Celebrities and thousands of guests expected to attend opening next week; Charlottenburg residents upset
Berlin — The US-based “Church of Scientology” plans to open a large center in Berlin with various of its most prominent celebrity members next week in Charlottenburg, Der Tagesspiegel reports. Area residents are apparently very upset about this because they fear that the group’s adherents will try to convert their children.
The society is renting a 4,000 square meter building on Otto-Suhr-Allee near the Technical University. The opening is expected to attract 5,000-10,000 guests from around Europe. The group has requested that police barricade surrounding streets.
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Berlin is said to have 150-200 Scientology members, yet the building fits up to ten times more people. This has outraged locals and some politicians who fear Scientology plans to proselytize in their backyard.
“We think that this new Berlin center will become a meeting point for Scientologists from around Europe,” said Ursula Caberta, who heads a study group on Scientology in the Hamburg city senate.
The group’s Berlin spokesman, Frank Busch, disputes this. He said that the space will be used to fight area drug abuse and violence against young people.
Many Europeans, however, are sceptical of the group, and in Germany, where it is considered to be a cult, the country’s equivalent of the FBI monitors it (except in the city of Berlin).
Some companies in years past even made new employees sign legal documents swearing that they were not members of the group. These measures have to do more with Germany’s aversion to secretive cliques (Neo-Nazis and extremist Muslim groups are also monitored) than to actual religious oppression. Such tactics have led Scientologists to protest. In 2003, for example, American actor and Scientologist Tom Cruise wrote a letter of complaint to the US State Department.