German Intolerance Condemned

Helsinki Commission Panel
Stresses that Religious
Freedom Must Be Protected

By Peter Mansell

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The hearing by the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe followed formal reports by the U.S. State Department, the United Nations Human Rights Committee and other international human rights bodies criticizing Germany for discrimination against religious minorities.

n a special session on September 18, 1997 on Capitol Hill, congressional members of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), also known as the Helsinki Commission, vowed to take action against European governments that fail to honor international human rights agreements.

      Germany featured prominently in the proceedings as the Commission heard testimony from representatives of minority religions that have suffered politically generated discrimination. Among those giving evidence was a panel of artists and entertainers, including John Travolta, Isaac Hayes and Chick Corea.

      A longtime member of the Church of Scientology, Travolta said he appeared before the Commission “to lend a voice to the many people in Germany whose rights as human beings and citizens are being trampled. Because they are members of minority religions, they are denied the rights of everyday people. Their experiences of discrimination and persecution go unheard because there is nobody to speak up for them.”

      Commenting on failed efforts by the Young Union — a branch of Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s ruling Christian Democratic Union — to induce German filmgoers to stay away from the film Phenomenon because of his own religious beliefs, Travolta said, “Of course, we can chuckle about it because in the overall scheme of things these boycotts did no great harm. However, the mere attempt by politicians to censor art because of the artist’s religious affiliation sends chills down my spine.”


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