Newsnight, British Broadcasting Corporation, UK, 10 January 1997.
My thanks to the person who sent me this transcript
10 January 1997
Kirsty Wark - Presenter: In the International Herald Tribune appears an
extraordinary open letter to Germany's Chancellor Kohl condemning his
government's attitude to Scientology in the most extreme terms comparing
it to the persecution of the Jews in the 1930's. Invidious discrimination
against Scientologists the signatories, prominent Hollywood film industry
people, call it. In Bavaria, and other states, the government restricts
Scientologists' access to civil service jobs and in Bavaria they cannot
approach people on the streets. The letter was signed by Hollywood
writers, agents and producers along with actors Goldie Hawn and Dustin
Hoffman, not Scientologists themselves. But their comparison with Nazi
persecution of the Jews has drawn criticism from Jewish groups in Germany.
Bernd Lang was a fencing coach at one of Germany's Olympic training schools
near Frankfurt, he came to Britain when he was suddenly sacked simply, he
says, because he's a Scientologist.
Bernd Lang: My boss asked if I have read books and I said "Yes, I read
Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard" and my boss said "Okay, now take your things
and leave that centre. Because we are supported by the government and we
depend on sponsors."
Kirsty Wark: The self-proclaimed Church of Scientology was founded in 1954
by the American science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. Scientologists have
been widely criticised in this country. In 1984, a high court judge called
them a cult who were "corrupt, sinister and dangerous", but they run a
large operation in Britain comparatively unhindered. But Germany takes a
sterner view, there Scientologists are not allowed to be members of the
major political parties and some states won't allow them to join the civil
service, a move which Chancellor Kohl wants to extend to the federal
Extract from Scientology TV commercial: Trust. On the day when we can fully
trust each other, there will be peace on Earth.
Kirsty Wark: This ad, which ran last year on cable TV in this country is
the caring face of Scientology, but the response to the Germans is far
more aggressive. Today's letter follows a series of newspaper adverts that
have been running in the USA, and equates German treatment of Scientology
with Nazi persecution of Jews. The German government didn't exactly remain
dignified and aloof in the face of Hollywood's attack. Chancellor Kohl was
Helmut Kohl (speaking through an interpreter): Those who have signed that
thing, these people have no idea about Germany and they don't want to know
anything about Germany, otherwise they wouldn't have done such a thing.
Kirsty Wark: What was most remarkable about the letter was not so much
what it said as the wide range of figures who signed it. While Hollywood
has several high-profile Scientologists including Tom Cruise and Nicole
Kidman, John Travolta and Demi Moore, the signatories were not all members
of the church and included actors, agents and writers from Dustin Hoffman
to Gore Vidal. And the Germans resent their assault because they regard
the suppression of secretive organisations, that in the federal
governments words have "pretensions at domination", as protecting, rather
than undermining, their democracy. But the letter is a propaganda coup for
Ian Howarth - Cult Information Centre: When I think of Nazis, in this
field, I don't think of the German government. I think of cults. I'm
delighted that the Germans having been taking this very strong stand with
regard to Scientology. People need to be aware of what's really going on
behind the scenes in Scientology. The German government is aware of that.
I believe it's motivated to try and protect society, to help society and I
think we should be doing the same here and elsewhere in Europe.
Kirsty Wark: The letter may have helped present an image of Scientologists
as a persecuted religious minority but it's unlikely to change German
attitudes. And Scientology's opponents here point to the group's own love
of lawsuits to silence its opponents. The pot, they say, is calling the
kettle black, and they point to a high court ruling where Scientology's
own practices were likened to the ranting and bullying of Hitler and his
Well earlier I spoke to Michael Ziegler spokesman of the Interior Ministry in
Bavaria, the state that has taken some of the severest measures against
Scientology. I began by asking what was so worrying about the cult.
Michael Ziegler - Press Spokesman Bavarian Interior Ministry: We think
that Scientology is a dangerous organisation. It's not at all something
that has to do with religion or church, that's not the point, it's an
organisation with just one task, and that task is making money. It's a
really dangerous organisation, and we don't want to have people who are
really loyal members of Scientology to be, for example, in the civil
Kirsty Wark: This is actually persecution.
Michael Ziegler: That's not persecution, not at all.
Kirsty Wark: But also as part of this fifteen point plan you have
prevention of street canvassing, isn't this just thoroughly
anti-democratic? You mean you actually stop people canvassing other people
freely on the street?
Michael Ziegler: Well you must see Scientology is not a religion or
something that is a free organisation. It's an organisation that's near to
organised crime, and we wouldn't admit to canvassing in the street to the
Colombian drug mafia for example. We wouldn't do that also.
Kirsty Wark: I understand that the state-owned post bank has gone so far as to
close down accounts of Scientologists, what do you make of that?
Michael Ziegler: That's nothing that we here in the Bavarian ministry of the
interior have to do with, but as far as I know the post bank won the lawsuit
against Scientology, so it's a decision of German law courts that has to be
accepted of course.
Kirsty Wark: Do you worry, is the worry of the ministry of the interior that
Scientology are trying to topple the Bavarian government?
Michael Ziegler: No, und [and] we don't have any fear of them, but we see
that Scientology is a danger for the people who get into the claws, into
the clutches of that system. Scientology is a like a vulture, it gets over
the people, takes..takes away all of them, all of their money, bringing
them..brainwashing them, bringing them into psychic dependence and then
they are left without any hope, they are psychical [sic] wrecks in the
end. And that's the thing we have to avoid as a responsible administration
and as responsible politicians.
Kirsty Wark: Well I'm joined now from Los Angeles by Bertram Field, the
Los Angeles lawyer who paid $56,000 to place that full-page advert. Bertram
Field, what is your connections with Scientology?
Bertram Field: I have no connection whatsoever with Scientology. I am not a
member of the church of Scientology, no-one who signed that letter is a
member of the Church of Scientology. They are Jews...
Kirsty Wark: What was your motivation to write in such strong terms, terms
that have been criticised by Jewish groups?
Bertram Field: Well I'd like to know the Jewish groups that criticised me.
First of all, what happened in 1930, in the early 30's, is very much like what
the Germans are doing today to the Scientologists. You'll notice that in
responding to my letter, not one single German spokesman pointed out anything
inaccurate in the letter, they are indeed doing everything I said they are
doing. They don't deny that.
Kirsty Wark: Isn't that not an outrageous statement when you consider the
extent of the holocaust? It's quite extraordinary.
Bertram Field: Wait a minute. Wait one second. Nobody is comparing them to
the holocaust, nobody has said, and there's nothing in the letter that's
said, they're putting people in death camps. These people are being
demagogues by pretending that we have accused them of death camps and
concentration camps, we didn't do that; we have said this like what
happened in the early thirties. In the early thirties Jews were put out
of public life, their children were put out of schools, they were not
allowed to join political parties. That is exactly what is happening today
to the Scientologists in Germany.
Kirsty Wark: But if you are not, nor are any of your group involved with
Scientologists, how on Earth do you know exactly what Scientology is all
about when it has had such widespread criticism in the world for its, as
it were, manipulative powers?
Bertram Field: Well, first of all, you're assuming something that isn't
the case. We're not advocating Scientology, none of the people who signed
this are advocating Scientology, indeed I happen to know that one of the
people who signed it does not approve of Scientology. That's not the
issue, if you don't like an organisation, if you don't like a religion,
speak out against it, don't put their children out of school, don't
boycott films because a Scientologist happens to be in it, that's what
they've done. Don't say they can't join political parties and they can't
solicit in the street. That's not what a democracy does, that's what a
fascist state does. Now I'm not saying Germany is a fascist state, but I'm
saying in this particular aspect, this hysterical attack on the
Scientologists, they are behaving exactly as the Nazis did in the early
thirties not the late thirties and forties with concentration camps, but
the early thirties.
MARTIN L: Postgrad., amateur crackpotologist and caffeine-free celibate bon M
POULTER : viveur studying the Philosophy of Belief at Bristol Uni., England c
Cult Concern FAQ + The Bayesian Explosion + Celibate FAQ + Automated Love + Q
Helena Kobrin Page + Scientology Criticism: http://mail.bris.ac.uk/~plmlp/ !