Church of Scientology Exonerated.

Issue: June 14, 2000

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla., June 14 /PRNewswire/ --

The Pinellas County Florida State Attorney dismissed charges against the Church of Scientology today in a highly publicized case. In November, 1998 the State brought charges against the Clearwater based Church, claiming the Church was negligent in caring for one of its parishioners who passed away in December 1995. The decision came after the local Medical Examiner amended the death certificate of Lisa McPherson finding that the death was accidental and not attributable to any actions of the Church or its staff.

Church spokesman Mike Rinder stated:

"We are very pleased that the State Attorney's office took the appropriate action in dismissing the case once they had the opportunity to review all the evidence. This is a watershed that marks the end of an era of distrust and misunderstanding.

"We thoroughly investigated the matter, looked at the evidence, called in the leading experts and presented the information to the Medical Examiner. She reviewed the information and changed the death certificate and the State Attorney's Office did the responsible thing. They could have just waited for the court to rule on the pending motions to dismiss the charges - one based on the destruction of exculpatory evidence by the Medical Examiner's Office and the other based on constitutional grounds.

"A lot of false allegations were made over the past few years. But that's history now. That is why we have been working so hard not just on finding out what really happened with Lisa but to also improve relations here so there will never be any misunderstandings like this in the future.

"Lisa McPherson's death was a tragedy that saddened Scientologists more than anyone. The objective science has proven Lisa McPherson's death was an accident and unavoidable. She died of a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs). Over 100,000 Americans die each year from a pulmonary embolism and in those cases, as here, it is always a shocking experience to those who loved the deceased since pulmonary embolisms are silent killers, virtually unpredictable and not preventable.

"Unfortunately, a few people saw fit to capitalize on the death of a member of our religion in the most unseemly way possible. They invented all manner of stories about Ms. McPherson, covered extensively in the media, which were proven to be untrue."

One of the most widely reported claims was that Ms. McPherson suffered a 50 pound weight loss while in the Church's care. In fact, the evidence now shows she lost no weight. Allegations had also been made that Ms. McPherson was dehydrated, and that this had contributed to her death. Evidence provided by numerous experts showed that Ms. McPherson was not dehydrated, and scientific literature shows dehydration has never in medical history caused a pulmonary embolism.

"We thus endeavored to do two things for both the resolution of these charges and the good of the community," Rinder said. "First, we presented all objective evidence we had to the State Attorney, allowing him to review it in as neutral an atmosphere as possible. Second, we embarked on a program to bring greater understanding and harmony to our relationships with the community to end the era of distrust -- by both sides -- so any incident in the future could be handled in a way that would prevent a similar injustice and huge waste of time and money. And we have made great strides in this regard."

The dismissal of the charges will directly impact the pending civil suit filed by Ms McPherson's aunt.

"We expect the distant aunt of Lisa McPherson to drop her civil case, " Rinder said. "She has testified she only wanted to find out what happened to Lisa, and now she knows. Her case has become a forum used by hate mongers to pursue their own agenda in a morbid celebration over the death of a person they never knew, but despised anyway because of her chosen religion. It is time to let Lisa's friends -- those who loved and cared for her -- have closure on this matter rather than having to fight the efforts of those trying to use her death as a means for gold digging."