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Echoes of the Past
 
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Cover Story State Department Lambasts Germany
Human Rights Report Makes it Clear Germans Are Discriminating

A
s expected, the report stepped up criticism of Germany for an officially sanctioned campaign of harassment and discrimination against members of the Church of Scientology, noting some church members have lost jobs or been barred from political party membership because of their religious affiliation.”—The Washington Post, January 31, 1997.

     “The report” mentioned by the Post was the 1996 Human Rights Report of the U.S. State Department, released the day before in Washington, D.C. by newly appointed Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright announced the release of the human rights report and the Administrationís concerns over denial of religious freedom.      “Whatever your culture, whatever your creed, the right to worship is basic,” said Albright. “Broadening the recognition of that right and placing the spotlight on its denial,” she added, “will be a priority of our human rights policy.”

     Germany featured prominently in the report’s country-by-country criticism over human rights abuses. For the fourth consecutive year this section includes the State Department’s serious concerns over politically sanctioned discrimination against members of the Church of Scientology. Indeed, this year’s report contains the most stinging and extensive reproach yet.

     It stresses concern over “both government-condoned and societal harassment, including expulsion from (or denial of permission to join) a political party and loss of employment. Business firms whose owners or executives are Scientologists may face boycotts and discrimination, sometimes with government approval.”

     In fact, most of the examples cited are examples of discrimination not only condoned politically, but instigated by one or the other of Germany’s major political parties.

     “... In late summer, the governing Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party approved a resolution saying that membership ‘in the Scientology organization is not compatible with employment in the public service,’ and urging that the Church be put under surveillance,” states the report. “The resolution also urged the banning of federal funding for cultural and artistic events featuring Scientologists. In December a state organization of the CDU confirmed the expulsion of three members for belonging to the Church.”

     Numerous other specific examples of abuse and discriminatory conduct were cited:

  • “Individual German states also took action against members of the organization. On November 1, the state of Bavaria began to screen applicants for state civil service positions for Scientology membership. Bavaria also said it would not fund arts-related activities in which Scientologists were to appear. It also decreed that private companies awarded state contracts in certain ‘sensitive’ fields must sign a statement that they do not follow the tenets of Scientology.”

  • “Various artists have been affected because of their membership in the organization. Artists have been prevented from performing or displaying their works because of their membership in the Church. In the summer, the youth wing of the CDU in a number of German states urged a boycott of the film ‘Mission: Impossible’ because the leading actor in this film is a Scientologist. In Bavaria the Minister of Culture was criticized by the parliament for allowing American musician Chick Corea, a Scientologist, to perform at a state-sponsored jazz festival.”

     Discussing the State Department’s responsibility for monitoring human rights abuses, a spokesman explained, “We are mandated by law to issue these reports and to tell the truth and to call the shots as objectively as we can.”

     Making it clear that politically spawned persecution of members of the Church of Scientology was not based on any evidence of wrongdoing on their part, he added that Scientologists “essentially face discrimination not by what they do,” but simply because of their beliefs.

     This factor was stressed in the report, which noted that in October 1996, even the German Ministry of Interior itself conceded that “no concrete facts exist currently to substantiate the suspicion of criminal acts.”

     Considering that there are tens of thousands of Scientologists in Germany, the failure to come up with even any suspicion of criminal acts after years of investigation and harassment should tell the German government something. But, if it doesn’t, perhaps the embarrassment of consistent condemnation from governments and human rights watchdogs will.

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