Gabe Cazares got an award a few days ago. He deserved it, and the very fact that it was given to him is a needed reminder of something that Clearwater and the world had better not forget.
It is this: Cults are alive and well. They are out there waiting for our children and anyone else who lacks a belief system or a sense of direction in life.
On October 25th, in Dallas, the Leo J. Ryan Commemorative Award was bestowed on Cazares by the Cult Awareness Network. It is given to a person who has made significant contributions toward informing the general public about the nature of destructive mind-control cults. The award is named for the congressman who in 1979 was murdered in Guyana by henchmen of cult leader Jim Jones.
Cazares was mayor of Clearwater 10 years ago when the Church of Scientology came to Clearwater and pretended to be something called the United Churches of Florida. The sect was quickly unmasked and Cazares began to raise alarms about this Scientology deception and its other deceptions as well. Cazares paid dearly for his opposition, as the Scientologists set out to harass and smear Gabe and his wife, as well as anyone else who publicly criticized the sect.
The Scientologists in Clearwater are better behaved in public these days. Cazares, who later became a Pinellas County Commissioner, is no longer in the spotlight. Today's news items about cults tend to focus on the buffoonery of Baghwan Rajneesh out there in Oregon, counting his Rolls Royces and inveighing against former assistants who allegedly done him wrong.
This relative quiet on the brainwashing front is deceptive. With or without sustained publicity, cults are not a laughing matter. As long as there are pliable minds to be bent, cults will remain with us. Gabe Cazares has not forgotten that, and neither should the rest of us.