Letters To The Editor on Scientology

Source: International Herald Tribune
Date: November 14, 1997

Once again, the "Church" of Scientology is in the news.

A meeting in Washington on Nov. 5 between the U.S. secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, and Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel of Germany included, as a topic of conversation, the status of a "religion" whose doctrine states that human beings are clusters of spirits formerly trapped in ice and banished to Earth about 75 million years ago by the ruler of a 26-planet Galactic Confederation named Xenu.

Meanwhile, war crimes go unpunished in the former Yugoslavia; the body count climbs in Algeria; the people of Sierra Leone face mass starvation; chemical weapons are missing from former Soviet laboratories; Europe is integrating; NATO is expanding. Inexplicably, the United States spends its time defending the legitimacy of a religion that, from 1968 until 1993, was considered illegitimate under U.S. tax law.

As an American lawyer living in Frankfurt, I cannot help but feel ashamed. How can the U.S. government criticize Germany for regarding Scientology as a business and not a as tax-exempt religion, a legal ruling the United States held for 25 years? Could it really be possible under U.S. immigration law that, by the mere act of not being given tax-exempt status, German Scientologists would be allowed to seek asylum in the United States for religious persecution? Above all, why must Germany subscribe to the same religious definitions as the United States?

Despite my rigorous training as an advocate, and despite an American attorney's ability to jump from one side of an issue to the other with barely a pause, I admit to being completely baffled by these questions and by the conduct of my country concerning this subject. I would rather our foreign ministers spent more time talking about Iraq, Africa, the policy of engagement in China, even the recent manslaughter conviction of the 19-year-old British nanny. As for the topic of Scientology, it simply leaves me with a feeling of shame.

John H. Zane, Frankfurt