Four decades ago, the Church of Scientology began planning to take over the city of Clearwater, Florida by infiltrating local government and other influential non-government entities in the city. Now it appears that the Church’s plan has come to fruition. With control over more than a quarter billion dollars of real estate in the downtown area, Scientology has the largest influence on city officials in regards to development. Scientology’s presence has for decades casted a shadow over Clearwater, and has led to the city being known for its geographic concentration of Scientology rather than its miles of pristine beaches. This article is intended to summarize the sordid history of the relationship between the city of Clearwater and the Church of Scientology.

The rise of Scientology in the mid-20th century

The birth of Scientology began with the publication of Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health by L. Ron Hubbard in 1950. In the book, Hubbard developed a system of psychotherapy that defined aspects of the human mind, interwoven with Eastern philosophy. The best-selling book was well received by readers, but scientists and medical professionals dismissed the claims as pseudoscience due to lack of empirical evidence and baseless departures from well-established psychology literature.

Nonetheless, the practice of Dianetics…