Elvis imitator and Scientologist bares his soul: about the controversial organization and hostilities - and why he no longer wants to go along with them.
July 25, 2000
NEWS 29/2000 (Austria)
The message was clear and unmistakable: "Scientology kills" in big letters could be read on the t-shirts of the counter-activists at the street festival at the end of June in Shliefmuehlgasse in Vienna. And while Mark Janicello, 37, whispered his smash hit "Deep Your Soul" [sic] with an icy demeanor, the demonstrators cheerfully distributed flyers to the audience in which they announced the membership of the musical singer in Scientology. It was not the first operation against the former Elvis imitator: the same scene took place several months ago in the Akzent Theater where he sang in the Mario Lanza-Musical.
Professing to Scientology
Janicello is the only artist in Austria who openly professes to Scientology: "For a year I've done nothing else for them, I don't want to any more. But if this goes on, I'm moving back to the U.S. I've never misused my audience for Scientology and never spread their messages. I would only like one thing: to make music."
In NEWS, Janicello speaks for the first time about the controversial organization, about which Renate Hartwig, sect expert and best-seller author, warns, "Scientology is dangerous!"
Janicello, born as the son of a Baptist minister, ran into Scientology in 1994, "My wife at the time, Danielle, and I had marital problems, we went to psychologists and marriage counselors. Nobody could help us. Then somebody put the "Dianetics" book by Ron Hubbard into my hands." Janicello made the pilgrimage to the Scientology headquarters on 46th Street, "After six and a half hours of auditing my migraine headaches were gone and I was convinced: this was it."
He took several communication courses, "I regularly took auditing, sessions and the 'Purification Rundown,' a purging program in which the body is detoxified and cleaned. Every course cost 3,500 shillings, Scientology is expensive."
Soon Janicello was deeply involved in the structure of the organization and also had contact with the "Office of Special Affairs": "I authored reports which I sent to the 'Ethics Office' about other Scientologists."
Renate Hartwig to NEWS: "These reports are comparable to the reports which former Stasi informants wrote about offensive regime critics."
Janicello: "I did author reports, but only when I had problems with other Scientologists." After "Elvis" in the Metropol, Janicello move to Vienna in 1998: "I regularly visited the centers on Schottenfeldgasse in Vienna and at the Viktor Adler market in Favoriten and took two courses."
John Wayne Mentality
The singer fell in love with "Metropol" staff member Ulli. Local operator Peter Hofbauer: "She was suddenly another person, picked up and decided that her career was managing Janicello. As it later turned out, she used to be manic-depressive." Three months after the end of their affair she put a bullet through her head. Janicello told the public, "That was my John Wayne mentality: I wanted to show everybody that I stood by my beliefs."
The departure began: "BMG Ariola Munich cancelled a scheduled duet along with 14 promotional appearances, Dieter-Thomas Heck asked me not to be on his show anymore." His friends in the field disappeared. Marika Lichter, "When we suddenly started to get invitations to Scientology meetings, I knew what the game was. I want to keep myself and everything having to do with me away from that."
And Metropol boss Hoffbauer, "Don't slam the door on the way out!"
Now Janicello wants to work out his malaise in a book, "I was honest. That will now be my destiny."
Janicello's appeal: "I am an artist. I did not want to bring someone into Scientology, nor have I abused my public."
US Hearing on Religion
Criticism for Austria because of Sect Booklet
U.S. Representatives accuse several western European countries of religious intolerance
June 16, 2000
by our correspondent Eva Male
Washington "The dealings with religious minorities in West Europe fills many Americans with concern. Several west European countries, who doubtlessly are friends of the USA and where freedom in general is cherished, have a weak point in their attitude towards religious minorities." Benjamin Gilman, chairman of the foreign political committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, emphasized at the hearing on Wednesday that members of minority religions in west Europe are often discriminated against. He said that they were frequently refused financial help and the right to religious visits in prisons. He said that also Americans were subjected to discrimination in these countries when they wanted to exercise their religion or pursue their career. Mentioned specifically were the countries of France, Germany, Belgium and Austria.
Robert Seiple, special ambassador of the State Department for International Religious Freedom, described the situation in Austria as not dissimilar from that of France. He said the government had long been carrying out an information campaign against any religious group which, in its opinion, harmed the interests of the individual or of society. The choice of words in a booklet on sects from the Families Ministry last fall, according to Seiple, was perceived by many religious groups as "clearly negative and insulting." Besides that, he said, after a new minister had been named by the FPOe, there were "fears that the government would heighten its campaign against religions which were not officially acknowledged." In a live broadcast, the committee was later hooked up with Pastor Robert Hunt in Vienna, a representative of the English-speaking Methodist Church. He reported that his church, although officially recognized, sometimes had problems with prison visits or when it came to booking conventions at hotels. There was said to very likely reign in Austria a certain prejudice, and one could allegedly not keep his religion to himself, since it was noted down on the registration form. Furthermore, the pastor perceived a connection between religious discrimination and ethnic prejudice. But Hunt stressed that he did not want to generalize. Besides him, many representatives from Scientology and Jehovahs Witnesses testified.
Threatening a Resolution
In view of the "widespread religious intolerance in Europe," the committee, among other things, decided upon a resolution against France, Austria and Belgium according to the same model Congress had already used on Germany. Representative Samuel Gejdenson (Dem.) thought that Europe would be making it easier on itself if it oriented itself towards the the USA's model regarding the separation of Church and State. Matt Salmon (Rep.) stated that Europeans would have to respect religious freedom if they wanted to maintain good relations with the USA. The ambassadors of the countries addressed did not accept their invitations; Germany and Austria presented statements in which they explained their legal situations and in which they boasted about the religious freedom in their countries.
Austrian sect booklet: books/990913b.htm (127k)
Religious Freedom: USA criticizes Austria
September 15, 1999
Vienna - The Scientology Church, which is controversial in Austria, feels that its criticism of the federal government has been validated by the US State Department report, "Religious Freedom 1999 in Austria." In it the U.S. administration primarily regards the federal laws for religious denominations and the legal entity of the Federal Center for Sect Issues "with concern."
A delegation of the U.S. Helsinki Commission and the State Department testified to administration representatives on a visit to Austria in March that the two laws were not in agreement with "the European Human Rights Convention or other international treaties." Discrimination and "social mistrust" against members of non-acknowledged religions described as sects was criticized.
However, the Austrian Constitution guarantees religious freedom on principle, and this right is respected in practice. (red/APA)
Whirling Dervishes in the Soul of Europe?
From: "Die Presse"
September 21, 1998
Provided by Vienna Online
European Union (EU) and Churches. At a meeting of "Dialogues for Austria" the relationship of the EU to religions are at the center of controversial discussion.
Vienna (no/red.) The EU is now obligated by the values of information, humanism and of Christianity, stated Egon Kapellari, Diocesan Bishop of Gurk and EU Commissioner of the Bishop's Conference. An informational meeting of the "Dialogues for Austria" took place on Friday afternoon under the title of "Europe's Souls? Churches and religious communities in the European unification process." In it Kapellari showed the full support of the Austrian Bishops for the EU expansion.
Church rights expert Richard Potz had already warned that propensity for "isolationist behavior" could be lurking in sub-conscious of Europe. He said that European souls comprise "a wide land in which not only Christianity and information rule, but in which Jewish cantors sing and Islamic dervishes dance."
In any case there was vigorous discussion about the relationship between the EU and Islam. Several discussion participants indicated that freedom of religion and freedom of expression was often not respected on the part of Islam. Professor Ans Schakfeh, Managing President of the Islamic Community strongly urged that that "prototype" not be followed in connection with the EU.
Other topics of discussion included the legal binding of religion in EU agreements. Tomas Jansen, presiding official of the European Commission, expressed regret that the Amsterdam Church Articles only had the character of a supplementary declaration, and had not been included at the constitutional level. Hartmut Nassauer (EVP) was of the opinion that a common denominator for the role of the church in all EU nations was "not in sight," but that the goal of an EU constitution consisted of the guarantee of freedom of religion.
The Belgian church rights expert, Rik Torfs, directed his address against tendencies inside of the EU to discriminate against certain religious groups, such as the Jehova's Witnesses or - as energetically discussed in Germany and Austria - the Scientologists by an exclusion from public service.
Copyright "Die Presse", Vienna
On July 1, Austria took over the presidency of the European Union.