Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) is no friend of the Church of Scientology.
Scientology, the religious organisation founded by L. Ron Hubbard, has found itself in the spotlight after the recent release of an HBO documentary “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.” The film exposed stories of former members who alleged they were exploited and intimidated into submission by church leaders.
The church has its headquarters in Florida. When he governed the state, Bush, a likely 2016 presidential candidate, had a few run-ins with the group.
Bush, who is a Catholic convert, once referred to the organisation as “some weird little group” back in 2006, when he spoke at a Florida Family Policy Council event and contrasted Scientologists with people from other faiths.
“People who act on their faith are a large number of people in our state,” he told the conservative crowd at the event.
Then he directed his comments to sceptics in the press, “Sometimes I think you guys write about them like they’re mutants out there, like they’re some weird little group, like they’re Scientologists or something.”
Bush later apologised for causing offence.
Scientology has a stronghold in the Sunshine State since Clearwater, Florida serves as its worldwide spiritual headquarters.
The group is the largest property owner in downtown Clearwater with properties that include a massive 380,000 square feet Scientology retreat center, known as the Flag Base, along with the Fort Harrison Hotel and Oak Cove high-rise.
During Bush’s administration as governor, the organisation tried to make inroads but the Republican governor fought off church efforts to seek favour from the state.
In May 2005, Bush vetoed a request for $US500,000 in state funds to subsidise a prison rehabilitation program based on the teachings of Hubbard, Scientology’s founder.
He also vetoed Florida House Bill 209, referred to as the “Scientology bill,” that attempted to limit student access to mental health treatment.
The bill had the support of Scientology superstars Kirstie Alley and Kelly Preston, who lobbied and testified before the House Education Council in Tallahassee on the dangers of psychiatric treatment for children.
Alley was actually so wrought with emotion during her testimony, her words were barely audible as she choked back tears.
Despite the dramatic performance, Bush vetoed the measure since it would put “the school between the parent and the medical professional.”
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