Germany to step up Scientology surveillance

7th December 2007, Comments 0 comments

German interior ministers said Friday they would step up police surveillance of Scientology, the US creed, which was established by a science-fiction writer and is accused by German officials of extracting money from its adherents.

7 December 2007

Berlin (dpa) - German interior ministers said Friday they would step up police surveillance of Scientology, the US creed which was established by a science-fiction writer and is accused by German officials of extracting money from its adherents.

US actor Tom Cruise came under attack while making a film in Germany earlier this year over his belief in Scientology. A leading German newspaper called Friday for a boycott of Cruise.

The United States has repeatedly criticized Germany over the surveillance, saying it breaches freedom of religion. The group, which is estimated to have 6,000 German members, was founded by the late L Ron Hubbard in the United States.

However several German provincial governments continue to press a reluctant Berlin for a crackdown. The federal interior minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, discounted the prohibition call, saying there were no legal grounds to outlaw Scientology at the present time.

The ministers said in a joint statement after two days of discussions that Scientology's objectives conflicted with the German constitution.

They directed officials to study if Scientology could be outlawed by stripping it of its legal incorporation as a non-profit society.

Ehrhart Koerting, interior minister of Berlin state, said anti-subversion authorities would be asked to compile all their evidence about the Scientology organization.

A decision would be taken next year on whether to begin legal moves to take away its incorporated status, another interior minister, Heribert Rech of Baden-Wuerttemberg, warned.

Incorporation, common to most of the world's legal systems, protects a group's leaders from having their private property seized if the group fails to pay its debts.

Another minister, Ralf Stegner of Schleswig-Holstein, said the organization behaved like a "common garden criminal" because "it makes people dependent." The Germans criticize Scientology's practice of charging fees for successive courses in enlightenment.

Cruise's visit to Germany this summer to play the lead role in Valkyrie, a movie about a true attempt to assassinate dictator Adolf Hitler in 1944, revived German debate about Scientology. Some critics said Cruise was unworthy to play a German hero.

A Hamburg-based newspaper, the Hamburger Abendblatt, said in an editorial Friday that Cruise ought to be blackballed in Germany. It criticized another publishing group's award one week ago of a cinema prize, the Bambi for personal courage, to Cruise.

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