The St. Petersburg Times provided the Church of Scientology with 33 pages of detailed statements from former members, along with questions and followup questions. Church spokeswoman Karin Pouw provided 144 pages of response. Below are excerpts:
The church is very proud of what we are accomplishing with parishioner donations: opening new Scientology churches in major cities throughout the world and disseminating the Scientology scripture at a rate never considered possible in years past, in large part because the church has worked tirelessly to substantially reduce the cost of religious materials to parishioners by establishing state-of-the-art publication and dissemination facilities. The point is that the church is now able to make broadly available all of our founder's writings and lectures, for the first time in our history, for parishioners in all countries.
You said you wanted to provide "context," but your letter shows you are doing a story that is entirely out of context. During your years of reporting on the church, you have been presented with voluminous information regarding what the Church of Scientology does with the donations it receives — whether our social or humanitarian programs, the construction of our new Ideal Churches of Scientology or the cathedral nearly ready to open its doors for our parishioners in Clearwater.
What leaps out from your letter are the questions you do not ask because they do not serve your uniformly negative agenda when it comes to the church.
If the St. Petersburg Times were truly interested in pursuing a balanced story, you would have included questions designed to elicit the truth:
Is it true that some Scientologists believe their religion, its services and its humanitarian programs are so important to the world at large that they donate large sums so that anyone, no matter how unfortunate their circumstances, may benefit?
The answer is yes.
Is it true that some people have been Scientologists for decades, if not half a century, and their cumulative donations are substantial?
The answer is yes.
Is it true that Scientology parishioners donate to their local church building funds so that they may create Ideal Churches, capable of providing services and programs to help the entire community of which they are a part?
The answer is yes.
There is no question the church receives sizable donations from its parishioners. The church is fortunate that its parishioners are productive members of society who give generously to their chosen religion. The Times has no business intruding on the personal choice of Scientology parishioners to support their religion. Were the allegations you recite true, the church could not successfully raise the funds it does to carry out its religious mission, numbers which in reality are far in excess of the amounts your disaffected sources claim.
All donations are accounted for in strict accordance with church policy and government guidelines. We take care to maintain rigid accounting methods and should any irregularity be discovered, it is corrected immediately. The church's finances are audited annually by an outside accounting firm, although not required of churches, and church financial statements have uniformly received unqualified opinions.
While the Times has sought out a handful of disaffected apostates to paint a false picture regarding Church fundraising practices, the Church has received thousands of letters, unsolicited statements and other written comments from parishioners in just the last few years expressing their excitement and enthusiasm in donating funds to support their Church's worldwide mission.
You, Tom Tobin and Joe Childs, are like the blind men in the fable who each feels a different part of an elephant, then describe it to their King in a way so distorted it is divorced from reality. The blind men did so due to their physical impediment; the Times reporters do so due to their blind bias against the Scientology religion.