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Meditation 623
Freedom of Religion: Germany vs. Tom Cruise

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Apparently, Germany has barred the makers of a movie about a plot to kill Adolf Hitler from filming at German military sites because the star, Tom Cruise, is a Scientologist.[1]

Given that it was widely reported, though denied by Mr. Cruise, that he attempted to prevent the airing of a South Park episode dealing with Scientology, this could be regarded as poetic justice. But still, it strikes me as fundamentally wrong.

Obviously, the German Defense Ministry is under no obligation to allow any of its sites to be used for making movies. But, if it is going to allow moviemaking in its premises, then why should it discriminate on the basis of religion?

There is one clear reason. If Mr. Cruise was a follower of a militant religion which had the aim of overthrowing the German government, then he should indeed be banned from German military sites: indeed, it would be reasonable to ban him from even entering the country.

But Scientology? What Scientologists believe may be totally ridiculous but they and their beliefs pose no danger to national security. The only risk from Mr. Cruise is that he might enter the officers' club and in a fit of exuberance, damage a sofa. The operation of Scientology as an organized religion may be contrary to German law, but that should not be grounds to discriminate against those who who believe in it.

I find it ironic that the film is about a plot to kill an earlier German leader who made a point of discriminating against people for their religious beliefs. While this incident is trivial in the extreme compared to the Holocaust, it is still wrong. It is a denial of freedom of religion.

Tom Cruise is far from being the only actor with strange beliefs. Further, his personal beliefs have no relation or relevance to this particular movie's plot or content. His beliefs should not disqualify him from pursuing his profession.

Footnotes / Updates:

  1. This decision has now been reversed. The timing of the German Ministry of Defense's change of heart is such that this article played absolutely no role in the decision.
  2. The German Ministry of Finance has, subsequent to the Ministry of Defense's amended decision, banned this movie from being made at one of the historic military sites. This decision, according to the Finance Ministry, has nothing to do with Scientology.
  3. In keeping with the apparently dysfunctional nature of decision making in the German government (not much different from other national governments) the German Federal Film Fund has approved a subsidy of 4.8 million Euros, provided the movie meets German content requirements.