Battling Scientology's attack on free speech
Remarks by Bob Minton on Sunday April 19, 1998
Thank you Paul (Grosswald) a great honor to have been invited to speak at this annual conference of the Cult Information Service.
I won't be able to keep my secrets from you much longer, but I am neither a public speaker nor do I possess any formal training on the subject of cults. However, over the last three years, and particularly in the last 9 months, I have received a rather fiery baptism on cults and free speech from an organization that Cynthia Kisser said "is quite likely the most ruthless, the most classically terroristic, the most litigious and the most lucrative cult the country has ever seen. No cult extracts more money from its members".
Yes, I am involved in a controversy with the Church of Scientology over the most fundamental right in a democracy--the freedom to speak. Scientology hypocritically cries that theirs is a persecuted religion attacked by bigoted and intolerant critics. Further, Scientology's mantra, repeated ad-nauseum throughout their paranoid and delusional history, continues to be that those individuals and governments who dare criticize their anti-social goals, tactics and civil rights abuses of their own members are engaged in some grand conspiracy to destroy Scientology. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I am just one of many persons working actively through the internet, the Cult Information Service, FACTNet, the American Family Foundation and in our own individual ways to force much needed reform on Scientology. These reforms must acknowledge that all of us, Scientologists especially, have an inalienable right to criticize, oppose or scrutinize practices and tactics used by their organization which we view as contrary to the respect and dignity required towards our fellow man. Without these most basic rights, there certainly cannot be religious freedom, or in fact any freedom, in our democracy.
Scientology's own creed, which uses the phrase "inalienable rights" seven times, states in part:
"That all men have inalienable rights to think freely, to talk freely, to write freely their own opinions and to counter or utter or write upon the opinions of others"
These are very noble words but this is truly an organization whose so-called leaders have no shame. When will their hypocrisy ever end?
In the United States, many of us take our inalienable rights for granted, because by definition they cannot be taken away. But ask your own sons and daughters who have experienced Scientology's orgy of thought reform or Paulette Cooper from New York, Larry Wollersheim from Colorado, Stacy Young from Washington, Arnie Lerma from Virginia or Frank Oliver in Florida if their inalienable rights were in any way protected while in Scientology, or if scientology has shown any respect whatsoever for any of their rights since they departed.
Ask Lisa McPherson and Noah Lottick if their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were sacred to Scientology.
A little known fact in our society is that we have no rights under our constitution unless we are willing to stand up and affirmatively assert them. This is a price that all cults and litigious entities like Scientology force us to pay in our society because they are so willing to strip their members and critics alike of as many of our rights as we will cede them.
Let me tell you a little about personal boundaries and how an organization like Scientology tries to prey on and destroy the personal boundaries of family members, friends, associates, and yes, even children to stop the truth from being told.
Before detailing scientology's campaign of harassment and intimidation against me, I want to share some thoughts with you that I had in August 1997 when I actually began to doubt some of the critics' stories I had heard about the incredible harassment people had suffered at the hands of scientology.
By this time I had given financial help to a lot of critics, and some of that help was public knowledge, yet I hadn't been subjected to any kind of harassment, no threatening phone calls, nothing. And I began to wonder if these people were really as bad as everyone said they were. I honestly thought that the critics must be exaggerating. But that was only the calm before the storm, and now the veracity of critics' stories rings true for me.
There is a scientology directive called "Critics of Scientology," written by Hubbard in 1967, which has taken on particular meaning for me over the past few months. This is, in part, what it says:
We are slowly and carefully teaching the unholy a lesson. It is as follows: We are not a law enforcement agency. BUT we will become interested in the crimes of people who seek to stop us. If you oppose scientology we promptly look up - and find and expose - your crimes. If you leave us alone we will leave you alone.
"It's very simple. Even a fool can grasp that.
"And don't underrate our ability to carry it out.
I can tell you from firsthand experience that you should not underrate the amount of money scientology is willing to spend on private investigators to try to dig up - or make up - some sort of criminal past on someone they are trying to stop, as they are trying to stop me.
The intimidation began in September 1997, when I was contacted by Elliott Abelson, a former Mafia attorney who now works for scientology. Abelson said he was aware that I was funding Larry Wollersheim and Ken Dandar, the attorney for the Lisa McPherson estate. It was not the case with Ken Dandar, but now I thank Mr. Abelson for giving me that idea, as I have since indeed assisted Lisa McPherson's estate.
During the course of our conversation he warned that my family stability and financial stability were at risk because I was attacking scientology. I suppose I must have made it clear to him that I would not capitulate. Within two weeks I heard from some very distant relatives in Tennessee that scientologists were there doing a background check on me.
In November I got a call from a woman at the scientology org in Boston. In a subtle but firm way she said that if I did not stop giving financial support to critics of scientology they would attack me on five fronts, and she listed them for me:
Family Children Ex-wives Former business partners Federal and state tax status
The morning after that phone call was the first time my children were followed. That was not the only time.
Later this woman signed a declaration, witnessed by a colleague, swearing she never said any of these things, but when you hear what I have to say, you will know that they have done just what she promised.
Soon after that call I received the following letter from Elliott Abelson:
November 18th, 1997
Dear Mr. Minton:
You appear to have undertaken the financial maintenance of a significant number of litigants adverse to Scientology Churches in the United States. You have even become the patron of "dog and pony show" witnesses without legal claims, like the Youngs, who instigate disputes and sell their testimony to the litigants you underwrite. You're now even financing the travel of hate-filled individuals, some of whom have already been prohibited by courts from committing further acts of violence against members of the Churches of Scientology, from across the United States to the Church of Scientology's premises in Clearwater, Florida. You are, in this manner, a responsible party in fostering a climate of hatred in Clearwater, which endangers our staff and parishioners who work and live there.
The distraction to Church ministers and parishioners engaged in religious services by the potential hate crimes committed by the individuals you are financing, would not be occurring were it not for you going out of your way to foment their irrational hatred. If you have not realized it before, then recognize now that this creates a serious potential liability for you. A number of those with whom you have associated yourself through your patronage, such as Dennis Erlich and Keith Henson, have engaged in threats and acts of violence, attempts at intimidation and scandal-mongering.
Association with lawbreakers such as these, combined with the monetary demands that inevitably accompany their involvement in litigation or similar fertile areas for attempts of extortion, make your actions of interest to the prosecutors to whom such conduct has been referred.
My client holds you, your associates and backers, financial or otherwise, personally responsible for any and all damages it has suffered or will continue to suffer as a result of your tortious, officious intermeddling in Church litigation. The Church will not tolerate such conduct. I demand that you immediately withdraw all financial support for such matters and am warning you that you and those you're financing have crossed the threshold of legality.
I advise you to inform me forthwith what you have done to cease fomenting and financing unlawful attacks against my client.
Elliot J. Abelson
As I have done at every step of the way, I detailed this harassing action by posting this letter to the internet, to keep everyone abreast of what was being done. It was also at about this time that I decided it would be prudent to retain competent legal counsel, which I did.
In late November scientology subpoenaed me to be deposed in the Lisa McPherson case in Clearwater. They told the judge I was an agent of the German government funneling money into the U.S to destroy scientology. They also told the judge I was trying to substitute my agenda, which they perceived as putting the entire church on trial, in the McPherson case, when in fact scientology was trying to divert attention from the real issue-the tragic death of Lisa McPherson. The judge eventually allowed them to depose me in January to discover my motives.
Scientology flew three high-priced attorneys from Florida to Boston, one paralegal from the Office of Special Affairs, and Earl Cooley as their local counsel. Cooley, as many of you know, is now the chairman of the board of trustees of Boston University, a long-time scientologist, and a fierce defender of scientology's rights to abuse, harass and intimidate critics. In addition to a number of questions relevant to the funding of the Lisa McPherson litigation, they also tried to use the opportunity, as they always do when they depose someone, for intelligence gathering, but I simply refused to answer such questions.
In December I went down to Clearwater to picket in front of the Ft. Harrison hotel, now the spiritual headquarters of scientology, with 30 other internet activists on the second anniversary of Lisa McPherson's death. While we picketed in Clearwater, scientology did their first picket of my house in Boston. The picketing of my house continued for the next two months, and about every two or three days there would be either a picket or hateful fliers handed out throughout Beacon Hill.
The picket in Clearwater was very significant because scientology closed the Ft Harrison during the two days of the picket. Members of the paramilitary wing of scientology, the Sea Organization, weren't allowed to wear their Sea Org uniforms in Clearwater, apparently because the scientology leadership was afraid these violent picketers (that I had supposedly flown in from all over the country) might attack them.
Instead of confronting the picketers, 4,000 Sea Org members picketed the Clearwater police and St. Petersburg Times and damaged scientology's own standing in the community even further.
The December 1997 picket in Clearwater was an incredible moral victory for many ex-scientologists -- a turning point in the battle with this organization. Scientology was so afraid of exposing its members to anyone questioning its tactics and policies that they seemingly have since felt compelled to hide when anyone shows up for a picket, whether it's one person or fifty.
While I was in Clearwater in February to film an interview with a German TV station, I met with Gabe Cazares, former mayor of Clearwater who was harassed relentlessly by scientology because of his criticism of them. He told me that before the picket in December he was all but ready to give up on ever having an opportunity to control scientology's influence in Clearwater. But scientology's reaction to our picket, which was not to confront us but instead to lash out at the community, created such animosity among the citizenry that it set back scientology's public relations in Clearwater by 20 years.
In March, I flew to LA for a picket for L. Ron Hubbard's birthday, which is always a big event for scientology. In all, 50 picketers flew in from all over the world to defy this organization which is so consumed with its own self importance and so intent upon silencing its critics.
Obviously scientology is not able to confront a handful of peaceful picketers protesting an organization that has so devastated many people's lives. They chose instead to put tarps up in front of one of their buildings to keep the picketers away from the staff, and they actually canceled a birthday party that had been planned on L. Ron Hubbard Way and kept everyone off the street as long as the picketers were there.
A much smaller group of picketers went to Hemet, the home of scientology's fearless leader, David Miscavige. We saw nothing but security guards at the gate, security cameras everywhere, and people hiding behind closed curtains peaking out at us. Not one person ever came out to confront us. Hemet looked like the Ft. Harrison did in December - completely deserted.
This is an organization that literally cowers at the truth. Scientology claims to be able to create supernatural powers and enable people to confront any situation except one --- the truth about their organization. Perhaps Jesus has an explanation for this anomaly that can be found in (John 3:20-21) when he warned:
"For everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved [exposed and rebuked]. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God."
Proving that I was not afraid to shed light on the story I wanted to tell, December started with articles in the St. Petersburg Times, the Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, and the New York Times. As these articles came out, I think I became far more threatening to scientology because mainstream media were looking more closely at an organization that wants no scrutiny. This seemed to heighten scientology's disdain for me and only intensified the picketing and fliers.
In the week prior to the McPherson deposition, scientology hired private detectives to visit my family members, my son, my mother, my brothers, father, stepmother, aunts, uncles, and untold others.
In December, I was also on a WGBH show, Greater Boston with Emily Rooney, and when scientology went to see my family they took a copy of the videotape of that show with them as a ploy for entering into a dialogue with my family members.
I was angry about the visits to my family - it was extraordinarily hurtful, the fact that in such a short period of time some of my own flesh and blood could so question my dedication to them as a family.
It was like having been violated by these people when they went into the homes and businesses of my family members simply to antagonize me, to gather intelligence for their investigation, and to further illustrate their willingness to harass and intimidate someone who was prepared to help people stand up against them.
This is where I first felt, what I can only describe, as a cold steel ball of fear in my gut.
Scientology even authorized someone to pass out scurrilous leaflets about me in St. Bart's in the French West Indies while I was vacationing there with my wife and daughters.
In January I was served with two more subpoenas for depositions in other cases, one a bankruptcy case in California where I'd given financial support to Grady Ward, an internet critic who was under totally unjustified attack by scientology; and the other, involving a temporary restraining order against another internet critic, Keith Hensen who had been roughed-up by a scientology detective, which they tried to get against him in Clearwater to prohibit him from picketing.
More national media began broadcasting or filming in January. NBC's Dateline, CBS's Public Eye, ABC's Turning Point, and a major German television station all have or plan to air major exposes about scientology. In fact, the German show is airing tonight in Germany, and an article based on that show was published yesterday in a German newspaper and beamed all over the world via the internet last night.
When these media talk to scientology spokespeople about me, they pretend that I am nothing to them, that I'm not important and try to get the media to lose interest in me. Yet in Clearwater, when scientology public relations man Brian Anderson saw a German TV crew filming me in front of the Ft. Harrison, he canceled all interviews that had been set up with that German crew because the scientology leadership was offended that scientology had not been told by the German crew that they would be interviewing me for this documentary.
Following the article in the New York Times in December, I was contacted by the United Nation's special envoy who is responsible for preparing the UN's reports on Human Rights and religious intolerance. I met with him at his request and presented the other side of the scientology picture.
I believe my meeting with Professor Abdulfattah Amor was useful and I was very pleased to see that his April report to the UN on religious intolerance and discrimination denounced several of scientology's rants. Specifically, he denounced scientology's claim that Germany's treatment of scientology could be equated with Jews in Nazi Germany as so ridiculous as to be purile. Further,his report counters criticisms made by scientology, and by the US State department in its annual human rights report.
In the meantime, the private investigators have tracked down more of my business associates all over the world -- in Turkey, in England, in Brazil and other countries. They have dug up business associates of my wife's family, and the families of my former business associates. People who have refused to meet with them were themselves subjected to investigation.
Then their friends were visited and contacted by these private investigators in an attempt to get them to comply with their desires to talk with them. The really unnerving thing about it is that in almost every case it has worked. These people have ended up talking to these private investigators. These are the boundaries scientology loves to violate.
I want to tell you some of the things they have said to my former business associates:
First, scientology's private investigators show them a detailed psychological evaluation of me, and say they are convinced that I'm so unstable they're afraid I'll go into an org and shoot 25 to 30 scientologists at any given moment. And it goes downhill from there. Every detail of my life, everything negative, everything they can distort or paint in a bad light -- this is what they tell my friends and associates, so these people will feel uncomfortable with me, and then I will in turn feel that discomfort and eventually, scientology hopes, I won't want to put everyone in my life through this and will back off.
But every time they go after one of my friends or associates, it increases my resolve. It's like waving a red flag in front of a bull. The tactics they use against me and others who criticize them are wrong. I'm just one in a long line of people they've been doing this to since they have existed. Hubbard even did this to his wife and children. These tactics and policies are wrong and must be changed.
My experience, coupled with my friends' reactions, has made it more understandable how what happened in Nazi Germany could have occurred. People laughed at the nazis at first, then they were scared and intimidated into total, utter silence. And then there was nobody left to fight them and they took over.
People don't want to get their families involved in the type of battle that I'm involved in. But it's a threat to all families, not just mine. There is no better audience to understand this than you people sitting here today, who have seen the results of many destructive cults violating your own families.
Sometimes I question why I'm doing this and whether I should continue, knowing that there is no way that I personally am going to force scientology to reform. But I keep doing it because I want other people to get involved. It must be done.
The St. Petersburg Times asked, in March of 1997, "Can anyone stand up to the Church of Scientology?"
In response, Frank Rich of the New York Times wrote, in an op ed piece on March 16, 1997:
"The great American religious saga of the 1990's may be the rise to power of a church that has successfully brought the Internal Revenue Service, the State Department and much of the American press to heel even as it did an end-run around the courts."
To counter this will require a tremendous amount of work for all of us. We need to help educate the press to see what scientology is doing and who it's willing to step on to do it. We have to provide support to those who are on the front lines fighting against this organization. We have to be willing to make personal sacrifices in terms of money and time.
Scientology concentrates only on the grand conspiracy, because Ron Hubbard and scientology were products of the McCarthy era and have never moved on. This organization lacks the mental agility or resources to defend itself against multiple attacks. So they need to be exposed from all angles.
I have never advocated the destruction of the Church of Scientology, but I am seriously interested in reforming the tactics and policies that abrogate the human and civil rights of its members and critics. If scientology wants to be treated like a church, it's high time they started acting like one.
As for myself, I do not intend to surrender my rights to Scientology without an armed struggle. I will be armed with the stories of abuse, betrayal, harassment, intimidation, fear, broken families, neglected children, financial ruin, and the personal and emotional devastation that so many ex-Scientologists have suffered.
The "strategic thinkers" at the top of scientology need to understand a fundamental law of physics: "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." This postulate is equally true in life. No matter what form the hate that scientology dishes out takes, they will always be on the receiving end of intense and concentrated actions from an ever-growing circle of critics.
This is precisely what scientology has done with me and many others who are now major players in this mythological battle between good and evil. As cult apologist J. Gordon Melton said, "They turn critics into enemies and enemies into dedicated warriors for a lifetime." Given the current level of harassment, intimidation and abuse dished out by this organization, my crystal ball sees scientology's future as filled with more negative consequences in response to their actions, including:
More press, more media and more public speaking against scientology's anti-social policies, abuse of the legal system, and total disregard for the rights of others,
More organized and concentrated efforts to educate celebrity victims being used and manipulated by scientology about the true nature and origins of its evil and vile practices, including targeting selected celebrities for personal intervention,
More specific efforts to reach individual members with the truth about scientology's lies and hypocrisy, and
More fund-raising from an expanding array of talented and capable people who will no longer tolerate the bullying policies and tactics used by scientology management.
Standing up to the Church of Scientology has been an incredibly enlightening and enriching personal experience -- a test of my character at every step of the way. I've gotten to know many former scientologists, and clearly they are some of the nicest people I've ever known. While in scientology, these very same people were taught to lie and betray and acquiesce to having their own rights taken away from them. This proves to me that even an organization as totalitarian as scientology cannot strip away innate human goodness, and gives me hope that we will get to know many more former scientologists as our actions continue in the coming weeks and months.
Thank you very much for you attention.