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Background Papers: Understanding the German View of Scientology (from German embassy web site)

Article Index
Background Papers: Understanding the German View of Scientology (from German embassy web site)
Fact Sheet on Scientology
Is Scientology a threat?
Federal and Regional Action Taken Against the Scientologists in Germany
What is the Truth about the Scientologists
The Scientology Public Relations Campaign Against Germany
American Media Reports on Scientology


The German government considers the Scientology organization a commercial enterprise with a history of taking advantage of vulnerable individuals and an extreme dislike of any criticism.  The government is also concerned that the organization's totalitarian structure and methods may pose a risk to Germany's democratic society.  Several kinds of evidence have influenced this view of Scientology, including the organization's activities in the United States. 

There are three notable American court cases involving Scientology that illustrate why Germany's concerns about this organization are justified.  In the early 1980s, American courts convicted 11 top Scientologists for plotting to plant spies in federal agencies, break into government offices and bug at least one IRS meeting.  In 1994, in a case involving Lawrence Wollersheim, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a California court's finding of substantial evidence that Scientology practices took place in a coercive environment and rejected Scientology's claims that the practices were protected under religious freedom guaranties.  In September 1997, the Illinois Supreme Court found there was evidence enough to allege that Scientology had driven the Cult Awareness Network into bankruptcy by filing 21 lawsuits in a 17-month period.  The court stated that "such a sustained onslaught of litigation can hardly be deemed 'ordinary', if [the Network] can prove that the actions were brought without probable cause and with malice."

In addition, a New York Times article on March 9, 1997, outlined "an extraordinary campaign orchestrated by Scientology against the [IRS] and people who work there.  Among the findings were these: Scientology's lawyers hired private investigators to dig into the private lives of IRS officials and to conduct surveillance operations to uncover potential vulnerabilities."  A related New York Times article on December 1, 1997, added that earlier IRS refusals to grant tax exemption "had been upheld by every court."  (On December 30, 1997, a Wall Street Journal article outlined details of the $12.5 million tax settlement between the IRS and Scientology, including the Scientology agreement to drop thousands of lawsuits against the IRS.)

On December 1, 1997, a New York Times article described Scientology records seized in an FBI raid on church offices that prove "that Scientology had come to Clearwater with a written plan to take control of the city.  Government and community organizations were infiltrated by Scientology members.  Plans were undertaken to discredit and silence critics.  A fake hit-and-run accident was staged in 1976 to try to ruin the political career of the mayor.  A Scientologist infiltrated the local newspaper and reported on the paper's plans to her handlers."  A related Times article also on Dec. 1, 1997, reported on a criminal investigation into Scientology's role in a member's death in Clearwater, Florida.  In November 1998, the responsible State Attorney charged Scientology's Flag Service Organization with abuse or neglect of a disabled adult and practicing medicine without a license. 

Given this background, Germany, as well as Belgium, France, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Israel and Mexico, remain unconvinced that Scientology is a religion. 

Scientology has never disputed the neutrality of Germany's independent judicial system.  In German courts, the Scientologists' cases often deal with the organization's desire for tax exemptions.  The Federal Labor Court (Bundesarbeitsgericht) ruled on March 22, 1995, that the Scientology branch in Hamburg was not a religious congregation, but clearly a commercial enterprise.  In its decision, the court quotes one of L. Ron Hubbard's instructions "make money, make more money — make other people produce so as to make money" and concludes that Scientology purports to be a "church" merely as a cover to pursue its economic interests.  In a November 6, 1997, decision, the Federal Administrative Court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht) sent a case back to a lower court saying it was irrelevant whether Scientology was a religion.  The court stated that the Scientology organization's legal status must be judged by its level of commercial activity. 

In response to numerous petitions, including those from relatives and former members and one signed by over 40,000 concerned citizens, the German Parliament (Bundestag) established a study commission to gather factual information on the goals, activities and practices of "so-called sects and psychological groups." The commission, which was not focused exclusively on Scientology, neither examined religious and ideological views nor prepared a list of groups active in Germany.  Following two years of study, in June 1998 the commission issued a final report which included a recommendation that the Office for the Protection of the Constitution keep Scientology under observation (see Fact Sheet). 

The Federal Government has also conducted thorough studies on the Scientology organization.  Expert reports and testimony by former members confirm again and again that membership can lead to psychological and physical dependency, financial ruin and even suicide. 

Because of its experiences during the Nazi regime, Germany has a special responsibility to monitor the development of any extreme group within its borders — even when the group's members are small in number.  Given the indisputable evidence that the Scientology organization has repeatedly attempted to interfere with the American government and has harmed individuals within Germany, the German federal government has responded in a very measured legal fashion to the Scientology organization.  On June 6, 1997, Federal and State Ministers of the Interior asked the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Verfassungsschutz) to formally investigate several activities of the Scientology organization and make a report.  The published report presented October 12, 1998, found that while "the Scientology organization agenda and activities are marked by objectives that are fundamentally and permanently directed at abolishing the free democratic basic order," additional time is needed to conclusively evaluate the Scientology organization.  The ministers approved this request for more time.