Scientology cases Berlin schools for vague project

The Local, Sweden/August 6, 2009

The Church of Scientology is targeting Berlin and Brandenburg schools for a vague fact-finding mission, sending more than 500 letters to various institutions in recent weeks, daily Der Tagesspiegel reported on Thursday.

According to the paper, a Scientologist group called the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) has contacted school leaders with questions about things such as how many of their students suffer from reading deficiencies or behavioural issues, or how many psychologists are on staff.

"The commission demands access to the files and refers to the freedom of information law," Der Tagesspiegel writes.

But those familiar with the controversial faith are not surprised by the inquiries. Commissioner for sect and ideology research at for the region's Protestant churches, Thomas Gandow, told the paper he began receiving concerned reports from school leaders in April.

"Collecting data is typical for Scientology," he said.

Every citizen has the right to request information from state-run facilities, but so far none have answered the Scientology inquiries.

"The schools are sensitised," said Kenneth Frisse, spokesperson for the Berlin government education administration told the paper.

Vice President of the CCHR Nicola Cramer said the data collected was to inform parents about the "misuse of psychological pharmaceuticals for children," an explanation the paper called "unclear."

President of Scientology in Berlin Sabine Weber told the paper the work part of the group's "public relations" efforts.

While the reason behind the letters remains vague, the city government office warned against Scientology-backed programmes such as "Say no to drugs, say yes to life," and "Applied Scholastics," which it says are meant to insert the group into schools.

Scientology is not recognised as a religion in Germany, where it is under surveillance by domestic intelligence.

The faith opened a new centre in Berlin's Spandau district in April and has an estimated 6,000 adherents throughout the country, the paper said.

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