In August, the Church of Scientology set some very important dates on its calendar. The church told the City of Clearwater that it would be holding a grand opening for its Super Power Building on October 6, and its annual IAS gala in a large tent near the Super Power Building on the weekend of November 8-9.
Scientology claimed that 10,000 people would show up for the Super Power event, implying that it would require permits for plenty of street and sidewalk closures, perhaps for Fort Harrison Avenue that separates the new building from the Fort Harrison Hotel itself. But as a deadline for such a permit application neared, the church stunned everyone by putting off its Super Power opening indefinitely.
Now we’ve learned from the city of Clearwater that Scientology also has no permit for the November IAS event — and it’s too late to ask for one. That’s odd, because we’re hearing rumors that Scientology still intends to hold its big lineup of huge openings soon — a new product rollout (Golden Age of Tech II), a new building (Super Power), its annual IAS gala, and then its big annual New Year’s Eve party.
But what will those events look like if the church is giving up on seeking city permits for them? We consider the possibilities.
We spoke yesterday with Christopher Hubbard, Clearwater’s Cultural Affairs Specialist and a man with a very ironic last name. He told us that the church has not asked for a new date on its Super Power Building grand opening, and in fact has no permits requested for upcoming events. We then asked him how much notice the church has to give to get a city permit, and he said 30 days.
But, we pointed out, the church had notified the city that it planned to hold its IAS event on November 8-9. That’s true, Hubbard said, but the church has not applied for a permit for it — and now, it’s too late to request one.
Clearly, the church is planning to hold an event of some sort in the big tents it has put up near the empty Super Power Building. Would it be possible to hold a big event there without a city permit?
Sure, Hubbard said. As long as Scientology plans on using its own private property, and is not asking the city for street or sidewalk closures, then it can hold an event without a city permit.
And in the case of the IAS gala, that might not present much of a problem. The big tent that was brought over from England, where the IAS event is usually held, holds around 2,000 people. Even in its current depleted state, the church shouldn’t have a problem filling it.
But what about the Super Power Building opening? Even if the church doesn’t fly in 10,000 people, what will the opening look like without a massive crowd filling Fort Harrison Avenue between the building and the Fort Harrison Hotel?
Mike Rinder, who has been reporting on the panicky communications coming out of the church in Clearwater, imagines that Scientology leader David Miscavige will have to scale things back to an underwhelming size if he can’t shut down streets and sidewalks and keep the non-Scientology public away from the event.
“He’ll have to cut a ribbon on the air bridge from the hotel to the Super Power Building. They’ll walk across and hold their celebration entirely indoors,” he predicts.
We tend to think Rinder’s correct. And after 15 years of construction and delays — including a city fine of $413,500 — and endless fundraising and more delays, the Super Power Building will open with a whimper, not a bang.
If you have any information about when one of these events is about to happen, please let us know!
At his blog, Rinder has been publishing fascinating e-mails coming from inside the Clearwater complex that show Scientology leader David Miscavige is working hard to keep church members in a perpetual state of anticipation. Rinder reminded us that Scientology’s “orgs” around the world have sent representatives to Clearwater to train for the release of the Golden Age of Tech II, and can’t leave until it’s released. “Some of these people have been there since June, and they can’t go home yet. They can’t do their non-Scientology jobs, they have to keep paying their expenses. They’re going broke,” he says.
Scientologists have been told to be prepared to come to Clearwater for the big events, but those messages never come with dates. How many people could get to town if the big GAT II release or Super Power comes up in just a week or two?
With no city permits and no dates sent out to members, we can’t help thinking that these events will come up suddenly, will be kept as much under wraps as possible, and will be poorly attended. But these landmarks — the release of new technical procedures, the opening of a giant new building, the return of the IAS to US soil — these are events that should be major highlights of the decade, not small shindigs held behind closed doors.
We asked Rinder if he thought part of the strange way Miscavige is keeping these events under wraps has anything to do with how the Portland Ideal Org event unfolded in May. At that event, filmmaker Mark Bunker clearly agitated Miscavige and his minions as he tried to film the proceedings, and Scientology’s exaggerations about the crowd were met by loud derision by critics.
But Rinder says he thinks the current chaos may have more to do with the distractions provided by lawsuits in Texas (Rathbun v. Scientology), Florida (Garcias v. Scientology), California (DeCrescenzo v. Scientology) and elsewhere that have been going badly for the church. Monique Rathbun’s lawsuit in Texas, where Miscavige is a defendant and may have to be deposed, would be a huge distraction for Miscavige, Rinder says, and the church’s events may be less of a priority for him.
Some of our readers have been providing great photos of the Clearwater tents as they’ve gone up and are now getting air conditioning units. Clearly, something is imminent, and Scientology apparently plans to go ahead with its big parties, even if it can’t keep non-Scientologists away by blocking streets and sidewalks.
Let the parties begin!
Posted by Tony Ortega on October 22, 2013 at 07:00
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