People unclear on the concept

Why is it that the concepts of freedom of religion and freedom of speech seem so hard for some people to understand? Witness a truly idiotic attempt to prevent someone from appearing on TV simply because he is a Scientologist:

March 31, 2007 — – A German official is demanding that John Travolta be uninvited from a guest appearance on a popular German television show tonight because he’s a Scientologist, but show officials insist he will appear as scheduled.

Guenther Oettinger, the state governor of Baden-Wuerttemberg, wants Travolta off “Wanna Bet?” a popular show in Germany seen by an average of approximately 13 million viewers. The show contestants perform unusual stunts while celebrities, such as Travolta, bet on their outcome.

ABC has bought American rights for the show and is expected to debut a U.S. version later this year.

Oettinger, a popular Christian Democrat politician, was quoted by German papers as requesting that the show’s producers take Travolta off the show because of the actor’s membership in the Church of Scientology.

“By inviting Mr. Travolta to appear on your show, you’re offering this organization a platform to address millions of viewers,” Oettinger was quoted as saying in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “Mr. Travolta is a well-known member of that organization, which has only recently opened a new office here, and many people, parents in particular, are concerned about Scientologists and their aims.”

Oettinger was unavailable for comment to, but his spokesman, Thomas Strobl, said he stood by his published comments.

Oettinger’s statement is particularly moronic, given that Travolta agreed in advance not to discuss religion or Scientology on the show, which appears to be nothing more than a silly game show:

Oettinger’s suggestion was rebuffed by Thomas Bellut, programming director for the German network ZDF, which will air “Wanna Bet?” as planned with Travolta as a guest tonight.

Alexander Stock, a ZDF spokesman, told, “Mr. Travolta will appear, of course. To uninvite him from the show would have given the Church of Scientology an undesired attention and would have caused more damage than to have him on the show. Mr. Travolta’s management has agreed that the actor will not talk about that controversial subject.”

I detest Scientology. In my opinion, it’s nothing more than a scam created by its founder L. Ron Hubbard to separate the gullible from their senses and their money. It’s also a threat to good medical care for millions who require psychiatric medication to control the symptoms of their mental illness and function normally in day-to-day life. And I’m not clear on what basis the German government has decided that Scientology was a “potentially unconstitutional organization,” and there’s no doubt that it’s into some seriously shady activities.

Even if Travolta were going to discuss his Scientology beliefs, however, I would still have a hard time with keeping him off the air solely because of his religion or because he was going to discuss his religion. All idiots such as Oettinger accomplish is to allow Scientologists to somewhat credibly don the mantle of the poor persecuted free speech martyr, when in fact it’s hard to imagine an organization that deserves to claim that mantle less.