Church of Scientology attempting to block 'intolerant' German film

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Church of Scientology is attempting to block the broadcast of a film on the German television broadcaster ARD, claiming the film is "intolerant" and violates the broadcaster's guidelines.

Scientology headquarters in Berlin
Image: Times.

The film titled Until Nothing Remains (Bis Nichts Mehr Bleibt) due to be broadcast during prime-time on March 31 tells the fictionalised story of a German family destroyed by their involvement in Scientology. It is based on the true story of former member Heiner von Rönn who lost thousands of euros and his wife and two children who are still members. Von Rönn was a member of the organisation for ten years.

Scientology in Germany claims the movie is top secret propaganda and is attempting to undermine the organisation and its adherents. Scientology spokesman Jürg Stettler told the daily Munich newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, "What they're planning to show is a violation of ARD's programming guidelines. The station is required to support religious tolerance, not the opposite." He added, "The truth is precisely the opposite of what ARD is showing."

The film was made in total secrecy under the title The Dead Man in the Sound with the script, signs and clapboards bearing the fake title. Despite the attempts by the film crew to obscure the film's story and intent, it appears the Scientology organisation still found out about the movie. The crew says there were reports of a Scientology spokesman tailing them at one point. Notebooks were also stolen from the trunk of director Niki Stein's car. Not too long after the theft, Stein received an anonymous call whose caller stated, "We know you're making a movie about Scientology," and promptly hung up.

The film highlights concerns in Germany about the organisation which the government considers to a business, an abusive one at that and not a religion. The government is so concerned about Scientology that the group is monitored by the country's domestic intelligence services. Tensions reached a high during the making of the movie Valkyrie, which starred Tom Cruise, a well known Scientology celebrity in his role as Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, the Wehrmacht officer who attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

Carl Bergengruen, the head of TV movies for Südwestrundfunk (SWR or Southwest Broadcasting), the public broadcaster backing the project defended their secrecy practices saying, "Scientology kept trying to use a variety of methods to find out details about the project. We had reason to worry that the organisation would use all the legal means at its disposal to prevent the film from being broadcast." He added, [As such, the project was] "kept under wraps for as long as possible for security reasons."

Meanwhile, Volker Herres, programme director for ARD dismissed the charges leveled by Scientology at the film's screening saying, "We're not dealing here with a religion, rather with an organisation that has completely different motives. Scientology is about power, business, and building up a network. Its lessons are pure science fiction, it's no religion, no church, no sect."

Scientology has endured further controversy in recent weeks and months. Back in October of last year, Paul Haggis, director of the Oscar-winning film Crash and writer of Million Dollar Baby, which also won an Oscar, quit the Scientology organisation over its stance on same-sex marriage. Then last week, a feature article in The New York Times highlighted fraud and abuse that had occurred to a couple who were members of Scientology's high ranking Sea Organization or SeaOrg.


  Learn more about Streisand effect and Scientology versus the Internet on Wikipedia.