Germany's mission imperative

A "bunch of extremists and fanatics" in Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Christian Democratic party were organising a boycott yesterday of the Hollywood blockbuster Mission Impossible, and all because of the religious affiliation of its main star, Tom Cruise.

That, at least, was the considered view from the Hamburg headquarters of the Church of Scientology, under whose influence Cruise was said to have fallen. The German government is trying to ban Scientology, and Mr Kohl's youth wing, the Christian Union, decided to strike the first blow against the "totalitarian organisation".

"The tactic of Scientology is to connect it with the notion of success," said Burkhard Remmers, head of the Christian Union in the state of Lower Saxony. "That is aided by the many US stars who go on publicity tours in Europe. But Scientology does not mean success."

That has certainly not been Cruise's experience, whose latest box-office hit opened in Germany last night. Its low-key launch has been boosted by the young Christians' publicity campaign, virtually guaranteeing good takings through the summer doldrums. Party members planned to stand in front of cinemas, handing out leaflets denouncing the "dangerous wheeling and dealings of the Scientology organisation".

"There is a fad going on in Germany," said Franz Riedl, a spokesman for the Church. "Politicians who can't make waves in other ways use Scientology to grab headlines."

"That certainly appears to be the case this time, but concern in official German circles about Scientology, which has an estimated 30,000 members in Germany, is deep-seated and genuine. Earlier this year, Bonn's family ministry issued a pamphlet accusing Scientology, a Californian-based Church which believes in the fulfilment of the individual as a spiritual being, of trying to undermine democracy in a bid for world domination.

On Wednesday, Johannes Gerster, head of the Christian Democratic Union in Mr Kohl's home state of Rhineland-Palatinate, called for Scientologists to be banned from government jobs. "We firmly believe that Scientology has unconstitutional goals," said Mr Gerster, who unveiled a 10-point list of proposed curbs on Scientology, to be submitted to the party's national conference in the autumn.