December 8, 2007 / 12:41 PM / 11 years ago

Scientology ban in Germany seen unlikely

BERLIN (Reuters) - Experts at Germany’s domestic intelligence agencies believe the government will fail if it tries to get the Church of Scientology banned in Germany, a magazine reported on Saturday.

German federal and state interior ministers declared the Church of Scientology unconstitutional on Friday, opening the way for a possible ban on the organization.

They said Germany’s domestic intelligence agencies should continue gathering information on the legality of Scientology’s activities in Germany so that a decision could be made about a possible ban next year.

But the domestic intelligence agencies have been closely monitoring Scientology’s operations for a decade and see little hope of amassing sufficient evidence to justify a ban.

Citing unnamed domestic intelligence agents familiar with the Scientology issue, Der Spiegel magazine reported that German authorities where having little success infiltrating the organization.

The magazine also said Scientology’s membership in Germany had stagnated.

Germany does not recognize Scientology as a religion and regard it as a cult masquerading as a church to make money.

Scientologists reject this view and said in a statement on Friday that more than 50 court decisions in Germany had acknowledged the group as a religious community. Other countries had also recognized Scientology as a religion, the group said.

Earlier this year, the German Defense Ministry said it would not allow the makers of a movie about an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Hitler to film at German military sites because U.S. actor Tom Cruise, a Scientologist, was appearing in it.

The government later insisted Cruise’s personal beliefs had nothing to do with its initial decision to prevent him from shooting scenes at a site in the Defense Ministry complex and permitted the actor to film there.

Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Charles Dick

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