Clearwater Sun

Curtain of secrecy descends on sect

by Alan Gutwein-Gunther

November 4, 1979

CLEARWATER - The lid clamped down hard Saturday at Scientology's headquarters, as church officials chased a reporter through the streets and ordered other church members not to talk to the press.

The church had publicized an afternoon open house, but visitors found themselves quickly escorted into a closed room if they tried to wander anywhere in the building.

Nancy Reitze, publicity director for the church, wouldn't answer any questions.

No, she said, a reporter could not roam the building and talk to anyone about what it was like to be a Scientologist. The reporter replied he'd just have to stand on public property and catch people as they were passing by.

Frustrated, the reporter turned the corner outside the building. He gave directions to a passing motorist. the coast looked clear. A young woman with books in her arms was approaching, and she was asked whether she had been reading the newspapers lately.

"No! Not here, you don't!" Ms. Reitze yelled as she rounded the corner.

The young woman walked away.

The reporter pretended he was returning to his car. He looked over his shoulder and dashed three blocks behind some buildings to emerge breathless by a wall of shrubbery that shielded him from view of the headquarters.

"Excuse me, sir," he started, but again, he was interrupted by a breathless Ms. Reitze.

"Look, love, you've got to make a living, sure. But not at the expense of the church," she said. She was asked what the harm would be in simply allowing people to speak for themselves.

"Later. Not now. Not today," Ms. Reitze replied. "Right now this is a national issue, and I'm responsible for the church's comment."