A delegation of British human rights leaders, recently returned from Germany has reported finding a volume of official arrogance and politically-endorsed intolerance that was both "astonishing" and "perplexing."
The five-man committee - two members of the House of Lords, accompanied by professors of philosophy and sociology and a religious scholar - say they were astonished by the stark contrast between what they personally observed and the blunt German denial of the same facts.
Despite clear evidence gained throughout the tour of widespread violations of international human rights agreements to which Germany is a signatory, officials interviewed by the delegation all maintained that there was "no discrimination" in Germany.
And they say they were perplexed because no one, not even the German officials with whom they spoke, was able to explain why such disruptive social conditions are not only not addressed, but are actually fostered from within Germany's major political parties.
Although the committee did not frilly resolve this issue, its report states that "It is worth noting that in September 1996, the former Minister of Justice, Sabina Leuthheusser-Schnartenburger, criticised proposed measures specifically against Scientologists as a tactic to set aside 'constitutional principles, the rule of law, land] the restriction of the authority of the state' in order to erode individual rights and introduce a 'thought police' in Germany."
"In other words," the committee noted, "the former Federal Justice Minister is saying that the attacks against the sects are simply a device to dismantle constitutional safeguards for all Germans."
The committee felt that this at least was a plausible explanation for what is otherwise an inexplicably irrational and unconstitutional campaign condoned by the German government.
Old Churches off the Mark
The delegation consisted of Lord McNair and Lord Hylton, Professor Anthony Flew, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Reading University, Dr. Dennis O'Keefe, senior lecturer in the Sociology of Education at the University of North London, and David Rosser-Gwen, a writer and lecturer on religious affairs.
As the "Ad Hoc Committee to Investigate Discrimination Against Religious and Ethnic Minorities in Germany," the delegation was formed in response to the serious criticism of Germany's recent human rights record in documents such as the 1994 and 1995 reports to the UN by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Application of the Declaration on Eliminating all Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Conviction, and a 1995 publication by Human Rights Watch/Helsinki entitled "Germany for Germans - Xenophobia and Racist Violence in Germany" ...
The investigating committee visited Germany in September and interviewed representatives of 17 minority groups which have experienced politically-motivated discrimination, and also met with officials from the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the Ministry of Justice.
The committee also investigated evidence that much of the hysteria generated to discourage people from looking for new approaches to spintuality comes from the state-supported Catholic and Lutheran Churches, which have been suffering declining attendance for years. Evidence of their concern is that they have appointed at least 140 "sect priests" whose entire function is to disseminate negative, generalised propaganda about "sects" throughout Germany.
Despite the prior reports of human rights abuses, the published report of the investigating committee begins by stating that its members felt "completely unprepared for the sheer scale of prejudice, discrimination and even persecution which our witnesses recounted."
The committee also expressed surprise "at the millions of DM and the thousands of man hours that are being poured into this campaign against minority religions."
"Our inescapable conclusion," continues the report, "is that the might of the state and church apparatus has been brought to bear on these minority religions and an uneven playing field has been created in an attempt to destroy them" ...
Last updated 16 May 1997
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