Church of Scientology Has Two Live Oaks Chopped Down Illegally Despite City’s Crystal-Clear Orders

The Church of Scientology has big plans involving its spiffy headquarters in Clearwater, Florida.

The massive seven-story structure that occupies an entire city block is scheduled to officially open in October with a dedication ceremony at which about 10,000 people are expected to be present. A month later, it will be the site of an international gathering of Scientologists that is scheduled to draw some 8,000 Xenu believers.

To accommodate the visitors, a huge tent will have to be erected — which was bad news for two fine oaks that stood in the Church’s way, close to the $80,000,000 edifice. Church authorities decided to cut down the trees, despite being under orders from the city to preserve them.

The removal of the approximately 20-foot-tall trees caught city officials and even the church’s own contracted arborist by surprise on Monday.

“I was working on relocating those trees,” said Rick Albee, a retired Clearwater arborist who now owns his own consulting company, Urban Forestry Solutions. “I didn’t recommend it.”

Neither did the city. In an Aug. 21 meeting, city planners explicitly stated that a “natural resource plan must be in place that ensures the survival of any trees impacted by this project.”

The Church didn’t care, brought out the chainsaws, and paid the city’s $2,000 fine without batting an eyelash.

The killing of the oaks is nothing if not forward-looking.

[City manager Bill] Horne said he has seen renderings of a church plan to build a concert hall on the vacant site, although no plans have been submitted. Perhaps that figured into the church’s decision, he said.

According to Wikipedia,

The Flag Building, also referred to as the Super Power Building, is the largest building in Clearwater, Florida. It is owned by the Church of Scientology and was built principally to deliver the Super Power Rundown, a high-level Scientology training course intended to train Scientologists to use all of their 57 “perceptics” or senses. The interior of the building contains training suites, course rooms, theaters and various devices intended to test “perceptics”, including a time machine, an anti-gravity simulator, an infinite pit and a pain station.

If only the time machine could be used to bring back the oaks that the Church of Scientology stole from the people of Clearwater.

(photo via

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

  • EvolutionKills

    Nothing says arrogance and blatant disregard for authority quite like that.

    Way to go Scientology, that’s two more reasons to despise your stupid cult.

  • Timmah

    The Oak trees were infested by Thetans and clearly had it coming.

  • Gus

    Wait, Scientology has a time machine? That seems like pretty big news and if it worked would be better evidence for the utility of their religion than most others have ever offered. Let’s see what this machine can do! And an indoor anti-gravity simulator? Does that mean a swimming pool?

    And an infinite pit? What’s that mean? is it just a hole that goes all the way through the earth, or a portal that operates in extra-dimensional space? Also a really good piece of evidence if shown to the world, though I’m not sure how useful it would be. Maybe it could be used as a nuclear waste repository or a carbon sink?

    The existence and presence of a pain station in a Scientology church does not in any way surprise me.

  • Gus

    “These oak trees are where we want to build our next addition, can we cut them down?”

    “No, afraid not, unless you file a natural resources plan to ensure their survival. It’s illegal and there’s a $2,000 fine.”

    Did you say $2,000 dollars?”

    “Yes. $2,000.”

    Hello, Ray’s chainsaw rental?”

    We can plainly see the morality of Scientology, and the toothlessness of environmental laws in Florida. Housing developers do the same think all the time. There was one in South Florida that cut down an entire mangrove grove just to improve the water view form their new condos.

  • Bitter Lizard

    The “infinite pit” is what interests me. Sounds like a great way to dispose of the evidence of Scientologists.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    Wait, Scientology has a time machine?

    You say time machine, I say Tivo.

  • Gus

    I guess now we know where all Tom Cruise’s money has been going. The renderings are interesting:

  • aaa
  • Baby_Raptor

    Not surprised. Religionists often think they’re above the law.

  • Erik Wiseman

    I completely agree. I…honestly have a hard time blaming the Scientologists – let’s see, we can spend $30k+ to move these trees OR we can cut them down for a few hundred and pay a $2000 fine…decisions, decisions.

    I’m shocked that someone cut down a mangrove grove and wasn’t legally eviscerated, though. Florida lawmakers seem to give this stuff a wink and a nod.

  • Tom

    Forget the piffling fine; it’s the total disregard for any authority but their own that’s most disquieting about the scientologists here.

  • The Other Weirdo

    I am more fascinated by the “pain station”. Are we witnessing the birth of the Gom Jabbar and the rise of the Bene Gesserit?

  • grindstone

    If it’s the one I’m thinking of, it was at the Ocean Reef Club. So, money, influence, etc. The way the developers pronounce “fine”, it sounds just like “the cost of doing business”.

  • baal

    I could see them aspiring to be the Bene Gesserit. I’m more than a little a feared that they’ll start trying to engineer sand worms.

  • bickle2

    So raid it, arrest them all.

    It’s not hard. Their crimes are clear. If you have the balls that is. Which in the Scientology Vatican ain’t likely

  • Spuddie

    “As part of the roommate agreement the if one roommate invents time travel, their first stop will be after the reading of this clause in 5…4…3..2..1

    I am disappointed yet again. “

  • Bitter Lizard
  • Michael W Busch

    Cut out the homophobic slurs.

  • Randay

    All religions are scams to rob people of their money, but Scientology is not a religion, it is an openly criminal mafia organization that should have been shut down years ago under RICO laws. Why hasn’t law enforcement been looking into the disappearance of Scientology’s Chief Guru, Capo David Miscavige’s wife, Shelly, for six years. Suddenly she appears.

    A spokesman for the LAPD told
    MailOnline that detectives had met with Mrs Miscavige and therefore the
    investigation into her whereabouts had ceased and that as far as they
    are concerned she was never missing.

    Gus Villanueva said that the LAPD had acted on a missing person’s
    report filed on Shelly Miscavige and that as of around 3 p.m. (PT) ‘the
    investigation is completed and classified as unfounded’.

    Church if Scientology has always vehemently denied that Shelly
    Miscavige is missing but it is not known whether detectives traveled to
    see Mrs Miscavige or if she came to see them to end the speculation
    about her whereabouts.

    Six-year missing person and the effing LAPD doesn’t even care. No questions if she was brainwashed(a sure thing with Scientology) and not question of if she was being held against her will.

  • Tim

    they are installing a pain station. Who knew they were in league with Amtrak

  • Holytape

    But now the local ash tree will be infested with the wandering souls of the oaks, causing them to become manic depressive and to jump up and down on Oprah’s couch.

  • The Other Weirdo

    How do you know the person who posted that picture isn’t British?

  • The Other Weirdo

    Ooookkkkaaayyyy. That blueprints look almost exactly like my copy of the Star Trek TNG: Technical Reference Manual. Oops, did I just admit that out loud?

    And that’s not even their final form…

  • Michael W Busch

    That is remarkably irrelevant.

  • milwaukeeprogressiveexaminer

    Be careful, even posting this article might get you sued by them.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Not at all. As far as I know, the word ‘gay’ is not used in British English as a euphemism for ‘homosexual’.

  • Gus

    You think they’re saying Scientology is happy, very happy?

    Using “gay” along with pictures of famous scientologists who are speculated to be gay makes it pretty clear what they’re getting at.

  • Michael W Busch

    Off-hand and with my limited direct experience of current vernacular British English, I can think of several such cases of that usage and also a couple of cases where people in British-English media have been rightly called on using “gay” as an insult. e.g. .

    And I’ve also just looked up the OED’s current entry for the word. Both the sense of sexual orientation and the sense of a generalized pejorative are listed. British English, like most other current English dialects, still has a problem with encoded homophobia.

    Also: “gay” is a synonym for “homosexual”, not a euphemism (although it may have once been one).

  • The Other Weirdo

    I am not thinking anything. And for all I know, many Scientologists really are happy, very happy. As are many other religious people, even if the source of their happiness is false. Also, I don’t pay attention to speculation about people’s sexual orientation.

  • WallofSleep

    Some days I think there is still hope for a sane humanity, then I’m reminded of the Co$ and come back to reality.

  • Michael W Busch

    What you are doing is making up excuses for people using homophobic slurs. Don’t do that.

  • WallofSleep

    Engrams are the mind killer.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    People don’t get arrested for violations of civil law. Unless they’re poor or a minority, of course, neither of which is much in evidence among Scientologists.

  • Paul Reed

    You say time machine, I say clock.

  • The Other Weirdo

    So is “gay” a “homophobic slur” or a synonym for “homosexual”? I’m confused.

  • Michael W Busch

    It’s used both ways. The first usage is a bigoted slur and is therefore wrong. Don’t defend people who use it.

  • bickle2

    Fraud, kidnapping, theft by deception, embezzlement, stalking, terroristic threats,the list is very very very long. All of which are justified for a raid twenty/thirty years ago

  • Mario Strada

    Clearly a $2k fine for this is way too low. Moving trees is far more expensive and it is an invitation to breaking the law. Make the fine $20k and I think they would have thought twice. Make it $200K and jail time and I assure you, those trees would still be there. Arrogant bastards.
    May Xenu nuke their ass twice a day.

  • Bdole

    Thetans love oaks. They had to go.

  • b s

    “And an infinite pit? What’s that mean?”

    I’m hoping mosh pit.

  • Gus

    That’s the one I was thinking of.

  • allein

    Pit of Despair?

  • Spuddie
  • busterggi

    Xenu is above mere human laws just as Galactus and Thanos are.

  • busterggi

    Bog of Eternal Stench?

  • Spuddie

    I hope you are referring to Labyrinth and not this:

  • Gus

    If that’s true, then maybe don’t try to defend things you know nothing about.

  • the moother

    In other news, the Church of Xenu’s followers are retiring so they have been forced to set up base in Florida. In yet other news, their followers will all be dead soon and that fine building will be turned into a brothel before the century is out.

  • Rationalist

    Offensive as hell

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    Wait, which specific people at this Scientology branch have evidence against them for these crimes?

  • McFidget

    I’m British and can confirm that you are talking bollocks. It has the exact same common usage as in the US.

  • bickle2

    Pretty much all of them. RICO laws are great

  • randomfactor

    Time machine: In 48 hours they can take you TWO DAYS INTO THE FUTURE!

  • Beadknitter

    Pain stations? TIME machine??? *face palm*

  • Exatron

    It depends on this thing called context. Saying, “Elton John is gay,” is fine because it’s stating a fact. Saying something like , “Pokemon is gay,” isn’t because you’re using the word as a synonym for bad or undesirable.

  • pagansister

    I had no “respect” for that group that claims to be a religion, now I have even less! Ballsy bastards!

  • Kimberly Lazarski

    Meh. I have no fondness for scientology and how it exploits people, but if they owned the property, it’s their right to cut down the trees. In their place I’d ignore the city’s orders as well. Property rights trump what others desire for the land – if others wanted to preserve it so badly, perhaps they ought to have purchased the property. Why should others’ desires trump property rights?

  • Robster

    Those scientologists just can’t help it with their extremely silly but slightly amusing names for their expensive nonsense. They must have a committee to make up impressive but futile names for non-existant things. “Perceptics”, why not just call them senses for f* sake? Need a laugh? Read anything about scientolgy. How dare they use and ruin the word “science”.

  • Crud O’Matic

    Clearwater, FL is turning out to be Scientology’s “Vatican City” – complete with cops and politicians being on their payroll. How long will it be before the church decides to evict everyone who isn’t a Scilon?

    Hey, U.S. government, can we shut this cult down now? No? It wasn’t enough that they infiltrated the government and destroyed evidence against them in a federal case? Remember Operation Snow White?

    Hello, U.S. Government!

  • Nancy Shrew

    The shirt clearly means “gay” in a negative way, come on. Even if Cruise and Travolta were gay, that still has nothing to do with Scientology and why it’s shit.

  • J.R. Robbins

    I wonder what that building will be used for when this farce religion eventually falls.

  • J.R. Robbins

    Gay is not a slur.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    I thought of RICO, but one doesn’t hear much of crime-committing Scientologists in Florida for other Scientologists to be associated with.

    Not to mention, try treating a religion with the money to hire lawyers like it was this thing of ours. That could end up forcing the ACLU to send amicus briefs on behalf of Scientologists before it was all over.

  • Michael W Busch

    Whenever it is used as an insult or pejorative, as on the shirt, that is a homophobic slur. Do not attempt to defend homophobia.

  • 3lemenope

    I’m no fan of homophobia, but not for nothing: Whenever some random person tries to give me emphatic orders (in italic, no less) not to do something, it gives me a strong urge to try to do that very thing.

  • Michael W Busch

    Your tone-trolling is noted.

  • Michael W Busch

    Most Scientologists, like most people in general, are sane by all current metrics (which are primarily legal, since psychology and psychiatry don’t use the terms “sane” and “insane” anymore – they’re not particularly meaningful in those contexts).

    “Believing outrageously wrong things” or “giving money to an exploitative organization” (for much of the membership) or “being an authoritarian social dominator” (for a certain fraction of the leadership) are not by themselves tied to sanity or the lack thereof.

  • 3lemenope

    That’s pretty fucking rich, coming from you.

  • Gus

    The Clearwater headquarters was likely responsible for at least one death that led to indictments, but there were problems with the prosecution side that the Scientology legal team was able to exploit to get the charges dropped.

    There are three very big problems with attempts to prosecute Scientology:
    1.) The kinds of crimes they are guilty of are very hard to collect evidence of, especially when there’s an organization as powerfully secretive as Scientology involved.
    2.) Scientology has a lot of money for very good lawyers, so any case against them really has to be a slam dunk to get by.
    3.) Government tends to shy away from undercover investigations of religions as well as from prosecutions due to the strong belief in freedom of religion in the United States (which is stronger when one is talking about an active belief rather than freedom from religion, which Americans are a good bit more wishy washy about).

    In short, Scientology isn’t likely to face a real legal threat in the U.S. unless they really screw up, or someone high up with solid evidence of crimes turns on them, both of which are unlikely.

  • 3lemenope

    Property rights are entirely a creature of the state, rights which in turn are only enforceable through the agency of the state (either directly, through the adjudication of law, or delegated through allowances for self-defense and defense-of-property).

    If I bought an acre of land in the middle of town and decided that I wanted to build an fifty meter obelisk decorated with a frieze of scenes from the Kama Sutra, do my property rights allow me to do this? Ought they?

  • bickle2

    Scientology, like the Mormons, has an extensive public and well documented history of the fraud under which they were founded. The ACLU won’t be able to do much

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    Oh for sure, but that doesn’t negate its First Amendment standing as a religion.

    Maybe the Mafia should have thought of this idea…

  • bickle2

    It’s relatively easy to make the case that Scientology threatened and bribed their way into being declared a religion. It’s no cool incidents that they were happy backers of Ronald Reagan, and the IRS backed off shortly after his election. Combined that with their KGB like security force, and the case can easily be made that they’re very declaration is a religion was in of itself Mired in criminal activity

  • Michael W Busch

    Calling people on bigoted slurs is not tone trolling.

    Saying “the way you call people on bigoted slurs makes them more likely to use bigoted slurs” while ignoring the bigoted slurs that are the problem in the first place is tone trolling.

    It’s also untrue. Based on the data available to me, there are always a certain number of people who try to defend bigoted speech – regardless of how I called the original bigot on it. It should not be necessary to explain Social Ethics 101 every time someone says something bigoted, so I go for brevity and giving no sanction.

  • JSC_ltd

    It’s full of Klingon pain sticks.

  • 3lemenope

    Calling people on bigoted slurs is not tone trolling.

    But you had already done that, like, ten comments up. You can tell, because that comment was well-received. Barking repetitive orders and placing them in italics yields diminishing returns, especially when you’re being kind of a scold in the first place.

    Saying “the way you call people on bigoted slurs makes them more likely to use bigoted slurs”

    Yeah, that’s not what I said. What I said was, roughly, the way you call people on bigoted slurs makes me more likely to use them just to spite you. When you start barking out orders like you run the place, and I don’t recognize your authority, it will not end with your attempt to give orders respected.

    You are not Hemant, who being as it is his blog could bark all the orders he wished, to which people could either obey or go elsewhere. You are, rather, a self-appointed (and self-important) hall monitor, practically the Platonic Form of tone trolls. I’ll run to the bathroom if I wish, and kindly go fuck yourself. Or, to use your style, “Do not attempt to police language in a forum not your own.

  • JSC_ltd

    Property rights are not absolute. Zoning laws are a good example: a person cannot legally build an amusement park in an area zoned for residential use, even on that person’s property. I don’t have time to check, but it’s likely that the law protecting the trees is similar to zoning laws.

  • Kimberly Lazarski

    I think you should be able to, unless it infringes upon the rights of others (such as interfering with established air traffic patterns for example). People do not have the right to not be offended. They do have the right to an extend an offer to purchase that property from you to prevent it from being built.

  • John Quixote

    I’d argue that the toothless fine is precisely what’s disquieting here. The fact that the Church of Scientology can pay it so painlessly merely puts them in the same boat as oil companies and Wall Street banks.

  • 3lemenope

    Now I don’t know the first thing about building an obelisk, but I figure building something fifty meters tall is just like building something five meters tall ten times and then stacking them, so it can’t be that hard. One fellow said I should build it with a deep foundation so it doesn’t blow over, but I laughed at that guy. Does he know how heavy fifty meters worth of sandstone is?!

    Still OK with me building in the center of town?

    They do have the right to an extend an offer to purchase that property from you to prevent it from being built.

    But I don’t want money. I want an obelisk!