Bonn delegation struggles against prejudice in the USA
Washington, February 27, 1998 (AFP)
The Enquete Commission of the German Bundestag, which concerns itself with Scientology, has conducted a week-long fact-finding mission in the USA about the organization. During this time they were successful in raising doubts in the concept that Scientologists are persecuted by the state in Germany, said the delegation members on Friday in Washington. Representatives of religious groups such as the Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses had complained about a climate of hysteria which had arisen in Germany because of the Scientology debate. They, however, do not feel discriminated against by German officials.
The Commission chairperson Ortrun Schatzle (Christian Democrat Party) said, that they had jointly confirmed with John Shattuck, the department head of the US State Department for Questions of Human Rights, that religious freedom is guaranteed in Germany just as it is in the USA. Nevertheless he admitted to differing understandings of the role of the state in regard to new world philosophies. The knowledge of some US representatives about the totalitarian aspect of Scientology is limited. With time the USA will also come to the realization that this is about an anti-democratic and anti-pluralistic organization, "and then a country like America will have to wake up."
The delegation shied away from taking the offensive in their discussion with the representatives of US institutions. "It would have been a tactical mistake to present pages from German history," said the FPD representative Roland Kohn. Schatzle pleaded for a "world-wide object-oriented discussion." The Enquete Commission went about reassuring that they were not an investigative committee which dealt exclusively with Scientology. Angelika Koster-Lossack, German Green Party, said that she has been convinced through the visit to the USA that Scientology really is an extremist organization.
The differing attitudes toward Scientology has encumbered the transatlantic relationship for the past two years. The Scientology organization is acknowledged in the USA as a religion. In contrast it is seen in Germany as a commercial enterprise with totalitarian tendencies.