German political parties utilize Nazi-like propaganda “art,” as with this booklet, portraying religions as insects to be crushed.

Conduct Louder than Words

      German leaders’ most visible response to the hearing — while denying discrimination existed — was to threaten to blindly unleash its intelligence agency to monitor members of minority religious organizations on foreign soil. For this agency, known by its German-language acronym “BND,” “monitor” is a euphemism for such actions as opening mail, electronic surveillance, physical surveillance and infiltration of targeted religious organizations. Such espionage activities in other countries by BND would be illegal.

      The late September announcement prompted sharp criticism both outside Germany and within, including from the opposition Green Party. One German newspaper declared, “Sparrows are being shot with rockets,” wryly suggesting that Germany, in order not to cancel jobs in volume because of the end of the Cold War, needed new enemies.

      Such intelligence agency action, if green-lighted, would empower German spies to investigate the private lives of individuals or organizations in the United States and other nations suspected of membership in or connection to minority religious groups. A few weeks later, however, in response to pressure, the German government announced it would not implement the plan to utilize its intelligence agency.

      But at the same time, to demonstrate just how dark the picture has become, German intolerance reached across the ocean and an employee of the New York City branch of the Deutsche Bank was fired from her job — allegedly because of her religious affiliation. The woman, Josie Romero, a Scientologist and United States citizen, experienced no problems at the bank during her roughly eight-month employment there until top executives learned of her religious affiliation. She is now suing the bank under United States anti-discrimination laws and under state and city human rights laws.

      The hearings of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe followed formal reports by many international human rights agencies, including the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the U.S. State Department, which have criticized Germany for discrimination against Scientologists and other religious minorities.


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