Religion: A Sci-Fi Faith

The mystery began to unfold last fall in sleepy, sun-drenched Clearwater, Fla. The Southern Land Development and Leasing Corp. decided to buy the 270-room Fort Harrison Hotel, a downtown landmark, and a nearby bank building. Southern Land stated that the hotel would stay open, but another spokesman announced that it would become a center for the United Churches of Florida, a new ecumenical outfit that soon won endorsement from twelve local clergymen.

When 200 tight-lipped strangers moved into the hotel, rumors flew that the Arabs or organized crime were behind the project....