This article appeared in the Concord (NH) Monitor today as well as in newspapers in many towns across America.
Landowner shoots over heads of Scientologists
Protesters wouldn't leave property
Wednesday, July 29, 1998
The Associated Press
SANDOWN, NH - When protesting Scientologists refused to leave his property, a millionaire Scientology opponent decided enough was enough.
Robert Minton fired two warning shots in the air with his shotgun after asking four protesters and a private detective hired by the group to leave his rural property, Police Chief Scott Currier said.
"He had seen picketers out there earlier in the day, and we are somewhat aware of the conflict between Mr. Minton and the Church[sic] of Scientology" said Officer Ben Pinault, who responded when he heard the shots Saturday.
Since 1995, when he first learned about Scientology, Minton has contributed more than $1 million to help former Scientologists he believes have been harassed by the group.
Among those he has helped is a Clearwater, Fla., family that is suing the church[sic], claiming their daughter, Lisa McPherson, died after being held in a hotel for 17 days by Scientologists. Minton says he was locked up in a mental hospital for several days when he was 16, and never forgot the experience.
He first got involved when he learned the church[sic] had obtained court orders to seize the computers of former members trying to post its sacred texts on the Internet, Minton said.
"Purely from a free speech standpoint, I said, 'What on earth can be said about this group that they're being this extreme?'"; he said yesterday.
Scientologists previously have protested outside Minton's Boston home, handing out fliers criticizing him as using "KKK-style" tactics to attack their beliefs.
The police still are investigating Saturday's incident. Sgt. Joe Gordon said several protestors came to the police department yesterday and picked up statement forms, with the intention of filing formal complaints against Minton.
Gordon said Minton could face criminal charges.
One Scientologist, Gerard Renna, said the group's demonstration outside Minton's home was peaceful "He shot the gun" Renna said.
Minton said he did so only after the group had been asked to leave, got into their car and then pulled into a field on his property. He shot the gun toward a hillside - not the protestors - to warn them off, he said.
The Church[sic] of Scientology, based in Los Angeles, claims 8 million members worldwide, although former members say its true size is much smaller. It was founded in 1954 by the late science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard.
Members call Scientology a religion that has been maliciously targeted because it is outside the mainstream. The group denies using coercive tactics.
Renna said Scientologists try to better their lives under Hubbard's guidance.
"I don't understand why someone would want to attack a fast-growing religion" he said.
But some former members and critics call the group a harmful cult.
Minton said yesterday he has never attacked Scientologists' beliefs, only the methods they use to silence their critics and indoctrinate followers.
"The most fundamental thing is that they use methods of mind control and thought reform that essentially reduce an individual to a state where they are unable to think critically" Minton said.
"If you get a group of people who are unable and unwilling to think critically and don't question what they're asked to do by their leaders, you have the beginnings of a very dangerous totalitarian organization" he said.
Although Germany treats the group as a dangerous cult, the United States granted Scientology tax-exempt status as a religion in 1993.
The church[sic] has attempted, with some success, to keep its core beliefs hidden from public view.
But according to ex-members, Scientologists believe that millions of years ago, a galactic overlord named Xenu dealt with an overpopulation problem in his section of the galaxy by freezing the bodies of 7 million aliens and sending them to Earth. The bodies were thrown into volcanoes in Hawaii and the Canary Islands, then blown up with hydrogen bombs.
Their freed spirits attached to people on Earth, corrupting them with the evils that haunt humans today. Scientologists use a type of therapy called "auditing" to rid members of these evil influences.
Critics say the expensive auditing sessions actually employ classic brainwashing techniques and also enrich the church[sic] at members' expense.