BOB MINTON: I've got--I've got a host of material up here to try to go over in a relatively short amount of time, but--thank you very much for having me here, number one. Um, the lighting up here, by the way, is terrible; I'm gonna have to hold this closer to me because I can't even see it down here on the podium.
In 1975, an organization calling itself United Churches of Florida moved into Clearwater. Its representatives paid cash for the Fort Harrison Hotel. And the community was excited about the prospects of a group which was a coalition of what they thought was a coalition of Christian churches coming into Florida and into Clearwater, holding conventions and helping to revitalize downtown. Uh, however, Mayor Gabe Cazares was the first one to discover the truth about who this really was. Outraged, he announced to a stunned community that the United Churches of Florida did not exist; it was really the Church of Scientology who had bought the plot of the Fort Harrison Hotel.
A press release issued by the Church of Scientology spokesman Arte Maren attempted to downplay the significance of their having purchased this property under false pretenses. And in that press release he said, "Well, I hope the Mayor can put an end to his concern that the city of Clearwater is being taken over by Mafia hoods", unquote. As Mayor Cazares would discover to his horror, the city of Clearwater had been taken over by something even worse: A ruthless, criminal cult with totalitarian aspirations.
The press release went on to say that, to explain rather grandiosely, that United Churches of Florida was Scientology's answer to gigantic government, huge international corporations and a dominated media. Quote, "We want the churches of the United States and eventually the world to unite as a force within society, to change our world for the better, to unite as one voice on social matters and present-day concerns."
Twenty-five years later there is indeed a matter of great present-day concern; but it is not what the extravagant words this press release intended. For Mayor Gabe Cazares and for all of us here at this conference, that concern is the continuing, relentless take-over of a sizable American city by the cult that calls itself the Church of Scientology.
Back in 1977 when, when the U.S. government raided the church's three offices of the Church of Scientology, among those 48,600 documents that they seized from these three locations was information about how the church planned to take over the city of Clearwater, Florida in Project Normandy.
Um, Mayor Cazares at the time, as you know, fought fiercely against this organization. Gabe Cazares is very much involved in this organization today called the Lisa McPherson Trust which we have set up in downtown Clearwater. (holding up pages)You know, two days ago I met with Gabe and these were his three pages of handwritten notes for our little pow-wow about things we needed to do in Clearwater to--particularly over the course of the next six months--to try to keep this ultimate take-over that Scientology plans for Clearwater under check, or in check.
Um, to give you an idea of the present-day atmosphere in Clearwater, on February the 24th, Stacy Brooks--who is the president of the Lisa McPherson Trust--and I met with Mike Roberto, who is the City Manager in Clearwater, together with Pam Akin, Clearwater's City Attorney. And we went there in an effort to continue an education process of Mr. Roberto in terms of who the organization was that the city of Clearwater had decided to cozy up to, rather closely in our opinion and rather dangerously.
Well, Mr. Roberto said to us that he spent the last two years since he came to Clearwater as City Manager trying to get the Church of Scientology off the front pages of the local newspapers in Tampa-St. Pete. And BOOM! The Lisa McPherson Trust comes to Clearwater in January year 2000, and the Church of Scientology is back on the front pages of the local newspaper. The city of Clearwater doesn't like that. Mr. Roberto said that it's bad for business. It is bad for economic development in Clearwater. It is bad for development of the, um, bayfront that they have in downtown Clearwater. He said every time that your organization's conflict with Scientology spills over and affects the business community in this town, we are gonna do everything we can to shut you down.
Now, Mr. Roberto didn't mean shutting down the organization specifically, he meant shutting down whatever those activities were, and the city of Clearwater, as any city in the United States, has a very, very broad range of possibilities to curtail activities that--of any nature; and especially when it regards something called a church.
There's--I would refer you to a Cornell Law Review article in November 1999 if you want to get an idea of the types of laws and the ways the courts in this country are moving towards picketing near or around churches. Uh, there are some pretty chilling things in there, pretty chilling weapons that, that communities or cities have to fight people who are protesting the activities of an organization like the Church of Scientology.
Well, basically, Mr. Roberto's messages was that, you know, moral crusaders are not welcome in Clearwater. He suggested that perhaps, uh, Los Angeles or Washington or Boston or even Dunedin would be a better place for us to be. In fact he said, "You know, the City Manager in Dunedin is a very close friend of mine. I could get you waterfront property there if you prefer" (laughter) "rather than your location next to the Church of Scientology in Clearwater bank building."
Well, Mr. Roberto went on to explain that the city of Clearwater had spent a lot of money over 20 years investigating the Church of Scientology and they never even wrote them a parking ticket. Uh, he said the federal government wasn't interested, the FBI passed, passed the buck, they weren't interested after the 1977 raids and the 1980 convictions, you know; after that, it was over as far as they were concerned. So Mr. Roberto said, "Why should the city of Clearwater devote any money into this effort?" You know, they even instructed the, the Clearwater Police Department--from October of last year they can no longer gather any intelligence information on Scientology and its activities in the community. It's--you know, talking about making a deal with the Devil. I, I mean, the new management in Clearwater has been literally starting to make a deal with the Devil because it's good for business. If Scientology is not on the front pages of the paper, perhaps we could make, uh, the, the city of Clearwater grow. We can have developers come in and build high-rise condominiums all along the waterfront and, you know, before it's over it'll look like, like the coast of Spain, and the church will be part anyway. Um, this--this was a fairly discouraging, uh, response that we got from Mr. Roberto and the City Attorney. But, um, we told him that, you know, it really isn't the public sector's responsibility to fight organizations like this; it is a private sector responsibility. And we, the Lisa McPherson Trust, should be embraced by the public sector for what we're here trying to do--to educate this community about what Scientology is.
When we opened our doors on January the 5th, we--we started getting calls immediately from citizens of Clearwater talking about their concerns about Scientology, about how happy they were that we were there, about how they were--they were, they always look at Scientology with some sort of mysterious shroud over it, that they were invited to community events many times just--you know, they have a practice of going around and speaking to various community groups, and they said, "When we asked questions, they never answer our questions, you know, they give us a run-around when we ask them questions. We'd really like to know--we'd like for somebody to honestly answer questions about what Scientology is." And, you know, I explained to them that we have a number of former Scientologists working here at the Lisa McPherson Trust who will be glad to sit down and answer each and every question you have.
Um, however, the one interesting aspect of the, the people that we have talked to in Clearwater--not only called, but they, they, particularly the first few weeks we were there, they were coming in, into the office just to say "Hello", to introduce themselves, to offer to volunteer. We do have a small staff of volunteers now, they're manning the phones, doing scanning, you know, all sorts of extraordinarily useful things that none of us seem to have the time to do because we spend a lot of time on the phone.
But one thing about these people in Clearwater is they are frightened of Scientology. They live in a community, it's roughly 100,000 people in Clearwater, I think there's 74,300 registered voters--and they genuinely have a fear of the Church of Scientology. You know, a lot of people who call say, you know "Look, I'm having to call you from a pay phone because I don't want any phone record or anything on my bill that I've talked to anybody at the Lisa McPherson Trust, because we're afraid of the recriminations that Scientology might pull on us."
We've had vol--we've had people come in from the community who picketed with us down in Clearwater who had volunteered to do with us and, for example, one family, a husband and wife and a child that came, they, they spent considerable time with us learning more about Scientology. They picketed with us several times and--what happens next? I mean, they helped us also with our brochures, with the guys in graphic arts, um, they helped us with the brochures and things of that nature, and then what happens next is a group of Scientologists come to their neighborhood and start going around asking questions about the husband and the wife. And believe me, that type of thing has a chilling effect on somebody's commitment to getting involved in a battle against the Church of Scientology. I mean, they do extract a heavy price from anybody who is willing to stand up and actively criticize them. And there are plenty of people in this room that you can ask who have experienced that, the wrath of the Church of Scientology.
Now, just--before I go into the, the next aspect here, I want to talk about Scientologists a little bit. I mean, at least 95% of Scientologists are totally wonderful, good, decent people, maybe even 100%. But certainly the 95% that I've run across on a regular basis are incredibly nice, decent people. It is a very, very small group of people within the Church of Scientology who are aspiring totalitarian leaders. They have--they run this organization in a, in a Nazi-like manner. They intimidate people into doing--they intimidate people into being controlled so incredibly significantly beyond belief to me.
But we have--one of the most surprising things about what we've been doing in the Lisa McPherson Trust is we're talking to a lot of current Scientologists. We're not talking with many Sea Org people because this is the, you know, the paramilitary wing, a very, very highly conditioned group within the Church of Scientology who is very hard to get through to. But the public Scientologists have been out there on the Internet for several years, and many of these people have come, come and talked to me and said, you know, "We would have never, ever thought about speaking to Bob Minton, but we've followed your activities, we've followed the critics' activities and the, the conflict, really between the Church of Scientology and the Internet over the last three or four years." And it has given them enough strength and courage to actually come out and talk to one of the most evil people on the planet! (laughter, then applause) And, you know, I think this is a really big accomplishment in that we've only been in Clearwater for, um, two and a half months.
And to be talking not just--I say I'm talking with current Scientologists, we're not talking with low-level Scientologists, we have talked with some of those as well--but we're talking to people who have reached the height of Scientology's Bridge to Total Freedom; OT8's, OT7's. You know, these are people who have been in Scientology for 15, 20 years, they are leaders in the Clearwater community of Scientologists in the field--the Scientology field, as they call it--in Clearwater. But these people don't like the totalitarian aspect of Scientology. They are finding out that they don't have to put up with it. They are finding out the various possibilities to get all of their money back. We are helping people get $700,000 back, $600,000 back, $300,000 back from the Church of Scientology. (applause)
This, this is a money machine. It is a money machine. They are stealing people's money. You know, we, we sit and we listen to the stories from a lady whose husband died, she's an elderly lady. She had children in Scientology. She got involved to be closer to the children. The husband died, he had a lot of money. The reg for Scientology comes to her house the night her husband died and will not leave until he gets the $700,000 that he already knows the husband is giving the wife. And he got it. But this lady is getting it back. She is tired--she was tired of being ripped off by Scientology.
We are in Clearwater to make sure that the people in Clearwater learn about the true nature of this organization, about the abusive and deceptive practices that Scientology gets away with on its own members. And we are there to help Scientologists get their money back, help them with their divorce situation, with their spouse who is still remaining in Scientology and the father or the mother wants to leave.
We have--we have mothers calling us about their cus--their child custody cases where the father is now, because of the Scientology, she, you know, she fell into a trap. This one particular woman, she fell into this trap of letting the Scientology judicial system help them solve their divorce cases, their divorce case and then their child custody case. The mother is, no longer has any visitation privileges with her own child. Because her Scientology friends abandoned her. They were the ones who were allowed to--the only ones who were allowed to do supervised court, supervised visits, custody--you know, she had to have some supervision when she visited as a result of this arrangement that they worked out with the Church of Scientology's justice system.
Well, people are getting fed up with it. Scientologists are getting fed up with it. I guarantee you, I'm fed up with it. I would--I would like nothing better to be doing something else other than fighting with the Church of Scientology. But they are ruining people's lives. They are--I mean, our conference here is about human rights. Scientology deprives its members of human rights. Every Scientologist has a right to believe in the Scientology technology if that's what they wanna believe in. But the Church of Scientology does not have the right to abuse people's human rights, to attack everyone who speaks out against them, and it has to stop. And the Lisa McPherson Trust is just one more in a long line of organizations who have, and people who have been fighting Scientology and will continue to fight Scientology. Until this organization reforms as best it can to the norms of society. (applause). Thank you very much.