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France stands by Germany against Scientology

January 20, 1997 GMT

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ France backed Germany today in its acrimonious dispute with the Church of Scientology.

``I share the apprehension of the Germans regarding these sects,″ said Herve de Charette, the French foreign minister.

De Charette joined his German counterpart, Klaus Kinkel, in denouncing an advertisement signed by Hollywood celebrities that likened German treatment of Scientologists to the Nazi persecution of Jews.

``This letter is an insult to the victims of National Socialism,″ Kinkel said. ``It is nonsense.″

The full-page ad, published Jan. 10 in the International Herald Tribune, was signed by 34 celebrities _ including director Oliver Stone, actors Goldie Hawn and Dustin Hoffman, and TV personality Larry King.

The stars, none of whom are Scientologists, denounced German moves to keep people linked to the group out of certain public jobs, such as counseling and teaching. The ruling Christian Democratic Union of Chancellor Helmut Kohl has ousted party members because of their connection to Scientology.

``This is not a religion,″ Kinkel said. ``It is a sect that is trying to get money from people.″

The United States has frowned on Germany’s treatment of the U.S.-based Scientologists.

``We believe that the members of the Church of Scientology have a right to practice their religion in Germany and in all other countries,″ State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said last week.

Kinkel and de Charette were in Brussels for the monthly meeting of European Union foreign ministers.