My name is Pat Harney and I am a Scientologist.

With the recent spate of media on the subject of Scientology, I thought it was time for me to give my perspective on my religion.

The media reports I have been reading about Scientology have been speculative at best and just plain insane at their worst. Some of the reports I find personally repulsive and some just make me laugh my head off because they are so out in left field they are outrageously funny!

As an example of what happens when people listen to media about Scientology, let me tell you about an experience I had on July 4th. Three other Scientology staff and myself had just gotten out of the car after parking in a Clearwater garage. We were coming back from a very nice party at the that we spent with about 80 friends, most of whom were not Scientologists. We ate together, danced together, watched the fireworks on the 10th floor terrace and just enjoyed each others’ company. It was so much fun!

Then, as we were walking through the garage, we passed a group of about seven people. I am sure they had just left the . I was smiling to myself, remembering the party when I overheard one of these people say: “Brainwashed cult.”

It was like the sting of a lash. I turned around and looked at this plain looking woman with the hate-filled face who had just uttered those words and I said, “Hey – stop that. Have a happy Independence Day!”

My co-worker was incensed. He went back to the group to talk to them and as he approached, the woman began shaking with fear, waving a cross in front of his face.

“Help me, help me,” she shouted at another passer-by. “It’s a Scientologist.”

My co-worker laughed and responded, “Bad luck lady, he is a Scientologist too.”

Who are we?

Scientologists come from all walks of life. Yes – there are well known ones and of course those are the ones that the media focuses on. And there are those who work for the Church like I do.

But the vast majority of Scientologists are just regular folks. Thousands of these regular folk live and work in the Tampa Bay area because they moved here to attend their advanced spiritual retreat in Clearwater and study this religious philosophy that was founded by L. Ron Hubbard.

When they are not attending services at the Church in Clearwater (called Flag) or at the Ybor Square Church in Tampa or any of the two missions in the Clearwater area, they are taking care of their children and families in their own homes, attending public or private schools, driving cabs, teaching school, working in their own businesses or any of the myriad things that regular folks do.

As for the Church itself – staff here in Clearwater take care of the parishioners who come to the area for advanced Scientology services – some 10,000 annually by our records.

In addition, we organize functions for the community. For example, in the past year, we hosted 15 events for non-profit and community groups at the Fort Harrison. As a result more than 3,700 people who were not Scientologists met and socialized with Scientologists in the Church’s historic downtown Clearwater building. About half of these people had never been in the Fort Harrison before and about 500 of them were either officials or heads of non-profit and community organizations.

Every single Tampa Bay area non-Scientologist who has come to these events has been positive about their experiences. We like them. They like us. No need to prosletyze. We just share in the fun.

The events included a couple of awards banquets, a brunch for the Christmas season, ballet presentations, a Fourth of July party, and a celebration for the Centennial of Pinellas County.

Several of the events were fundraisers for the community, raising close to $50,000 for non-profit and community groups such as Shriner’s Hospital for Children, The Children’s Home, , and The Martin Luther King Jr. Neighborhood Coalition.

In my next blogs, I will answer some common questions about the Scientology religion itself.