The U.S. government charges that Germany discriminates against Scientologists in awarding government contracts, the Washington Post reports.
In a report to Congress, U.S. trade officials condemned a German policy requiring companies that seek certain training and consulting contracts to sign “sect filter” statements, the Post said.
The report states that in order to win certain contracts, German companies must attest that Scientology principles will not be disseminated in the fulfillment of the contract. Companies must also promise not to promote courses or seminars related to Scientology, the Post said.
Juergen Chrobog, German ambassador to the U.S., said that the policy was directed against the principles of Scientology rather than against members of the group, the Post says.
The measure is “designed to rule out the possibility that [Scientology founder] Ron Hubbard’s methods, which seek to psychologically influence behavior, psychologically manipulate or oppress individuals, could be used for training or consulting purposes,” Chrobog said in a statement.
At the heart of the dispute is the question of whether Scientology is a religion. Outsiders and some former members have denounced the group as a cult that seeks to control the lives of its members, the Post said.
The German government has refused to recognize the church as a religion, calling it a business enterprise or “anti-democratic.” As a result, authorities sometimes deprive church associated groups of nonprofit status, the Post said.
The German government has long believed the latter. According to the 1999 U.S. State Department human rights report, German federal and state agencies often refuse to recognize the church as a religion, calling it a business enterprise or “anti-democratic.” Authorities sometimes deprive church associated groups of nonprofit status.
Bill Walsh, a Washington lawyer representing the Church of Scientology, told the Post that the action is “a clear signal from the United States Government that what’s being done in Germany is absolutely wrong, a clear violation of human rights and must be stopped.”