Germany's interior minister called the Church of Scientology "an unconstitutional organization" and said the nation's domestic intelligence agency would move to ban the group, a report said Sunday.
Federal Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble's remarks followed a unanimous decision Friday by interior ministers from Germany's 16 states to seek a ban on Scientology, accused of threatening "the peaceful democratic order" of the country.
"Scientology is an unconstitutional organization," Schaeuble was quoted as saying by the Bild am Sonntag weekly, which featured a picture of Scientology's most prominent member - Tom Cruise - on the front page with the headline "How dangerous is the Cruise cult?"
Schaeuble accused the organization of restricting "essential basic and human rights like the dignity of man or the right to equal treatment," and said federal and state intelligence agencies would begin collecting evidence to seek a ban on the group.
Sabine Weber, president of the Church of Scientology in Berlin, called Schaeuble's remarks "unrealistic" and "absurd."
She said the interior minister based his evaluation "on a few sentences out of 500,000 pages of Scientological literature." She did not give specific examples.
"I can also find hundreds of quotes in the Bible that are totalitarian but that doesn't mean I will demand the ban of Christianity," she said.
"From my point of view, it is not Scientology that violates the constitution but the interior ministers themselves because by trying to ban our organization, they are violating our constitutional rights," Weber said.
Scientologists have long battled to end the government surveillance, calling it an abuse of their right to freedom of religion. The U.S. State Department regularly criticizes Germany in its annual Human Rights Report for the practice.
Germany's state interior ministers gave no specific examples for their decision Friday, but the most recent annual report on extremism compiled by their agencies criticized the Church of Scientology for disregarding human rights.
Scientology "seeks to limit or rescind basic and human rights, such as the right to develop one's personality and the right to be treated equally," the report said.
The magazine Spiegel on Saturday quoted unnamed domestic intelligence sources as saying a ban seemed unlkely.
"I doubt that one will find enough proof to be able to ban Scientology," Sebastian Edathy, head of the interior committee of the German parliament, told the daily Tagesspiegel.
The Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology was founded in 1954 by the late science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard.
It first set up in Germany in 1970, and officials estimate it has some 6,000 members in the country.
By Kirsten Grieshaber