Thank you. We will now proceed with questions by our colleagues of our panelists, and we'll start with Mr. Salmon.
REP. MATT SALMON (R-AZ):
Thank you Mr. Chairman. I'm going to start my first question with Mr. Jensen. I'm just curious, have you considered a law suit?
Congressman Salmon the answer is yes I have considered a law suit. I would prefer to use communication, diplomacy, seeking out here at Congress, rather than going to court. That's my personal view. If these methods don't work, then I would pursue that course of action.
It's really interesting, about three years ago we were able to get this same resolution that you've alluded to, Ms. Bell, the resolution that I've co-sponsored with Representative Payne, and we were able to actually get it out of this committee, got it to the floor, and there was so much confusion and misunderstanding about what exactly we were trying to accomplish. And there was a lot of really anti, I think, very discriminatory rhetoric that came from members on the House floor, as I listened to them talk about the Church of Scientology in particular. And one of the concerns that's been raised, and Mr. Jensen I privately talked to you about this the other day, is information that has been sent to virtually every member of this committee from the Lisa McPherson Trust.
And I mentioned to you I was going to ask that question. You're familiar with what this trust is all about. Do you have any thoughts on some of the allegations that have been raised by this group, and if so, what are they?
Congressman contrary to its characterization as a foundation, it's a profit-making body and all the charges brought in their case were dismissed recently.
That's been covered in the newspapers in the last few days.
All of the charges that - or all of the allegations that they've made have been dropped?
That's correct. They've been dismissed by the court.
Okay, I think the other point that I'd like to make is that my personal feeling when people within religions do things that are unseemly or even illegal, to me the recourse that we have in this country is not to stomp on the religion, it is to prosecute the bad actors within the religion. And virtually every religion that I know of has had problems. Ecclesiastical leaders in virtually every religion have done things that have offended people, and some have done things that we consider to be illegal in this country. And our course of action in this country has always been, when people do things that violate the law, they are prosecuted. And there is justice within our court system.
But the answer has never been, and should never be, in a free society that respects freedom of religion, to paint with a broad brush and then use that as a reason for discrimination. I'm just curious, do you have any thoughts?
I agree completely Congressman, and I particularly agree with the comment made earlier by one of your colleagues that people should be judged on their actions and not on their thoughts. In this country we cherish the freedom to believe as we choose. And whether someone disagrees with my particular beliefs or not, a good American will die for your right to believe in what you choose. The Germans don't share that view. They're a very young democracy and the stench of religious intolerance there is at a high point today. I believe that the problem, in part, stems from the collapse of church and state in Germany, something that we're not familiar with and have never experienced in this country. When you put a member of one religion or one belief system in a position of power within the government, an abuse is bound to occur. So I don't think it's really a problem of one religion versus another, or anybody actually doing anything wrong, but rather a conflict of beliefs that is backed up with the power of government.
Thank you. Dr. Gunn, you've spoken about some of the problems that you've seen first hand throughout various countries in Europe. I'm just interested in your thoughts on - as a United States government - what do you see as recourses that we could possibly pursue?
I think that one of the important problems that the United States has in Europe is that there is often an immediate reaction to statements, recommendations by the US government. So sometimes that harsh statement actually plays into the rhetoric of those who support the anti-sect movements. So I would urge strong diplomacy but also clear words to make clear what's happening. I think with the case that you mentioned earlier, with the United Stated Trade Representative, I believe that's one that should be pursued vigorously and the United States should be prepared to say that the action taken against Scientologists in Germany is a barrier to trade and in violation of the WTO.
I agree Dr. Gunn. One last point, do you share the optimism that things are getting better, that was given to us by Ambassador Seiple?
I think it's a mixed story. I would have said it differently. I believe there are some signs for optimism. I don't think that it's right over the horizon. Let me say something positive about Germany. I think that in many regards the kind of problem that we're talking about now has diminished significantly in Germany.
A wide range of groups were subject to the same type of discrimination that Scientologists have been going through during the last year. That has been moderated to some extent in Germany partially through the release of the (Onket ?) Commission report which backtracks significantly over what it had said before. And the German parliamentary commission concluded that new religions - that first that the word sect should not be used to describe them, which is an advance, and they also said that these groups are not per se dangerous and they should be treated on a case-by-case basis. That is an extremely positive step. That said, there continues to be the kinds of problems that we've heard described today.
This list of 176, I'm not sure if that's the correct number, but this list that was created, what's the status of that? Is it something the government uses to constantly monitor or is it something that pretty much has gone by the wayside?
In France there's a list of 100 - sometimes it's called and sometimes it's 173 - and that has to do with how the list was prepared. But that is from France. The government as an official institution does not necessarily use that. The Inter-Ministerial Mission Against Sects constantly refers to that list. They also say that that list is not an exhaustive list, so that there are other groups that could be pursued as well. French courts, when there have been cases where prosecutors have used that list, French courts have, as far as I know, consistently said that list does not constitute the basis for any governmental action. So it was in a parliamentary report, it's not a legal document in that way in France.
The gentleman's time has expired, Mr. Ackerman.
Thank you Mr. Chairman. First just for clarification, I'm sure that my dear friend Congressman Salmon, when he said that churches should get rid of their bad actors, that was not an artistic reference in any way, shape or form. Let me welcome the panel and thank you all for your testimony. If I could be parochial for just one minute Mr. Chairman, I'd like to personally welcome Reverend L'Heureux from my home town of Queens, New York City, and thank him for the great work that he does year round for all people, and the inclusiveness and moral leadership that he exerts.
And especially for referencing the birth place of religious freedom, where I grew up, in Flushings, New York, and the work of John Bound (ph) and the Bound House on that one block, it should be noted not only do we still have that active Quaker meeting house, but we have an African church, we have two churches of different Christian denominations, one Orthodox synagogue, one Islamic mosque and three Buddhist temples. And that's within a very short, maybe three- quarters of a mile, all on that one street.
I called to the Chairman's attention that when we were on a codel, and we were in Germany, that the Chairman did forcefully bring this issue up with various members of the government in Germany, and was very forceful about the opinion of most of us on this committee I believe, and what we thought was in America's best interest and the interest of fairness and religious freedom and tolerance in America. We made our points, I don't know that we scored any victory at all, but they know that some of us at least have spoken on it.
I think the testimony that we've heard here has to be highlighted and profiled. I'm not sure what you do besides being here today, which is very important, maybe you have to try to garner the attention and support of the labor movements in these countries, which seems recently to have a powerful interest in religious freedom in other countries. Maybe we can condition our trade relationship with other countries on this, whether we give them permanent, normal trade status or maybe you can just get yourself in more trouble in China. That seems to get a lot of attention.
One of the things that the officials in Germany were using to make whatever points they thought they were making, was that this particular religion of which we speak today, Scientology, in their view was not a religion and was just basically a ponzi scheme to take money from unsuspecting people. We argued that, but how do you respond to that? Anybody on the panel, maybe Mr. Jensen.
Congressman, I think mylady doeth protest too much when the Germans say it's a ponzi scheme or something like that. In Germany, they don't have religious freedom, they don't have separation of church and state, they have combined certain religions and declared certain religions to be official state religions. And all others are referred to as sects or free-churches. And my understanding is that free means a religion or church that's not controlled by the government.
So I'm not surprised that they would use such derogatory terms to refer to my church. Personally I'm offended by it. It's nothing new, this sort of thing has been going on in Germany for a long time. I've been losing sales on contracts and things in Germany for ten or eleven years, simply because I'm a member of a minority religion.
And no one makes any bones about it. They boast of the fact. They use sect filters. I've got a whole binder full of documents here and there's a sample of one over on the board there -- to declare that you are not only not a member of the Church of Scientology but you have never even read a book by L. Ron Hubbard. Now I can't see anything so offensive about reading a book, why should that be a disqualification for employment or participation in the electoral process?
I thought we were past the time where in Germany we had problems with books. But nonetheless, I strongly agree with you and recall that this country was founded by people who seemed strange to other people no matter from whence they came. We were really founded by the weirdos and wackos of the world, in the view of the majority in other places.
In my district, I guess, they still have a tendency to elect those people to public office. But it becomes a very dangerous game when we try to define, on any particular basis, where people by virtue of their free will, want to associate and consider themselves as a religion, who's to judge that they're not. I mean there are some pretty strange practices. I mean, you know, there are some groups that wear bees and won't turn the lights on on Friday night when it gets dark. That does not mean that my religion is not a legitimate religion, no matter how strange that might seem to others.
So I just want to thank the panel for your persistence and know that you have many friends here.
Congressman, may I comment on your question? The question initially was, in terms of the accusation of financial improprieties and the ponzi scheme for wealth acquisition. In different forms, but with equal virulence, these same accusations have been in history made against almost every major religious group. In my own lifetime, I can remember hearing that kind of bigotry espoused against the Roman Catholic church. The slanderous and anti-Semitic remarks concerning Jewish wealth, for example, fall within that category. It is an easy way to hook bigotry in a way that will target it against some other group and marginalize them.
I wish that our celebration of American religious freedom were so complete and universal, but alas it is not. Because we have had difficulties here, many of them historic occasionally present. One of the tragedies that I see in this current environment is that much of the anti-sect movement in Europe, France and Germany that I'm familiar with personally, in particular, arises because of the work for the last four decades here of the American anti-cult movement. It has been rendered economically deficient in this country by legal judgments that have bankrupted the cult awareness network and one of their leading kidnapper/deprogrammers.
And now I believe, much like the tobacco industry, they are taking their product and exporting it elsewhere for their own benefit. And the relationship between (Alat ?) and (Vivien ?) in particular, with American anti-cult groups is rather interesting considering that he along with other officials will denounce what the American government might say about France, but welcome what this group of anti-cultists would say.
Thank you very much Mr. L'Heureux and thank you Mr. Ackerman. The gentleman from Illinois, Mr. Manzullo.
Thank you very much, I'd like to center on the trade aspects of this situation because unfortunately there's not much that can be done legally when a country is discriminating against a member of a certain religion because of the sovereignty issue. But when it becomes a trade issue that results in harm to American companies, it does become our legal obligation to get involved. Mr. Jensen, you stated in the last eight to ten years that you were losing sales and contracts as a result of discrimination against you because of your beliefs. And you will recall the testimony of Ambassador Seiple who said that commerce has not been able to quantify the harm or injury, if any, and therefore elevate this complaint to a panel.
I note with great total disbelief the official statement from the German government, who was invited to appear here but declined and sent a communiqui, it said, "Recent assertions about German governmental measures concerning small area of public procurement, specifically the awarding of government contracts for staff and management training, they are not focused on membership in Scientology, but are instead designed to ensure that techniques that seek to psychologically manipulate or oppress individuals are not used for training or consulting purposes. The measures are limited to government contracts. There are no regulations affecting bidding for private sector contracts."
I guess therefore, if you're a Scientologist in Germany, and you follow the reasoning of this letter, you can psychologically manipulate or oppress, as long as it doesn't involve governmental contracts. I just find this - this was written by a diplomat and I was just discussing with Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, she is the chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Trade and International Economic Policy of this committee, and we're very much interested in seeing if you can quantify? Can you tell us if you can document loss of contracts based upon this present policy in Germany?
Or other companies as well, based upon your religious beliefs?
Yes Congressman Manzullo, I can definitely document that. I'd be happy to provide such documentation to the committee afterwards.
If you would provide that to the committee, we'll make it part of the record.
I presume it would be proprietary for you to go into detail as to each contract and each loss, or is there something that you wish to share generally?
In some cases it's not difficult at all, a communications from Volkswagen, for instance, saying that they not only will refuse to honor a contract, but demand a refund for all purchases of software they had ever made, because of the fact that I am a Scientologist. I told them I would be happy to comply if they would put that in writing, at which point they settled for a cessation of business and forgot about demanding a refund. There are other cases where -
Were there any American-based companies that were there, or branches rather?
Daimler-Chrysler is one. We have a copy of their specs up on the wall over there. There have been - the Ford Motor Company, GE Capital, and another company here in the United States that do business in Europe have ordered their German subsidiaries to stop using the spec filters and have written to us that they have stopped doing that. So when it comes to my own personal situation, the discrimination that I referred to earlier was just on my own product. And that might come to millions of dollars worth of lawsuits. I'm not sure exactly what I could document in Germany.
But today, with this Microsoft situation, the German government is threatening to boycott or a ban on Microsoft's Windows 2000 operating system because of my involvement as a Scientologist. Now that, according to studies on the benefits of migrating to Windows 2000, would be a $50 billion hit on the German economy, simply because of the inefficiency of the systems they would have to use instead. So yes I can supply numbers. Yes I can supply documentation, but you have to also look beyond a specific transaction towards the chilling effect upon business as well as ones personal life. What will happen the next time Microsoft needs a component in their operating system and
I've been a terrific supplier for them for seven years now, we've done business well together, but someone sitting around that table is going to say remember we had this problem with the Scientology issue.
We look forward to meeting with you. I know there are several members on this panel that would like to meet personally with you to go into great depth as to the harm that done to your company.
Thank you Mr. Manzullo. I now call on our distinguished sub-committee chairman on economic policy and trade, the Congresswoman from Florida, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen.
Thank you very much Mr. Chairman. And following up on Mr. Manzullo's remarks, in our trade subcommittee we would look forward to the opportunity of discussing this issue about sect filters and what has been happening with discriminatory trade practices in Germany, France or other countries. And so we look forward to getting that information from you Mr. Jensen. I had the opportunity to meet with you and some of the others on the panel yesterday afternoon, and we look forward to following up on that to see if our trade subcommittee could help you in any way, at least to highlight this issue of discrimination against those who hold religious views that are not popular or in accordance with the majority-held beliefs.
And certainly in this country, that was founded upon religious freedom, we would frown on such practices, but especially when they interfere with commerce and something that is, on the face of it, very discriminatory. So we look forward to getting that information from you. And I know that as the other panelists were talking, Ms. Bell was writing some notes, so I don't know if she wanted the opportunity to say something. I think when Mr. Ackerman was asking a question of the other panelists you had - it looked like you had wanted to say something.
I did, and most of it was actually said by Congressman Ackerman, but the one thing that I wanted to point out is he was talking about the Germans saying that they didn't think Scientology was a religion. But I wanted to point out the fact that Scientology has been recognized as a religion by all of the world: by the United States government, by Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, recently Sweden. So it has been recognized as a religion.
And again, it goes back to what Congressman Ackerman was saying, that it's really not the place of the state or the government to decide whether or not it's a religion. And again, the bottom line is the freedom to practice your own belief, whether or not they agree with it or think it's a religion or whatever. You should have the freedom and the ability to practice what you believe, especially by a country that claims to be democratic.
It's interesting that many of those statements were not echoed during the South Carolina primaries, as some candidates visited Bob Jones University. It's like Animal Farm. All animals are equal, just some are more equal than others. But I do not espouse those beliefs of Bob Jones University, but perhaps some of those folks who made those statements about religious freedom could apply it overall. But Mr. Chairman thank you for the opportunity and thank you for an excellent presentation. We look forward to working with them in our trade subcommittee to see how we can be of help.
Thank you Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Mr. Rohrabacher, the gentleman from California.
Thank you very much Mr. Chairman. Let me just say that I'm sorry that I've missed your hearing, and I'm also running out of a hearing about human rights in Afghanistan. Let me just say for the record we expect more of Western Europe than we do of Afghanistan. We expect more of Western Europe than we do of totalitarian societies. And the fact that there are still some of the issues that you have raised today, and I know about the issues that you're talking about and will read your testimony, it is outrageous that countries as educated and as industrialized and as democratic - supposedly democratic - are participating in the kinds of discrimination that we find in these countries, is outrageous and the United States should be the squeaky wheel when it comes to the violation of these peoples rights; because we're talking to other countries that supposedly stand for this higher standard.
And I appreciate your leadership Mr. Chairman in calling this hearing and thank you very much.
Thank you Mr. Rohrabacher for joining us. I have just a few brief questions. Dr. Hunt, you've been so patient, allow me to ask you a question. Do you see a linkage between the anti-sect movements and the rise of political extremism in Austria, in France, Germany and Belgium? And I address that to the panel, any panelist that may want to respond. Dr. Hunt.
I am not certain about the other countries. I think in Austria there is certainly a link. The recent political campaign, which featured prominently images of real Austrians, as opposed to apparently not real Austrians, is certainly based on a climate that tries to characterize a kind of Germanic-Catholic personality as being truly Austrian - all others being not really quite Austrian. And I think that kind of political extremism and nationalism is certainly related to the rise of actions against sects.
Any of our other panelists, Mr. Brumley.
I would concur with the thought that there is a linkage. The situation in Europe reminds me of a sad chapter in our country, the McCarthy era, where when one was accused of being a communist without any facts, he had to go through infinite detail to prove a negative, that he was, in fact, not a communist. Well, the sects commission has done essentially the very same thing. Based on unsubstantiated reports, unfounded prejudices, they stigmatize someone.
Jehovah's Witnesses has found that, for example, during the audit of our operations in France, we came out squeaky clean. They found no impropriety whatsoever, even though they were certainly looking for it. But we feel subjected to that same type of scrutiny, that we have to prove that we are not a dangerous sect, instead of assuming that we're doing something correct. We found, and I know you understand this as well, our recourse has been through the courts.
As we go through the court system in France and in Germany, we've typically won the decisions but in this court of public opinion, in the press, this stigmatization continues.
Any other panelist wish to comment? Reverend L'Heureux.
Just a brief comment to say that - to echo what was said just a second ago in terms of the roll of government not to be the definer of what is orthodox or correct in belief. Moments before this committee hearing convened this morning I understand that the government in Paris conducted yet another raid on the offices of the Church of Scientology there, in a series of raids that have removed computer disk drives and records, and appear some weeks later to return them with no particular charges being filed, no reason given as to why the raids occur. And this kind of pattern of brutal harassment is really evidence of a kind of totalitarian aggression against religious movements.
Thank you. Any other panelist wish to comment? If not, let me ask Reverend L'Heureux and Dr. Gunn, what should our government do to deal with this situation in France? Any suggestions Reverend L'Heureux?
Well, to speak out loudly and a little bit more loudly than we've been doing. I recognize the problem that has been stated many times here, that sometimes the official statement of the government is not well received in Europe and in France and Germany in particular as an intrusion into their sovereignty. But the issue needs to be raised. Silence often gives consent to the kinds of mis-conduct that we've chronicled this morning. There is no way for us to avoid the responsibility of being forthright.
The other is to avoid in every way possible participating in a division that the anti-sect, anti-cult people would want us to do to sort of throw away certain groups and allow them to be trampled, because somehow they have been stigmatized or demonized as not religions. Again, the test is that government is simply not qualified to make a determination of orthodoxy. The behavior standards that were mentioned is correct. If there are crimes committed, if there are mis- deeds done by individuals, they need to be called to account. If in fact there is some kind of a criminal conspiracy in a way that's detrimental to the society and in violation of the laws, certainly that ought to be prosecuted. That's not what we're dealing with here.
What we're dealing with is the vague innuendo that leads to blacklisting, that leads to loss of employment, that leads to loss of schooling, that leads to loss of child custody, and these acts are intolerable and we must denounce them.
Dr. Gunn did you want to add - thank you Reverend L'Heureux - did you want to add some comment?
It's very difficult in France. The Inter-ministerial Mission Against Sects frequently employs anti-American rhetoric in order to justify its position, thinking that that plays well in France. So sometimes strong statements by the United States can backfire. France has a lively tradition of intellectual dissent and it has a lively tradition of trying to bring down people who promote intolerance. I believe that there has been, during the last year, a rise in those particular groups. And I assume those are the people to whom Ambassador Seiple was referring.
Two very famous French historians have taken positions on this, the leading French constitutional scholar has now taken a position. Some of the important French journalists have taken a position on this. They are still voices in the wilderness. The kind of thing that the United States could do, I think to help, would be to encourage those sorts of voices to be more pronounced in what they're doing; whether it's including American academics to deal with their colleagues abroad or American religions to deal with their co- religions abroad to let them know what the consequences are of the discrimination.
Thank you very much. Would any of the other panelists care to add any thoughts before we conclude? Mr. Brumley.
Just to say that this fall is pivotal for Jehovah's Witnesses. We have a case pending before the council of state in France and another case pending before the High Constitutional court in Germany. Both decisions should be handed down this fall. This is certainly a time to be watchful to see what France and Germany will do. If they hand down favorable decisions then the optimism espoused by Ambassador Seiple would be well justified. An adverse decision certainly brings down a black curtain.
Thank you very much. Did you wish to say something Mr. Jensen?
Yes, I'd just like to urge the committee and all the members of Congress to support HR-388 and S-230.
It certainly gets a lot of attention. I can't thank the panelists enough; Reverend Hunt, for your being with us in Vienna. We wish we were there with you at the moment. I hope your mother is good. And thank you all for taking part: Catherine, Mr. Jensen, Mr. Brumley, Reverend L'Heureux and Dr. Gunn. Thank you for joining us. The committee stand adjourned.