Group rallies against Scientology

02/11/08 Arielle Stevenson
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The group Anonymous, an organization publicly against the Church of Scientology, protested on Sunday outside the church’s Clearwater headquarters.

The rally was one of several organized by the group against Scientology around the country and the world on Sunday. In downtown Clearwater, outside of the Church of Scientology's spiritual headquarters, more than 200 members of Anonymous marched in three groups along Fort Harrison Avenue.

Most of those participating in the march wore bandanas, heavy makeup, fake beards and large sunglasses to protect their identity and none would give their names. Many of those in the group wish to stay anonymous for fear they may be identified and harassed by the Church. Members of the Church were seen photographing both protestors and reporters during the march, as well as photographing their license plates.

Pat Harney, a spokesperson for the Church of Scientology, spoke with WMNF earlier today. She says that taping and photographing of license plates and those in attendance was done to protect the Church.

Anonymous has shut down numerous Scientology group websites and released a series of videos on the Internet about the Church and in response to what the church has said about their group. They chose Sunday as the day of protest because it was the birthday of Lisa McPhearson, who died 13 years ago under the care of church staffers in Clearwater.

One protester said this day was important in honoring the memory of Lisa McPhearson.

But Scientology spokesman Pat Harney says that the issue of Lisa Mcphearson’s death has already been dealt with and those at the protest don’t know the logistics of what really happened.

WMNF spoke with a young girl who was a former member of the Church of Scientology. She was raised in Scientology and after her father died when she was 16, guardianship was awarded to the Church. She spoke about her experience both while a part of the Church and her struggle to escape.

Anonymous members at Sunday’s protest say one of their biggest issues with the Church of Scientology is their tax-exempt status when they sell for-profit programs. Harney says Anonymous is using modern day tools to harass and denegrate people and that the Church will not stand for that.

Protests took place in 27 locations around the world, and the group has another protest planned for March 15, two days after the birthday of the Church’s founder L. Ron Hubbard.

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