The USA and Scientology
In the Name of Freedom
May 11, 2001
taz, translated from
Le Monde diplomatique Nr. 6443 of May 11, 2001
into German by Bodo Schulze
A dispute over religious freedom is poisoning diplomatic relations between Washington and Europe. In the name of individual rights, the United States grants immunity from prosecution to groups which portray themselves as minority faiths and whose activities courts have repeatedly objected to. These cults, which have developed from a brew of the "new right," neoconservatism and anti-communism, seek to hammer the ultraliberal ideology and its values into the heads of the people and proclaim themselves to be the common binding foundation for all societies.
by Bruno Fouchereau, Journalist
Some time back the cult issue was regarded solely as a "unsettling social phenomenon," but in recent years it has grown into an "urgent problem of public safety." The primary cause of this re-evaluation lay in several spectacular events: the mass suicides of the Solar Templists in 1994 and 1995, the poison gas attack by the Aum sect in the Tokyo subway of March 1995, and the collective suicide of the Heaven's Gate cult in Los Angeles in 1999. France, Belgium, Spain and Germany subsequently tightened up their prosecution arrangements. In the majority of these cases the legislators' decision was based on parliamentary committees of inquiry into the risk from certain groups and into the methods of brainwashing which their members were subjected to. The leading roles in stepping up state procedure against these cults were played by France and Germany.
Yet practically everywhere in the European countries, official government offices were installed in order to observe the cult scene. In 1996, France passed a series of laws for stronger protection of psychically dependent people. The administration under Minister President Lionel Jospin set up an Interministerial Mission to Combat Cult Presence (MILS) under the leadership of Alain Vivien. In Germany a number of measures were taken, mainly against the Scientology Organization. In connection with a report of the Federal-States work group on Scientology, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution explicitly warned the federal government and the people about this cult. Bavaria even decided on a 15-point list of measures which included monitoring contact with Scientology by civil service applicants. (1) In view of these stepped-up procedures in Europe, all observers of the scene reckoned on a counter-offensive from the cult-multi[national]s, who in France alone possess an estimated fortune of several hundred million franks. The attack came from the United States. (2)
On January 27, 1997 the administration in Washington solemnly condemned Germany's measures against the Scientology organization. Several days later the U.S. State Department published its "Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor" (BDHRL)(3) annual report on the world human rights situation. In it Germany was vigorously attacked and put on the list of countries which abused human rights, right behind China. The report was timed so as to support the Scientology Organization's publicity campaign, which included organizing demonstrations in various countries, putting protest advertisements into the international press and calling upon the EU Human Rights Commission. In order to "calm tempers," the U.S. State Department issued a statement in March 1997 which said, "We did criticize the Germans, but we do not support the Scientology campaign against Germany." This statement was the least that could have been expected from the U.S. administration.
When Congress passed a new law on religious freedom in the world, the BDHRL established a new department, the "Office of International Religious Freedom." With a fully empowered ambassador at the top who had five state department officials under him, the new group has a representative in each U.S. embassy. The first chief of the agency was named Robert A. Seiple, an ex-Marine whose favorite saying was, "The individual rights of freedom apply everywhere because they are a gift from God." (4) Seiple told the Naples Daily News (5) how very much his faith had helped him in all his personal tribulations, namely in his 300 combat missions in Vietnam where he served as an officer in the Marine infantry.
However Seiple did not obtain his office on account of his war experiences. For eleven years he sat at the head of ultraconservative World Vision Inc., a heavily financed Christian welfare association with millions of members all over the world, which finances development projects in Latin America and Asia. (6) In September 1998, the first report of the "Office of International Religious Freedom" appeared (7). In it France, Germany, Austria and Belgium were accused of serious violations against religious freedom. Even the report of the French parliamentary committee of inquiry of 1995 was regarded as persecution in blind rage. The representatives were accused of pursuing a politic of religious alienation insofar as the organizations named in the report were said to be prosecuted not for any illegal activity, but solely because of their beliefs.
At the invitation of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the sub-organization of the OSCE "Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights" (ODIHR) arranged a seminar in Vienna on March 22, 1999 in which the French sect politic was vehemently attacked. In a natural progression of the U.S. State Department's criticism, the American diplomats and senators took on the role of accuser. The situation almost led to a diplomatic debacle. A similar scenario was staged in a hearing by the "Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe," an independent U.S. federal agency with its headquarters in Washington. Three witnesses were invited who revealed terrible things: they said that France was on its way to becoming a new Vichy-state, that the French Minister President was under the influence of anti-religious organizations, and that children were being taken from their parents. The report of the hearing, published in June 1999, demonstrated what a powerful concern the U.S. American Senators had for basic rights in Europe. (9) For instance, they accused the French government of misapplying the tax law as an instrument of a new Inquisition.
The French anti-cult agency MILS and the Parisian Foreign Ministry, based on an analysis of the financial structure and the money flows of the Scientology Organization, reported that they were clearly dealing with a private commercial corporation which raked in huge profits and which was therefore properly subject to the tax law. The parliamentary report of inquiry, on which lawyers, sect specialists and the police had cooperated, listed 180 allegedly religious organizations which, after thorough investigation, could be classified as totalitarian because they used psychological terrorism to keep their adherents in line. Court judgments were in effect against most of these organizations. Furthermore, the French administration took the effort to clear away untruths and misunderstandings. For instance France had been accused of refusing to acknowledge some minority groups as religion. The reality of the situation, based on a 1905 law which mandates the separation of church and state, is that France does not acknowledge religion for any group at all.
But despite all those efforts, the dialogue remained pointless. The annual report, published September 9, 1999 by the U.S. Office for International Religious Freedom, attacked the European countries more vehemently than ever before. On December 8, Hubert Védrine, the French Foreign Minister, wrote to his American colleague Madeleine Albright, "The act of your government baselessly making an issue out of the methods of operation of French government agencies while high officials of your and my administrations have dialogue in process throws a shadow on the very promising outcome of those discussions." Shortly thereafter the diplomatic dialogue on the issue was broken off and, to date, has never again been taken up. The last U.S. State Department report, published March 2 of this year, indeed took into account the French laws of 1901 and 1905, silently clearing away their past mistakes, but again made accusations as caustic as any before.
Key figures and concerted actions
Taken by themselves, the history and the Constitution of the United States do not explain why the U.S. government so persistently supports various cults. As previously mentioned, the "Office for International Religious Freedom," a part of the "Office for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor," resides in the U.S. State Department. In addition to that there is a "Commission for Religious Freedom" which was founded in Washington by members of the U.S. Congress. On top of that comes thirdly the "United States Commission for Religious Freedom," which reports directly to the White House. According to information from its director, Steven T. McFarland, his organization perceives itself as a "watchdog" insofar as it "monitors the work of the other commissions so that they do not stray from the right path."
To the question of whether he had read the report of the French National Assembly, Steve T. McFarland had to say no, and this was because the French language was not a strong point with him, as he added apologetically. Neither did the report from the MILS French anti-cult agency, nor the information from the French Foreign Ministry nor the notes from the French Embassy in Washington find a readership in the government offices responsible. All officials who could be reached in these three agencies had to admit that they had not read these texts, neither the originals nor the translations. McFarland excused this with the reassurance that he regarded as absolutely credible the information which had been forwarded to him from the American intelligence service, the embassy in Paris, academic experts and the non-governmental organizations critical of France. When he was confronted with a series of despatches from the American Embassy in Madrid (10) from which it could be clearly seen that the "Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor" had intervened in Spain for the purpose of delaying a magistrate's investigative proceeding against the Scientology organization, McFarland refused to make any comment.
The names of the intelligence service agents from whom the U.S. commission culled its information could not be discovered for obvious reasons. A glance at the internet page of the U.S. Embassy in Paris was therefore all the more informative. There, for one example, the services of lawyer Kay Gaejens were recommended, who is himself a professed member of the Scientology Organization. And when the National Assembly conducted a public hearing in February 2001 about the problems of psychological manipulation techniques, the U.S. Embassy, although not invited, sent two of its staff in the company of a leading member of the French Scientology Organization. Also questions are posed about the witnesses who appeared in support of the U.S. commission. The leader of the Vienna seminar of March 1999 was none other than Italian sociologist Massimo Introvigne, one of the founders of the Catholic fundamentalist "Centro Studi sulle Nuove Religioni"(11), which maintains close contact with the neo-fascist "Travail Famille Propriété" cult in France. Massimo Introvigne's words are to be found in numerous publications of the Scientology Organization, and he appeared as a witness for them at a trial in Lyon.
Another key figure is Willy Fautré, who wears the badge of chairman of the Belgian "Droit de lHomme sans Frontière" organization, a name which should not be mistakenly assumed to be acknowledged by the International Federal of Human Rights Associations. For a long time Fautré was a correspondent for the "News Network International," a U.S. American press agency which is known for its militant anti-communism and its opposition to abortion. In addition to that Fautré is a member of the Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (HFHR), whose publications are cited in detail in the U.S. commissions' reports.
The last crown witness mentioned in the alleged violations against religious freedom by the French government is Pastor Louis Démeo of the "Institut Théologique de Nîmes." This institute is part of the "Greater Grace" cult, whose headquarters in in Baltimore, Maryland. Greater Grace commands over 3,000 mission branches in Latin America, several hundred in Africa and a handful in eastern Europe. the Institute of Nîmes functions as a staging platform for the eastern European countries. Greater Grace, whose methods have been met with vehement protest even in the United States, can effortlessly be described as a "traveling companion" of the Scientology Organization.
Stacy Brooks, chairman of the Lisa McPherson Trust (12), the most important U.S. American aid organization for Scientology victims, was herself a member of the organization for 15 years. She worked as an official for David Miscavige, Hubbard's heir and currently the Scientology guru. She remembers the director of Greater Grace, George Robertson, very well, "He is in close contact with the managers in Scientology. When the cult cannot itself intervene in certain matters because of image problems, it asks Robertson for help. He is their most important liaison with the Evangelical movement." It was under his management that Greater Grace and Scientology were able to sue and ruin the Cult Awareness Network, founded in 1970 - and then buy it up. (13)
The influence which the Scientology movement and its adepts are able to exert in the USA is also demonstrated under an entirely different circumstance. Since 1993, the cult has been acknowledged by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service as a religious community, thereby giving it tax exemption. For 25 years that office had rejected all applications from Scientology, and this had been legally validated by all the U.S. courts, including the Supreme Court. The change of mood in 1993 gave the Scientology organization access to millions in savings and provided it with a PR instrument to the extent that it gained access to the U.S. government.
The New York Times revealed the details of this turn-about in 1997. According to that paper Scientology had waged a regular war against the tax agency, including on the legal level by bogging down the agency with over fifty law suits. But that was not enough. They also hired detectives to spy on the private lives of high officials in the tax agency. One of these private investigators told the New York Times in March 1997 that he worked for Scientology for 18 months between 1990 and 1992. From his office in Maryland he gathered information on officers who missed appointments, who drank too much, or who maintained extra-marital affairs. Tax exemption occurred at the explicit instruction of the director of the income tax department, circumventing the normal decision-making channels.
Annual profits of 300 million dollars, sophisticated techniques of intimidation and infiltration and finally the IRS acknowledgment as a religions community brought the Scientology Organization influence at the highest decision levels of the U.S. American state. Stephen A. Kent of the sociological institute of the University of Alberta, Canada investigated the lobbying strategies of various cults and religious groups in Washington. His detailed analysis showed the degree to which the Scientologists - as did the Moon cult before them - exerted influence upon members of the House, the Senate and the White House. To that end the Scientology Organization hired a public relations corporation which specialized in lobby work for which it received 725,000 and 420,000 dollars in 1997 and 1998 respectively.
A number of actors and actresses, invariable Scientology members, donated over 70,000 dollars to Hillary Clinton for her senatorial election campaign; Tom Cruise handed over 5,000 dollars to Albert Gore, and John Travolta together with other Scientologists, arranged a banquet the proceeds of which went to the Democratic Party - admission: 25,000 dollars. Finally, an attorney for the Scientologists donated 20,000 dollars to the democratic election. The influence of the Moon cult has also grown remarkably. Since just recently Democrat Hillary Clinton's sneering comments have been permitted to appear weekly in the conservative and widely-distributed Washington Time, which belongs to the Moon cult.
To all appearances the Moon cult and the Scientology Organization have been making arrangements together for a long time. In any case, since the mid-1990s both organizations have coordinated their efforts at religious freedom in the USA and in Europe. Their joint operation in eastern Europe is documented, published on the internet, by an exchange of letters between the managements of the Moon cult and the Scientology Organization. This partnership has also more or less officially included other cults, and Moon and Scientology have also found support for some time in the fundamentalist Protestants in the USA. For instance several ultra-conservative senators and the U.S. State Department have warmly received a number of Moon greats as well as guru Sri Chinmoy of a cult by the same name. The Institute, whose headquarters in Washington is located right next to the White House, announces that it embraces an "integralistic" Catholicism and is involved in promoting regard for the rights of the Scientology Organization, the Moon cult, and other so-called "minority religions" in Europe.
Finally the ultra-conservative, anti-gay and anti-abortion "Institute on Religion and Democracy"(IRD)(15) is also mentioned, which for twenty years has been making appearances for fundamentalist-Protestant reform of democratic institutions all over the world. Therefore it is not surprising that IRD President Diane L. Knippers sits in the choir of France-slanderers, "France is a model for the other European democracies. It absolutely has to give up its anti-religion politics and reinstate the guarantee to practice belief." In the very next sentence she then involuntarily reveals what binds together these, at first glance, very diverse groups and cults, "Today we are working for religious freedom for the same reason as people once did against communism. A human society cannot develop if it lives in a lie. Atheism and communism can only produce lies. Spirituality is a guarantee of civilization because spirituality and faith produce honest people. Without honesty there is no trade, and without trade no civilization." [Note: all quotes in this article are non-literal quotes. They have been translated from English to French to German back to English.]
The fight for "spiritualization of the world" serves the same purpose as those of the lobby groups which are attempting to put American values into effect on the path to globalization. (16) In globalizing markets and American values, according to the "Institute on Religion and Democracy," the United States uses the Bible. This mystic-imperialistic worldview is shared by all fundamentalist groups in the USA: they feel they make up the ideological framework of all forces which have the urge to champion religious freedom. Just to name two examples: John R. Bolton, member of the U.S. Commission for Religious Freedom, was previously the vice president of the ultraliberal "American Enterprise Institute for Policy Research." In the old Bush administration, Bolton served in the President's office as an advisor for international trade issues. Nina Shea, also a member of this commission, reported, "Our primary goal consists of worldwide implementation of the new liberal order."
This logic of domination, whose beginnings go back to the Reagan administration in the early 1980s and which one could almost describe as "interactive," is being emphasized in a concurrent attempt to implement universally valid standards of law. By this, market globalization is to be brought to closure. But there is still resistance against it. Among other places, that goes for the market of education where the cults and communications groups oppose a common enemy: a basic ideological position which has its historical roots in France - the principle of laicism. The attacks on French cult politics is therefore directed at something much more basic: the laic character of the French Republic.
What the cults intend to gain in this battle is obvious. If they succeed in getting their foot inside the door of European education, when they gain the right to operate their own schools, as they have in the United States, without any state control, then they will have assured themselves of a stable and comprehensive base of recruitment. These institutions would then be directly involved in the coining of the culture and the psychology of the individual.
With the background of this cultural-political goal one can indeed not think of a standard united front made up of corporations from the communications industry, but clearly far-reaching connections are evident with the producers of the programs and their content in the film and computer industry. It is known that ABC, CNN and associates maintain close contact with the fundamentalist lobby groups.
In closing, several remarkable coincidences are pointed out: Bill Gates' first biographer, David Ichbia, is a Scientologist; the same goes for Guy Jensen, one of his closest staff members, and "Executive Software," a key corporation of the Microsoft empire, openly describes itself as oriented to Scientology. Who knows: maybe next Big Brother will come to us in our homes via the video screen.Footnotes (1) See www.innenministerium.bayern.de/scientology/. (2) This is not particularly surprising, as 90 percent of cults come from the USA and have their headquarters there. (3) The agency, founded in 1990, works with all U.S. intelligence agencies and has the mission of assessing the situation of democracy and rights of freedom in all the countries of the world. It produces reports by subject and country for the administration and also does work for the House and the Senate. (4) Interview with the author. (5) Naples Daily News of January 1999 (Naples, Florida), quoted from Stephen A. Kent, "Consultation on Religious Persecutions as a US Policy Issue", Trinity College, Hartford/Connecticut. (6) Also the publications of the "Interhemispheric Ressource Center" and the December issue of the World Vission magazine of 1991. See also http://www.pir.org/gw/wv.txt. (7) The report of the "Commission of International Religious Freedom" is found onwww.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/drl_reports.html. (8) The "Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights" was founded in 1990, an application "Charta von Paris fuer ein neues Europa," as a sub-organization of the OSCE in order to monitor the elections in Europe. In addition, it also took on the goal of preventing conflicts in its list of missions at the Budapest summit of 1994. Influenced by former U.S. Senator Dennis DeConcini and Alfonse dAmato, the ODIHR is also involved in issues of religious freedom (http://www.osce.org/odihr/index.php3). (9) Hearing on the subject of "Religious Freedom in Western Europe: Religious Minorities and Growing Government Intolerance", Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, June 8, 1999, http://www.csce.gov/hearings_briefings.cfm. (10) The author obtained copies of this telex from an internet page which received the U.S. despatches by anonymous mail, see http://parishioner.org/spain.html. (11) See http://www.cesnur.org/. (12) See http://www.lisatrust.net/. (13) See the Los Angeles Times, September 9, 1999 (http://www.latimes.com/). (14) See http://www.religionandpolicy.org/. (15) See http://www.ird-renew.org/. (16) Stephen A. Kent, "The French and German versus American Debate over, New Religions', Scientology, and Human Rights", Marburg Journal of Religion 6 (1), Januar 2001, http://www.uni-marburg.de/religionswissenschaft/journal/mjr/kent2.html.
Le Monde diplomatique Nr. 6443 vom 11.5.2001, Seite 1,20-21, 90 Documentation, Bruno Fouchereau
German Scientology News