Testimony of Craig Jensen
House International Relations Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
June 14, 2000
German Embargo  of American Products
Mr. Chairman, and distinguished members of the House International Relations Committee:
Thank you for holding this hearing on religious intolerance in Western Europe, and for giving me the opportunity to tell you about an embargo of American products by the government of Germany.
My name is Craig Jensen. I am a citizen of the United States of America and a living example of the realization of the American Dream.
I am the founder, owner and chief executive of Executive Software, a company I founded in 1981 in California. Through hard work and ingenuity, my company has grown to be one of the top 200 software companies in the world, earning a great deal of success in the marketplace and numerous awards for the finest products and service in the computer software industry. Our products have been extremely thoroughly tested for safety and effectiveness by the National Software Testing Laboratories and by Veritest, the independent testing company responsible for granting certification of compatibility with Microsoft's Windows operating system. My company's products are in use in every sector of the American economy, including fight here on Capitol Hill, and are sold extensively abroad as well.
As you can see, I am proud of what I have accomplished in my own business. But I am not the only American software company that is a success. Let me be perfectly clear: No German company, indeed no company in any other country on earth, can produce software of the quality and usefulness that American software companies produce. We Americans have a lock on this industry. I cannot say why exactly, but computer software is something Americans do a far cry better than anyone else in the world. Accordingly, this is an industry contributing terrifically to America's economic greatness. In that setting, a foreign embargo, and particularly a German embargo, of American software products must be viewed as a hostile act.
Purchase of my company's software products is restricted in Germany by government edict and attempts are being made to forbid it entirely. This is a recent development, as my products have sold well in Germany for over a decade. What prompted the embargo is the announcement that Microsoft Corporation's new Windows 2000 computer operating system includes a component developed by my company. This fact is being used to justify calling for a full-scale German government prohibition on the sale of Windows 2000 in Germany.
"Why?" you might ask. Well, here is the truly heinous part. The official reason given is that my company, Executive Software, is headed by an "admitted" member of the Church of Scientology -- me. Yes, it is true that I am a member of the Church of Scientology and have been for 25 years. I am proud of it and credit much of my success to what I have learned from my church and the writings of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. But what does my religion have to do with selling software? Obviously, nothing. My point is this: the German government makes no attempt to hide the fact that their embargo is based on religious discrimination. In fact, the government officials who have imposed it see nothing wrong with religious discrimination, even though it violates both the German Constitution and Germany's international human rights commitments.
As First-Amendment-loving Americans, we sometimes forget that other countries lack this all-important freedom. Germany, a signatory to the Helsinki Accords as well as the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has a clause in its constitution stating, "The freedom of faith, of conscience, and the freedom of religious and ideological beliefs are inviolable." Yet the actions of the German government in their conduct towards me and towards American businesses, their social ostracism and stigmatization of Scientologists and members of other minority religions clearly contravene all these accords and conventions.
Simply put, I come here today not to complain of just a trade embargo or religious discrimination, but to alert your attention to a combination of the two -- a trade embargo justified on the grounds of government-mandated religious discrimination.
Let me give you the background. In December, 1999, the German computer magazine C'T published an article entitled "Windows 2000 In Danger of Being Banned." The article discussed a proposed boycott of Microsoft Corporation's Windows 2000 operating system, on the grounds that I, as owner and CEO of Executive Software, am a Scientologist. The article came out a few weeks before the release of Windows 2000 in February and was apparently tuned to interfere with the release of Windows 2000 in Germany.
It was alleged in the C'T article that the Church of Scientology had made a "brilliant move" to introduce a computer program into practically every desk in companies, government offices and church institutions. The article went on to insinuate that the computer program had a hidden purpose to filch information from its German customers. These insinuations are completely false and easily shown to be so. It is patently incredible that even a semi-competent software engineer could believe such things. But, of course, the software itself was not the real reason for the attack. It was being targeted solely because of my religious affiliation.
The article even conceded that C'T experts had examined the program and found no evidence of any peculiarities, but this led the magazine to conclude (naturally) that the Americans were so clever that the hidden purpose could be carded out without the German experts being able to detect it!
In response to the story, a Microsoft spokesman defended the company's choice of the program and stated that Microsoft does not refuse to do business with anybody based on their religion, race, or other personal characteristics. Microsoft has consistently maintained this position of nondiscrimination.
But the false and discriminatory allegation soon became international news. The German news agency DPA sent out a wire story quoting another alleged "expert" who said that Executive Software's involvement "is of interest to the Catholic church, the other German states, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (German's domestic security agency) and German industry."
A government official from the Hamburg Ministry of the Interior fanned the flames by boasting in the press that in Bavaria and Hamburg, the government does not use the services of or products from companies owned by Scientologists. While such a blatantly discriminatory admission would be condemned immediately in this country, in the climate of intolerance created by the German government, it is allowed to pass.
That particular Hamburg official heads an office called "Working Group Against Scientology" which receives $1 million annually from the Hamburg government.
This Hamburg government office, along with their counterparts from the Ministry of the Interior, created the so-called "sect filter" which forbids employment or contractual relations with individuals participating in the Church of Scientology. I have even seen a sect filter which makes a course in business training conditional on an individual declaring that he is not a member of a "sect or free church." Employment applications and contracts typically include a "sect filter" clause requiting one to explicitly declare that he is not affiliated with my religion. And to make sure that government officials can identify and thereby actively practice discrimination against Scientologists, private businesses owned by members of my Church are entered into the German government's computers with a chillingly evocative "S" notation. The extent and pervasiveness of governmental religious discrimination in Germany may be gauged by the decision of a U.S. federal immigration court to grant asylum to a German Scientologist on the grounds that she would face religious persecution if she had to return to Germany.
"Sect filter" declarations such as I have described are now in wide use by private and public companies throughout Germany, including Deutschebank, Daimler-Chrysler and Lufthansa. Indeed, in 1998, the New York branch of Deutschehank dismissed an employee for no other reason than that she is a member of the Church of Scientology. Fortunately, unlike in Germany, the United States has strong anti-discrimination laws, and Deutschebank was forced to pay the Scientologist $125,000 in damages. Indeed, upon being alerted to them, the American headquarters of Ford Motor Company, GE Capital and IBM instructed their German branches to discontinue use of these hateful "filters." Unfortunately, however, other American companies operating in Germany are being compelled to use these sect filters, to an extent not yet fully determined.
Since the first of the year, the German government attacks on American companies Executive Software and Microsoft have escalated. A spokesman for the Hamburg Ministry of the Interior stated that the Ministry would attempt to use Windows 2000 only after deleting the program produced by Executive Software. After further reports appeared in the news media, the Federal Office for Security and Information Technology (acronym "BSI" in German) informed Microsoft that the agency would not certify Windows 2000 for sale in Germany because part of the program was produced by a company owned by a Scientologist.
The events I describe have been widely reported in newspapers and magazines both here and abroad, by customers of my company, and by our European resellers and distributors. An article in the German magazine Der Spiegel indicated that the German government's Office for the Protection of the Constitution has asked the Ministry of the Interior to examine the intellectual property source code for the portion of Windows 2000 produced by the Scientologist-owned company. This article fueled the climate of suspicion and intolerance being generated against my company and my church.
I find the circumstances maddening and frustrating. It is humbling for me to come before you and present this matter. In fact, if it were solely for my own benefit, I would not do it at all.
I come to you today on behalf of others who may not be able to shrug off a single market such as Germany and make up for the lost sales by redoubled efforts elsewhere. I come to you on behalf of my friends, partners and business associates who are suffering at the hands of official German bigots. I also come before you on behalf of all Scientologists, both American and German, who are forbidden employment, political party affiliation and even schooling for their children because of their religious beliefs.
The U.S. State Department has criticized the German government for religious discrimination against Scientologists and members of other minority religions in each of its last seven annual human fights reports. The State Department's first annual report on international religious freedom, published last September, reiterated those criticisms, and particularly criticized the use by German state and federal governments of the "sect filters." Indeed, there are now more than 30 reports criticizing governmental religious discrimination in Germany from bodies including the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance, the U.N. Human Rights Committee and the Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
This year, for the first time, the U.S. Trade Representative, in her report on discriminatory foreign procurement practices, placed Germany on the watch list over its abuse of Scientologists' rights. The report states that upon learning of German government clauses excluding Scientologists from contractual relations, "the Administration raised its concerns to the German government and continues to press the Germans to repeals this discriminatory policy." According to Executive Order 13116, signed by President Clinton on March 31, 1999, identification in the report indicates that a foreign country "maintains, in government procurement, a significant pattern or practice of discrimination against U.S. products or services which results in identifiable harm to U.S. businesses ...."The inclusion of Germany in the Trade Representative's report therefore shows that, in the view of the U.S. government, Germany's discriminatory practices are not only a blatant violation of human rights but a threat to American trade as well.
But despite all these condemnations of German government policy targeting American and German citizens because of their religious beliefs, there is no discernable change in German government practices. In fact, as the German government has continued to flagrantly violate its international human rights commitments, the discrimination has worsened. Official German discrimination broadened from individuals to private corporations and now to corporations who use suppliers who employ or are owned by members of minority religions while official statements from the German government have confirmed that public bodies expressly ban purchases from companies owned by or associated with Scientologists, effectively prohibiting the purchase of U.S. products. Indeed, the circumstances involving my company and Microsoft are precisely as set forth in the Trade Representative's report.
We had hoped that the election of a new government in Germany a year and half ago would mark a more liberal approach to human rights, one sensitive to the requirements of democracy and international law. While the Schroeder government is less outspoken in attempting to justify its discriminatory practices than the discredited Kohl administration, it has not only shown no interest in ending the discrimination, but is escalating it. The Federal Economics Ministry, which already employs a so-called "sect filter", is in the process of exporting it to all federal government ministries of Germany. Thus, the German government is neck-deep in these human rights abuses, and is the source of the climate of intimidation and intolerance that minority religious members face.
Mr. Chairman, I am thankful for your actions and those of other members of your committee such as Congressmen Salmon and Payne, who have shown themselves to be sensitive to this issue. I am also thankful for the actions of the Administration, but, unfortunately, these have not yet ended or curtailed the German government's discriminatory policies and practices. So, Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the Committee, I ask you to take up this matter as one that is vital for the preservation of basic human rights in Europe. Perhaps the most effective action that you can take at this time is to give your full support to the Resolutions on Germany- HR. 388 and S. 230 - which call upon Congress and the President to demand that Germany abide by international human rights law. Through these Resolutions, I ask you to send a message to the German government that the Congress and the people of the United States will not tolerate either human rights violations of a religious nature or discrimination against American trade or American products such as our computer software, the pride of our new economy.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before this Committee.
1 [back]Embargo: any restriction imposed upon commerce by edict.
2 [back] The component included in Windows 2000 is called "disk defragmenter," a tool for consolidating disks that have become fragmented through use. Defragmenting the files restores system performance to like-new state, increasing the computer user's productivity, extending the life of the computer and reducing the computer's total cost of ownership. Windows products have included components designed and implemented by Executive Software for six years. Why this recent announcement provoked such a violent response is a matter for speculation.
[Home Page] [Cos'è il CESNUR] [Biblioteca del CESNUR] [Testi e documenti] [Libri] [Convegni]
[Home Page] [About CESNUR] [CESNUR Library] [Texts & Documents] [Book Reviews] [Conferences]