World, United for Human Rights, Criminon, The Way to Happiness Foundation. They work alongside like-minded groups and individuals of all faiths who respond to the urgent call to resolve these social ruins.

There’s more: The forerunner of Scientology’s social activism groups is Citizens Commission on Human Rights, which since the 1960s has been battling the predatory practices of soulless psychiatry, psychology and the psycho-pharmaceutical industry. It now has a Florida headquarters that includes a museum: “Psychiatry: An Industry of Death.”

And still more: Scientologists are obsessed (in a very good way) with being involved and helping out. Volunteer Ministers are the expression of that. They have rushed to the scene helping people in major catastrophes—9/11, the Haiti and Nepal earthquakes, much more—and in the day-to-day crises and “we need a hand” events in cities across the globe. The community of Scientologists in the Tampa Bay area amasses more than 200,000 hours a year in volunteer work. Scientologists—along with every sensible person, business, church, school and public agency in the city—want to see Clearwater flourish. They are doing something about that.

At an August 5 meeting of the Downtown Development Board, Clearwater Vice Mayor Jay Polglaze said of the newly opened Scientology buildings: “They are just remarkable, really well done. The services provided, everything from human rights … and giving somebody a vehicle, a platform. … Not just locally, but it becomes a regional destination. Those are all some great community assets. So I would really thank, compliment the Church for stepping forward and making an additional investment for the benefit of the entire community.”

That’s what this issue of Freedom is all about.

—The Editors