The Greater Clearwater Chamber of Commerce officially opposed the Church of Scientology Thursday, when its board of governors denounced the Scientologists presence and called for investigations by government agencies.
With only two members dissenting, the 20 board members at the meeting passed a resolution prepared by an executive subcommittee and presented by former president David Korones. The resolution states that chamber members "feel that the presence of the Church of Scientology is harmful to the overall image of our city, and that its past performances locally and nationally is cause for investigation by grand juries, Congress and other appropriate agencies."
The board said it approved the resolution because the Scientologists:
"Documents released by the federal court in Washington show that Scientologists are not law-abiding We believe they should not be welcome to remain here."
Despite their strong stand, board members urged residents to remain peaceful and to support governmental agencies rather than take a vigilante approach.
The resolution followed lengthy discussion by board members. Jim Gray of the Visitors Bureau and Don Lindsay of the Downtown Clearwater Association cast the two dissenting votes.
"We are four years or better too late in this action," Gray said. "It's counterproductive. Business downtown is suffering because of a climate of hate and hostility when in fact there is less crime downtown today than ever before."
He asserted that because Mike Wallace of "60 Minutes" had been in Clearwater, the city would receive "a black eye, a bloody nose and a tarnished image that will be a threat to downtown and to the tourist industry. If we could sit down with (Emperor) Hirohito after World War II, we should be able to sit down with the kids over there."
Dave Carly countered Gray's comments by saying the chamber was not too late in taking action.
"Nothing could be done until the facts were presented," Carly said. "Until the Washington documents, we didn't know what the issue was all about."
Milt Wolfe, director of public affairs for the Scientologists, received a copy of the resolution and responded:
"We are sorry to see that the chamber, rather than attempt to revolve the problems through dialog, has listened to a few who would rather keep the pots of turmoil brewing. The goals of these few appear to be to keep emotion high about events which occurred over four years ago and stir continued hatred.
"The only thing that is hurting the city of Clearwater currently is the actions of a few who continue to feed fuel to the fire.
"It is admirable that the chamber has called for the citizens of Clearwater to remain peaceful and not violate the individual rights of Scientologists who call this city their home."
Wolfe said the chamber's action would not affect Scientologists. "New Clearwater for the 80's" plans, and he predicted the cult would continue to seek a dialog with members of the community.