As It Happens [CBC, Canada], 30 January 1997.
Thursday, Jan. 30, 1997, the CBC's flagship current-affairs program,
_As It Happens_, ran a piece on the American State Dept. report that
slammed Germany for discriminating against Scientologists <tm>. (Some
of you Murrikans might have heard the first hour of AIH on NPR.)
The linkman is Barbara Budd, the interviewer Michael Enright, and the
State Dept. spokesman Nicholas Burns.
I've checked this transcript for accuracy; any spelling mistakes are
my own; any malapropisms not marked [sic] are probably mine as well.
Stammers, pauses, and "uhhs" have been omitted out of fairness to the
participants, except where I felt the speaker was really thinking
about what to say next.
_As it Happens_ has an email address for feedback: email@example.com.
They also have a "Talkback" answering machine - they play back a lot
of these messages on subsequent shows - at (416) 205-3331. I'll
probably take advantage of this one myself though, if they play these
spots tomorrow night, I won't be there to hear it. 8-)
Begin Transcript -----
Barbara Budd: The battle between the German government and the Church
of Scientology has been simmering for years. Today the U.S. State
Department stepped into the fray. Scientologists have long complained
of persecution in Germany. Members of the Church are excluded from
the major political parties. Some artists have been prevented from
performing or displaying their work. And police in Stuttgart have
banned the Church from handing out supplies to the homeless. Today
the State Department issued its annual human rights report. It
blasted the Germans for carrying out a campaign of harrassment and
intimidation against the Church of Scientology. Nicholas Burns is a
spokesperson for the American State Department and we reached him in
Michael Enright: Mr. Burns, why has the State Department felt
compelled to bring out this report on the human rights record in
Germany, particularly as it applies to Scientology?
Nicholas Burns: Well, there are a considerable number of
Scientologists who are American citizens who live in Germany, and for
the last five years it's been an ongoing debate about whether or not
the Scientologists who live there, American and German and others,
Canadians, French, are being discriminated against, and we believe
based on all the information we've been able to collect from the
German government and the Scientologists that there *is* a pattern of
discrimination against Scientologists, particularly in employment, but
also in terms of availability of support for the arts; there are a
number of Scientologists who are musicians and actors, some of them
quite well known: Chick Corea, for instance, Tom Cruise, and there
have been actions taken by the German government, actually, against
the film _Mission: Impossible_, which stars Tom Cruise . . .
ME: Because he - on the basis of his being a Scientologist . . .
NB: On the basis of the fact of - that's right, that he is a
Scientologist, and also, against Chick Corea, there was a withdrawal
of, uh -
ME: The jazz pianist, yeah . . .
NB: - money for some concerts, so because we have to be concerned with
the situation of American citizens we've chosen to, to look into this,
and we've had a private discussion with the Germans and we have been
mildly critical in public as well.
ME: Is it the contention of the State Department that this is
government-condoned discrimination, or government, uh, generated
NB: Well, it's quite - it's a quite complex situation, actually. Many
of the actions taken against the Scientologists in Germany are done by
local authorities, sometimes mayors of towns, sometimes by the Lendar
(sp?), you know, the regional governments, and in some cases by the
federal government in Bonn. But I must say, to be balanced about
this, and we want to be fair, this year it was proposed by one of the
major political parties in the governmental coalition, that the German
security services actually put the Scientologists under police
surveillance. And fortunately, the German minister of interior
rejected that proposal, he said it was not consistent with German law,
so there have been some positive actions taken by the German
government just over the course of the last year.
ME: How does the government defend its contention that Scientology is
somehow a threat to the state?
NB: I, I hesitate to speak for them, but I believe the German
government position is, many other Germans believe that Scientology is
a sect, not a religion, uh, Germany of course had a terrible
experience in the 1930s with fascism, and Germany, German law does ban
the activities of certain, what they would perceive to be right-wing
or extremist groups. Now we Americans, uh, believe that Scientology
is a religion, in fact our Internal Revenue Service gave the
Scientology church here in the United States a tax-exempt status, so
we look at this as an issue of religious freedom, the Germans tend to
look at it as an issue of, um, trying to limit the activities of what
they perceive to be a sect, and I believe that's the point of
difference between the United States and Germany.
ME: There is, there's something of an irony here, I think, that in the
past Scientologists have accused the *American* government of
ME: And I'm wondering if the fact the State Department has come out
with this report indicates some kind of change in attitude, perhaps,
NB: Well, Scientology was given tax-exempt status by the federal
government here in Washington, DC in 1992, in the autumn of 1992 and
since then, because we have treated it as a religion we have an
obligation to defend religious freedom when we think it's being
abridged, and so I think that the Scientologists understand now, that
the U.S. government wants to support the concept of religious freedom,
but Michael, there's another interesting side to the story that I feel
compelled to bring up. While we've defended the Scientologists,
Scientology - the Church of Scientology lately, assisted by a group of
Hollywood moguls, these are movie stars -
ME: Right -
NB: - entertainments [sic], heads of studios, have taken out full-page
advertisements in the _New York Times_ and the _Washington Post_ and
the _International Herald-Tribune_ and perhaps even in papers in
Canada, uh, essentially saying that the current German government is
treating the Scientologists the way that Hitler treated the Jews in
the 1930s, and we have come out and said from Washington, that is an
outrageous historical inaccuracy - I mean, to compare Helmut Kohl and
his government, which is a democratic government, with Adolf Hitler
and the Nazis is an abomination, and the German government did not
deserve that treatment, the German *people* don't deserve it, and here
we've now gotten into a little bit of an argument with the
Scientologists in the United States - they are quite upset that we do
not accept their historical claim, but we really have to call them as
we see them.
ME: Well, you have to go a bit further, I think, too, don't you, to
compare the discrimination against Scientologists with the
incineration of Jews is also something of an outrage . . .
NB: Oh, it's totally outrageous. What the Scientologists say is that
the treatment of the Scientologists is akin to what Hitler did in the
first year or two of his power, in 1933 and '34 - what *we* have
reminded the Scientologists is that Dachau, the concentration camp
near Munich, was established in 1933, that the German government in
1933, the Nazi government began to strip away the rights of
Communists, of the mentally retarded and of Jews in the *first* year
of Hitler's reign, and that that pattern of behaviour, which led to
the Holocaust, cannot in *any* way be compared to what the
Scientologists are going through now, and American Jewish
organizations I think have been uniform in rejecting this, this claim
by the Scientologists.
ME: When the State Department comes out with a report like this, and
talks, uh, about a particular problem involving one of the, one of our
allies, NATO ally, ally of the U.S., do people on Pennsylvania Avenue
in that big white house get very nervous and upset that you've done
NB: [laughs] . . . actually, we hope that we always are singing off
the same sheet of music as our friends in the White House - uh, Mike
McCurrie (sp?), who is my colleague - he's the President's spokesman,
I'm the State Department spokesman - he and I talk every day and we
almost always are uniform in what we say, so there's very little
surprise when we say something here at the State Department, very
little surprise in the White House.
ME: But the Chancellor's not going to phone the President and say,
"What the hell is going on, why are you criticizing my government
NB: Well actually, we've, you know there have been such conversations,
from high-level Germans to high-level Americans, and, and, you know,
we understand the sensitivity here. We don't happen to agree with the
Germans in this case in every instance, but there's a great deal of
respect that we feel for Chancellor Kohl and his government and we try
to, we try to speak more in private than in public, that's the rule we
follow with Canada, with France, with Britain, with Germany, with very
close NATO allies. We don't always succeed as you know, we've had a
little argument, dispute with the Canadians just in the last couple
weeks on Cuba, but -
ME: I think I've heard about that, yes -
ME: I think I read about that somewhere.
NB: I think you did too.
ME: Mr. Burns, thank you, thanks for joining us tonight.
NB: My pleasure, and you've got a terrific show, I listen whenever I
can, so congratulations on that.
ME: Wonderful. Thanks again. Bye now.
BB: Nicholas Burns is a spokesman for the American State Department.
He spoke to us from Washington, DC.
End Transcript -----
For citation purposes, the MLA-standard bibliographic entry for this
program is as follows. Please give credit where due.
Burns, Nicholas. Interview with Michael Enright. _As it Happens_.
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. CBL, Toronto. 30 January 1997.
Scott A. McClare SP 3, GGBC 42, KoX, <*>
Scott's Chunk of the Web <http://www.csclub.uwaterloo.ca/u/samcclar/>
Criminal Cult <http://www.csclub.uwaterloo.ca/u/samcclar/Scientology/>
"Mock on, Mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau" - William Blake