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Germany rejects U.S. State Department report on Scientology

February 1, 1997 GMT

BONN, Germany (AP) _ Germany reacted harshly Friday to new U.S. State Department criticism of its treatment of Scientologists, with one politician demanding his government lodge a formal protest with Washington.

A State Department report, issued Thursday, said business firms in Germany whose owners or executives are Scientologists ``may face boycotts and discrimination, sometimes with government approval.″

The statement was less directly critical of German action against Scientology than some recent U.S. government statements. But it still provoked strong responses in Germany, which views the Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology as a threat to democracy. The church claims 30,000 members in Germany.

Peter Hintze, general secretary of German Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s Christian Democrats, said he has ``absolutely no understanding″ of the criticism and that ``the USA is using a concept of tolerance″ that ignores the dangers posed by Scientology.

``Psychological terror cannot be dealt with in this way,″ Hintze said.

Guenter Verheugen, a deputy leader of the opposition Social Democrats, said U.S. criticism of Germany was ``completely inappropriate″ and he urged the government to protest the State Department report.

``In our view, Scientology is an organization that pursues its devious aims through the use of pressure and sometimes with psychological terror,″ Verheugen said.

Kohl’s spokesman, Peter Hausmann, said Germany will not change its policy toward Scientology despite the report.

``It is our obligation to explain the practices of the Scientology organization to the German populace and to protect people from that, naturally by legal means,″ he said.

Germany contends the church is primarily a moneymaking organization with some traits of organized crime, and as such is a threat to democracy.

In newspaper advertisements and other news media, Scientologists have denounced government moves to keep them from public jobs as reminiscent of the persecution of Jews in Germany’s Nazi era.

But Hausmann said Germany’s Nazi past is precisely why the government is keeping its eye on Scientology.

``Our obligation to be especially alert to anti-democratic efforts arises from our totalitarian experience,″ Hausmann said.

The State Department report also cited human rights violations in Turkey and the Central Asian nation of Uzbekistan.

Turkey’s foreign ministry rejected some of the findings Friday but called the report balanced overall. Uzbekistan defended its human rights record.