CLEARWATER - An outspoken group that has battled the Church of Scientology is disbanding and likely will close its headquarters, according to its founder.
The Lisa McPherson Trust, founded by millionaire Robert Minton, was named after a 36-year-old Scientologist who died in 1995 after 17 days in the care of Scientology staffers.
While the trust will no longer be in Clearwater, its work involving the documenting of stories of ex-Scientologists will go on, said Minton from his New Hampshire home.
The group's stated mission was to "expose the deceptive and abusive practices of Scientology and help those victimized by it."
"For everyone's peace of mind and to be able to continue to do what we're trying to do, it's better we're not there," Minton told the St. Petersburg Times in a story published Saturday.
Church spokesman Ben Shaw said Scientology is glad to see the trust go.
"They came here to stir up trouble and all they managed to do is stir up trouble for themselves," Shaw said. "Clearwater is better off without them."
Minton isn't certain of a departure date, however. The trust cannot close up yet because a judge has granted a church request for an independent review of trust records as part of a civil wrongful-death lawsuit the McPherson estate has filed against the state.
Minton and the trust are not a party in the suit, but both he and trust have been drawn into the case, in part, because Minton helped fund the lawsuit.
During its battles, the trust has faced other legal blows. The courts ordered Minton to turn over all his personal Florida bank records, now in the hands of the Church of Scientology, the newspaper said.
In July a judge issued a permanent injunction, ordering a 10-foot separation between church supporters and their critics and forbidding either side from yelling, shouting, whistling, singing or creating "loud and raucous noise" that would disturb "reasonable persons of ordinary sensibilities."
The intent was to stop harassment on both sides.
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