German states to stop Scientology scrutiny

Reuters/December 13, 2001

Berlin -- German states plan to end their surveillance of the Church of Scientology after a Berlin court ordered intelligence agencies to stop using spies to monitor the organisation, a magazine reported on Saturday.

Der Spiegel said several states would stop telephone surveillance and using inside informers to monitor Scientology's activities after Thursday's ruling in a Berlin court.

Germany refuses to recognise Scientology, saying it masquerades as a religion to make money. In some regions, Scientology members are barred from government jobs.

In 1997, the government placed Scientology under official scrutiny, provoking an outcry in the United States where many prominent celebrities are Scientology followers.

They say Germany's refusal to recognise Scientology undermines their human rights.

The court said the domestic security service could no longer use paid informers to spy on Scientology.

While the judgment applies to the capital, the Church of Scientology is planning to take the case to other regional courts to have the ruling applied nationwide, Spiegel said.

An internal report compiled jointly by the states' interior ministries says that Scientology "presents itself as a religion which poses no threat to the safety of the constitution," Spiegel reported.

The court said that intelligence services could still use other forms of surveillance.

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