German Party Replies To Scientology Backers

FRANKFURT: Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Christian Democratic Party on Tuesday issued an indignant response to a group of prominent American entertainment industry figures who compared Germany's assaults on Jews under Hitler to its current stance toward Scientologists.

"The historical parallels in your letter are absurd," Johannes Gerster, a member of Mr. Kohl's conservative party, wrote to the 34 Americans who signed an "open letter" to Mr. Kohl last week that charged: "In the 1930s, it was the Jews. Today, it is the Scientologists."

The letter, whose signers included the actors Dustin Hoffman and Goldie Hawn as well as filmmakers, writers and entertainment executives, appeared as an advertisement in the International Herald Tribune.

Mr. Kohl had called the letter "rubbish" and declared that its authors "do not knowanything about Germany."

Cataloging the German government's objections to Scientology, which he calls a "totalitarian organization," Mr. Gerster urged those who signed the letter to visit Germany to understand that it operates as a "stable democracy which respects and protects the freedom of its citizens."

"I am shocked and sad at the level of ignorance that you displayed in your letter to the German chancellor," wrote Mr. Gerster, who heads the party's advisory committee on domestic policy issues.

Mr. Gerster asserted that Scientology "is not a church, at least not in Germany."

His letter cited a March 1995 ruling by a Federal Labor Court, which found that Scientology has primarily economic goals, and a separate June 1996 ruling by another German court that upheld the right of Labor Minister Norbert Bluem to use phrases such as a "contemptuous cartel of oppression" to describe the Scientology organization.

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