Nothing but Scientologists
April 20, 2000
Berliner Zeitung Thorkit Treichel According to statements by Anne Ruehle, sect commissioner of the Senate, the Scientology Organization had sent out a half million invitations in advance. On Tuesday, however, when the "What is Scientology?"
exhibition opened on the fourth floor of a building in Steglitz, there was practically nobody there but its own members. They were helped neither by the leaflets which the Scientologists pushed into the hands of pedestrians nor by the little girl who was giving out blue and yellow balloons at the entrance to the building. About ten visitors found their way inside in the afternoon; they were greeted by about twice that many, permanently smiling Scientologists. They did not let the guests out of sight. "Do you have another question?" "Can I explain that to you?";
no visitor could look at the display tables without being disturbed.
Despite the scanty response, the arrangers looked like they were thrilled. They said they had already counted about 100 visitors. "Based on the great demand, we will extend the exhibition for a couple of days," said the sect spokesman, Georg Stoffel. He also expressed himself optimistically as far as the number of Scientologists in Berlin. He mentioned up to 2,000; Anne Ruehle, in contrast, assumes there are a few hundred members in the city. "Scientology does not have a running start," she said.
She also said that the exhibition served the purposes of recruitment and of bettering their image. The sect, which has been under surveillance by Constitutional Security since 1997 because it positions itself against the basic system of a liberal democracy, presents itself as a religious community. The exhibition, said Ruehle, only shows a facade and conceals the true goals of the sect: coordinating and establishing a totalitarian society. "There is no reason to call off the alarm."
The exhibition had originally been planned to take place in the Best Western Hotel in Steglitz. Hotel management terminated the agreement after intervention from the federal press office. Scientology spoke of it as "religious discrimination." (tt.)