Microsoft has developed complex instructions to remove part of Windows 2000 that had generated bad publicity in Germany because it was written by a firm headed by a Scientologist, a spokesman said today.
“The problem exists only because people and the media in Germany became aware that the author of the tool is an American company called Executive Software Incorporated, whose CEO is a member of the Scientology Church,” said Thomas Baumgaertner, a spokesman for U.S. software giant Microsoft in Germany.
“Since in Germany they are very, very sensitive with these things, they recommended not to use this tool.”
The tool in question was the disk defragmenter, a maintenance feature within Microsoft’s Windows operating system software which helps hard disks run more efficiently. Until now, without the specific and complex instructions, it had been all but impossible to de-install the feature.
Religion Unrecognized in Germany
Germany does not recognize Scientology as a religion and has taken a tough stance against the group, describing it as an unwelcome cult and saying it is a purely economic organization exploiting the weakness of its members for profit.
“There were public voices, amongst others in some of the German states and also from the churches in Germany which said this part of the software could have a security problem,” said a German Interior Ministry information security expert who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“Microsoft asked us to conduct this security check so that they could say that the software tool had been checked.”
The head of Microsoft Germany, Richard Roy, met Deputy Interior Minister Brigitte Zypries on Thursday to address the issue and explain that the software giant had developed a procedure to remove the defragmenter, officials said today.
The removal involves rewriting the Windows 2000 registry, a difficult process best reserved for computer specialists as an error could cripple the entire computer. The instructions appear in German on Microsoft’s www.microsoft.com Web site.
Designer Says Religion Doesn’t Matter
A spokesman for Executive Software at its European offices in Britain said company chairman Craig Jensen, who lives in California, is a believer in Scientology. But, the spokesman said, his beliefs had no relevance to the firm’s products.
“Just like a company owner might be a Christian…it’s a religion and that’s his beliefs and it has nothing to do with developing software and selling software,” said Chris Cavanagh.
“We have had to deal with it,” he said. “It would seem to be that certain individuals in Germany do have some problems with certain religions.”
The Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology was founded on the teaching of the late American science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. Its members include Hollywood stars such as John Travolta and Tom Cruise.
Some Scientologists have accused Germany of displaying the religious intolerance of the Nazi regime in taking action against their organization.
Baumgaertner of Microsoft said the company continued to recommend the defragmentation tool but just wanted to give Germans the freedom of choice should they want to remove it.