U.N. Derides Scientologists' Charges About German 'Persecution'

Source: New York Times
Date: April 2, 1998

A United Nations special investigator today rejected charges by the Scientology movement that the German Government is using Nazi tactics of persecution and ill treatment against it.

"This comparison between modern Germany and Nazi Germany is so shocking as to be meaningless and puerile," the investigator, Abdelfattah Amor, said in issuing his report. The report counters criticisms made by Scientologists, and by the United States State Department in its annual human rights report.

Mr. Amor, a law professor at Tunis University, compiled his report on religious intolerance and discrimination in Germany, looking not only at Scientology but at other religions, too, including Islam. He was appointed by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, which is holding its annual meeting here.

Emphasizing that he had spoken with Government officials and with Scientology officials, Mr. Amor said that the German debate over religious beliefs and freedom was overly emotional. "There has been too much passion and exaggeration by all sides," he said.

German officials have characterized Scientology as a commercial enterprise or a "psycho group" that manages people's lives, instead of a religion. This has denied Scientologists the legal and tax advantages enjoyed by established religions.

In June 1997, German officials placed Scientologists under national surveillance for a year. Scientologists protested that such a step was unjustified without evidence linking their movement to criminal activity.

The group maintains that the German Government has encouraged the blacklisting and boycotting of its members by requiring individuals to disavow any connection with Scientology or its teachings.

Since November 1996, candidates for civil posts in the Bavarian government must state on a questionnaire any connection or belief in Scientology, but are not automatically banned from such jobs. Similar disavowals are required in Bavaria to join a political party, trade union, or any social, professional or sports club, as well as to sign a commercial or service contract or to open a bank account or obtain a bank loan.

In his report, Mr. Amor said that German officials has maintained that the key question is not whether Scientology is a religion, but whether it respects the law. Government measures, he said, are "simply designed to protect citizens and the liberal democratic order," by assuring the Scientologists do not, among other actions, use "immoral and illegal techniques of psychological manipulation and repression."

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