City Wants To Join Supreme Court Case

Source: St. Petersburg Times
Date: December 30, 1987

Attorneys representing Clearwater in its legal battle against the Church of Scientology have asked permission to file a brief in a similar case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In that case, an organization called Abortion Right Mobilization Inc. wants the tax-exempt status of the U.S. Catholic Conference withdrawn because of the church's political stance on abortion.

The organization attempted to get financial information from the conference. When the conference refused to supply it, the case wound up in the courts. The trial court and the appeals court found that the Catholic Conference had to turn over the information, but the church group has appealed to the Supreme Court.

Clearwater is interested in the outcome of the case because it is now defending its 1983 charitable solicitations ordinance in court. The ordinance requires financial disclosure by any religious or charitable organization that solicits funds in Clearwater, including the Church of Scientology, which has an international headquarters here.

The Scientologists and several other religious groups filed lawsuits challenging the ordinance on constitutional grounds.

Some of those same groups have filed a brief in support of the U.S. Catholic Conference in the Supreme Court case. The city wants to file a brief with the high court in support of the argument that in some instances, documents may be validly requested from religious organizations.

Attorneys Alan Zimmet and Lawrence Velvel, who represent the city on the charitable solicitations case, said they also want to ``bring to the court's attention ordinances like the city of Clearwater's that have been passed to prevent crime committed in the name of religion.``

If the Catholic Conference were successful in arguing that it cannot be ordered to turn over documents, Clearwater's charitable solicitations ordinance probably would be destroyed, Velvel and Zimmet said.

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