Germany’s hate on Scientologists

Some readers may have been wondering exactly why Germany hates them so much. And while Slate doesn’t exactly answer the question, today’s column does make a half-hearted attempt.

Some German officials believe Scientology’s ideology is rooted in a kind of political extremism—a bit of a sensitive area for Germany since World War II. They also argue that Scientology is not a religion but a business, since local churches operate like franchises of the main organization.

How much do they hate Scientology in Germany? Well, aside from a ban (later overturned ) on Tom Cruise from filming at German military site, there was also the following statement made against him.

Thomas Gandow, 60, chief spokesman on religious cults for the German Protestant Church, described Scientology as a “totalitarian organisation” and said that Mr Cruise had become “the Goebbels of Scientology”.

Germany also apparently considered forcing Microsoft to debundle the Diskkeeper anti-fragmentation software from Windows 2000, not for anti trust reasons, but because the company who licensed the product to Microsoft is Scientology-led.

Another fringe religion (although probably a much larger one) getting a lot of attention recently is Mormonism. It is a widely known piece of computer history trivia that the late, great Wordperfect was created by Mormon, and despite the shaky reputation that Mormonism has in some quarters, as far as I know there was never any particular controversy over using software developed by them.

Bonus trivia: Bruce Bastian, one of the two original Mormon developers of Wordperfect, later came out as gay and now devotes his time and fortune to gay activism.

5 thoughts on “Germany’s hate on Scientologists”

  1. Gee, I remember the olden days when Wordstar was just getting replaced by WordPerfect or MS Word, I had a few customers who wouldn’t buy WordPerfect because the programmers were Mormons.

  2. Germany has always had a very no-nonsense way of dealing with extremist groups that desire some sort of state recognition. The Federal Court ruled the German Communist Party illegal in 1956 (it was later reformed). I believe it is still illegal to wear or even possess Nazi paraphernalia. Despite the usual constitutional guarantees on freedom of speech and political expression, they have interpreted any action that threatens the integrity of the constitution as illegal. The same dynamic seems to be working here. Define a religion away as a non-religion and then ban it. Not that I have any sympathies for the Dyanetics freaks.

    Richard Dawkins has also pointed out that nations with an established religion tend to be more cynical – and interestingly more atheistic – than those where freedom of religion is the norm. It seems that a “default” religion lessens the tendency to experiment with others, whereas in a “free market” of religion, religions proliferate to fill spiritual gaps in the market. While the German Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, there is a tithing system in Germany which ensures that the traditional churches (Protestantism in the North, Catholicism in Bavaria) hold sway. Thus the alternative to traditional organised religion tends to be sceptical atheism, and atheists, along with “established” churchgoers tend to be pretty hostile towards Scientology. There are parellels to Britain, where anti-Scientology movements are fairly strong too.

  3. “Despite the usual constitutional guarantees on freedom of speech and political expression, they have interpreted any action that threatens the integrity of the constitution as illegal”

    I meant to add “And there is a fairly arbitrary standard as to what fits this definition.”

  4. Charles, that’s quite interesting. Were those customers fundy Christians or Jews? I can’t imagine else being that upset about the Mormon thing. Except for Germans of course.

  5. Does Tom Cruise look like a Prussian Junker to any of you?
    Not me.I think the Germans’ are just doing what we’ve failed to achieve over “The Last Samurai”.Stop letting Holywood turning your country’s history into a pulp fiction.

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