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Thursday, November 6, 1997 Published at 16:06 GMT



Despatches: Europe
Janet Barrie
From Berlin

In Berlin, a federal court has failed to reach a verdict on the legal status of a Scientology group in a case that has wider implications for the status of the Church of Scientology within Germany. The German government refused to recognise Scientology as a church believing it to be a potentially dangerous cult that exploits its members for financial gain. Janet Barrie reports from Berlin:

"The Federal Administrative Court in Berlin referred the case back to a regional court. It must now decide if the state government of Baden-Wuerttemberg was right to withdraw charitable status from a scientology group. The state had maintained the group was a commercial operation and should not enjoy perks given to registered charities like tax-breaks. The regional court has been instructed to gather more evidence. The Church of Scientology in Germany has welcomed the decision believing progress is now being made in proving its not a commercial organisation. This has been the central reason the German government has clamped down on the activities of the scientology movement here. It's not recognised as a church and the German government has described it as a potentially dangerous cult. It's members are barred from holding political office and it's been monitored by the office for the protection of the constitution since June this year. The scientologists have hit back comparing their treatment to the treatment of the Jews under Hitler, they say they're discriminated against in all walks of life. High profile support from celebrity scientologists like John Travolta has helped an internal German dispute take on international proportions. These have become a source of embarrassment for the German government. Just this week the foreign minister, Klaus Kinkel, has defended Bonn's actions rejecting criticism from an American congressional committee that Germany discriminates against Scientologists."







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