- Enquete Commission wins new recognition in the USA - German Parliament Visit could generate Debate
By Henriette Löwisch
Washington, February 27, 1997 (AFP) If the topic is Scientology, then CDU representative Ortrun Schaetzle chooses her words with care. "We talk about the same thing, but from different views.", she characterizes the different perspectives in the matter of Scientology on both sides of the Atlantic. In the latest visit of the Bundestag's (German Assembly's) Enquete Commission of the so-called Sects and Psycho-groups in Washington both sides finally listened to each other in peace after a presentation by the Commission chairperson. The US delegation against the German proceeding about Scientology had not even been cleared from the room. Nevertheless a contribution was made to the generation of the extremely emotional debate.
Robot theory, gestapo methods, cyber-fascism - key words such as these have long been a trademark of the statements made about Scientology by the German officials. The USA takes exception to these German measures and actions such as observation for constitutional protection, party exclusions and film boycotts. Scientology itself adroitly exploits US cliches concerning Germany and makes comparisons to jewish persecution during the National Socialist era. Little measurable agreement is heard on either side. The controversy encumbers current German-American relations.
For the last few months at least, Scientology's PR campaign against Germany has retreated into the background. The US media has increasingly questioned the methods of the organization and has reported critically about the mysterious death of Scientologist Lisa McPherson in Florida and about the secret agreement with the IRS tax agency. Neither is there any help for scientology forthcoming at this time from congress.
With this serving as background the Bundestag representatives concern themselves with imparting to their US counterparts, successfully, according to Schaetzle, the knowledge that they are not conducting a witch hunt against Scientology nor against any other group. Among other items to be addressed at the proceedings was the policies of the Bavarian officials. The chairman of the Congressional Committee for International Relations, Ben Gilman, is said to have met the delegation with full frankness. To be sure, Gilman and the other US representatives do not make a big fuss over their mission in matters of German-American friendship.
The Bundestag representatives gained new recognition in Washington through their own attendance. "Now I am becoming truly aware for the first time of the two faces of Scientology", said Schaetzle on Thursday. Harmless, sympathetic faces are seen in the USA, "with actors and representatives from the spiritually cultural area." The other side is the "Scientology System", which is not acceptable for Germany because of experiences with National Socialism. "Americans have a different point of reference there."
Scientology reacted by posting a watch on the German legation and with a flood of press releases about the visit from Germany. Upon the presentation of a guest speaker, the sect immediately launched an attack, claiming his former membership in a known anti-semitic and nationalistic organization. Dieter Detke from the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation, who had arranged the meeting, angrily rejected the accusations. "I see this failed attempt as another typical Scientology untruth", he said. Topic of the meeting was the eight mysterious deaths which occurred in the Scientology stronghold in Florida, held by a former Scientologist.
Detke does not have any illusions that the public friction with Scientology will soon be over. "I have never seen them stopping for one moment in their struggle against Germany", he says.