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Scientology: Tom Cruise Banned from Filming in Berlin?

A fierce controversy has arisen since Germany’s defense ministry allegedly banned Tom Cruise from filming on certain locations in Berlin. Cruise is to act Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, the German Reichswehr officer who attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler on July 20th1944. The reason for not allowing Cruise into the government building called “Bendlerblock”, according to a spokesman of the ministry: Mr Cruise having “publicly professed to being a member of the Scientology cult”.
This is as quoted by Antje Blumenthal, a member of parliament and expert for sect issues in the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party – and that’s part of the crux. As it turns out (link is in German), the producers haven’t even asked for permission to film anywhere yet; also, the location in question might not fall under the jurisdiction of the ministry of defense, but of the ministry of finance. So a (possibly overzealous) politician talked a (possibly naïve) ministry official into promising something that does sound to many as religious discrimination or even persecution. [see the lively debate on Atlantic Review]
Needless to say, accusations of religious persecution cast a poor light on us Germans, perpetrators of the Holocaust – of all peoples. Comparisons with the Nazi regime are abound on the internet; Stauffenberg’s son is being quoted in newspapers all over the world:  “It’s bound to be rubbish […] He should keep his hands off my father.”; whole interview in the original German; hints are being dropped of Berlin losing millions of Euros and 500 jobs of the movie were to be filmed elsewhere – in short: a “bureaucratic farce” turned into a political scandal.

While Scientology is officially recognized as a religion and enjoys tax-free status in the US, the German government considers it a profit-making organization and a dangerous cult, which is under surveillance of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany’s internal intelligence service. The US government has repeatedly criticized Germany for their “discrimination” of certain religious groups, including Scientology; they consider Germany’s handling of the controversial American organization as human rights infringement, e.g. in their 2005 human rights report.
So should we, as Time Magazine suggests, simply “ agree to disagree” on the issue? I’d say no. This incident has raised a couple of questions that should be addressed.
1. For the benefit of all people around the globe, both countries should take the lead in making transparent what Scientology is all about and how it should be treated.
2. Disagreements over Scientology have overshadowed German-American relations for too long already. We shouldn’t let any private organization, may it be a reputable church or a dubious sect, divide us.
3. Most importantly: Both our countries could do with an honest, open debate about religious freedom and the separation of church and state, cornerstones of our respective constitutions and shared values of our civilization. It’s never easy to get it right.

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David on :

I don't think disagreement over scientology is dividing Americans and Germans. Most Americans are not even aware of Germany's hard line on this cult, and those few who are most likely applaud it. I read the Stauffenberg interview. His complaint was not so much that Cruise is a cult member (he even comes out in favor of freedom of speech) rather it is his fear that it would be a typical Hollywood effort - banal, kitsch, and historically inaccurate.

Sonja on :

I read the Stauffenberg interview. His complaint was not so much that Cruise is a cult member (he even comes out in favor of freedom of speech) rather it is his fear that it would be a typical Hollywood effort - banal, kitsch, and historically inaccurate. You're right, David, the son's statements have been somewhat distorted by putting them into this contect; he also strongly criticised the older movie by Jo Baier - which was highly celebrated by many critics.

Anonymous on :

I think a fine point is being missed here. I doubt many Americans apart from L Ron Hubbard and his inner circle are terribly concerned about the legal status of Scientology in Germany. That is the business of the German government and people. What disturbs me are the statements from German officials that Tom Cruise is verboten because he is a Scientologist. “publicly professed to being a member of the Scientology cult”. No. Mr. Cruise has publically stated that he is a member of the Scientology religion. The spokesman is injecting his opinion into the statement that Mr. Cruise made. I'm pretty certain Cruise has never said he is a member of a 'cult'. When you apply predujudice against an individual because of his publically expressed beliefs when such expressed beliefs do not support violence against others - that seems to be religious persecutions. An example of the distinction might be Sheik Ramzi in London. Ramzi has been accused and convicted of inciting others to violence based upon his interpretation of the Koran. That is not persecution. But if I were to initiate legal action against another Muslim who had not done such incitement, that would be religious persecution. You may well dislike Scientology as a movement, and members of the movement may have committed crimes in Germany. But discriminating against Tom Cruise on the basis of his membership in the religion or cult, and not based upon his personal actions, is wrong.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"I doubt many Americans apart from L Ron Hubbard and his inner circle are terribly concerned about the legal status of Scientology in Germany." Yes, but the State Department complains about it in their annual reports. Why is the State Department writing these reports about other countries religious freedom and human rights anyway? Is it the response to US critical press coverage or does it have to do with being the "leader of the free world"? Sorry, I am in a snarky mood again. I better shut up. Anyway, I am not complaining, just being snarky. I know that the German media is very critical and often unfair/one-sided about everything that is going on in the US. One last thing: The TIME article quoted by Sonja Bonin has the headline "Why Germany Hates Tom Cruise," which is a typical exaggeration, like those hundreds of US press articles about "Why do they hate us" after 9/11. Stupid journalists are sloppy with the generalizing words "they" and "hate" and "us." The country Germany or the German people do NOT hate Tom Cruise. Quite the contrary, his movies are very popular. How does TIME measure this presumed German hatred of Cruise anyway?

Don S on :

"Yes, but the State Department complains about it in their annual reports." Positive proof that people at the State Department have too much idle time on their hands. May I suggest that you cultivate a certain deafness toward the picayune? ;) "The TIME article quoted by Sonja Bonin has the headline "Why Germany Hates Tom Cruise,"" Is Time a serious publication? It once was - but I haven't bothered to buy a copy for a decade or more. It's on a par with Newseek - or Der Speigel (snark). A rag. When I buy a weekly news magazine it's usually the Economist, whose next Paris Hilton cover will be it's first one. If I buy a US publication it's US News and World Report - far the best of the US newsweeklies. So when Tine writes something like that - consider the source. This is a 'news' organisation which believes in printing tripe.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"Positive proof that people at the State Department have too much idle time on their hands." No, the good folks at Foggy Bottom have to write them. Those annual reports are mandated by Congress, which is elected by the American people... So it seems, Congressmen believe that Americans want these reports. "Is Time a serious publication? It once was - but I haven't bothered to buy a copy for a decade or more. It's on a par with Newseek - or Der Speigel (snark). A rag." Now you sound like a German, who responds to a post in Davids Medienkritik about Spiegel. ;-)

Don S on :

"No, the good folks at Foggy Bottom have to write them. Those annual reports are mandated by Congress," So Congressman Phoghorn from Idaho sticks it into a bill - does that mean you need take it seriously? My comment about the picayune stands..... ;)

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Others take it seriously and think it hurts US interests. See [url]http://www.atlanticreview.org/archives/416-Foreign-Policy-by-Report-Card-Blamed-for-Nurturing-Seething-Resentment-Abroad.html[/url] Anyway, does anybody know the history of those annual reports? Who's initiative was it? Why has the majority US representatives voted for it? Just curious. I don't those reports are such a big deal. They don't get that much press coverage in Germany.

Don S on :

well, I think the reports get as much attention as they deserve. I think Germany are making much ado about nothing in going after Scientology. They are completely unimportant except if they can gather publicity and appear the victim of discrimination. So the German government obliges them and discriminates. Right. Not the brightest bulbs in the box doing this, are we?

Sonja on :

I absolutely agree, Anonymous. No one must be prevented from doing his or her job or discriminated against on grounds of their religion. (And since Scientology calls itself a religion, is apparently considered a religion by its adherents and is officially recognised a religion by the government of the US, I do think we have to treat it as a religion for the time being.) The fact that a Germn government office issue a statement like in this incident is very disturbing. I am also concerned about the hostility against Scientology as long as it is not based upon solid information. My impression is that most Germans would agree that Scientology is evil and should be treated as such; if it comes to knowing EXACTLY what Scienology is, what it does and what makes it evil and worthy to be condemned - well I'm not so sure many people could name facts and good reasons. I do think a government has the right and even the responsibility to warn its citizens about cults or other groups it consideres dangerous, and Scientology certainly is a candidate (it's rather well established that Scientology uses methods of brainwashing, robs members of their money and threatens members that want to quit). The (hopefully free) media should play a major role in providing important information so the public can form an informed opinion. But religious freedom, as long as one doesn't harm or infringe the rights of others, is one of the basic human rights. Belonging to a certain church may never ever be grounds for discrimination.

Zyme on :

Scientology as an organization is aiming at gaining control over the state. Toleration of such goals is inacceptable for a government, thus it has to interfere. While the organization is estimated to have just around 10.000 members in Germany, it is always better to fight a beast while it still is a baby than to wait until it is grown up. I believe the approach of supervising via the domestic intelligence services is the most efficient one. A violent approach like in China only creates martyrs and enhances the attraction of a cult. A laissez-faire approach will encourage their leadership and they will become even more ambitious. Silently taking out their influence by infiltrating them with state agents and supervising their communication allows the state to always be one step ahead. Once leadership levels are reached, even the entire alignment of the cult can be manipulated. And most importantly: All this happens without creating much noise. Every kind of public attention such an organization receives creates an advertising effect. So it is highly doubtful whether a public debate is desirable. I bet the sophisticated procedures of the Stasi are must reads for our Verfassungsschutzämter.

Kevin Sampson on :

"Silently taking out their influence by infiltrating them with state agents and supervising their communication allows the state to always be one step ahead. Once leadership levels are reached, even the entire alignment of the cult can be manipulated." "I bet the sophisticated procedures of the Stasi are must reads for our Verfassungsschutzämter." Maybe Congress is right.

Anonymous on :

I think its admirable that a nation has recognized a "religion", "cult", whatever as a "money making" venture. I believe that all religions could be called cults given the willingness to blindly follow rediculous icons and worship pitures, idols and pagen rituals. Dismissing all of that, the religions of the "New World" are all money making ventures. I believe that the original purpose of tax-exempt status for the church was just that for "a" chuch, not for the vast land holdings, tv sales and product sales. Is Mr Cruise a dangerous person who will do his best to bring people into his "cult". Of course that is his true mission in life. But then, isn't that the mission of all of these religions or "cults". Is his any more dangerous than the other ? Scientology does seem a bit more like the radical Islamists in its need to get the individual to give up their own thought process and buy into the teachings. Have you ever seen Clearwater Florida and the Scientology takeover there ? Thousands of the little minions all dressed in uniform - no individuality there. Not allowed. Give us your money and your minds and we will think for you. The Germans have it right. It is a cult, but don't stop with Scientology.

Pat Patterson on :

Most Americans would probably agree with Germans that Scientology and the Unification Church are cults. They might disagress to place the Jehovah's Witnesses in the same category. Last years Gallup Poll on religious attitudes found that the highest negative feelings were towards Scientology at 52% and Islam at 45%. [url]http://www.pollingreport.com/religion.htm[/url] But the American system will generally bestow tax exempt and tax deductible status on just about any religion except those proven to be criminal enterprises. In other words the state or federal government must prove criminal acts rather than act against these churches on the assumption of anti-state activities. Mostly this is the result of the American experience of the Anglican Church's official status and the fact that many sects, cults and minority religions and even mainstream religions have been consistently discriminated against and often physiclly assaulted both unofficially and officially since the colonies were settled. Americans might recognize this dark impulse and have taken steps to deny the state and the citizens the power to discriminate against unpopular religions. Many Americans simply don't feel that comfortable with any practice that seems to abrogate to the state the power to determine what is a religion and what is not. For example, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney cannot be the subject of any religious test for public office or private employment but the mistrust many Americans have toward a Mormon will probably doom his chances of being president. Which is quite an improvement, but not complete, over the days of the murder, while in jail of Joseph Smith and the days of the Mormon Wars in Utah. [url]http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/02/13/opinion/polls/main2469572.shtml[/url] I must admit that the State Department report seems rather benign, considering the heated responses, concerning Scientology in Germany. It seems that they note that there is legally sanctioned spying and some discrimination but don't seem to have the heart to press the case. The requirement for this report and from the Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe came about primarily as an outgrowth of the Helinki Accords in 1975. Signed by Pres. Carter it give much legitimacy to the Brezhnev government but also gave international and the appearance of national legitimacy to groups like Solidarity and the Charter 77 signatories.

Reid of America on :

Zyme says "Scientology as an organization is aiming at gaining control over the state. Toleration of such goals is inacceptable for a government, thus it has to interfere." There is a significant sub-culture of German Muslims that is aiming at gaining control over the state. Yet belief in classical Islam and jihad is legal. Why the double standard? Scientology is bad science fiction that has morphed into religion probably for financial reasons. In my opinion, Tom Cruise and John Travolta and all other Scientologists beclown themselves with their religious affiliation. But are they a threat to US or German society? They are certainly not even remotely the same threat as jihadists. Germany has a long history of religious persecution that culminated in the Holocaust. Let's put aside the Jewish issue and just look at German persecution of Christian sects. Many of the early German migrants to America were Baptists seeking religious freedom. Considering Germany's past it should adopt a hands of approach to all religions. Including religions incorporated last week as a means to make some guru wealthy.

Zyme on :

You can´t expect us to just stand by and watch them grow. Jihadist organizations are under an even tighter surveillance, as pose are a more serious threat. "Considering Germany's past it should adopt a hands of approach to all religions." *yawn* - tell us when you´ve arrived in the 21st century, will you?

Zyme on :

its getting late - I intended to write "as they pose a more serious threat."

Reid of America on :

Zyme says "*yawn* - tell us when you´ve arrived in the 21st century, will you?" Yes, you German's have been yawning. So much so that if you were an American state you would be the poorest with the lowest standard of living. The US is the definition of a 21st century state. Zyme, you are deluded to believe the US is not a more advanced nation than Germany or any European nation.

Zyme on :

Whoops - did I hurt any feelings? :D

David on :

Just curious, what metrics are you using to claim America is more advanced than any European nation? Certainly in health care America lags far behind (35th, to be precise).

Reid of America on :

David says "Just curious, what metrics are you using to claim America is more advanced than any European nation?" Per-capita income at purchasing power parity. Also known as "standard of living" it is a very objective indicator. Not to be confused with UN-style "quality of life" indicators which are very subjective. David says "Certainly in health care America lags far behind (35th, to be precise)." You are quoting a UNESCO study that is known for it's lack of objectivity and political bias. That study ranked the US #1 in health care options. The US has issues and problems with health insurance for the poor and lower middle class. Europeans don't have insurance problems. They get to wait in line for rationed healthcare. Americans don't wait in lines for rationed care.

David on :

" Europeans don't have insurance problems. They get to wait in line for rationed healthcare. Americans don't wait in lines for rationed care." Well, I would like my German friends here to comment on this. Certainly, when I lived in Germany I never had to wait in line for rationed care, and I found the health care quite good. The problem in the US is that 45 million Americans lack health insurance. I know many people who have no insurance and the results are bad: no preventive medicine, postponed or forgone procedures, etc. This is also the biggest cause of personal bankruptcy in the US.

Reid of America on :

The more expensive the procedure the longer the wait usually is. If you need orthopedic surgery or a heart by-pass or other serious complex expensive procedures the greater the chance you will wait for a significant period. Norway's health system was featured on 60 Minutes news show. The report claimed Norway has the best socialized health care system in Europe. (Of course, we all know Switzerland has the best healthcare in Europe) It was all so wonderful. Everything was covered including stays at health spas. It was all wonderful except for the fact that expensive procedures had long wait lists. When the head of Norway's health system was asked about this he said, and I am quoting from memory, "This is not the US. We have limited funds to spend on healthcare". The US is routinely criticized for spending too much on healthcare. But we have a system that does a better job of balancing healthcare supply and demand than the socialized model. And the US system is a magnet for physicians and healthcare specialists from Germany and all other nations except Switzerland. Why is it that physicians from Germany flee to the US and Switzerland in large numbers? Anybody?

David on :

"But we have a system that does a better job of balancing healthcare supply and demand than the socialized model." There is absolutely zero evidence to support this claim. Every statistic - from infant mortality to longevity - points to the fact that the US system is broken. Someone posted a good article in the sidebar - Der amerikanische Patient - which has some good information on the healthcare crisis in America. I don't have time to translate it, but maybe you can use Google Translator to get the gist of it.

Reid of America on :

David says "Every statistic - from infant mortality to longevity - points to the fact that the US system is broken." The US has a much different ethnic and racial mix than Europe with regards to longevity. Japan has the worlds highest longevity and Japanese-Americans have the highest longevity of all Americans. If you compare German-Americans to Germans you will see similar longevity. The infant mortality rate in the US is skewed higher than in Europe because the US includes premature born infants that eventually die. There is very little premature healthcare in the socialized healthcare nations. Most prematures are aborted and the child is no longer a burden to society.

Pat Patterson on :

I can't speak to whether Germany aborts more premature babies which seems contradictory. But Germany does indeed not count babies as live births if the are underweight, more than 30 days premature or born with any birth defect. While the US counts all babies born, even still born, thus both the perinatal mortality rate. the neonatal mortality rate and the postnatal mortality rate and the infant mortality rate is always higher in the US and Canada compared to the other industrialized countries. But at the rate that Germans are dying, 10.71 per 1,000 and the birth rate of 8.2 per 1,000 then the discussion will mathematically moot in 50 years. Which again shows the futility of these kinds of comparisons.

Don S on :

Intersting, Pat. I hadn't heard this although it makes sense. The trouble is that the people we pay to inform us of such things (the press) are either ignorant themselves or out for sensational headline figures (US infant mortality 30% higher than Europe's!). There is a similar phenomena with economic statistics - we think we're comparing apples with apples but really comparing apples with pine needles!

Pat Patterson on :

Sorry, I need to be more careful in Preview, the US, as the rest of the world, does not count still born as live births. But some confusion exists as to how a still born is defined. What the US does is try to revive the baby and if it starts to breathe, even for a short time, it then is counted as a live birth, and if he or she dies it counts as part of the infantant mortality totals.

Axel on :

Hell, why so much hate and aggression? That's very unhealthy... [i]Germany now would welcome Tom Cruise production[/i] Thu Jun 28, 2007 6:01PM EDT By Scott Roxborough COLOGNE, Germany (Hollywood Reporter) - The German Defense Ministry is scrambling to qualify its stance on the Tom Cruise World War Two thriller "Valkyrie," saying Thursday that, despite reports to the contrary, it has no opposition to the film shooting in Germany. News reports earlier this week had started officials would ban "Valkyrie" from shooting at German military sites because of star Cruise's belief in Scientology. The ministry now says that, while it hasn't received an official request from "Valkyrie" producers United Artists to shoot in the country, it would "look agreeably" upon any such application. [...] Source: [url=http://www.reuters.com/article/entertainmentNews/idUSN2833863320070628?feedType=RSS&sp=true]Reuters[/url] In German: 30.06.07, 11:07 [i]Stauffenberg-Film. Grünes Licht für Tom Cruise[/i] Die Dreharbeiten für den umstrittenen US-Thriller „Valkyrie“ über das Hitler-Attentat mit Tom Cruise in der Hauptrolle des Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg können Ende Juli in Berlin beginnen. Die Koproduktionsverträge des Hollywood-Studios United Artists mit dem Studio Babelsberg sind unterschrieben, wie FOCUS berichtet. Das Babelsberger Studio hat auch, entgegen anders lautenden Meldungen, eine Genehmigung für einen Außendreh im historischen Bendlerblock eingeholt. Zuständig ist dafür das Finanz-, nicht das Verteidigungsministerium. [...] Quelle: [url=http://www.focus.de/kultur/kino_tv/stauffenberg-film_aid_65046.html]Focus[/url]

Axel on :

Seems that [i]Focus[/i] didn't get the facts, facts, facts right. According to [url=http://www.tagesspiegel.de/weltspiegel/Leute-Tom-Cruise-Stauffenberg-Hollywood;art2653,2331134]Tagesspiegel/dpa [/url], the movie makers now have the permits needed to film in Germany, however the Bendlerblock memorial inside the defense ministry complex in Berlin is excluded.

Reid of America on :

I don't see Scientology as a threat to either US or German society. Scientology is a threat to the psychological and financial well being of it's members. But is it the governments business to protect people from false spiritual beliefs? Scientology has lost a lot of it's appeal once it's sacred texts were illegally posted on the internet a few years ago. Access to the sacred texts used to take years of moving up in the organization plus tens of thousands of dollars. The sacred texts turned out to be bad science fiction from L. Ron Hubbard.

Zyme on :

"But is it the governments business to protect people from false spiritual beliefs?" You get closer to the idea. If you exchange "false spiritual beliefs" into 'networks which are challenging the state and are dangerous for the health of its members' then it would be correct. Who else can protect us from such organizations if not the entity with the monopoly on force?

Don S on :

Waiting in line for health care? I've had a few experiences of that within the NHS. Last year I needed an angioplasty and was on schedule to wait for more than 6 months until admitted to hospital with chest pains (Joerg, you may remember that). The specialist kept me in hospital for almost 2 weeks for no other reason than to put me on a more urgent list for the procedure. That is health care rationing - or at least shortage. And it makes little sense. On the other hand is the undoubted fact that I had no worries about paying a hosptial bill coming out - and that is not small. I wasn't working at the time so that wasn't a worry either, though it would be now.

Don S on :

" 1. For the benefit of all people around the globe, both countries should take the lead in making transparent what Scientology is all about and how it should be treated." I fail to see why this issue is important. A sensible way to deal with this is for Germany to discriminate against Scientology the organisation as much as it likes - but not to extend that to any individual. QED: Don't treate Cruise any worse than you would an average Satanist. Or an average Muslim.

Anonymous on :

"Don't treate Cruise any worse than you would an average Satanist. Or an average Muslim." Quite flattering comparisons for everybody... Anyway, "the average Muslim" does not get the right to shoot some movie on German government ground. You need to be a bit more than average. Being Tom Cruise is not enough either. Actually, even Spielberg or Soderbergh probalby will not get the right to shoot a movie. Moreover, the average Scientology and the average Muslim are not investigated by German authorities. That would be a waste of resources.

Don S on :

"Anyway, "the average Muslim" does not get the right to shoot some movie on German government ground. You need to be a bit more than average." I rather doubt that a Muslim actor would be denied a permit to shoot a film on german Government property upon the simple grounds that he is a Muslim. Nor should any government (German or otherwise) do so on those grounds. Find another reason if you need to. The trouble is that the Germans began with the 'Scientology' explanation, so any face-saving formulae which they substitute now will be (rightly) seen as bullshit.

OliverH on :

Actually, the license was NOT denied because Cruise is a Scientologist. This was merely a reason cited by a lot of people why they felt uncomfortable with the idea. First of all, let's make one thing clear: We're not talking about shooting at Wal Mart here. We're talking about A)the berlin seat of the German ministry of Defense (the main seat is still in Bonn). Anyone think that the Pentagon will not carefully consider who to grant a license to block off entire corridors, run around the offices and potentially cause the temporary evacuation of offices? B)a historical site. And here, the ministry of finance, which administrates such requests, stated they do not think that it is possible to do justice to a site such as this by shooting a movie largely aimed at entertainment in it. Then there was a request to shoot at a major police center. However, here shooting -ESPECIALLY of a major production- would have severely interfered with the day-to-day business of the police. Given that Berlin isn't just any city, and also isn't just the cozy village in the country where crime happens once a century, this IS a problem. Of course people focus on Scientology because it's a topic fit to make the headlines, but the fact that there are plenty of good reasons to deny such request. So what's bullshit is your last comment.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Please note that by default the comments in this blog are threaded rather than linear, i.e. some of the latest responses to comments are not at the bottom, but in the middle of the thread right behind the comment they respond to. At the top of the comments section you have the option to change the view from threaded to linear (=chronological), which enables you to see the latest comments at the end of the thread.

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