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International News

British Human Rights Body Criticizes Germany


Freedom of Religion and Belief: A World Report was co-authored by Kevin Boyle and Juliet Sheen of the Human Rights Centre of the University of Essex, England. Detailing conditions in more than 50 countries, the report was released at a conference at Amnesty International’s headquarters in London on June 19, 1997.



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n conservative language belying the severity of the criticism, the authors note that “In Germany, democracy is used as an ideology to impose conformity. It has been dismaying to discover that the state, and some of its politicians and people, are using what we know from the past to be well-worn paths of discrimination and of intolerance and of inciting intolerance towards a new religious minority, the Scientologists.”

“The [German] authorities condone and actively support discrimination against Scientologists in the private sector, with the aim of excluding Scientologists from economic life and reducing the social and financial support for members and their families which comes from earning income or engaging in business ... self-declarations and dissociations are part of the intolerance,” the report states.


“In Germany, democracy is used as an ideology to impose conformity.”
 

The Centre also criticized the German authorities for making “vituperative” literature about Scientology compulsory in schools under the guise of “enlightenment.”

Douwe Korff, a leading European human rights attorney who has successfully sued the British and Spanish governments for human rights abuses, and who contributed to the report, condemned the “illegal German persecution of Scientologists.” In his view, the German government is “turning a liberal constitution into an ideological weapon of intolerance.”

The new report is destined to become the definitive contemporary work on international freedom of religion. The University of Essex Human Rights Centre’s reports are given great weight by the United Nations, the U.S. State Department and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which published a pre-release summary of the Centre’s report last month.

“Although the objection to new religious movements is often expressed as criticism of their methods, it is at bottom a rejection of their freedom of thought which stimulates hostility and restrictions on their organizations and activities,” it states. The encroachment of freedom of thought – one of the most fundamental of all freedoms – is precisely what must be resolved for the good of all people of Germany and Europe. – P.M.

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