Rheinischer Merkur

A Weekly Newspaper for Politics, Economy, Culture, Christians and the World

Scientology: A Banker brings his financial means to bear against the sect

By Stephan Strothe, Miami
April 23, 1998

Bob Minton appears as an intrepid representative of sect victims: He wants to uncover the consequences of a religious philosophy

In large, awkward letters Bob Minton writes his message on a poster: "Scientology wants your money and your life." Then the 51 year old banker takes a deep breath, crosses the street with a determined stride, and begins his one-man demonstration - directly in front of the "spiritual headquarters" of the Scientologists in Clearwater, on the west coast of Florida. The sect members remain behind the walls of the former luxury hotel, "Fort Harrison." But outside, only a few yards from Bob Minton, Scientology's security officers observe each step of the lone demonstrator. Also the SAT-1 camera, which has accompanied the crusade of Bob Minton for three weeks, has, since the arrive in Clearwater, constantly been in the sights of the sect "sheriffs": armed with cameras and camcorders, they report each movemnet over walkie-talkies to the sect headquarters. When Bob Minton, the millionaire, starts a protest demonstration, the Scientology management in Los Angeles and Clearwater go to first stage alert. The man with the soft voice and the decisive appearance fights Scientology on multiple fronts: on talkshows and presentations, on the street and over the internet, above all with his millions of dollars.

Enlightenment over the Internet

Bob Minton is not only brave and determined; he is also rich. The banker from the Boston financial elite earned his millions by helping developing countries in the re-structuring of their billions of dollars of debt. At 46 years old, he retired, tended to both of his small daughters, and puttered about his favorite playground, the internet.

That is where computer freak Minton learned how rabidly the Scientology leadership advances on the virtual battlefield against their critics: with threats, carrying out searches of homes because of alleged copyright violations, and costly legal procedures against former members who disseminate embarassing internal information from the inner life of the sect.

"I thought we lived in a free country. Who really protects our freedom of speech?" ponders Bob Minton. Because Scientology is recognized as a church in the USA, and is therefore widely protected from undercover police investigations, the millionaire decided to take it upon himself, to see to it that "the odds are evened up a little bit." Up to now he has paid out almost 3 million marks ($2 million) for his crusade. Checks for "a couple of hundred thousand more dollars" are ready to be written.

The Robin Hood of the cult opponents supports, in the meanwhile, a dozen Scientology ex-members who are at their wit's and financial end in their years-long disputes with the sect. For two high-ranking ex-Scientologists, Stacy and Vaughn Young, Bob Minton recently provided a house on an island in the northwestern USA, so that the couple could finally have some peace and quite from the persecution of the sect. That was supposed to be a hideaway for a half a million marks (about $300,000), over 4,000 kilometers (2,000 miles) away from Clearwater - but apparently not far enough. Anonymous fliers warn the neighbors of the Youngs of alleged "publicly dangerous activities" of the former members of Scientology.

From the material battle against the sect, Bob Minton shifts gears to a finely-tuned drive in the halls of international diplomacy: at dinner in New York he meets with Abdelfattah Amor, who, on assignment for the UN, follows up on the string of accusations of the Scientologists, and investigates "religious intolerance and discrimination" in Germany.

At least Minton's intervention has not hurt the Scientology opponents. In his recently released final decision, the diplomat characterized the Scientology accusation, that the sect was persecuted in Germany with Nazi methods, as "senseless and childish." True to the simple friend-enemy scheme of the deceased sect founder, L. Ron Hubbard, Bob Minton's drive in world politics could only mean one thing: the man has to be an agent of the German goverment. Nowhere, however, is the deep breath and the deep pockets of the millionaire feared by the sect so much as on the battlefield of choice for the sect: in the halls of American justice.

Where the aggressive Scientology attorneys, up until now, have been able to intimidate through their sheer numbers and a seemingly inexhaustible war chest, Bob Minton now actually brings about a slightly better balance in weaponry. His checks help ex-Scientologists who report their painful experiences, and should have, according to the handbook of the "church", been silenced. The biggest sin in the eyes of the Scientologists is the over 200,000 marks ($140,000), which Bob Minton has given, up to now, to Kennan Dendar's small legal practice in Clearwater. Mr. Dendar is suing the sect for 144 Million marks ($100 million) punitive damages in connection with the death of a Scientology member, Lisa McPherson. The 36 year old woman died two years ago under unexplained circumstances after a seventeen day "observation" by Scientology sect members in Clearwater's Fort Harrison Hotel.

Records by Scientologists, taken down during her "observation", prove that Lisa McPherson, in a state of mental confusion, was repeatedly refusing food and water. She was first brought to the hospital on the seventeenth day, where she died shortly after arrival. The autopsy report cited the cause of death as a blood clot which had been loosened by "too much bedrest and extreme dehydration." Clearwater's district attorney is still looking into whether the Scientologists must answer before a judge.

The McPherson Case

The death of Lisa McPherson has long been a nightmare for the sect, which likes to present itself as a beneficial and generally misunderstood "religious philosophy" in the USA. Because of this, Bob Minton, quite consciously, shows up in front of the former Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater, where the young lady suffered through her final days. Most of the time Brian Anderson is waiting there for him. The speaker of the Clearwater Scientologists compared Bob Minton, in a talk with German reporters, to a "Nazi who finances anti-Jewish organizations."

American media, which had not published a Scientology story for years, either out of disinterest, or fear of the suit-happy lawyers of the sect, have not let the case of Lisa McPherson slip by. The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and several large TV broadcasters have recently been reporting critically about the methods of the sect and about the man who fights them so bravely.

Long Arm in the Caribbean

Bob Minton needs courage in this test of power, because the millionaire and his family have also felt the anger of the Scientologists. Scientology members demonstrate in front of Minton's city home in Boston's prestigious Beacon Hill. At a birthday party for one of Minton's daughters, insulting leaflets with Bob Minton's picture on them were pressed into the hands of the guests.

Private detectives in the employ of the Scientologists investigate Minton's relatives and business partners for damaging material. A PI even finds his way to a secluded country home of the family in the forests of New Hampshure, where he questioned the town police about the millionaire in the name of the "church."

The Mintons learned, three weeks ago during a vacation in the Caribbean, how much money the Scientologists expend in the fight against their opponents and how long the arm of the sect reaches: upon their return from the beach, they found leaflets, which accused Bob Minton of financing "hate and intolerance," on the cars and trees along the boardwalk.

This kind of expenditure only strengthens Bob Minton in his resolve to lead his battle against Scientology - regardless of how much power, will, and money this crusade will cost him.

The author, Stephan Strothe, is the SAT-1 America correspondent

original German version translated by Joe Cisar