An ongoing conflict between the German government and the Church of Scientology intruded into the high-tech world late last fall, when Microsoft bowed to complaints from Germany and agreed to have its German Web site provide instructions for removing Windows 2000's Disk Defragmentation utility. Explaining Microsoft's actions, a Microsoft spokesperson said, "\[The German government\] recommended \[that German companies\] not use this tool." The problem began just before the Win2K release, when Germany expressed concerns that the software might be "a security problem."

Executive Software designed the utility, which Microsoft included as part of Win2K. Executive Software's CEO, Craig Jensen, is a Scientologist, and the German government expressed concern over the Scientology connection and the fact that the tool was an integrated part of the OS.

The German government has clashed with the Church of Scientology in the past, and Jensen immediately responded to the news with a stern condemnation. "The stench of religious intolerance is high among government officials in Germany," he wrote in a statement. "German officials started by boycotting American movies featuring prominent artists who are Scientologists. Now their target is American computer software. Next, it will be American cars, books, hardware, textiles, foodstuffs, and so on. American companies now face the possibility of being blacklisted and their products boycotted if the Germans decide they don't like the religion of their CEOs."

Executive Software maintains that its CEO's religious beliefs have nothing to do with the company or its products. "Just like a company owner might be a Christian, it's a religion and that's his belief, and it has nothing to do with developing software and selling software,'' said Executive Software's spokesman in England, Chris Cavanagh. And certainly the software is popular: Diskeeper, which the Win2K utility is based on, has won numerous awards and dominates the defragmentation-software market.