USA does battle for sects, Scientologists and the Jehova's Witnesses

Austria criticized in a resolution from the House of Representatives for "intentional" propaganda against religious minorities

Washington, USA
October 18, 2000
Die Presse, Vienna, Austria

by Eva Male

Washington. It is said that U.S. President Bill Clinton should hold talks with the political powers-that-be in France, Germany, Belgium and Austria about violations of religious freedom. This is proposed in a resolution (HR 588), which has been taken up recently in the International Relations Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. The theme has already been dealt with in detail at a congressional hearing last June. The resolution was sponsored by Committee Chairman Ben Gilman and Republican Matt Salmon and Donald Payne. They have also expressed support that experts on religious freedom should be included in international meetings, such as OSCE. The resolution criticizes mainly France (for a parliamentary report on religions) and Germany (for discrimination against Scientology adherents in business), but it was also said that religious minorities were disadvantaged, monitored and boycotted in Austria and Belgium. Austria was said to produce "intentional propaganda against religious groups," such as through its established sect office.

Severe criticism is being applied to a law which puts religious movements under observation as a condition for possible state acknowledgement. The Austrian model was also said to serve for new democracies in the east, like Hungary, Romania and Russia, as justification for more stringent laws. The U.S. State Department's annual report, as it did in the year previous, criticized the unequal treatment of religious communities (mainly Jehovah's Witnesses and Scientology), which division resulted in various categories with assorted legal statuses. An American singer, member of Scientology, was said to have been exposed to vehement protests, and a staff member at Telekom was said to have been degraded by transfer to a less responsible post because of his membership in Scientology. In any case, the State Department has emphasized that the religion law formalized the second-rate status of groups not recognized by the state.

Campaign of the FPOe

It was said that mistrust of non-recognized religious groups was spread in Austria, whereby governmental participation by the FPOe aroused the fear in religious minorities that the climate would continue to get worse. It was said that former FP chief Joerg Haider was continuing to make statements regarded as intolerant and anti-Semitic. It was further said that the Evangelical Superintendent Gertaud Knoll, after his appearance at the rally against hate of foreigners on Heldenplatz was threatened; however it was said not to be proven, but assumed, that the FPOe was behind the hate campaign. It was also noted with displeasure in the report that Social Minister Elisabeth Sickl (FP) wanted to increase the call to battle with specialists (teachers, people from youth work), an inter-ministerial work group on sects and non-acknowledged religious groups. Also the sect brochure distributed by the former Families Ministry is a thorn in the side of the USA.

German Scientology News