Genii Weblog

Can Germany really not have learned its lesson on religious tolerance?

Tue 26 Jun 2007, 08:08 AM

by Ben Langhinrichs
I have to preface this by saying that I love the country and people of Germany, and have visited every year for several years.  While I am not of German heritage, despite my name which is from my wife's family, I feel a strong affection for the country.  Nonetheless, you have to wonder when you read a story such as this one on CNN, which says:
Germany has barred the makers of a movie about a plot to kill Adolf Hitler from filming at German military sites because its star Tom Cruise is a Scientologist, the Defense Ministry said on Monday.

Cruise, also one of the film's producers, is a member of the Church of Scientology which the German government does not recognize as a church. Berlin says it masquerades as a religion to make money, a charge Scientology leaders reject.
Now, I am not a huge fan of either Tom Cruise or Scientology, but it seems the height of irony that the German government would practice both religious discrimination and gratuitous religious labelling in a movie about Adolf Hitler.  The lesson of the Holocaust should not be "don't persecute Jews", but rather "don't persecute people based on their religious beliefs, whether you like those beliefs or not".  While the German government may not consider Scientology a religion, it hardly seems to be their right to decide in a case like this.  Even more amazing is that a government that must remember the yellow stars which Jews were required to wear in Hitler's Germany cannot see that denying involvement with a film studio due to the religious orientation of one of its members is getting pretty close to the same sort of religious labelling.  I really would have thought the German government would have learned its lesson by now.

Copyright 2007 Genii Software Ltd.

What has been said:

603.1. Richard Schwartz
(06/26/2007 09:00 PM)

Actually, the lesson of Holocaust should not in any way be limited to just religious persecution. Nazi persecution of Jews is certainly the most notorious and possibly the most methodical evil of the Holocaust, but their persecution extended to many other groups, including gays and Gypsies.

603.2. Ben Langhinrichs
(06/26/2007 09:10 PM)

Very true, Rich.

603.3. Patrick Kwinten
(2007-06-27 00:32)

Is religion not the root of all evil?

It is not who is wrong but how we get along.

I am a believer, I believe in myself, not in a god.

603.4. Ian Randall
(06/27/2007 04:15 AM)

You also forgot that the Nazi's also didn't take too kindly to Africans Americans at the time either.

In fact when Jessy Owens defeated Lutz Lang in the Long Jump final of the 1936 Olympics, it so outraged Hitler that he refused to hang the Gold Medal Award around Owens neck. So much for his and Joseph Goebbels propoganda about the superiority of the Master Race.

Fortunately Lutz Lang was such a good sport that he was the first to congratulate Owens when the long jump final was over.

603.5. Stephan H. Wissel
(07/02/2007 06:21 PM)

I don't think it is a question of religious tolerance here. The Scientology organization is under observation in Germany for criminal activity, not for their believes. That is a huge difference. Furthermore they didn't ban him from walking around or practicing his believes. They didn't allow him to enter a military compound.

603.6. Doug
(07/10/2007 11:26 AM)


In theory I agree with you. In practical terms, in this world we live in, I have no problem with the Germans and their decision. Scientology is a scam, it not a real religion. What about those guys that insist smoking and selling marijuana is a part of their religion ? Would the Germans be justified in declaring that a scam ? Or is one of the legacies of Hitler that the Germans should forever be afraid of using their best judgement anytime someone throws up the word 'religion' ?

Scientology is a scam and bless the Germans for having the guts, despite having their past, to say it. Ben, I wonder if you would be able to see it as a virtue for the Germans to have the moral courage they display here. Just another perspective.

603.7. Ben Langhinrichs
(07/10/2007 12:20 PM)

Doug - I have two problems with that. The first is that there are mixed opinions on whether Scientology is a scam or a religion, but it certainly appears that Tom Cruise does not think so. There are many who think Christianity is a scam, for that matter. The second problem is that Tom Cruise is just an actor appearing in the film. I do business with many people without checking whether any of their employees, or even owners, are engaged in scams that have nothing to do with the business in which they are engaged. Even is Scientology is a scam, how does that have any effect on the making of this movie. I can somewhat see the argument that Stephan makes about criminal investigations and the military, but it still hardly sounds like what is going on.