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Wilcox says he'll talk to any group, not just Scientology

By THOMAS C. TOBIN, Times Staff Writer
Published June 17, 2005

LARGO - Pinellas school superintendent Clayton Wilcox offered a strong defense Thursday of his recent appearance before members of the Church of Scientology.

"I will meet with any group that asks to meet," he told district employees gathered to hear his plans for a major staff overhaul.

On June 4, Wilcox delivered a speech about the state of the school system to a luncheon sponsored by Florida Citizens for Social Reform, a nonprofit group formed by local Scientologists.

The event was at the Fort Harrison Hotel, the centerpiece of Scientology's worldwide spiritual headquarters in Clearwater. In his speech, Wilcox strongly urged members of the controversial group, as well as those from other churches, to volunteer in public schools.

He said Thursday: "I went to speak to a political action group and 200 citizens of this community who have a professed and profound interest in kids."

His June 4 remarks have drawn sharp criticism, including an editorial in the St. Petersburg Times. Wilcox's remarks Thursday came when a district employee asked whether the public could expect to see Scientology principles used in Pinellas schools.

No, Wilcox said, adding that he was obligated to speak to all groups in his role as a public official.

He said he has met with many Pinellas groups, from service clubs to the NAACP to the National People's Democratic Uhuru Movement. He would draw the line at hate groups, he said.

He said of Scientology's beliefs: "I don't agree with any of it. I'm a Roman Catholic. And I practice my faith. And I see no space in my life for that type of thing. But I don't apologize for speaking to a group. I don't apologize for speaking to the Democratic county committee, even though I'm not a Democrat."

Wilcox is a registered Republican.

[Last modified June 17, 2005, 00:34:18]

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