Up Front

For anyone driving past the consulate\'s Wilshire Boulevard headquarters, the Crusade protest is a familiar sight.Every morning, marchers circle, carrying signs broadcasting messages like \"Germany says YES to a police state.\"
July 9, 1998

It’s Day 94, and AndrikSchapers and his group, the Scientology Crusade for Tolerance,continue to picket in front of the German Consulate.

Schapers organized the march in direct response tothe German parliament’s recent decision to alter its constitution andallow surveillance of private residences. The Scientologists fearthat the measure could easily be redirected to harass their followersand other minority groups in Germany; a fear only exacerbated inApril by a report in the Paris-based International Herald Tribune ofa German official detained in Zurich for spying on the Church ofScientology.

For anyone driving past the consulate’s WilshireBoulevard headquarters, the Crusade protest is a familiar sight.Every morning, marchers circle, carrying signs broadcasting messageslike “Germany says YES to a police state.”

Schapers insists that intolerance againstScientologists and other sects has already become institutionalizedin Germany. And Germans like Hans Bschorr concur.

Bschorr, 43, had already sent his two sons toEngland in 1993 because of increasing intolerance within the Germanschool system. He was a well-known Bavarian TV news correspondentwhen newspaper articles surfaced in 1996 pressing Bschorr’sScientology affiliation.

“When these articles came out, I got no morejobs,” Bschorr told the Journal. “Former colleagues of mine wereordered by their editors not to talk to me anymore…[Friends] toldme they were warned not to work with me [or] their businesses wouldbe destroyed.”

Finding himself unable to practice his profession,Bschorr now lives with his sons in England, where he works a numberof odd jobs.

Schapers is quick to draw parallels between theScientologists’ plight and that of Jews in the onset of NaziGermany.

A Catholic-raised Dutchman, Schapers founded thegrass-roots movement in 1995 after experiencing discriminationfirsthand while living in Germany. At 57, he is old enough to recallthe fascism of World War II, when he says his own family helped hideJews in Holland.

Do these comparisons to Nazi Germany hold water?David Lehrer, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s LosAngeles-based West Coast branch, doesn’t think so.

“We’ve been troubled by the invocation of theHolocaust analogy,” Lehrer said. “It trivializes history, and eventhe most egregious injustices against the Scientologists in Germanytoday doesn’t approximate what went on during the Shoah.”

Although he referred to such allusions as “heavyhanded,” Lehrer quickly added, “which is not to say that they aren’tfacing serious problems.”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon WiesenthalCenter echoes Lehrer’s concern:

“They have every right to protest the Germanstate,” Cooper said. “We believe they should do so. However, it isinappropriate for them to use the Nazi-era allusions… If they’reusing that imagery, it is wrong to do so [because this] has atendency to [dull] the public’s senses.”

Jewish organizations aren’t alone in decrying theHolocaust connection. Officials in Germany have grown increasinglyresentful of the analogy, which has taken on currency in recent yearsthanks to high-profile condemnation of Germany’s policies bycelebrity Scientologists like Tom Cruise and John Travolta. WhenScientologists ran an ad in the Tribune two years ago blasting thegovernment for actions that carried the stench of “the Germany of1936 rather than 1996,” officials like German Chancellor Helmut Kohlfired back at the 34 celebrity endorsers of the ad (which includedactor Dustin Hoffman and director Oliver Stone), condemning theChurch of Scientology as a moneymaking operation masquerading as areligion, bent on world domination.

In response to this frequently made accusation,Crusade for Tolerance Community Affairs Director Cat Tebar defendsScientology as a religion recognized the world over, “including thehighest German courts.”

Schapers believes that democracy in Germany hasalways been a sham, and that the country suffers from an ideologicalarrogance lingering from the Nazi era. However, Schapers stressesthat it’s not the German people who are to blame.

“It’s a small group running things from above andthe people don’t realize it,” Schapers said. “I think we have toteach them that there is true freedom. That has to come fromAmerica.”

On June 23, the Crusade organized a six-week runacross Europe to bring attention to the cause of religious freedom.And here at home, Schapers is currently looking for more volunteersto march an hour per week in front of the German Consulate. A bigdemonstration is being planned for July 23 — the 100th day ofprotest.

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