EUROPE, SCIENTOLOGISTS
FIGHT IN THE STREETS AND
COURTS OF EUROPE

      June 16, 1997
      DUBLIN - Inter Press Service via Individual Inc. :
      European soccer chiefs watching last month's
      UEFA cup final second leg were enraged. Not by
      the goals, but by what was pasted up behind them:
      advertisements for the controversial Church of
      Scientology. 
      The game's European ruling body now says that the
      host club, top Italian team Inter Milan will be fined
      if they admit they agreed to allow the group to
      place banners behind the goals for the May 21
      match. 
      It was only the latest spat in Europe's increasingly
      bizarre war of words and writs against the Church
      of Scientology, itself a peculiar mix of science
      fiction, old sailor's lore, and psychological
      "self-improvement" techniques. 
      In France, 15 members are appealing in Lyon their
      conviction for involuntary manslaughter and
      corruption charges following the March 1988
      suicide of Patrice Vic, a 31-year-old member of
      the group. 
      In Germany today, the government said its
      intelligence services will extend their surveillance
      of the Church of Scientology from two states to the
      whole of the country. 
      German Interior Minister Manfred Kanther says the
      group's activities violate Germany's democratic
      institutions. He has asked German intelligence to
      "immediately take all necessary steps to shed light
      on the sect's activities." 
      And in Dublin the group has become the focus of a
      campaign by a family who says their son was
      "brainwashed" by the group. 
      The charges have been matched in vitriol by the
      Church of Scientology itself. It has repeated its
      charges that the German government was behaving
      "like Nazis" by "persecuting" the group. 
      Heber Jentzsch, president of the Los
      Angeles-based church said in a statement today that
      Germany was following in the footsteps of "the
      brown-shirted bullies of the 1930s" by authorizing
      their spies to track members of a religious group. 
      Several celebrities, including Hollywood film stars
      John Travolta and Tom Cruise and jazz pianist
      Chick Corea belong to the group, which has an
      estimated 1,200 churches, missions, and groups
      worldwide and assets estimated at $150 million. 
      Germany regards the Church of Scientology as a
      commercial enterprise, the Vatican says it is a sect,
      and France denies it legal status as a religion.
      However Britain and the U.S. allow it tax breaks as
      a recognized faith. 
      Founded by the late U.S. science fiction writer L.
      Ron Hubbard in the 1950s, the Church of
      Scientology has been investigated by the courts in
      several countries for alleged fraud and illegal
      medical practice. 
      In Dublin earlier this week, there were protests by
      the family and friends of 24-year-old Odhran
      Fortune outside the sect's Dianetics & Scientology
      office in the city center. 
      Odhran Fortune joined the Church of Scientology
      three years ago when he was working in
      Copenhagen, and his family say they have
      brainwashed him. 
      "He was an extrovert, now he's an introvert," his
      mother, Ann Fortune, told IPS. When he came
      home to visit them in December, they were worried
      about his health. He looked like "skin and bones." 
      There are only 200 Scientologists in Ireland, but as
      everywhere else they have fought back furiously.
      As Fortune's parents protested outside the shop on
      June 9, a counter demonstration was hastily
      organized. 
      Tougher action followed the next day when the
      Church served an Irish High Court injunction on the
      family preventing them from protesting within 10
      yards of the premises or from "in any way
      threatening, assaulting or intimidating" members of
      the Church. 
      A similar injunction applies on the Fortunes in
      Britain. 
      "This is actually just religious oppression, that is
      what it is," member John Lynch told IPS.
      "Scientology is a minority religion here and this
      carry-on is religious harassment. That is what it is." 
      The hard-line defense is typical of the
      Scientologists' response to charges. Last year
      prominent supporters of the sect in the United
      States took out a full page advertisement in the
      International Herald Tribune condemning German
      policy towards its activities. 
      Odhran Fortune himself phoned Irish state radio
      from an undisclosed location in Britain on June 9
      to say that he was happy to be back with the Church.
      He said his family had detained him at their home
      in Gorey, County Wexford, for five months before
      he was able to phone a fellow Church member and
      ask for help. It was "absurd" that he had to choose
      "between my religion and my family," he said. 
      Gerard Ryan, the member of the Church of
      Scientology who had collected Fortune in
      Wexford, said that media was hostile to the group
      and lacked evidence of wrongdoing. "All that has
      been said against us is allegation after allegation
      after allegation," he told IPS. 
      Both Fortune and Ryan blamed the work of
      so-called "deprogrammers" -- supposed "experts" in
      weaning cult members away from dependency on
      their cults -- for turning families against church
      members. Ryan called them "Christian
      fundamentalists." Other religious cults, such as
      Ananda Marga and Rev. Sun Yung Moon's
      Unification Church have also been treated unfairly,
      he added. 
      But Father Martin Tierney, an Irish expert on cults,
      said of the Church of Scientology on state radio: "I
      personally think it's a complete counterfeit. I don't
      think it's rooted in any reality, scientific, medical,
      or religious." 
      Tierney said that for new recruits, joining the
      Church was like winning a lottery ticket. They were
      surrounded by loving friends as long as they
      accepted everything they were told. If they did not
      accept any of the Church's teaching, the
      disagreement would be linked to something that
      was wrong with their personality. 
      A caller to the radio program, the Pat Kenny Show,
      who knew a friend who broke away from the Church
      of Scientology, described being part of the group as
      "an addiction to peer pressure." 
      "When you're leaving the circle, you're breaking the
      circle of friendship and love," he said. 
      Odhran Fortune's family says they are determined
      to continue their protests until their son is returned
      to them. "We're going to continue forever and ever
      and ever," said his brother Diarmuid. "We're not
      stopping, put it that way." 
      [Copyright 1997, Inter Press Service]