hatever your culture, whatever your creed, the right to worship is basic,” said newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright on the occasion of the release of the State Department’s 1996 Human Rights Report in Washington on January 30.
“Broadening the recognition of that right and placing the spotlight on its denial,” she added, “will be a priority of our human rights policy.”
Prominent in the report’s country-by-country criticism of human rights abuses is an extensive section on Germany. For the fourth consecutive year this section includes the State Department’s serious concerns over politically-sanctioned discrimination against members of the Church of Scientology. Indeed, this year’s report contains the most stinging and extensive reproach yet.
In her first official voyage as America’s senior diplomat in February, Albright raised the issue in talks with German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel and said she hoped the situation could be resolved amicably on a bilateral basis.
The human rights report stresses concern over “both government-condoned and societal harassment, including expulsion from (or denial of permission to join) a political party and loss of employment. Business firms whose owners or executives are Scientologists may face boycotts and discrimination, sometimes with government approval.”
In fact, most of the examples cited in the report are examples of discrimination not only condoned politically, but instigated by one or the other of Germany’s major political parties.
“... In late summer, the governing Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party approved a resolution saying that membership ’in the Scientology organisation is not compatible with employment in the public service,’ and urging that the Church be put under surveillance,” states the report. “The resolution also urged the banning of federal funding for cultural and artistic events featuring Scientologists. In December a state organisation of the CDU confirmed the expulsion of three members for belonging to the Church.”
Numerous other specific examples of abuse and discriminatory conduct were cited:
Discussing the State Department’s responsibility for monitoring human rights abuses, a spokesman explained, “We are mandated by law to issue these reports and to tell the truth and to call the shots as objectively as we can.”
Making it clear that politically-spawned persecution of members of the Church of Scientology was not based on any evidence of wrongdoing on their part, he added that Scientologists “essentially face discrimination not by what they do,” but simply because of their beliefs.
This factor was stressed in the report, which noted that in October 1996, even the Ministry of Interior itself has conceded that “no concrete facts exist currently to substantiate the suspicion of criminal acts.”
Considering that there are tens of thousands of Scientologists in Germany, the failure to come up with even any suspicion of criminal acts after years of investigation and harassment should tell the German government something. But, if it doesn’t, perhaps the embarrassment of consistent condemnation from governments and human rights watchdogs will.