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Germany to place Scientology under counter-intelligence surveillance

June 6, 1997 GMT

BONN, Germany (AP) _ The German government decided Friday to put the Church of Scientology under nationwide surveillance by counterintelligence agents because it contends the church is a threat to democracy.

``All means available to the state″ will be used to observe Scientology’s members in Germany, Interior Minister Manfred Kanther said. He refused to say exactly how the church’s 30,000 German members would be monitored.

Friday’s decision marks the first nationwide action against Scientology, although individual German states, political parties and Cabinet ministers have spoken out against the group and organized boycotts against its members.

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The Los Angeles-based Scientology organization denounced ``this senseless decision that violates human rights,″ and said its lawyers would file a legal action against it.

Germany contends Scientology’s mission is to infiltrate the government and says the group is a threat to democracy. Scientologists deny any such goal and say their members face job discrimination, are denied bank loans and their children have been banned from private schools in Germany.

Scientology members protested outside the federal Interior Ministry building Friday, holding placards accusing Germany of encouraging ``hate and violence against religious minorities.″

The decision to put Scientology under surveillance by Germany’s main counterintelligence agency was made by Kanther and the interior ministers of Germany’s 16 states.

The counterintelligence agency, which has primarily gathered information on right-wing and left-wing extremists, often uses informers or electronic surveillance systems.

Friday’s decision got a mixed reception from German politicians.

``I emphatically support this decision. It was long overdue,″ said Renate Rennebach, a member of the Social Democrats _ Germany’s main opposition party _ who is on a parliamentary commission that has been examining religious sects.

But Greens party member Angelika Koester-Lossack called the move ``state repression″ that could ``make martyrs″ out of Scientology members and ``make the organization more radical.″