Group Defends Evangelism in Germany
BY: Tony Czuczka
Jan. 22, BERLIN (AP) - A U.S.-based religious foundation said Tuesday it will continue a nationwide ad campaign to win evangelical Christian followers in Germany despite opposition from TV regulators and some church officials.
Seeking to dispel mistrust at what critics in Germany portray as a secretive, right-wing organization, the director of the Arthur S. DeMoss Foundation told a news conference in Hamburg: ``We simply want to share a message of faith in Jesus Christ.''
State broadcasting commissioners in Germany on Jan. 8 banned private TV stations from running the group's ads, launched just after Christmas, because broadcast rules bar advertising by political, religious or ideological groups.
The ads, which have also run on billboards and in print, give a phone number and Internet address where people can order a German-language version of a 138-page giveaway book published by the group, ``Power for Living.''
Mark DeMoss, director of the West Palm Beach, Fla.-based foundation and son of its founder, said the campaign would probably run for ``several months'' and urged German TV regulators to reconsider their ban.
The foundation was set up in 1955 by Arthur S. DeMoss, who made a fortune as an insurance executive in Pennsylvania. Similar ad campaigns have run in the United States and, according to the foundation, in about a dozen other countries, including several in Europe.
The German ads feature testimonials from prominent sports personalities, including the golfer Bernhard Langer, and others like Prince Philip of Prussia, the great grandson of the last German emperor.
The ad campaign prompted suspicion among church officials in Germany, where the U.S.-based Church of Scientology and the Jehovah's Witnesses have fought court battles in recent years seeking religious recognition.
Thomas Gandow, an official who tracks sects for the Lutheran Church in Berlin and the surrounding state of Brandenburg, spoke out against what he called an ``attempt to establish American religious culture in Germany.''
DeMoss told reporters he came to Germany to explain the group's ideas, which ``are rooted in traditional orthodox evangelical Christianity.''
``Perhaps this decision will be reconsidered or at least reviewed in the full and proper context of this book,'' he said, encouraging ``Germans everywhere to request a free copy.''
He said the foundation would not seek to overturn the ban on TV ads in court.
In response to reporters' questions, DeMoss, a former spokesman for the Rev. Jerry Falwell, refused to talk about details of the group's finances, including the cost of the German campaign. He said the foundation has no connections with political parties or interest groups.