The American trade authorities criticize Germany for "sect filter"
June 16, 2000
Robert von Rimscha
The latest U.S. Congressional hearings on the theme of "Treatment of religious minorities in western Europe" took place on Wednesday. Once again, Germany was put on trial for its dealings with Scientology. But the old feud took a surprising turn. Has the Federal Republic of Germany been maneuvered into a situation in which it must boycott the Windows software from Microsoft?
Enter Craig Jensen. He is the founder and chairman of "Executive Software" and professed Scientologist. He started his corporation in 1981. He sold much to Germany for a decade. He wrote the "disk defragmenter" for Windows 2000, a tool to improve the access to data. Executive Software components have been integrated in Windows for six years.
The actual dispute began with an article in a computer magazine in December 1999. "Windows 2000 at risk of being banned" ran the headlines. A Hamburg Interior Ministry spokesman stated that the city government would only use Windows 2000 after the Executive Software components had been taken out. Bavaria and Hamburg refuse public contracts to Scientology companies. Federal agencies have communicated to Microsoft that Windows 2000 will not be generally released because of the Scientology connection. This is apparently the first case of a provider being caught in the "sect filter" of the public procurers.
"The federal government at first did not even try to palliate that their embargo being based on religious discrimination," said Jensen on Wednesday before the foreign politics committee. "I am not appearing here today to complain about a trade boycott or religious discrimination, but to direct your attention to the interplay of the two of them, an embargo that is justified with official government religious discrimination." He called for the U.S. Congress to pass a resolution critical of Germany.
An old story? It depends. It is recognized that one or the other government official in Washington will bow to the adeptly mounted pressure from Scientology and get excited about Germany's dealings with the alleged church. What's new is that the scandal pulls in one crisis after the next.
Up to now, it was a couple of congressional representatives who pressed for resolutions critical of Germany and saw to it that the theme appeared in the State Department's Human Rights Report. But now the friends of Scientology have managed, for the first time, to rope in a second U.S. department. The USTR trade agency, directly subordinate to the White House, announced in the beginning of May that the disadvantages of Scientologists in announcements in Germany presented a serious obstacle to free world trade. It was about the exact same "sect filter" that Craig Jensen complained about so emphatically.
The brunt of censure went to a directive issued by the German Federal Commerce Ministry in September 1998 which made it possible in public contracts "to immediately end contracts being negotiated and to reject offers" if the applicant companies refused to sign a "sect filter." "At least one major U.S. provider had to undergo a review which far exceeded any of his existing competitors," wrote the USTR. This is a big jump. Nobody gets particularly excited about the State Department's Human Rights Report any more. That is just a compilation of what one or the other powerful U.S. lobbies complains about. Fabricating an encumbrance to bilateral trade out of that, though, is an enormous success for Scientology.
Juergen Chrobog, the German Ambassador in Washington, reacted on Wednesday to the Congressional hearing on the Microsoft boycott with a statement typical of how German government officials answer U.S. accusations. While victims told their stories in the U.S. House of Representatives, Chrobog was pointing out paragraphs in the Constitution. On the role of the "sect filter" imposed by the government, Chrobog said only, "The latest assertions concern only a fraction of the contract announcements, in particular the educational measures in government contracts. These are not directed at Scientology, but are meant to ensure that techniques which attempt to suppress or psychologically manipulate are not implemented for purposes of consultation or education." More on that at www.meinberlin.de/microsoft
Notes not in original article:
United States Trade Representative - responsible for developing and coordinating U.S. international trade, commodity, and direct investment policy, and leading or directing negotiations with other countries on such matters.
German Scientology News