Re: Free Life Commentary: On the Persecution of Scientologists in Euro

Tony Hollick (
Tue, 28 Oct 97 07:24 GMT0

Forwarded by Tony Hollick


Free Life Commentary
Editor: Sean Gabb
Issue Number Five
27th October 1997

"Over himself, over his own mind and body,
the individual is sovereign"
(J.S. Mill, On Liberty, 1859)

Free Life Commentary is an independent journal of comment, published on
the Internet. To receive regular issues, send
e-mail to Sean Gabb at

Issues are archived at <>

Contact Address: 25 Chapter Chambers, Esterbrooke Street, London, SW1P
4NN; Telephone: 0181 858 0841


One Europe, One Union, One Faith?
Comments on the Persecution
of Scientologists in Europe
by Sean Gabb

Failures of the Debate on Europe

One of the great limitations on the debate over Europe at the moment is
that it is conducted almost entirely in terms of economics. We are
told, for example, that closer integration means more regulation from
Brussels, and therefore fewer jobs, lower profits, and a general sinking
towards the European average from which we have so conspicuously

Of course, these are true points. A United States of Europe - or
anything corresponding to it - is not in British economic interests.
But this is not the end of the story. There are other aspects of
European life which would be established in this country, and which
would be at least as alien and alarming to us as the Common Agricultural
Policy, the Single Currency, or all the other horrors so well described
by Christopher Booker in his Sunday Telegraph articles.

Persecution of the Scientologists

In particular, there is what we must regard as the odd attitude of the
German Government to religious non-conformity. Today, several thousand
members of the Church of Scientology demonstrated in Berlin against what
they see as religious persecution by the German authorities.

They are not alone in believing themselves persecuted. In January this
year, an advertisement appeared in the American newspaper press carrying
the signatures of various Hollywood celebrities. There was Dustin
Hoffman, Goldie Hawn, Aaron Spelling, Oliver Stone, Mario Puzo, and Gore
Vidal among 34 others - none, to my knowledge, Scientologists or even
very religious. What they had signed was an open letter to Helmut Kohl,
the German Chancellor, protesting at the behaviour of his Party and his
Government towards the Church of Scientology. "In the Germany of the
1930s" they wrote, "Hitler made religious intolerance official
government policy. In the 1930s, it was the Jews. Today, it is the
Scientologists." The authors continue - none, by the way is a
Scientologist - with a plea for Herr Kohl to "bring an end to this
shameful pattern of organised persecution".

Perhaps we can ignore celebrities. So many of them embrace such bizarre
causes that none of them can be reliably trusted on any matter external
to their own careers. However, their claims are supported by the State
Department in Washington. In its annual survey of human rights around
the world, it lists Germany beside China, Cuba and Burma as a country in
which human rights were abused in 1996. And the abused rights in
question were those of German Scientologists - people against whom there
was, according to the State Department, a "campaign of harassment and
intimidation". The German Government has also been criticised in a
human rights report issued by a team of British scholars that includes
Dr Dennis O'Keeffe, a devout Catholic, and Professor Antony Flew, an
atheist and expert on David Hume.

I accept that comparisons with the holocaust are inappropriate. People
have not yet been robbed of all they possess in Germany, nor stripped of
their citizenship, nor herded into slave camps, nor murdered on a vast
scale. Even so, not all is well in Germany. Look beneath the veneer of
tolerance, and German society has neither understanding of nor patience
with any but the established Catholic and Protestant churches. To some
extent, Muslims and Buddhists are excluded from German national life, as
are adherents of many other new and minority religions. But to be a
Scientologist seems to be worst of all. To be one of these is to risk
all sorts of official and officially-sponsored discrimination. In
Bavaria, for example, firms run by Scientologist have been barred from
tendering for public contracts. Applicants for jobs in the public
sector must disclose their religious affiliation: if that turns out to
be to the Church of Scientology, they are passed over. The Church has
even been placed under surveillance by the Bavarian security services.

In the private sector, Scientologists are rejected by some banks when
they try to open accounts. Scientologist-owned businesses have been
vandalised. Individual Scientologists have received anonymous hate
mail. Artists and performers known to be Scientologist have been
blacklisted. Chick Corea, an American jazz pianist who is also a
Scientologist, had to cut short his tour in Germany last year, because
he was refused permission to play in certain venues. The youth wing of
the Christian Social Union, the junior partner in the German Government,
picketed performances of the film Mission Impossible because its star,
Tom Cruise, is a well-known Scientologist.

Forcing People to be "Free"

What makes all this worse is the manner in which international
condemnation has been brushed aside. When the Soviets filled their
lunatic asylums with dissidents, they at least had the humanity to be
ashamed. The German Government is simply angry and astonished. Herr
Kohl has dismissed the criticism with a sneering attack on the ignorance
of foreigners. Bernd Protzner, the General Secretary of the Christian
Social Union, actually claims that "influential circles in the State
Department have obviously fallen for Scientology's hate campaign against
Germany and have let themselves be used by the sect."

Whatever their political background, prominent Germans make the same
defence of the anti-Scientology Kulturkampf. The Constitution they gave
themselves after the War obliges them to protect democracy and human
rights. No one familiar with George Orwell will be surprised that this
allows them to persecute any group officially deemed undemocratic. It
is also justifies a strongly "positive" view of human rights. According
to German Government spokesman Peter Hausmann, his country can be proud
of its human rights record. It stands up well to any international
comparison. "It is the obligation of all public bodies to protect the
human dignity of its citizens" he explained. "That includes their
physical and mental safety". Any Nazi or Marxist would be proud of so
clear a statement of the old "forcing people to be free" defence of

The Pan-European Taste for Persecution

If this were a purely German oddity, it might not say much against the
European project. The problem is that the Germans are not alone in
their intolerance of religious dissent. The Greek Government takes it
for granted that only communicants of the Orthodox Church can be real
Greeks: All the others are potential traitors who need to be watched.
The French, for all they have canonised Voltaire as their patron saint
of tolerance, are little better. "I share the apprehensions of the
Germans regarding these sects" their Foreign Minister, Hervé de
Charette, said recently. He went out of his way to denounce the
Hollywood open letter, and to express his government's full support of
Germany in its war against Scientology.

Now, Scientology is seen by many as a strange kind of religion.
Outsiders do tend to regard its theological claims as unlikely. Then
again, most religions seem strange to outsiders; and I do not find the
stories about Thetans and Engrams any more inherently unlikely that I do
stories about the parting of the Red Sea or the Resurrection of Christ.
Indeed, what Scientologist theology I have read makes rather more sense
to me than the Athanasian Creed. But questions of religious truth or
falsehood are not the point. The point is that everyone ought to have
the right to worship as their conscience demands. It is not for
governments or anyone else to pick and choose among religions,
tolerating some but not others. It is the duty of government to provide
an impartial framework of laws within which life, liberty and property
are respected.

British Freedom

Even here in Britain, there are calls for persecution. In The Evening
Standard for last Thursday (23rd October 1997), there is a story on the
front page - "Action call on London 'Christ' cult' - about how some
Labour MP wants an official investigation into a religious movement
called the London Church of Christ. Its offence, apparently, is that it
recruits adults and persuades them to stop going out to night clubs, in
favour of studying The Bible and recruiting others to do likewise.

To its credit, persecution has so far been the policy of the British
Government in religious matters. The Home Office recently accepted
Scientology leaders as ministers of religion for immigration purposes.
Inform, its approved consultant on new religious movements, has advised
the Independent Television Commission to accept Scientologist public
awareness films for showing on British television. The Church of
Scientology has applied for charitable status. Whether or not this is
granted, we can be sure that the Charities Commission will base its
decision on objective criteria, and not on public or official hysteria.
For the moment, we remain what we have long been - one of the great
world centres of religious liberty.

To what extent would this change if our Maastricht opt-outs were
replaced by a complete acceptance of European social policy? Would our
churches also have to be registered with the authorities, as in much of
Europe? Would some be favoured with grants and public acceptance?
Would others be rejected and even persecuted under cover of concern
about the public good? Looking at the balance of Continental opinion,
the answer at the moment seems to be yes: our traditions of religious
liberty would go the way of our ancient weights and measures, harmonised
out of existence.

Important as they are, the debate over Europe is about more than
economics. It is also about different views of the world. Ours, on the
whole, is the right view. For myself, it is not a view I would
surrender or endanger even if the economic arguments all pointed us
towards closer integration.


It ought not be necessary for me to go on and say more. However, the
usual statist response to criticism is to throw doubt on the critic's
motives. Logically, it is of no importance why I have written the
above. But a regard for logic has never been part of the statist
intellectual armoury. I therefore add the following disclaimers in

1. I have not been paid to write this article.

2. I am not, nor ever have been, a member of the Church of Scientology.

If anyone cares to reply, let it be on the substantive issues raised

If you like Free Life Commentary, you may also care to subscribe to my
longer, hard copy journal:

Free Life
The Libertarian Alliance
25 Chapter Chambers
London SW1P 4NN

Legal Notice: Though using the name Free Life, this journal is owned by
me and not by the Libertarian Alliance, which in consequence bears no
liability of whatever kind for the contents.

Sean Gabb                               | "Over himself, over his own  |
E-mail:            | mind and body, the individual| 
Web Page:                               | is sovereign"                |
<> | J.S. Mill, On Liberty, 1859  |


Forwarded by Tony Hollick