Scientology's massive tent creates big flap in Clearwater - FOX 13 News

Scientology's massive tent creates big flap in Clearwater

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CLEARWATER (FOX 13) -

The view from SkyFOX shows a giant tarp over a massive tent put up by the Church of Scientology.

Church officials call it a religious symbol.

City officials say no -- it's a sign, and it's illegal.

Down on the ground, the display is no less impressive.

Thursday, the lawyers for the city and the church have a meeting, and depending on how that goes, the church may be issued a citation for violating city sign ordinances.

That could mean $250 per day fines, but the church has simply written checks for similar behaviors before.

The tent is emblazoned with the letter "KSW." We are told they stand for "Keep Scientology Working." The initials are the centerpiece of a tarp that now drapes over the very large tent.

The tent is 400 feet long and 265 feet wide.

And the City of Clearwater thinks whatever it measures, the message on top is out of bounds.

"It's very specific sign limitation based on the size of the building. This well exceeds anything we would permit," said city spokesperson Joelle Castelli.

The tent itself also has a special temporary building permit, so any signage is forbidden until two days before the special event.

That event would be the still-unscheduled dedication of the Church of Scientology's Flag Building. A few years ago, the church racked up more than $400,000 in fines for failing to complete that building in time.

It paid that bill, and another $2,000 fine for chopping down two trees that were in the way of the tent.

"I don't want anybody in the City of Clearwater to think that just because they can pay the fine, it's okay to violate our city ordinances," said Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos.

The mayor is unhappy, and promoting pressure from within the church.

"I don't want my church to act this way, I would be embarrassed and I would hope that those who are members of the Church of Scientology would also speak out. It is just not right," he said.

Calls and an e-mail to the Church of Scientology went unanswered today.

We saw a lot of activity in and around the tent, but no indication the tarp is coming down.

Perhaps the Church will have something to say after Thursday's attorneys meeting.

As for the dedication event, Mayor Cretekos welcomes that. As many as 10,000 Scientologists may come to town for that, which is always good news in a tourism-centered town.

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