Monday, July 31, 2006

Scientologists Spreading Into Plant City, Beyond

Here are some excerpts from a recent article on the expansion of Scientology in the Tampa Bay area.

"Clearwater is Scientology's spiritual headquarters, but the Tampa church will lead its effort to build centers throughout Florida.

"The Church of Scientology has spent hundreds of millions of dollars buying and renovating buildings in past years, including tens of millions of dollars in Clearwater since it came to the area in 1975.

"Over the next year, the church plans to buy buildings and open similar Life Improvement Centers in Lakeland, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Gainesville, Cocoa Beach and Jacksonville.

"'There's an explosion of interest in Scientology,' said Pat Harney, a Scientology spokeswoman. 'We are only going where the interest is.'"

"Harney, the church spokeswoman, said Scientologists have largely received a warm welcome from many in the Plant City area, including some church leaders. She said her organization has offered to join with other churches in charitable work.

"Harney also contends that a Scientologist can be a Christian, too. Scientology merely provides the tools to improve spiritual exploration, she said.

'"We are not trying to change your faith,' she said. 'We are trying to improve your spiritual awareness.'"

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