Scientologists, Florida city at odds - 1999-02-01
Officials would like to embrace the church as a key mover in the revitalization of downtown. Pinellas County officials were looking on when the church broke ground Nov. 21 for its $45 million "Super Power Project," a 300,000-square-foot "Mecca" for Scientologists that will be the third-largest building in town.
But just a week earlier, the state attorney had filed charges accusing the church of complicity in the 1995 death of believer Lisa McPherson, 36. She was pronounced dead on arrival at a New Port Richey, Fla., hospital after being kept in isolation at the Scientologists' Fort Harrison Hotel 45 minutes away in Clearwater.
The coming trial promises to be a low point in the long history of acrimony over the religion's presence here. And it will raise uncomfortable questions about the way the church deals with its own affairs and those of the surrounding community.