Ministers Criticize German Mission
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Scientologists are enlisting the support of ministers and scholars from other faiths as they demonstrate against a 10-member group of German parliamentarians that was meeting with members of Congress today.
The Rev. Alfreddie Johnson, a Baptist minister from Compton, Calif., accused the Germans Wednesday of trying to establish ``a permanent, government-funded witch hunt that has absolute power to blacklist and punish any citizen who dares to hold or share religious beliefs not approved by the state.″
Johnson and representatives of Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Jewish religious groups spoke at a news conference organized by Scientologists. They also released a letter from several religious scholars led by James T. Richardson of the University of Nevada accusing the Germans, who are looking into U.S. sects, of trying to ``devise official justification for disenfranchising religious minorities.″
The German delegation visiting Congress today is part of a larger parliamentary commission made up of Bundestag members and experts that, Scientologists said, includes Scientology’s most vehement critics.
The religious scholars’ letter was sent to the State Department and said if such a commission were formed with the same mandate in the United States it would be investigating the religions of President Clinton and 20 percent of Congress.
``Religious freedom is guaranteed in Germany. We have over 600 faiths and creeds,″ said German Embassy spokesman Detlef Lingemann. The embassy said members of the visiting delegation were not available Wednesday for comment on their mission.
Germany views Scientology as a moneymaking organization with elements of organized crime rather than a religion. The German government’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution placed Scientology under observation for one year because of concerns that it may pose a threat to democracy.
Also appearing at the news conference Wednesday was church member Gerhard Waterkamp, who said he left Germany after he was fired in 1995 from the Freudenberg manufacturing company in Weinheim, solely because of his church affiliation.
``I was told to either step away from my religion or find another job,″ said Waterkamp, who now works as a computer consultant in Burbank, Calif. ``I’m glad to be here where there is no prejudice against me and my family,″ he said.
Matt Bratschi, international coordinator for the Scientology-led organization Freedom for Religions in Germany, said the commission lists Baptists, Mormons, charismatic Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as Scientologists, among its ``so-called sects and psycho groups.″