The US-based Church of Scientology has sued the German government in a bid to halt alleged surveillance of church activities by the country's state security police.
The suit came as the US Department of State said in its 2002 annual human rights report that members of the controversial church still faced discrimination in Germany where it has 8,000 members.
The German branch of church has asked an administrative court in Cologne to order the country's interior ministry to "cease surveillance of the Church and its parishioners by the state security police," the church said.
It also wants the court "to declare that such 'observation' is illegal," it said in a statement issued from its Los Angeles headquarters.
A parallel suit was filed against the interior ministry of the State of Berlin to end alleged observation of church members by its Office of the Protection of the Constitution (OPC), it said.
The move came after the church, which has been the subject of tough official crackdowns in both Germany and France, last year lodged a complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee calling for an investigation into alleged violations of church members' freedom of expression.
The announcement of the suit against the German government came as the State Department said in its human rights report for last year that German authorities, notably the federal and state OPCs, remained wary of Scientology
"Scientologists continued to report discrimination because of their beliefs," the report said. "A number of state and local offices share information on individuals known to be Scientologists."
The State Department report said the church had been singled out by OPCs for scrutiny as they believed it posed a threat to the state's "democratic constitutional order."
The perceived threat was because the church allegedly "advocates replacement of parliamentary democracies by an undemocratic system of government based on principles of Scientology," the report said.
Founded by the late science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, the group is considered a sect in some Western countries, including Germany, France and Greece, where authorities contend that its leaders seek economic gain and use totalitarian methods to keep supporters in line.