Source AP ©

US concerned about religious freedom in European countries

Notwithstanding the improved situation in Germany, the United States continues to have concerns about religious freedom in European countries.

The report said that religious freedom deteriorated in Serbia because of the government's uneven attempts to regulate religious practice. The State Department said, however, that conditions had improved in Kosovo, a breakaway region of Serbia that is pushing for independence with U.S. backing.

The findings were among a number of developments in Europe noted in The Annual Report on International Religious Freedom.

The United States has in previous reports complained that Germany discriminates against some religious groups, including Scientology, which Germany does not recognize as a religion. This year's reports noted many of the same complaints. But it also said that court decisions on complaints by Scientologists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and members of the Unification Church, had made it easier for those groups to practice their beliefs.

The report specifically cited concern about restrictions the German Ministry of Defense had made on the production of a film starring Tom Cruise, a Scientologist. It also cited a demand by Baden-Wuerttemberg Governor Guenther Oettinger that a television program drop an invitation to another Scientologist, actor John Travolta.

In its section on France, the report said that despite government efforts to combat anti-Semitism, attacks against Jews were becoming more frequent. It reiterated concerns about restrictions on Muslims, including the 2004 law banning headscarves and other conspicuous religious symbols in schools.

The report found conditions for religious freedom worsening in Bosnia while they improved in Greece. Greece was praised for a new law allowing cremation, while Bosnia was criticized for selective enforcement of a law on religious freedom.

Among other findings, the report criticized a law that went into effect in May 2007 in Slovakia making it harder for religious groups to register with the government for benefits. The State Department found that poor conditions in Belarus became worse in 2006, while conditions improved in Georgia.

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