German security minister renews attack on Scientology
Germany's top security official, Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, on Sunday accused Scientology, a US creed begun by a science-fiction writer, of being anti-democratic.
09 December 2007
Berlin (dpa) - Germany's top security official, Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, on Sunday accused Scientology, a US creed begun by a science-fiction writer, of being anti-democratic.
Schaeuble and state interior ministers had agreed Friday to step up police surveillance of the Scientology organization, which is recognized in several other countries as a church.
German provincial officials led the demands for Scientology to be stripped of its current legal status as an association, although Schaeuble aides have cautioned that this might be blocked in the courts.
In an interview with the newspaper Bild am Sonntag, Schaeuble said it was more important to educate the public about Scientology.
But he rejected civil-liberties concerns about the surveillance.
"Scientology is working on obtaining political power and influence in Germany," he said, charging that the group was hostile to constitutional principles.
"They want to deactivate essential basic and human rights such as human dignity and the right to equal treatment," he said of the group, which is estimated to have 6,000 German members.
A spokeswoman for the organization in Germany denied that the group had aims in conflict with the German constitution.
In a statement, she said those claims were based on quotations from the group's credo taken out of context.
She said the group regarded itself as a church and invoked the protection granted to religion under the German constitution.
In a report to appear Monday, the news magazine Der Spiegel said German anti-subversion officials believed there was almost no grounds to deny Scientology the right to incorporate as an association.
The group has faced fierce criticism from Germans since the early 1990s over its practice of canvassing on the street for new members and offering self-enlightenment courses for fees. Critics allege this keeps the lower-ranked members in thrall.
The interior ministers discussed banning it at the same time as they debated action against the NPD, a German party widely accused of holding neo-Nazi views. The campaign against Scientology and leading adherents such as actor Tom Cruise has bemused outside observers.
The creed was established by a US writer, the late L Ron Hubbard. The United States has repeatedly criticized Germany over the surveillance, saying it breaches freedom of religion.