Albion Monitor /Commentary

Will Scientology Bring Down Germany?

by Alexander Cockburn

Unlike unreconstructed Waffen-SS men, Scientologists can't join any major political party and are subject to state-sanctioned wiretaps and other intrusions
"Primary Colors" is now playing in all the movie houses, with John Travolta in the role of President Groper. There's a theory, mooted in the press, that a bargain was struck whereby Clinton would fight boldly in the cause of Scientology and in return, John Travolta, a Scientologist, would make Bill seem nice on screen. The prime Scientological cause fitting this calendar of supposed events would be a nudge from the White House, prompting the State Department to condemn Germany for its treatment of Scientologists. A sub-theory suggests that Travolta persuaded Clinton to tell the IRS to give the Church of Scientology tax-exempt status.

It's a nice scenario, and there's no doubt that Bill would have been up for such deals, but I'm not sure things quite work that way, at least in this instance.

Travolta -- known in Scientology circles as J.T. -- did meet Clinton at the conference on excellence in Philadelphia last summer. Bill greeted J.T. warmly, told him he knew all about the situation in Germany and said that he would do his best to help out. (The IRS exemption came long before.) In 1994, before "Primary Colors" had made "Anonymous" his first million, the State Department criticized Germany for discrimination against Scientologists, as it had done every year since.

The Germans have been particularly keen to promote the notion of a secret Travolta/Clinton deal. This is because the German government is -- and indeed has been for many years -- unhinged on the topic of Scientology, which it seems to regard as some sort of Ebola virus likely to bring down the nation. Heber Jentzsch, president of the International Church of Scientology, told me with an air of quiet triumph a few days ago that over the past 10 years, Scientologists in Germany have been the target of no less than 160 criminal investigations, with the German investigators coming up with nothing to justify all their time and effort.

The closest to triumph the investigators got was when they discovered pills in a Scientologist's home, which they promptly announced to be poison, presumably associated with hellish Scientological rites. Jetzsch, a man with a sense of humor, told the German investigators he would take 5,000 cubic centimeters of the pills and the German probers could take 5,000 cubic centimeters of cyanide -- and they'd see who died first. The pills were vitamin C, no doubt associated with the ancient rite of trying to live forever. The Germans didn't think it was funny.

The way the German federal and regional governments have treated Scientologists isn't funny either. Scientologists have seen their children kicked out of kindergartens. Unlike unreconstructed Waffen-SS men, Scientologists can't join any major political party and are subject to state-sanctioned wiretaps and other intrusions. The same, incidentally, is true of Muslims. Jehovah's Witnesses also get harsh treatment. It also seems that the campaign against small religious groups picked up steam after German reunification in 1990.

Smarting at the adverse publicity, the German government is now mounting a campaign whose ambitions are disclosed in a file of confidential government memoranda leaked to Barry Fisher, a human rights attorney in Los Angeles, by an anonymous whistle-blower in the German government.

The German government's plan is to get the think tanks for the two major political parties -- the Christian Democrats' Adenauer Foundation and the Socialists' Ebert Foundation -- to lobby in Washington and organize encounters with influential Americans, putting forth the German view.

The nature of this "German view" was debated ponderously in the German Foreign Ministry in mid-November of last year in a top-level session with high-ups from all the major ministries. The chairman stressed the need "to reinforce our public relations and publicity work in the U.S.A." Then, after much cogitation, the assembled company concluded that the reason Americans can't understand why the German government hates Scientologists is that "constitutional freedom" in the United States means absolute freedom, whereas in Germany, the freedom of citizens is limited by the desire of these citizens for the government to protect them against the danger of such groups as the Scientologists. (This same desire for protection on the part of the citizens led the Nazis, back in the 1930s, to ban the Seventh Day Adventists and other religious groups and embark on the extermination of all the Jews. Once you start "protecting" the citizens, there is no telling where it will end.)

While German professors are fanning out across America to do battle with Scientology and convince Americans of the true evil of J.T.'s faith, the German government is limbering up its campaign on the domestic front. Shortly after the November meeting, another secret memo summarized the state of the German government's network to "combat the so-called Sects and Psycho groups." In command is the Federal Ministry for Family, Elderly, Women and Youth, linked closely with the Federal Administration Office, which compiles data on "youth sects and Psycho groups."

The prime spies on behalf of these government bodies are the main Protestant and Catholic churches, which, the memo says proudly, "have set up a network of information and counseling offices, which cover almost the entirety of the whole country. ... The two big churches described their economic cooperation as unproblematic and intensive. They also cooperate regularly with government offices, mainly at state level, to exchange information. The churches (especially the Roman Catholic Church) are currently trying to extend their counseling capabilities so as to include the existing network of psychological counseling offices. They intend to accomplish this through the motivation or qualification of the psychologists who are active there."

What emerges from this memo is a paradigm of how a government can plan to intrude into matters of faith and conscience. The state isolates an enemy (Scientologists, in this instance). Under a law authorizing such onslaughts against any outfit deemed to be a threat to their Constitution, the enemy is wire-tapped, followed, harassed. (Scientologists can't hold any civil-service post.) The major churches enthusiastically join in the onslaught. Government funds are (unconstitutionally, as is admitted in the memo) poured into another network of private counselors and shrinks, who organize their own brainwashing/surveillance strategies.

As I often say, whatever the Scientologists may have done, whatever foul evils they may have perpetrated, are but micro-pimples when compared with the horrors done in the name of Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism and the other tolerated faiths.

© Creators Syndicate

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Albion Monitor April 10, 1998 (

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