So Mr. Chairman, the promotion of religious freedom and freedom of
conscience makes sense from the standpoint of freedom in general, but also
from the standpoint of all human rights, and from the standpoint of
promoting healthy, vibrant democracies. Against that background Mr.
Chairman, let me turn to our subject this morning, the treatment of
religious minorities in Western Europe.
Overall, it must be said that religious minorities are treated better
there than in most other regions of the world. Indeed, in relative terms,
the citizens of Western Europe enjoy a measure of freedom that is the envy
of aspiring democracies around the globe. Persecution on the basis of
religion, in the form of brutal activities by governments, such as
prolonged detentions without charge, torture, slavery, simply does not
exist there as it so tragically does elsewhere in the world.
But it also must be said that discrimination on the basis of religion does
exist in the four countries on which we are focusing this morning:
Germany, France, Austria, and Belgium. Let me give you a brief overview
of the problems that we see in each. Before I do however, I want to
emphasize that the standard applied to these countries by the United
States is a standard that they have accepted. All of them embrace the
international instruments that protect freedom of religion and conscience,
including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European
Convention on Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and
In applying these standards, we see ourselves as citizens of the world
community putting our national shoulder to the international wheel. But
our willingness to speak of discrimination elsewhere should not be taken
to imply that we are free of it ourselves. When it comes to religious
minorities, the United States falls far short of a perfect record. One
need only recall discrimination against the Catholic minority or the
Mormons in the 19th Century.
However, we believe that one sign of a mature democracy is the willingness
to accept criticism, so long as it is based on international standards of
human rights. Let me begin with Germany, where our primary disagreement
involves the treatment of the countries, roughly, 8,000 Scientologists.
The problem is that many in the German government believe that Scientology
is more a money making scheme than a religion. This view is shared by
officials in certain states where responsibility for religious questions
are usually handled.
At the same time, German officials say they are concerned that Scientology
has, "anti-democratic tendencies." The Offices for the Protection of the
Constitution at both the state and federal level have been monitoring
Scientology since 1997 for evidence of activities that would constitute a
threat against the state. Although initial reports concluded that it did
not, the monitoring continues to this day.
In 1998, a commission on so-called sects and psycho groups presented a
report to the parliament that criticized Scientology for, "misinformation
and intimidation," of its critics. Accusing it of being a political
extremist group with, "totalitarian tendencies." Following this, the
states of Bavaria and Hamburg published brochures warning the public of
the purported dangers Scientology poses. For their part, many of the
country's Scientologists have reported both governmental and societal
discrimination in their daily lives.
Some employers, for example, use the so-called sect filter, screening
applicants for Scientology membership. The federal government also screens
companies bidding on some consulting and training contracts for
Scientologists, as do some state governments. That these and other forms
of discrimination are occurring was documented in a 1998 UN report.
Although it rejected the outrageous claim that Scientologists treatment
was similar to that suffered by the Jews during the Nazi era.
Scientologists continue to take their grievances to the German court
system. Some who have charged their employers with unfair dismissal, for
example, have won out of court settlements. Mr. Chairman, we have
discussed these issues at some length with German officials, both in
Germany and in the United States. We have stressed in particular the risk
associated with governments deciding what does and does not constitute a
religion. We have made clear our concerns with sect filters.
To prevent an individual from practicing a profession solely on account of
his or her religious beliefs is an abuse of religious freedom, as well as
a discriminatory business practice. We have expressed our concern that the
continued official observation of Scientology by the German government,
without any legal action being initiated as a result, creates an
environment that encourages discrimination. We have urged our German
colleagues to begin a dialogue with the scientologists, and we have raised
our concerns multilaterally at meetings of the Organization of Security
and Cooperation in Europe.
Let me now turn to France. There have been recent reports by the National
Assembly which cast Scientology in a negative light, expressing concern
that they may use excessive or dishonest means to obtain donations.
However, the government has taken no action against them. Indeed, Interior
Minister Chevin Monte (sp) and others, including Foreign Minister Ladrine
(sp), have assumed a very positive and public posture in support of
freedom of conscience and religion, a fact which has helped diffuse
But it is also true that France has been at the vanguard of the troubling
practice of creating so-called sect lists. These lists are created by
government agencies. In France, the list was part of a parliamentary
report. It typically contained the names of scores of religious groups
which may not be recognized by the government. Some of the groups are
clearly dangerous, such as the Solar Temple, which led to suicides in
France and Switzerland. But others are merely unfamiliar or unpopular.
By grouping them together under the negative word sect, governments
encourage societal discrimination. Some groups that appear on France's
list continue to report acts of discrimination. One of those groups is the
Institute of Theology in Neimes, a private bible college founded in 1989
by Louis Demeau (sp) who is head pastor at an associated church there.
Others have been subjected to long audits of their finances. For example,
tax claims against the Church of Scientology forced several churches into
bankruptcy in the mid 1990s.
The Jehovah's Witnesses have also been heavily audited. According to the
International Helsinki Federation, this audit, which began in January of
'96, continues to this day, has been done in a manner which suggests
harassment. In France too, the U.S. has been engaged actively in
promoting a dialogue with French authorities. U.S. Embassy representatives
have met several times with the inter- ministerial mission to battle
against sects. President Clinton, Secretary of State Albright, the
assistant secretary of state, and myself have each raised these issues of
religious discrimination with French officials during the past year. And
we will continue to do so.
Our goal is to develop a common understanding with the French government
on what actions are and are not in accord with international agreements on
Mr. Chairman, the pattern in Austria is not unlike that in France. The
government has long waged an information campaign against religious groups
that it considers harmful to the interests of individuals in society. A
brochure issued last September by the Ministry for Social Security and
Generations describes several non- recognized religious groups, including
the Jehovah's Witnesses, in decidedly negative terms that many found
offensive. With the recent arrival of a new minister from the Freedom
Party, it appears that the government may intensify its campaign against
religions that lack official recognition. We have raised these issues
with the Austrian government and will continue to press our view that such
practices contravene Austria's commitments to religious freedom.
Let me conclude with Belgium. In 1998, the Belgium parliament adopted
several recommendations from the Commission Report on Government Policy
towards sects, including the creation of a center for information advice
on harmful sectarian organizations. The commission had also appended a
list of sects in Belgium, divided into those considered harmful and all
others, and recommended a special police unit to deal with the harmful
groups. The government has not yet taken any action on this proposal.
Our concern here, Mr. Chairman, is not when the government attempts to
deal with illegal activities on the part of any religious groups, whether
recognized or unrecognized, new or old. Our fear is that Belgium, like
France and Austria, is painting with too broad a brush. In its very use of
the pejorative term sect to characterize unrecognized religious groups, it
casts dispersions on those groups, creating, even inadvertently, the
suspicion that there is something wrong with them.
But every religion began as something new and unpopular. We have discussed
these issues with Belgian officials and we will continue to urge all of
our European friends to recognize that the religious quest must be
nurtured not discouraged for true religious freedom to exist. Before
concluding, I want to note that Muslims continue to experience some
discrimination in Western Europe, even though Islam is the second largest
religion in France and Belgium, and the third in Austria and Germany.
In some cases, this discrimination has more to do with race culture and
immigrant status than religious beliefs. Indeed, Muslims are free to
worship and form cultural organizations in each of these countries. Islam
is recognized as an established organized religion, thus enabling it to
claim certain tax exemptions, and receive some subsidies from the state.
The most persistent and controversial religious issue facing Muslims in
Western Europe is the question of head scarves and whether girls should be
permitted to wear them in public schools. The question has caused
considerable debate. But Muslim society is well established in these
countries and many organizations have defended the rights of Muslims. If
some jurisdictions remain opposed to students wearing religious clothing,
others are becoming more accepting of the practice.
Our review is that the international covenants are quite clear. Freedom
of religion includes the right to manifest religious beliefs. Surely,
democracies can find the flexibility to tolerate such an expression of
piety as the religious head scarf.
Let me conclude where I began Mr. Chairman. We share a great deal in
common with our allies and friends in Europe, including common religious
traditions. Together we have done much to make the world a safer, more
humane place, a place where human rights like democracy might take root
and flourish. We offer these thoughts about religious freedom to our
friends out of a sense of shared responsibility for what we have done and
what we might do together.
We will continue to discuss these matters with them. Our plea is that they
consider our argument that freedom of religion, while sometimes tragically
exploited by those who would manipulate faith for their own ends, is
inherently good because it supports the dignity of the human person as
well as democracy itself. Thank you again Mr. Chairman for you leadership
and that of this committee on the matter of promoting religious freedom
abroad, and I'd be happy to take any or all of your questions.
REP. BARBARA LEE (D-CA): Thank you Mr. Chairman. Let me just ask the
Ambassador a general question.
And I know we're concentrating today on focusing on the treatment of
religious minorities in Western Europe. But I was just curious in terms of
your knowledge with regard to any debate or concerns over the treatment of
ethnic minorities in Western Europe. I lived in Great Britain for a couple
of years in the s, and being an ethnic minority during that period was
quite a challenge, to say the least. And I haven't been following very
closely this issue. And since you're here and we're dealing with a very
important issue in terms of religious minorities, I was just wondering, as
you do your work and as you travel, how things are going or is there a
concern or debate, at this point, in Western Europe with regard to ethnic
MR. SEIPLE: I've been in many of the capitals on this issue and talked
with the NGO and the human rights faith based communities. I have not
heard; this is not to say it doesn't exist, but I have not heard a concern
in this regard. Whether that's good news or simply people are talking
about other things, I don't' know. We'd be happy to look into it and get
back to you on it. I think it's an appropriate question, but we have not
run into that in Western Europe as it relates to my portfolio and my
REP. LEE: I'd like to get some information on that if you have it.
MR. SEIPLE: We can do that.
REP. LEE: Thank you very much.
REP. COOKSEY: The gentleman from Colorado, Mr.Tancredo, has a question.
REP. THOMAS TANCREDO (R-CO): Thank you Mr. Chairman. Just briefly
Ambassador Seiple, I'm wondering as I sit here and listen to your
discussion and your analysis how we should go about trying to identify
those behaviors on the part of governments that we deem to be
inappropriate, as they relate to the particular religious entities within
their countries. And is it quite difficult because we are continually
addressing them on an individual basis, and we seem to not have a way of
establishing some overall framework in order to analyze the actions of
each government. Therefore, we can't really do anything except go to each
one and say we don't like it when you do this to them.
But I'm wondering if it would not be in our best interest, if it would not
satisfy our mutual goal here, to establish as the prime criteria for our
intervention, something like this -- an established definition for us to
use -- that governments should react only to actions and not thoughts. And
if that is unacceptable, certainly, we would elaborate upon that. But if
that basic understanding is the mutual understanding here, what do you
think the administration should do to implement that worldwide?
MR. SEIPLE: Well, I think if we reacted to actions not to thought and we
demanded certain actions not thought, we would certainly eliminate a lot
of paranoia around these issues. We would get into a much more real
discussion. We do have frameworks in which to look at this. We have the
framework of the legislation; we have the framework of our office; we have
the framework of the embassy system where there is ongoing, daily
discussion of these issues, even as we connect, maybe, in a less frequent
We've got the report, which is the high court of public opinion because
you folks have agreed to print it. It's not only on the web site, but it's
in hard copy. These are countries that are portrayed in here by region.
And so, you can read the problems --
REP. TANCREDO: -- and I have. And I don't mean to interrupt you, except to
say that I certainly understand the efforts that are ongoing to deal with
the specific problems that are identified in each country. But it just
seems to me that that is a very laborious process that could be, to some
extent, alleviated by a general definition that we could get everybody to
sign onto that isn't there in the legislation. In the legislation at
least, I've seen and that you referenced, talks about this issue in a way
that I still believe is open to some degree of subjectivity. And I'm just
wondering whether or not we can't come up with some language to implement
through the legislation and through EU agreements that would eliminate the
subjectivity. And that's actions not thoughts.
MR. SEIPLE: I think the quick answer, to eliminate subjectivity may not
happen in my lifetime. We do have lots of words written. There are a
series of articles, article 18s, in the universal declaration of the
ICCPR, and things that essentially came out of Europe over the last 50
years. They still have to be interpreted. The issue of national
sovereignty, as it relates to human rights, always has to get interpreted,
especially in some of those that can be most prickly on these issues.
I'm not sure how you short cut that without an ongoing process which
exists at many, many levels. I'm glad that our legislation was cast in the
framework of the international covenants. This is not a heavy-handed
American approach. It's an American feeling, a strong feeling, that we
need to put our considerable shoulder to the wheel of international
instruments that are already out there. But the OSCE does a really fine
job. There are formats, and forums, and conferences, and seminars to
advance this discussion. At the same time, we have to use the embassy
system. I mean it's just too good an infrastructure to bypass when we have
people who know these issues and know the host country and can speak on a
daily basis about them.
And then in terms of the finitude of resources, I think we have to use all
of them that are at our disposal. Having said that, I don't see us
creating dramatic changes, whole scale changes. I mean we wrote a good
law. If we sit back and think that the rest of the 194 countries are
waiting for this law to pass so they can jump in line, it ain't going to
happen. We're going to be taking baby steps, incremental steps, with lots
of countries. And it's going to take a long time, it's going to take a lot
of perseverance. These issues are not going to go away fast whether it's
our ally or our worst enemy.
Our commitment is to continue to pursue upon all of these levels,
simultaneously, in as much as we have resources to do, and people will
begin to see this is a good thing, this is in their best interest. I can't
believe for a second that these four democracies of Western Europe enjoy
being on the short end of a discussion where we have a better
philosophical rationale. It must be hard for them to make this case.
I can only imagine that they're looking for ways that they can change over
time without the sense that the Americans jammed it down their throats.
REP. TANCREDO: Thank you Ambassador, I appreciate those comments.
REP. COOKSEY: Before I introduce this next panel, I looked at your resume,
you have a very impressive resume, and I see that you are a warrior and a
fighter pilot, and our careers overlapped at the same time. Yours is a lot
more illustrious than mine, I was in the Airforce. I personally feel that
warriors make the best peacemakers, and you've been a leader in theology
and the seminary, and I think that makes you a great witness. I appreciate
your comments; I appreciate you being here; the committee appreciates your
being here, and you will be excused and we will have the next panel.
MR. SEIPLE: Thank you very much.
REP. COOKSEY: I will call the witnesses in the following order: Dr. Gunn,
the Reverend L'Heureux, Mr. Brumley, Dr. Hunt, Mr. Jensen, and Ms. Bell.
REP. GEJDENSON: Mr. Chairman, I think Ms. Bell is unaware that there's a
seat for her at the table.
REP. COOKSEY: On our next panel, the first witness is Mr. Jeremy Gunn. Mr.
Gunn has looked at issues of religious liberty from the perspective of the
U.S. Institute of Peace and the U.S. Commission on International
Religious Freedom. He has published widely on this subject. We're happy
that he was recommended to us by the committee of the minority. Dr. Gunn.
DR. JEREMY GUNN: Thank you to the members of the committee; it's an honor
to be here to provide testimony today. During World War II, Philipe
Shepier (ph) arrived in a small French town of Cherbonne for the purpose
of renovating an abandoned chateau to house and school Jewish refugee
children from Eastern Europe.
While Monsieur Shepier and the good people of Cherborne risked their lives
to save the refugee children, the French Vichy government sent police into
the villages of France to arrest Jews.
By October of 1940, the Vichy government issued a law defining Jews and
prohibiting them from holding certain types of employment, including
positions in government, law, police, the army, the press, and teaching.
The law subsequently expanded to prohibit Jews from engaging in most forms
of commerce. Jews were condemned as a group simply because they belonged
to the group. Such is the peculiar logic of prejudice; it does not require
individual culpability, it requires only the accusation that a person is a
member of the condemned class.
The Vichy government ultimately was responsible for arresting,
transporting, and delivering to the Nazis tens of thousands of European
Jews. In stark contrast, all but four of Monsieur Shebrier's 400 Jewish
children survived the war. One of Monsieur Shebrier's colleagues, Dr.
Michaelis (ph), had previously treated children who were housed in French
concentration camps before he came to Cherbonne. In 1942, while the war
raged, he wrote, "to examine the children of Cherbonne after having
examined the children in the concentration camps and to know in our sad
times the two faces of France. The true one is here in Cherbonne where
Monsieur Shebrier is working with such beautiful success to cure the
misdeeds of the other."
Unfortunately France, like all countries of the world, and I include the
United States, has two faces: the face of courage and toleration, and the
face of discrimination. There are several obstacles to the internationally
recognized freedom of religion and belief in France and other Western
European countries. Before criticizing them, it is also important to
recognize that these governments and people in Western Europe generally
believe in the rule of law in human rights. Much to their credit,
virtually all-European states have ratified the European convention on
Human rights, and the people of these countries have the option of taking
complaints to the European Court of Human Rights.
Although I will devote the bulk of my testimony to the problem of new
religious movements, this committee should not be under the impression
that this is the only or necessarily the most important of the obstacles
to freedom of religion and belief in Western Europe. Without attempting to
rank the problems in order, three other salient and interrelated problems
of freedom of religion and belief in Western Europe are; first, the
incorporation of Muslims into society; second, laws that discriminate
among religions; and third, the attitude of intolerance, including
But the one issue that has received increasing notice during the past few
years in Europe is what may be called the anti-sect movement. The most
serious problem regarding the anti-sect movement in Western Europe is in
France. In 1998, the French government established an agency entitled the
Inter-Ministerial Mission to Battle Against Sects. The mission is now
headed by the former French Foreign Minister Monsieur Alain Vivian (ph).
During the past few years, the French National Assembly has also issued
prejudicial reports on so-called sects that are shockingly unscientific.
Widely supported bills currently pending in the French legislature,
including one that was mentioned a few moments ago, call for increasingly
severe measures against sects. I will describe two interrelated problems
of the official anti-sect movement in France to illustrate how a
legitimate concern for human welfare can be diverted towards the taking of
illogical and discriminatory actions.
First, the language of prejudice uses pejorative terms as an appeal to the
listener's bias. The most commonly employed term by the anti-sect movement
is, of course, the term sect, which plays a role similar to that of racial
epithets. One common tactic by some in the anti-sect movement is then to
accuse they're ideological opponent of being members or fellow travelers
of the foreign group. I personally witnessed one telling example of this
tactic by the president of the inter-ministerial himself against a member
of an official U.S. delegation in France.
In April of 1999, a three-person delegation sponsored by the U.S.
Department of State Office of International Religious Freedom went to
France and other European countries. Shortly before the meeting, we were
advised that the president of this new inter-ministerial mission had
declined our request to meet with him. He did so on the grounds that one
of the members of our delegation was affiliated with the Church of
Scientology. Now, I am not a Scientologist and I knew that the other two
participants, Dr. David Little, and Karen Lord, council for religious
freedom at the Congressional Helsinki Commission, were not Scientologists.
The president later decided that he would in fact meet with us. But as we
were introduce to him, he remarked that he, "already knew" who Ms. Ward
was, and that he did not need to be introduced to her. Later in a meeting,
following a question by Ms. Lord, the president said that he would not
respond to her but would give a response to the head of the U.S.
delegation. Subsequently, Monsieur Vivian has repeated publicly, on
several occasions, that a member of this three- person delegation was
affiliated with the Church of Scientology.
Monsieur Vivian's assertion is, in a word, false. I am certain that he
cannot prove his assertion. I challenge him to provide evidence to support
it or to issue an apology to Ms. Lord and the United States. But the most
important issue, however, is not that Monsieur Vivian made a false
statement that was designed to discredit Ms. Lord or the U.S. efforts to
promote religious freedom. The important issue is that his manner of
responding to questions about religious discrimination exemplifies the
tactic of much of the anti- sect campaign: the use of uninformed,
provocative, and false allegations for the purpose of discrediting people
His attack was not an aberration; it had unfortunately become a standard
rhetorical device to discredit those who believe that the anti-sect
movement is going too far. I give some additional examples in my prepared
The language of prejudice also reveals itself in such terms as
"infiltration" to described the real or imagined employment of a "sect"
member in a business or government office. When Catholics are members of
the reformed church or teach in school they are called employees, but if
they are members of the groups under attack they are called infiltrators.
This is a use of simply pejorative language.
Second, there are illogical methods of prejudice that come to play, and
I'd like to identify four now. One, the methods of prejudice do not
consult scholars familiar with issues related to new religious movements,
but relay instead on anti-sect activists. By failing to consult scholars,
the reports, particularly in France and Belgium, present an a-historical
and caricatured view of new religious movements.
Two, the reports of the anti-sect movements relay on statements made by
accusers and disgruntled former members. But they refuse to accept the
considerable evidence that most, although not all, adherents of the new
religious movement generally report positive and beneficial experiences
with the group. This was in fact the conclusion of both the Swedish and
the German governments' investigation into new religious movements.
In a telling repudiation of this methodology employed by the anti-sect
movement, a French court recently found Jacque Gayal (ph), president of
the 1999 parliamentary investigations, liable himself for defamation
against Anthropostasy (ph). As reported by the newspaper Le Monde, the
courts held back his parliamentary report and his statement, which was not
"a serious investigation." Monsieur Gayal, for making the statement about
Anthroposifists, was fined 20,000 francs and ordered to pay 90,000 francs
The French anti-sect movement typically refuses to engage in dialogue with
the group that they are attacking. This refusal to engage in a discussion
with the groups that are under attack is an approach very different from
that recommended by the Swedish government, for example, which strongly
recommends dialogue with groups rather than polarization of the issues.
That is also the recommendation made by the Organization of Security and
Cooperation in Europe.
Three, the principle documentary evidence in the French reports are secret
allegations contained in files at the security division of the French
police. Four, the reports use examples of alleged misdeeds of some people
in some group and then broadly condemn the entire groups or even sects
generally. The fallacy of this type of analysis can be easily illustrated
by reference to the recent criminal conviction of Jacque Gayal himself.
The springs have not been kind to Mr. Gayal since being sentenced for
committing a criminal offense and defamation against religious minorities.
The same year Monsieur Gayal was condemned, in 1999, the fraud committed
by a sect was, ironically, convicted by a French court in May of this year
for influence peddling and was sentenced to one year in prison and fined
100,000 francs. If we were to apply the same analysis to Monsieur Gayal
that he applies to the new religious movements, we would then need to hold
REP. GILMAN: -- Dr. Gunn, I dislike interrupting you. You are exceeding
your time and I would hope you could summarize your statement.
DR. GUNN: Yes, thank you. It would be the same as holding the French
inter-ministerial mission responsible for the actions of Monsieur Gayal.
I'd like to make 4 short recommendations. First, the Department of State
should monitor much more closely and vigorously anti-sect movements on
both a bilateral and multilateral basis. Second, based upon my experience
working in the State Department, I must also suggest that Congress take
seriously its responsibility for fully funding the State Department. From
my own observations, personnel in the State Department are overworked and
under supported. There is a need for more time and resources in the State
Third, Congress could assist the department by promoting genuinely
international approaches to human rights. Fourth, I believe that the
religious community in the United States can be much more helpful in
supporting religious freedom abroad. While all faiths in the United
States can help, those that are widely practiced and respected in Europe,
particularly Catholicism, Lutheranism, Orthodoxy, and the Reform Church
can play a very helpful role in promoting tolerance.
I don't know how long the anti-sect movement is going to continue in
France. The Vichy government continued in France for 4 years, and I hope
the life of the anti-sect movement does not have much longer. Thank you
REP. GILMAN: Thank you Dr. Gunn. Since time is running and we want to hear
from all of you, and then we want to have a dialogue with our members, I'm
going to ask you if you try to keep within the 5-minute rule that we have.
Your full statements have been made part of the record. We'll now proceed
to our next panelist, Reverend N.J. Skip L'Heureux. Reverend L'Heureux is
Executive Director of the Queens, New York Federation of Churches, is a
moderator of the Religious Liberty Committee, the National Council of
Churches. He's a Methodist pastor with wide experience in ecumenical work
and religious freedom questions. We welcome your proceeding Mr.
REVEREND N.J. L'HEUREUX: Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the
committee, thank you for inviting me to testify today about the worsening
problem of religious intolerance in France. I'll present here a short
summary of my testimony.
It was 343 years ago on December the 27, 1657 that residents of Flushing,
Queens began a letter to then Governor Peter Styvesant by declaring, and I
quote, "You have been pleased to send up onto us a certain prohibition or
command that we should not receive or entertain any of those people called
Quakers because they are supposed to be by some, seducers of the people.
For our part, we cannot condemn them." The Flushing remonstrance is the
earliest declaration of religious liberty on these shores, focused on
securing that liberty not just for self but for individuals and groups
other than the ones making the declaration.
France is a signatory to international human rights laws protecting
religious freedom. Unfortunately, the French government policy is so far
in violation of these tenets that its officials have set up an office
called the Interministerial Mission to Fight Against Sects, commonly known
as MILS. MILS has drawn deep from the wells of hostility filled by the
American anti-cult movement and by its long campaign of malicious
vilification of new or religious religions. In France, a 1996
parliamentary commission report stigmatized some
religious movements with the pejorative label of "sect," including the
Baptists, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists. We note
as well that there is discrimination visited in France upon the Muslim
The U.S. State Department's Annual Report for Religious Freedom published
last September criticized this commission report on the grounds, and I
quote, "It contributed to an atmosphere of intolerance and bias against
minority religions." Earlier this year, as has been noted, the rapporteur
of the parliamentary commission was himself convicted by a Paris court and
denounced for research methods counted by the court as, quote, "not
serious." And yet the blacklist of this 173 movements continues to
circulate and is used to justify discrimination against the groups.
In March, I was a member of an expert panel at a nongovernmental hearing
in Paris which drew more than 300 people from 38 minority religious
movements to describe the discrimination to which they had been subjected.
I and the other members of the panel were shocked at what we heard because
it was evident that these individuals were being targeted solely because
of their religious beliefs. I felt it necessary to bring the situation to
the attention of a wider audience, and then sought to place a series of
paid advertisements in French newspapers in the form of open letters to
senior French officials. The open letters focused attention on the
violations of European and international human rights standards caused by
MILS, and they were in turn signed by some 52 religious and human rights
leaders, mostly American.
Four major national newspapers in France refused to publish them. Only
the national paper (Francois ?) agreed to run them and, on April the 20th,
published our open letter to the president, Jacques Chirac. American
signatories of these ads included Lee Boothby (sp) of the International
Commission for Human Conscience; Dr. Derrick (sp) Davis, director of the
J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Relations at Baylor University; the
Board of the First Church of Christ Scientist in Boston; Dr. Franklin H.
Littell (sp), professor of holocaust and genocide studies at Richard
Stockton College in New Jersey; Dr. David Little (sp) of the Harvard
Divinity School; Melissa Rogers (sp), general counsel of the Baptist Joint
Committee on Public Affairs; and representatives of many Christian, Muslim
and Jewish faith communities.
Such was the furor following publication of this open letter that although
Francois had agreed to run the third letter a week later, the paper not
only reneged, but the chief editor publicly stated that he had published
this letter on April 20 by mistake.
It is against this background that we come to a recent and most disturbing
development in France to date, the proposed bill pending now before the
National Assembly, about which much has been said. That bill is the
subject of a letter, an open letter, published today in the International
Herald Tribune, a letter addressed to Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, saying
it is a flagrant violation of fundamental human rights standards in that
it singles out and targets members of minority religions even as a special
category of citizens. The bill's title proclaims its discriminatory
intent, "Law Proposal Aimed at Reinforcing the Prevention and the
Repression of Groups with Sectarian Character."
The proposed law is essentially the product of the hysteria about minority
faiths brought about by MILS and its president, Alain Vivien.
Mr. Chairman, I would urge you and the members of the committee to make
the strongest possible representations to the French government that
should this law pass, it will place in question France's commitment to the
Helsinki Accords. Such a law would be a cancer on French democracy. Only
by sending a strong and unmistakable signal of Congress's intent to take
firm measures against violations of international human rights codes will
we be able to succeed in halting these reverses for religious freedom in
I thank you very much for hearing my testimony, and I'll be happy in the
dialogue to respond to your questions.
REP. GILMAN: Thank you very much, Reverend L'Heureux. We appreciate your
reference to the work of our New York ancestors, as well.
We'll now move on to our next panelist, Philip Brumley, general counsel of
Jehovah's Witnesses. Mr. Brumley has traveled all over the world in
support of religious liberty. We thank you, Mr. Brumley, for being here
today, and you may now proceed.
MR. BRUMLEY: Good morning, Chairman Gilman and Congressman Gejdenson and
to all of you on the House Committee of International Relations.
Today happens to be a very special day. Most of you will know that it's
Flag Day. It's also a special day for all lovers of religious freedom
because it marks the 57th anniversary of an historic Supreme Court
decision, West Virginia v. Barnette. In that case, the Supreme Court held
that it was unconstitutional to force children of Jehovah's Witnesses to
salute the flag. Most do not understand, nor necessarily agree, with our
position that, while we owe respect to the flag, we may not salute it; but
that decision stands as irrefutable proof that this country does stand up
and grant religious freedom to all, including those of minority faiths.
One would expect that the situation would be similar in Western Europe,
but sadly, this is not the case, as has been testified. Witness
communities have been active in Western Europe since over 100 years. There
are approximately 1 million active Jehovah's Witnesses in Western Europe,
approximately 1,600,000 who also attend our services. During World War II,
hundreds of Jehovah's Witnesses paid the ultimate price for not
compromising their faith.
With this backdrop, it's surprising to see the treatment that Jehovah's
Witnesses are receiving in Western Europe. I begin with France because it
is the epicenter of religious intolerance of Jehovah's Witnesses. Two
years ago, France imposed a 60 percent tax on all donations made to our
administrative center in France. They assert that we owe as much as $50
million in unpaid taxes. Here we see the level of sophistication of
religious intolerance. The French authorities will assert that Jehovah's
Witnesses are free to believe whatever we will, but their anti-sect
commission labeled us "a dangerous religion," and this had the effect of
declaring open season on Jehovah's Witnesses.
Let me give you one example of what happens now to Jehovah's Witnesses in
France. One of our ministers, Renee Snerberger (sp), for decades has sent
religious literature to inmates in prisons throughout France. Recently
those inmates informed him that they were no longer receiving the
literature. When he inquired as to the reason, he was given the following
answer by the Valpan (sp) prisons officials: Quote, "Receipt of these
magazines is being suspended because of the sectarian nature of Jehovah's
Witnesses, as recognized by the parliamentary commission."
Regarding Belgium, let me inform you of the situation that children of
Jehovah's Witnesses routinely face in Belgium with regard to religious
intolerance. A teacher in the Ecole Pageau (sp) issued a paper for class
discussions and said this: Quoting, "In Belgium, there are 189 dangerous
sects, and 37 are hard-core ones, such as Jehovah's Witnesses." Now, how
would you have felt if your children and their faith was subjected to such
scrutiny and intolerance in their classrooms?
Some who are Jehovah's Witnesses in Belgium have lost custody of their
children just because they happened to be Jehovah's Witnesses. In one case
the judge states, quote, "It constitutes a grave danger for the children,
taking into account the influence of the Jehovah's sect of which the
mother seems to be a member." Another judge was even more openly bigoted.
He said, "Jehovah's Witnesses are not to be viewed as a religion but as a
movement of fanatics."
What about Germany? As the fall of Communism drew near, the East German
officials granted Jehovah's Witnesses full religious status, a status
superior to the mere not-for-profit status we enjoy in Western Germany.
When unification took place, we moved to have complete religious freedom
throughout Germany, like the other majority religions. A trial court and
an appellate court ruled that we were entitled to this status. It's called
corporation of public law status. But the high administrative court ruled
against us. For the first time, it said that we lacked the degree of
loyalty necessary for any religion seeking corporation of public benefits
status. They said that we lacked this loyalty because we are neutral in
political matters. This case is now pending before the German
Constitutional Court, and we hope for a favorable victory there.
Once again let me show you the effect on local Jehovah's Witnesses. For
decades, one couple had been used to care for foster children. When the
local youth office of the German government was informed by an anti-cult
chairman that the couple happened to be Jehovah's Witnesses, they moved to
have the children removed from this couple. This led to a two-year court
battle that the couple ultimately won, but the local youth office has now
refused to assign any new children in their care.
Next let me summarize briefly the situation in Austria. For decades, we
were moving through the political and the legal court systems to obtain
the same religious status as other religions in Austria. And Chairman,
just as we were getting to the point of obtaining this religious status,
the National Legislature of Austria convened and passed a new law. The new
law, for the first time, imposes a 10-year waiting period for any
organization seeking full religious recognition. The law applies to nobody
but Jehovah's Witnesses. No one else is seeking this status at present. It
was clearly passed with us in view.
Again let me move to the individual level of what is happening to
Jehovah's Witnesses. One of our brothers was applying for a job, for which
he was well-qualified and for which he was going to be accepted. But when
they found out he was one of Jehovah's Witnesses, he received the
following letter. Quote: "We thank you for your application, but we are
sorry to have to tell you that we do not employ persons belonging to any
kind of sect."
To just summarize a final matter, Sweden is complicating our operations
there because of not recognizing the concept of voluntary work on behalf
of religious endeavors. Although Sweden has a much better record than the
other four countries I just mentioned, it is hampering our volunteer work
to build new kingdom halls because those who would serve as volunteers to
do this have to pay a tax on their labors, as though it is a taxable
Well, clearly something is wrong in Western Europe. What is the solution?
Well, Jehovah's Witnesses turn to the scriptures first, and Isaiah
foretold this: "In the wilderness, justice will certainly reside, and in
the orchard, righteousness will dwell. My people must dwell in a peaceful
abiding place and in residences of full confidence." Jehovah's Witnesses
recognize the complete fulfillment of that lies ahead in the future, but
in the meantime, we call upon this committee and all governments to
recognize our God-given right to religious freedom that currently Western
Europe only extends to majority faiths.
REP. GILMAN: Thank you, Dr. Brumley. Your reference to the Supreme Court's
decision in Barnette, which not only came on Flag Day but came in the
midst of war, reminds us how strong the impulse is to provide for
religious freedom in our own nation. After all, that's why many of our
ancestors first came here to begin with, is to look for freedom of
MR. BRUMLEY: Well said.
REP. GILMAN: We'll now avail ourselves of the digital video conference
facilities of our committee and the facilities of our American Embassy in
Vienna to hear our next witness. We thank the public affairs staff of our
embassy in Vienna for their assistance in this endeavor.
We'll now call upon, in Vienna, Dr. Robert A. Hunt. Dr. Hunt has since
1977 been the pastor of the English-speaking United Methodist Church of
Vienna. He is a Texan by birth and a graduate of the University of Texas,
Southern Methodist University and the University of Malaysia, where he
earned his Ph.D. Dr. Hunt has served congregations in Texas, in Malaysia
and in Vienna, and has worked in New York and in Singapore. He is a
specialist in Christian-Muslim relations.
We know how happy you are in your own ministry, Dr. Hunt; nevertheless,
we're grateful that you're willing to share your concerns about the
present environment in which you're working in Vienna. Dr. Hunt, please
PASTOR HUNT: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank the
committee, as well, for inviting me to give this testimony and to share
some of the experiences that I've had in Vienna.
According to a statement of the Austrian Information Service dated January
20th, 1998, the laws which regulate the legal status of religious belief
communities, especially the law of , while making distinctions among them,
in no way infringe on the rights of individuals or groups to practice it
in public and private. I would like to suggest that the right of religious
freedom cannot, however -- (inaudible due to static interference on the
line from Vienna).
REP. GILMAN: We pause for technical difficulties. Dr. Hunt, we're having
some problem. You seem to be disconnected. We'll try to come back to you
as quickly as we can.
In the interim, we're going to call on Congressman Rogan from California,
who is here today to introduce the next witnesses. And if we are able to
get Dr. Hunt? back on the line, we'll interrupt you.
REP. JAMES ROGAN (R-CA): Being interrupted goes with the turf. But I
especially thank you for calling this hearing and giving me the privilege
to take a moment to introduce two witnesses to this committee who are both
The first witness literally needs no introduction. I'm sure she's familiar
to all the members of this committee. Catherine Bell is the star of the
hit CBS show, "JAG." On that show, she plays a military attorney. I teased
her yesterday. I said, "You have the best of both worlds; you get paid for
pretending you're an attorney, but you don't have to go through the
disgrace in life of actually being one." (Laughter.) So I want to thank
Catherine for coming out. She is a member of the Church of Scientology.
She lives near me in Los Angeles. And in her presentation she will be
reading prepared testimony of another great actress, Ann Archer, who could
not be here today.
The second witness that I wanted to introduce is an old friend of mine.
He's also a constituent. Craig Jensen from Glendale, California. Craig is
the CEO of Executive Software. His company produces key software that
enables disk operating systems to run more efficiently. It's a core
component of most computer software operating systems. His company has
contributed much to our national economic expansion in the last couple of
Currently, Microsoft plans to include Craig's software in their Windows
2000 operating system. However, the Microsoft product launch, while
heralded around the world, is being severely disadvantaged in Western
Europe, and in particular in the Federal Republic of Germany. The origins
of this imposition relate to the fact that Craig Jensen is a member of the
Church of Scientology.
Mr. Chairman, this committee has a long history of acting on behalf of
religious freedom. Its work has carried the torch of liberty to many new
lands. It's in this spirit that I thank you for inviting Craig, Catherine
and the other witnesses before this committee and for giving me the
privilege of making this brief introduction of both of them.
REP. GILMAN: Thank you, Congressman Rogan. We thank you for being here
We'll now call upon Mr. Craig Jensen, the entrepreneur who founded, and
president and CEO of Executive Software. Mr. Jensen.
MR. JENSEN: Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the committee, thank
you for giving me the opportunity to tell you about an embargo of American
products by the government of Germany. I will be presenting a brief
summary of my views.
I am the CEO of Executive Software, a company I founded in 1981 in
California. My company's products are in use in every sector of the
American economy, including right here on Capitol Hill, and are sold
extensively abroad, as well.
I would like to point out that no other country on Earth can produce
software of the quality and usefulness that American software companies
produce. In view of this, a foreign embargo of American software products
must be viewed as a hostile act. Purchase of my products is restricted in
Germany by government edict. And now, the fact that Microsoft's new
Windows 2000 operating system includes a component developed by my company
is being used to justify a ban on the sale of Windows 2000 in Germany.
Why? The official reason given is that my company is headed by a member of
the Church of Scientology. But what does my religion have to do with
selling software? Nothing. The German government makes no attempt to hide
the fact that their embargo is based on religious discrimination. In fact,
the government officials see nothing wrong with religious discrimination.
Simply put, I come here today to alert your attention to a trade embargo
justified on the grounds of government-mandated religious discrimination.
Let me give you the background. In December, a German magazine article
proposed a ban on Windows 2000 on the grounds that I, as CEO of a
Microsoft supplier, am a Scientologist. The official German news agency,
DPA, sent out an international wire story saying that my involvement in
Windows 2000, quote, "is of interest to the Catholic Church, the other
German states, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, and
German industry," unquote. A government official from the Hamburg Ministry
of the Interior fanned the flames by boasting in the press that in Bavaria
and Hamburg, the government does not use the services or products from
companies owned by Scientologists.
While such a blatantly discriminatory admission would be condemned
immediately in this country, in the climate of intolerance created by
German government, it is allowed to pass. That official heads an office
called Working Group Against Scientology, which created the so-called
"sect filter" which forbids employment or contractual relations with
individuals participating in the Church of Scientology. In the end, the
German Security Technology Office informed Microsoft that they would not
certify Windows 2000 for sale in Germany because part of the program was
produced by a company owned by a a Scientologist.
Although the U.S. State Department has repeatedly condemned the German
government for its use of sect filters, the discrimination has not
lessened. In fact, it has gotten worse. Official German discrimination
has broadened from individuals to corporations and now to corporations
whose suppliers employ or are owned by members of minority religions.
Official statements from the German government have confirmed that public
bodies expressly ban purchases from companies owned by or associated with
Scientologists, effectively prohibiting the purchase of U.S. products.
This year, for the first time, the U.S. Trade Representative placed
Germany on the Watch List over its abuse of Scientologists' rights. The
inclusion of Germany in her report shows that in the view of the U.S.
government, Germany's discriminatory practices are not only a blatant
violation of human rights, but a threat to American trade, as well.
Mr. Chairman, I come to you today not just on my own behalf but on behalf
of my friends, partners and business associates who are suffering at the
hands of official German bigots who can't stand the thought of anyone
participating in a sect or free church. I also come before you on behalf
of all members of the Church of Scientology, who are forbidden employment,
political party affiliation and even schooling for their children because
of their religious beliefs.
I ask you to send a message to the German government that the Congress and
the people of the United States will not tolerate either human rights
violations of a religious nature or discrimination against American trade.
Perhaps the most effective action that you can take at this time is to
give your full support to the resolutions on Germany, H.R. 388 and S. ,
which call upon Congress and the president to demand that Germany abide by
international human rights law.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before this
committee. And I'll be happy to respond to any questions.
REP. GILMAN: Thank you, Mr. Jensen.
We will now proceed with our final witness, Ms. Catherine Bell, known for
the television series of JAG. As a former Marine Corps attorney, I'm sure
you don't hesitate to give us straight testimony today. Thank you for
being here, Ms. Bell.
MS. BELL: Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the committee, thank you
very much for holding today's hearing and for the opportunity to testify.
In fact, I'm here at the request of my friend and fellow actress, Ann
Archer, whose professional commitments unfortunately prevent her
attendance at this hearing to speak on her behalf. With your permission,
Mr. Chairman, I would like to present the testimony she would have given
had she been here today.
First, a word about my interest in this issue. Having been born in London
to an English father and a Persian mother, then becoming an American
citizen at a young age and spending most of my life in the United States,
I have learned that difference is best celebrated, and never made a reason
for division or discrimination. Therefore, when I first heard that
government officials in Germany were canceling the exhibitions and
concerts of artist friends of mine solely because of their religion, I was
shocked that such intolerance could be enacted by a Western government
which loudly proclaims its commitment to democracy.
Ms. Archer has undertaken two fact-finding missions and has been committed
to combating religious discrimination against members of minority
religions in Germany for several years. In addition to her fact-finding
visits to Germany, she has addressed large rallies for religious freedom
and human rights in Berlin, Frankfort and Hamburg. In October 1998, she
raised the problem before the plenary session of the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe, and she's also taken up the issue with
various members of the European Parliament.
Last October she visited Congress again to welcome the introduction of
House Resolution 388 and Senate Resolution 230, resolutions which now have
a combined total of more than 50 sponsors in the House and Senate. The
resolutions call upon the German government to comply with its obligations
under international human rights laws and to respect the rights of
On behalf of Ann Archer, I would like to thank you, sir, as committee
chairman, as well as Congressmen Salmon and Payne, for introducing the
resolution in the House, and Senator Enzi, the principal sponsor in the
Our thanks go also to the many members of this committee who have
co-sponsored the resolution. I trust that after today's hearing, those
members who have not yet signed on to House Resolution 388 will be
motivated to do so.
Present in this room today are nearly two dozen German citizens who have
come here to witness the fact that an official body would care enough to
hear their personal grievances and provide an open forum to air the facts
about governmental religious discrimination in Germany. I'd like to
introduce some of them to you and briefly recount their personal stories
Mr. Karl Rorig (sp) is a very talented graphic artist whose work has been
exhibited internationally and has appeared on the covers of leading
international magazines. He's here today with his daughter, Marlene (sp).
Because of his religious beliefs, Mr. Rorig (sp) has been blacklisted and
has had exhibits boycotted or cancelled. His bank accounts were closed
with explanation, and his family threatened. He was compelled to send his
family abroad to rescue them from the discrimination and intolerance they
faced in Germany, and his children are now being schooled in Denmark, not
in their native country.
In addition to the disruption of Karl's (sp) pursuit of happiness, he has
suffered economic damage totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars. As a
recent example, in early January of this year, Mr. Rorig (sp) held an
exhibition of his works in Newburg, Bavaria. The town's cultural director
learned that Mr. Rorig (sp) is a scientologist and demanded that the
gallery director cancel the exhibition. When the director refused, the
city government publicly called for a boycott of Mr. Rorig's (sp)
exhibition, resulting in a financial loss to him of more than $20,000
because several clients cancelled their purchases of his paintings and
Mr. Hans Bajor (sp), another Scientologist who is here today with his
family, worked for 20 years as a journalist, producing highly regarded
reports for Bavarian and national Germany television on the central issues
of the day. After his religious affiliation became known, all work
suddenly dried up. In the end, he had no choice but to leave Germany, and
he and his family now live here in the United States.
Finally, I would like to introduce Ms. Antia Viktor (sp). In 1997 she
became the first German Scientologist to be granted asylum by a U.S.
immigration court on the grounds that she faced ruinous religious
persecution if she had to return to Germany.
I understand that on behalf of all those experiencing discrimination in
Germany, the members of my religion who are here today wish to present a
petition to you, Mr. Chairman, asking for the full support of your
committee behind House Resolution 388.
In addition, Mr. Chick Corea, who had hoped to be here today but is
prevented from attending by a physical impairment, has requested that his
written testimony and evidence regarding German officials' continuing
denials of his right to perform in Germany be included in the record.
Hearing these accounts of discrimination, you may well ask what remedies
are available through the courts. Though the German courts do act to some
degree as guardians of the constitution, Germany's want of
anti-discrimination legislation leaves them poorly armed to remedy a
pattern and practice of religious intolerance that has soaked into the
bureaucratic culture. By contrast, due to the efforts of Congress, we are
fortunate in the United States to enjoy strong anti- discrimination laws.
When Deutsche Bank in New York fired an employee solely because of her
membership in the Scientology religion, she was able to obtain not only
financial compensation but to extract an apology from the bank. In
Germany, no comparable remedy would have been possible against Deutsche
Bank In German schools today, children are taught, by order of the
government, that members of certain religions are evil. I have seen some
of the so-called "teaching materials" they use, and they are highly
offensive and calculated to breed intolerance and hate.
On a personal note, I receive a lot of letters from people in Germany who
watch "JAG," the TV series in which I play a U.S. Marine Corps attorney.
I would hate to think that due to reading such hateful propaganda, that
they might be made to think less of the program or of me.
Nor is discrimination in Germany a problem only for Scientologists.
Mormons, charismatic Christians, Jehovah's Witnesses, orthodox Jews and
others also suffer a climate of religious intolerance in Germany.
Officials of both state and federal governments there continue to
discriminate against thousands of law- abiding members of minority
religions, many of them American in origin.
It's unfortunate that the German ambassador has chosen not to appear
today. It's my understanding, Mr. Chairman, that the ambassadors of
Germany, France and Austria were all invited. I further understand that
the German government also refused to appear before the Commission for
Security and Cooperation in Europe when it held a hearing into religious
intolerance in September 1997. However, the ambassador has not hesitated
to discuss his government's position on Scientology with members of the
press and with certain members of this committee in private. It is my
view, and that of Ann Archer, that the ambassador's repeated refusal
betrays the fact that there is neither defense nor justification for his
Following a hearing on German official discrimination conducted by the
Helsinki Commission in September 1997, the German government said that it
would deploy its foreign intelligence agency on US soil to inform
Americans about my religion. We have, of course, no way of knowing yet if
this legally impermissible plan was carried out, but we hope not.
Our point is that if German officials had a clean human rights record
vis-a-vis minority religions such as mine, they would not shy away from
the scrutiny of the public forum. As I have looked deeper into these
issues and have studied the extent of the discrimination, I've become
alarmed to learn that intolerance has been carried across the border from
Germany into some other countries of Europe, notably France. French
officials have stigmatized members of 173 religious minorities, including
the Baptists, as sects.