U.S. to Defend Scientology

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WASHINGTON: A German diplomat in Washington tells TIME Daily that a leaked report of a State Department plan to chastise Germany over its tough treatment of the Church of Scientology may have overstated the case. After years of restrained criticism of the situation, the State Department wanted to step up the pressure in its annual human rights survey this Thursday. According to the Post, the survey would criticize German authorities for a "campaign of harassment and intimidation" against the controversial church, which has seen such bizarre actions as youth groups calling for a boycott of the Tom Cruise movie "Mission Impossible" because Cruise is a Scientologist. The German diplomat told TIME Daily that after the Post reported the story Monday, a senior U.S. official called the German embassy to issue a clarification: "He assured us there will be some criticism in the report, but not that severe." As recently as 1995, the U.S. report had merely listed Scientology's allegations of unfair treatment at German hands. The government’s tougher new stance is expected to emphasize Germany’s violation of Scientology members’ religious freedom. This shift follows a public controversy touched off when Hollywood celebrities took up the cause of movie star Scientologists like Tom Cruise and John Travolota. In full-page newspaper ads last week, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Stone and a host of other entertainers angrily compared the discrimination against Scientologists to Germany’s anti-semitic persecutions in the 1930s, a comparison that itself drew outraged criticism from Americans who felt it trivialized the Holocaust. For their part, German authorities claim the church is a profit-oriented enterprise opposed to democratic principals that exerts psychological pressure on its members. "We take American criticism seriously, but our special historical experience gives us the right to act. There is no reason to duck down on that one," the German diplomat told TIME Daily.