One of the most controversial and litigious of organisations in the Western world is the Church of Scientology. Its activities in Germany have been under scrutiny by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz) since 1997 out of concern that the Church's teaching and conduct are a threat to the democratic order.
John Sweeney writes on BBC Online:
While making our BBC Panorama film "Scientology and Me" I have been shouted at, spied on, had my hotel invaded at midnight, denounced as a "bigot" by star Scientologists, brain-washed - that is how it felt to me - in a mock up of a Nazi-style torture chamber and chased round the streets of Los Angeles by sinister strangers.
Back in Britain strangers have called on my neighbours, my mother-in-law's house and someone spied on my wedding and fled the moment he was challenged.
I have met mothers who say they have suffered Scientology "disconnects" - meaning that their children have cut them completely out of their life so that they can spend more time with an organisation which a judge in 1984 characterised as "corrupt, sinister and dangerous".
Sweeney, who is a close family friend, is a louder than life character and an outstanding investigative journalist. In a long career at The Observer and now the BBC he has done an immense amount of good (he has helped overturn the convictions of seven people wrongly imprisoned) and exposed a great deal of evil (such as the bogus public relations campaigns of the late Saddam Hussein). For his pains, he has acquired some excellent enemies and attracted much witless invective. The absurd Media Lens organisation - a sub-Chomskian outfit established, as I demonstrated conclusively here and here, by a hectoring ignoramus - orchestrated a campaign against him for his fine documentary on Saddam's propaganda campaigns. Sweeney responded with patience and courtesy to the volume of semiliterate, abusive, clueless and pro-totalitarian correspondence that came his way, but when you're dealing with a cult there is only so far that reason can get you.
Bearing all that in mind, I recommend you watch Sweeney's Panorama programme on Monday, on BBC1, at 8.30pm. (It should be available on the programme's web site afterwards.) The Scientologists are not happy about it.