Scientology Foe Seeks Protection

Source: Tampa Tribune
Date: November 25, 1999

An outspoken foe of the Church of Scientology is striking back after being hit with an injunction barring him from going near the church's property and members.

At a hearing scheduled Monday in Pinellas Circuit Court, Judge Thomas Penick is set to decide whether a temporary injunction he imposed against Robert Minton earlier this month should become permanent.

Minton contends in court papers filed Wednesday that he is the one who needs the protection of an injunction against Scientologists.

Minton's attorney, Denis de Vlaming, said an Oct. 31 incident in which his client was charged with misdemeanor battery was the culmination of numerous confrontations over the years.

Whenever Minton stages a protest, Scientologists are close by, de Vlaming said. So close, they often block Minton's path and coat his face with spittle as they shout insults, de Vlaming said.

"If we had a zone of privacy that requires both sides, Minton and the Church of Scientology, to stay 5 feet away from each other ... that would be wonderful," de Vlaming said.

Like the Scientologists, Minton makes videotapes of his protests. On them, Scientologists can be heard howling in pain from supposed physical contact and asking one another if the incident was recorded on tape, de Vlaming said.

In incidents in Los Angeles, Boston and Clearwater, church members have repeatedly tried to spark an incident that would win them an injunction against Minton, de Vlaming said. He said other antichurch protesters have been silenced in a similar manner.

In Minton's case, the temporary injunction bars him from going within 150 yards of 17 church properties, most of them in downtown Clearwater. The injunction was obtained by church member Richard Howd Jr., who Clearwater police say was struck by Minton during the Oct. 31 protest outside the church's spiritual headquarters.

Howd's attorney, Paul Johnson, said videotape clearly shows Minton "hauled off and whacked" his client without provocation.

"All we want him to do is quit inflicting violence or trying to instigate violence," Johnson said. "If he wants to speak out against the church, he's free to do so."

De Vlaming said a 5-foot buffer would be sufficient to protect both church members and Minton while preserving his client's right to protest outside church facilities.

"It would be a benefit to the church if what they really want is protection against Mr. Minton. But that's not what they want. They want to prevent Mr. Minton from protesting," de Vlaming said.