Scientologists Get To Question Critics' Backer

Source: St. Petersburg Times
Date: December 24, 1997

The Church of Scientology won the right Tuesday to question the man who has been financing its critics.

Hillsborough County Circuit Judge James S. Moody Jr. decided that lawyers for the church could take sworn testimony from Robert S. Minton of Boston, a retired investment banker who has given $1.25-million to some of the church's most outspoken adversaries.

Among the recipients is Ken Dandar, the Tampa lawyer who is representing the estate of Lisa McPherson in a wrongful death lawsuit against the church. McPherson was the 36-year-old Scientologist who died in 1995 after spending 17 days at a church retreat in downtown Clearwater.

Scientology's lawyers say they want to know who Minton has financed and why because his motivations and those of potential witnesses could be an issue if the case goes to trial.

Moody agreed, but warned the church its questions of Minton must be relevant to the McPherson case.

He also said he was "disturbed" about an effort by one Scientology corporation to use an unrelated bankruptcy case in California to question Minton about his role in the McPherson case. Moody ruled earlier this month that Minton could not be questioned yet.

"I'm not going to have a party, through some related entity, do what I've told them not to do," the judge said, warning he could sanction the church.

Scientology's lawyers agreed to pass along his concern to the church hierarchy.