Laura Flynn remembers the first time she met a Scientologist. Living in Clearwater -- also known as Flag Land Base or Mecca by L. Ron Hubbard's acolytes -- she had unknowingly come into contact with them countless times. The 56-year-old, who describes herself as "good country people," didn't ask questions, though. It didn't matter to her or her husband what people did when they walked into the church's buildings downtown. It was like the don't-ask, don't-tell policy of cult membership.
But after 1993, she couldn't ignore the organization's influence on her fellow Clearwater residents any longer. Although she's retired now, Flynn used to work as a floral designer. One day she saw her then-boss huddled in the corner, drinking a Coca-Cola she'd pilfered from a coworker.
"She was shaking like a leaf, just trying to get some nourishment in there," Flynn remembers. "She begged me not to tell anyone."
See also: Anti-Scientology Conference in Clearwater May 5-11More »