When the Times told officials at the Church of Scientology in Clearwater about plans to write a story about its suppressive person and disconnection policies, Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw aggressively sought to refute the story and persuade the newspaper not to tell it.
Shaw provided numerous articles about the ways other churches deal with apostates, including one in which a Catholic bishop in Nebraska excommunicated every member of one church. “I don’t see how you can do a fair article on this subject unless you are willing to throw in similar accusations about virtually every other religion,” Shaw said.
He said it’s also unfair to focus on a single Scientology policy. “It is almost impossible to really get a conceptual understanding of the practice of disconnection, or the practice of declaring someone a suppressive person, without a full understanding of volumes of texts and recorded lectures by Mr. Hubbard which express the theory and philosophy underlying them,” Shaw said.
“That is the problem with both the media who write about this, and the apostates who they get the ‘story’ from – they don’t understand it. And if they did, it is so uncontroversial, no reporter in his reporteresque mind would ever write about it.”
Shaw provided the names and phone numbers of a handful of Scientologists who attested to the ways they say Scientology helped them improve relationships with family members and spouses. That, he said, is the big-picture story about the Church of Scientology.
Finally, Shaw took aim at the credibility of some of the suppressive persons who spoke to the Times.
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Regarding Creed Pearson, Shaw provided: a police report about a party at his home in which police found marijuana paraphernalia; a Pinellas sheriff’s report that deputies arrested him in September on charges of battery and possession of marijuana; notarized affidavits from two Scientologists who worked for Pearson and say he made racist and anti-Semitic statements; and a letter from Pearson’s ex-wife, who stated that he had “terrorized” his family for years.
Pearson was never arrested in the paraphernalia case and said the party was thrown by a young man living with him as he slept upstairs; in the battery and possession case, prosecutors elected not to pursue charges; he acknowledged that he made racist and anti-Semitic statements, but not since he left Scientology and learned his mistake; he denied that he ever terrorized his family. Pearson said he expected the church to attack him.
Regarding Randy Payne, Shaw provided affidavits from several people who said Payne was physically abusive. Shaw said that was one of the reasons Payne was declared an SP. Payne vehemently denied the charges of violence, noting that there have never been any police reports to substantiate them. He said the church doctored documents that accuse him of violence.
Regarding another Times source, Tom Smith, Shaw said police reports would show he had a history of obstructive behavior with police. Shaw said Smith also brought a handgun into a counseling session in the church and said he did not have a license to carry the gun. Smith noted that he has never been arrested, and records show that he had a license to carry the gun. Smith said he was a jeweler at the time.
“He (Shaw) is grabbing for anything he can do to smear,” Smith said.
Shaw, however, called the Times’ story irresponsible “when you are getting your ‘facts’ from disgruntled ex-members who have an ax to grind against their former Church, and when they are the ones who caused the harm that brought about their expulsion and disconnection.”