Monday, June 25, 2007

Tom Cruise v. the German Army

According to Reuters the German Army has banned Tom Cruise from its military sites on the grounds that he is a Scientologist. Cruise is working on a new movie about Claus von Stauffenberg, a WWII Wehrmacht officer who tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler by exploding a bomb during a military briefing, the famous July Plot which failed to remove the Nazis and ultimately resulted in the deaths of hundreds of German dissidents and resistance figures, including Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Wilhelm Canaris and Erwin Rommel. For a few key scenes the producers want to use some historical locations which are under German military control. Specifically the Defense Ministry wants to ban the actor Cruise from being filmed on these locations.

Evidently, the Bundeswehr's complaint is that Scientology isn't so much a religion as a confidence scam, and Tom Cruise, one of the most visible members of L. Ron Hubbard's "church", is a proselytizing figure who will damage the reputation of the German Army and the memory of Count von Stauffenberg.

I can't say I think very highly of Tom Cruise as a man. From what I've seen of him in his own persona, he seems rather jejune -- an arrested adolescent. But he is a rather effective actor, and judging from photographs of Stauffenberg, a good physical type for the role. As for his membership in the Church of Scientology, it doesn't speak well of his critical thinking skills. But it is only fair to grant Tom Cruise the right to freedom of conscience. If he wants to squander his wealth on his beliefs, then we must assume he's made that decision as a consenting adult. If he chooses to loudly proclaim the doctrine of Dianetics, he's entitled to that conceit as well. Even if he buttonholes some feckless German squaddie and tries to persuade him to take a free e-meter exam, there should be no prior restraint. An enlightened society must grant this as a basic human right. If not, then what was Stauffenberg trying to accomplish in that map room 63 years ago?

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