Testimony of Armando Anthony Corea
House International Relations Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
June 14, 2000
Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Members of the House International Relations Committee:
Let me first thank you, Chairman Gilman, for your continuous efforts on behalf of those suffering religious discrimination in Germany. Thanks also go to the staff and members of this Committee for conducting today's hearing into religious intolerance. I thank, also, the principal co-sponsors of the Resolutions criticizing governmental discrimination in Germany that are presently in Congress - Senator Michael Enzi, Congressmen Matt Salmon, Donald Payne, Ed Pastor and the other co-sponsors. I wish I could acknowledge them all personally.
You could say I'm somewhat of a veteran of this battle. Back in 1993, in a report entitled "Human Rights and Democratization in Unified Germany", the Helsinki Commission criticized the government of Baden- Wuertternberg for canceling my contract to perform at a state- sponsored jazz concert because I am a Scientologist. That report, I believe, represented the first official criticism of governmental religious discrimination in Germany.
Today, there are more than 30 similar reports from governments and human rights bodies, including seven State Department annual human rights reports and last year's State Department report on international religious freedom.
As some of you may know, I have been traveling the world as an American jazz musician for over forty years. I have performed to audiences all over, including Brazil, Argentina, Britain, all through Europe, the Czech Republic, Poland, Armenia, Turkey, China, Japan, Korea, Canada and Australia.
But only in Germany have I ever been denied the right to perform my art because of my religion.
The German government denies allegations of artistic and religious discrimination. Yet it does so with a kind of smiling arrogance that I find shocking.
For example, the official statement of the German government, for four years now, has included the following, and I quote:
"Artists are free to perform or exhibit in Germany anywhere they please. Jazz pianist Chick Corea performed in Germany on March 24, 1996, during the 27th International Jazz Week held in Burghansen, an event which received approximately $10,000 in funding from the Bavarian Ministry of Culture."
Well, the real story about that concert, and how to this day I am still banned from performing at that festival in Burghamen is this:
Prior to my performance taking place, the local government's so-called "sect expert" had demanded that it be canceled. In a rare defense by a German official of artistic and religious freedom, the Minister of Culture refused, on the grounds that my religion had nothing to do with my right to practice my art.
The concert sold out and went ahead. Soon afterwards, however, following severe criticism in the Bavarian parliament of the Culture Minister's decision to let me perform, the State Minister-President of Bavaria intervened and ordered the festival organizer to ban me from any future concerts at a state-subsidized event. That ban remains in force today. As I have mentioned in the past, being banned from state- funded events is equivalent to being blacklisted in Germany since most of the music festivals there are state-subsidized.
Nonetheless, in spite of the drastic reduction in my ability to perform in Germany, I have refused to allow the German government to deny music lovers there the opportunity to hear my music and intervene between myself and my German fans. Thus, I have been able to arrange a very small number of private tours. For example, through the supportive efforts of the U.S. Government, I was able to perform in Berlin in 1998.
But despite the State Department's encouragement and assistance, the German government is now attempting to sabotage my right to perform even at privately funded concerts, by threatening concert promoters and artists who dare to schedule a performance for me.
A recent incident illustrates these intimidation tactics: I had been due to perform a piano concerto with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonic in the state of Bremen this coming October. But it was not to be.
I have in my possession a copy of an e-mail sent by the German organizer of the concert. It says, and I quote,
"the Musikfest (music festival) had to cancel the orchestral concert due to immense political pressure."
"there is a big coalition of the Christian Democratic and the Social Democratic parties in Bremen (the two major parties in Germany) -- the leader of the Christian Democratic party himself put a lot of pressure on the Musikfest threatening that the Musikfest would lose all the public subsidy if they invited Chick to Bremen -- moreover the artistic director of the festival would even lose his job." That threat to deprive the artistic director of his job was leveled because he had declared his intention to hold the concert privately, without government subsidy.
Although both the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie and the Music Festival did everything they could to make my performance possible, the sheer weight of government pressure in the end forced the Music Festival to cancel my concert. This has been a recurrent pattern in Germany since 1993.
Such economic and career intimidation is frequently directed against concert promoters who wish to arrange performances for me in Germany. As a result, promoters have become increasingly reluctant to risk losing money by scheduling events for me and the number of my performances there has dwindled from 16 or 17 a year to a mere one or two.
The German government has consistently denied that religious discrimination in Germany is a federal problem, and have insisted that it is a problem for individual states to resolve. What we have found, however, is that the federal government is squarely behind these human rights abuses and is spreading them throughout both the public and private sector and into the states. This year, the U.S. Trade Representative placed Germany on the watch list over its government's use of their hateful and odious "sect filter" - a particularly despicable form of discrimination designed to destroy the livelihoods and careers of thousands of German and American citizens, solely because of their religion. Sect filters mandate that an individual declare his non-membership of a targeted religious movement before he will be considered for employment or contractual relations.
The Economics Ministry is now developing a filter for use by all ministries of the federal government.
With that precedent set at federal level, state governments will have even less compunction about implementing such flagrant discrimination. It is but a small step from filtering out companies because of the religious affiliation of their owners to filtering out artists because of their religion. Today, these filters infest the economic community in Germany. Tomorrow, government officials may decide to implement them throughout the artistic community as well. And so on. Blacklisting of artists who are Scientologists is already a fact in Germany, and unless we send a strong signal to the German government that such discrimination will not be tolerated, it is likely to worsen.
The climate of religious oppression that leads to these incidents is ignited and fueled by the German government. It invalidates and denies my right and those of other artists to freedom of artistic expression in Germany, yet the government has the power to bring an end to these fundamental human rights violations flit chose. Unfortunately, our hopes that under Chancellor Schroeder, the German government would assume the mantle of a truly democratic administration committed to non-discrimination have so far not been fulfilled.
I want to reiterate a point I made during my previous testimony before the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe in 1997, and which I have repeated in meetings where I have discussed the extent of the problem with congressional representatives. And that is this: The German government's abusive treatment of religious minorities is undemocratic, uncivilized and a violation of Germany's commitments under international human rights laws, specifically the Helsinki Accords and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The freedom to think, believe and create are the very foundations of democracy and of civilization itself. Art and religion are among the most important and valued expressions of this freedom. People listen to my music not because of my religion, my politics, or my personal beliefs, but because they like it. German government attempts to prohibit and interfere with my performances and those of other artists simply due to our religious affiliation are chilling. These actions not only infringe on my artistic and religious fights, but on the fights of all artists, all religious minorities, and all people who are denied the fight to hear my music. What especially bothers me is that the German government is infringing the fights of the German people, whom I consider my friends and with whom I have enjoyed a long and wonderful musical relationship.
Mr. Chairman, I continue to be grateful for your actions and those of the other congressmen who, over the years, have tenaciously fought for the rights of American and German citizens targeted by governmental policies of intolerance. Your assistance has always meant a great deal to me, and I thank you deeply. But the job is not yet done, perhaps not even half done, and we must reiterate and reinforce the message that we send to the German government.
The thing to understand about this situation is that the German people themselves certainly don't want to live in this climate of religious and artistic intolerance but have been continually intimidated by the German government with the help of an unthinking and unethical press at its beck and call.
We must make it plain to the German government that a policy designed to censor, denigrate and stigmatize individuals because of their religious beliefs will not be tolerated. That intimidating individuals into not attending the concerts of certain artists, or promoters into not engaging their services, will meet with unequivocal condemnation by the U.S. government and Congress. I urge you to give your full support to the Resolutions presently in the House and Senate - H.R. 388 and S. 230 respectively - which call the German government back to its human fights commitments.
Thank you very much for accepting my testimony.
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