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Letters to the Editors

Recent articles disturb an active Scientologist

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 18, 2003

There are two points I would like to state about your recent articles on Scientology missions and the Scientologist landlord.

I have been active in Scientology since 1969. I have lived in Clearwater since 1989. I have worked in the church from 1971 to 1981, as well as having worked with (Scientology founder) L. Ron Hubbard on a few occasions. I feel I have enough background to understand people's responses to these articles.

1) Scientologists establish missions in their back yard, story, March 1 -- The missions, as well as the churches, are heavily taxed (i.e., burdened). They are taxed by the drug companies, psychiatrists and the faltering education system that is producing controlled individuals who don't confront evil, who commit crimes and pervert the responsibility of one's actions. The religious philosophy written by Mr. Hubbard frees a person from spiritual travail, provides for an understanding of their personal relationship with the supreme being and gives an understanding of how he, as a spiritual being, has powers to control his destiny for the betterment of mankind.

These missions are taxed by the bigotry, ignorance and stupidity of those who have ignored statistics and case studies of those helped by Scientology. The missions and churches are taxed by media propagating lies and misstatements about a religion that helps those who wish to rise to higher spiritual awareness. In Scientology, one learns about exchange. My fees not only go to a staff member's pay, but for rent, maintenance of their buildings and other associated fees in running an organization, whether commercial or religious in nature.

2) The March 14 article, City forces halfway houses to shut down, should win the prize for worst writing by two reporters. Was this article about Michael Cournaya and his effort to help recovering addicts? Was it about Richard Weigand, a former executive in the Church of Scientology? What does Weigand's past have to do with his being a property owner in Clearwater? It was data added in to connect Scientology with something not related to Scientology.

It seems your editor missed the point that Weigand offered a solution to the renters (Narconon) and should have printed the statistics of how many people have been helped by Narconon, and therefore would have shown that Narconon has one of the highest rates of drug addiction recovery of any program on this planet. Lack of investigative facts and sloppy reporting show up blatantly.

On the same page were other articles, yet none mentioned the religious backgrounds of the Hazmat team, or two county commissioners, or the woman being robbed. One can only surmise this paper wants to attract controversy about a controversial religion. If the philosophy of L. Ron Hubbard did not work, there would be no issues. Since the data on the human spirit, his mind and body appear to be true and his solutions to improve mankind by improving the human spirit are workable, Scientology has been attacked by those who don't want a better planet.

I encourage your readers to discover for themselves about Scientology. They need only call a local church or mission and they will get honest, independent data about the religion.

I am proud to be a Scientologist and use this data to help others who need help, no matter their religion or background. If every person of every religion did this, do you really think the planet would be in the shape it is in?
-- Dan Sigal, Clearwater

Church critic should do his homework

Re: Narconon drug treatment program is cult recruiting tool, letter, April 13.

Since you insist on printing David Rodman's false and derogatory letters about my religion, then may I ask some questions regarding your often-published hate monger? What scientific and controlled studies has Mr. Rodman done regarding the religion of Scientology? What is his experience, background or expertise that would support his conclusions regarding the religiosity of Scientology? Has Mr. Rodman ever asked any of the 12,000 Scientologists in the Tampa Bay area how Scientology helps them in their lives or why they practice this religion? Has Mr. Rodman visited a church of Scientology and scientifically evaluated the data for himself firsthand?

His unrestrained hypercriticism based on false rumors is typical of someone who refuses to find out for himself. His generalities are sweeping and beg a challenge. Obviously, he didn't even bother to read the article on which he expounded his views regarding Scientology and Narconon. His first sentence shows that he doesn't even realize that the Narconon facility in Clearwater has been open for almost a year and has been licensed. Did he read the fact that Mrs. Cheryl Alderman invested her own funding into opening the facility and that the facility is, in fact, owned and run by her?

Does Mr. Rodman even care that Narconon is in fact getting thousands of people off drugs? But then again, why confuse Mr. Rodman with facts. There are an estimated 16-million Americans using drugs on a monthly basis, and 6-million meet the clinical criteria for needing help. What is Mr. Rodman doing about the problem?
-- Doe Hewitt, Holiday

Advice helpful for eBay users

Re: Teen charged with defrauding customers of auction Web site, story, April 11.

As an avid eBay user for almost three years, I have been surprisingly happy with my purchases on the auction site. I would say that 99.9 percent of the sellers are honest.

Positive feedback is the name of the game on eBay. In my three years, I have given only one negative feedback to a seller. When I checked his feedback comments, I noticed that other buyers had also agreed with me. That experience taught me a lesson: Always check a seller's feedback comments before bidding.

The March 31 article by David Gussow, Hijacked eBay account reminds about the need for vigilance, proved to be extremely helpful to me. After reading the article, I realized that I, too, had been a victim of a hijacked eBay account.

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail message in the form of a questionnaire, supposedly from eBay. Beware, these individuals are very slick. The message was very authentic looking (including the eBay logo) and explained that I needed to update my eBay account. I was somewhat suspicious of why my Social Security number as well as banking and credit information was needed, because I had never provided those to eBay in the first place. Trying to play it safe, I fell right into their hands. I gave my user ID name and password. After submitting the data, I received an instantaneous reply, stating that the information had been applied to my account.

Gussow's article scared me into action. Since I didn't want anyone unauthorized to use my eBay identity, I immediately wrote to the eBay Customer Support Group. Within four hours, I had a reply that told me how to make the necessary changes. In about 20 minutes, I had a new password and user ID. EBay also assured me that it would never ask for private information, including credit card information or password, in an e-mail. Needless to say, I again learned my lesson.

Whether it is on eBay or elsewhere, there will always be a scam artist waiting for the next victim. Always remember to be on the alert for fraud, and do not hesitate to report it. May all your experiences on eBay be pleasant ones.
-- JoAnn Lee Frank, Clearwater

'Thrift' stores cost too much

Thrift store ... hah! Call yourselves what you are: discount stores for the wealthy.

I am a middle-aged woman starting all over again with very limited funds. In the past few weeks, I've browsed the thrift stores from Clearwater to St. Petersburg -- browsed because I can't afford the prices at any of the so-called thrift stores I've been to.

It seems that store owner/operators believe their stock is furniture-showroom quality, or something collectible. I'll be living in an empty apartment for a long time.

It's supposed to be thrift so the working poor can purchase needed items. Hah! I've seen better prices at department stores. Shame on you!
-- Carol Thorman, Clearwater

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