Church critics plan night vigil in memory of

[Tampa Tribune 2 March 1997]

3/30/97 -- 2:49 PM

03/02 Church critics plan night vigil in memory of By CHERYL WALDRIP of The Tampa Tribune

Published in The Tampa Tribune March 2, 1997

CLEARWATER - In her life, Lisa McPherson was a pretty blond woman who worked hard and adored dancing.

In death, she has become a symbol for critics of the Church of Scientology, some of whom will be in Clearwater on Saturday to hold a candlelight vigil in her honor.

Some 25 to 30 critics from around the country will gather at the courthouse downtown about 11 a.m. Saturday. They plan to protest peacefully during the late morning and early afternoon. Protest organizer Jeff Jacobsen said the night vigil will begin at 7.

They plan to march around the Fort Harrison Hotel, Scientology's world spiritual headquarters and the place where McPherson spent her final days. She arrived dead at a Pasco County hospital on Dec. 5, 1995. She was 36.

Jacobsen also organized an anti-Scientology protest last March. He said this year's theme will be: ``Stop Hurting People, Scientology.'' In a prepared statement about the protest, Jacobsen said protesters will ``focus on the church's policies that hurt both critics and members of the church.''

``These are the same people who have been in cahoots with the Clearwater police for a long time,'' Scientology spokesman Brian Anderson said in a prepared statement.

``They come here to support the Clearwater Police Department's campaign of bigotry and hatred against the church. It's the same thing the CWPD did in the early 1980s, bringing in a dog-and-pony show.''

Anderson said the protesters didn't care about McPherson.

``They just want to get their names in the newspaper and foment hatred in the community,'' he said. ``How low can they sink?''

He said many of the protesters have axes to grind against Scientology.

The Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's office determined that a blood clot brought on by severe dehydration and inactivity formed behind McPherson's knee. It moved to an artery between her heart and left lung and caused her death. Medical Examiner Joan Wood said bites on McPherson's bruised body were probably caused by cockroaches. Wood said McPherson was comatose for the last 24 to 48 hours of her life.

Scientology officials and attorneys say the medical examiner is lying about the facts and that police who are investigating McPherson's death have a long-standing vendetta against Scientology.

They say McPherson's death may have resulted from a fast-acting staph infection. Wood said McPherson's death was not caused by an infection. Scientology officials also say McPherson was conscious and talked w ith other Scientologists on the day she died, something Wood said is medically impossible.

Jacobsen also has created an Internet site called the Lisa McPherson Memorial page.

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