Quotations from the German Constitution:
||Article 3:3: "No one may be discriminated against because of
his sex, his heritage, his race, his language, his birth-place, his beliefs, his religious
or political ideologies."
||Article 4:1: "The freedom of faith, of conscience, and the
freedom of religious and ideological beliefs are inviolable."
||Article 4:2: "The undisturbed practice of religion is
Statements that new employees must sign in two German firms before being hired: 8
||"Affidavit:...I hearby declare that....I am not a member of a Sect or Free
||"11. I testify that I (neither in the past, nor now, nor in the future) - am a
member of a sect..."
Overview of the Anti-Cult Movement:
In the 1960's, a Anti-Cult Movement (CCM) was founded in the
United States. It was created in response to the many small new religious movements
(NRM) - often headed by a single charismatic leader. Young adults flocked to these
groups, seeking an intense spiritual experience and inter-personal intimacy. Some of these
movements encouraged their followers to sever relationships with their friends and
families of origin. Many followers abandoned their academic pursuits in order to devote
more time to the movement. Some parents became alarmed, fearing that their children had
become the mindless victims of mind control techniques and brainwashing. A movie The
Manchurian Candidate (1962), dealt with mind control. Although it was a work of
fiction, and based on non-existent science, it convinced much of the public that such
control was possible.
A series of incidents involving loss of life in small destructive,
religious groups (including those at Jonestown and Waco) raised public concern about
"cults" in general. However, by the late 1990's, the CCM
had largely run out of steam in the United States. Some within the movement had committed
very serious criminal acts, assaulting and brutally kidnapping members of NRMs and
forcibly confining them. A series of legal cases put the largest of these groups out of
But even as fear of "cults" started to diminish in North America, it was on
the ascendancy in some European countries - particularly in Russia,
Germany and France. Public fears were greatly increased by a
religiously motivated mass suicide-murder of members of the Solar Temple group in
southeast France on 1995-NOV-16. In Germany, this fear seems to have promoted the federal
government to actively persecute members of the Church of Scientology. A number of incidents have been reported at the federal, state and
local level. The Church has won some, but not all legal battles
in German courts.
German Persecution of Religious and Other Minorities:
||1992: Jeri Labor, the executive director of the Helsinki Watch,
wrote Chancellor Helmut Kohl, noting that they had been "closely following the
increase in violent attacks against foreigners in Germany...Gypsies
in Germany have a long history of persecution, and they continue to face prejudice and
hatred." At the time, Germany had developed a plan to pay Romania to take back
Roma émigrés. Labor call this "discriminatory treatment that violates
Germany’s obligations to engage in no practice of racial discrimination as
established in international law."|
||1995-JAN: The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Religious
Intolerance cited Germany for religious intolerance and human rights violations
against members of the Church of Scientology.|
||1995-MAR: The United States State Department issued its annual "Human
Rights Report". They observed that:
||"major German political parties exclude Scientologists from membership."
||"business firms whose owners or executives belong to the Church of Scientology
may face boycotts and discrimination, sometimes with governmental approval."
||"artists have been prevented from performing or displaying their works because
of their Scientology membership."
||"public criticism of Scientologists by leading political figures increased
during the year, with one Cabinet member publicly stating that Scientologists were unfit
to serve as teachers, police officers, or professors."
||"Scientologists continued to take such grievances to court, and the courts have
frequently ruled in their favor."
||1995-APR: Helsinki Watch issued a report: "Germany for
Germans: Xenophobia and Racist Violence in Germany." They documented incidents in
which "Turks, Gypsies and Africans have been targeted by neo-Nazi skinheads and
are viewed with hostility by the German government." 1|
||1995: A Charismatic Christian church's tax exempt status was canceled
by government officials in Cologne. They stated that the church was not a charitable
group, and that it "does not contribute to the cultural, religious, or spiritual
value of German society." The church has launched an appeal.|
||1996-JAN: A group of 34 actors, artists and executives from the
entertainment industry sent an open letter to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Goldie
Dustin Hoffman, Larry King, Tina Sinatra, Aaron Spelling, Oliver Stone, Gore Vidal and
others said in part:|
"When a modern nation demonstrates its unwillingness to protect the basic rights
of a group of its citizens, and, indeed, exhibits a willingness to condone and participate
in their persecution, right thinking people in other countries must speak out. Extremists
of your party should not be permitted to believe that the rest of the World will look the
other way. Not this time. Those who seek to gain political power or to indulge personal
hatreds by repeating the deplorable tactics of the 1930s cannot be permitted that luxury.
This time voices will be raised." 2
||1996-JAN: The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Religious
Intolerance cited Germany for the second consecutive year.|
||1996-MAR: The United States State Department issued its annual
"Human Rights Report" criticized Germany for religious persecution and "both
social and government-condoned harassment." |
||1996-SEP: A British fact-finding committee visited Germany. It was made
up of two members of the House of Lords and academic experts. They interviewed members of
17 small religious and philosophical groups as well as representatives of the government.
They reported that they were "completely unprepared for the sheer scale of
[religious] prejudice, discrimination and even persecution" in the country.|
||1996-NOV: The U.N. Human Rights Committee stated that the
decision by the Bavarian government to exclude Scientologists from public sector
employment was a worrying development that could violate rights that Germany is legally
bound to guarantee.|
||1997-MAR: The Rutherford Institute is a conservative Christian
organization dedicated to preserving religious freedom in the US and other countries. John
Whitehead, President of the Institute said: "When individuals with unpopular
belief systems are being penalized it is nothing less than encroachment on religious
liberty." He listed three areas of concern in Europe, involving the Jehovah's
Witnesses, a Charismatic Christian church and the Church of Scientology.|
||1997-APR: The University of Tuebingen issued a report
commissioned by the state government of Baden-Wuerttemberg. The Associated Press
reported that the study found that German government accusations against Scientology are
||1997: The Human Rights Centre at Essex University, UK issued a
report, stating: "In Germany, democracy is used as an ideology to impose
conformity. It has been dismaying to discover that the state, and some of its politicians
and people, are using what are known from the past to be well-worn paths of discrimination
and intolerance and of inciting intolerance towards a new religious minority, the
Scientologists...recent years have seen an astonishing and, for post-war Western Europe,
unique policy of official, and officially endorsed, vilification of and discrimination
against certain of these groups including the Jehovah's Witnesses and, most particularly,
the Church of Scientology."|
||1997-APR: Tal Pechner is the author of "History of Zionism and
the Holocaust", and was a Holocaust lecturer at the Yad-Vashem Museum of the
Holocaust. She issued a study which found "persuasive documentation of human
rights abuses" in Germany against Scientologists and non-traditional Christian
groups. She noted "ouster and banning from political parties, jobs, banks, schools
and civic organizations." She urged fellow Jews to turn their "subjective
rage of 'Never Again'" into action in defense of religious freedom.|
||1997-JUN: The Interior Ministry of the German federal government
announced that it considers the Church of Scientology to be a threat to the state. It has
placed members of the Church of Scientology under surveillance.|
||1998-AUG: In the past, the German government has issued "sect
filters" to companies. These are forms which help determine the religious affiliation
of employees. Many companies require their employees to declare that they are not a member
of the Church of Scientology, nor have they studied the works of L. Rod Hubbard.|
In addition to the above, the Helsinki Commission, Congressional Arts Caucus,
Congressional Black Caucus, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have
independently expressed their concerns. Within Germany, the Cooperation of Christian
Lawyers and Legal Advisors has warned that "religious freedom is in danger in
We have been unsuccessful in obtaining information on the response of the German
government to this groundswell of concern by human rights groups and others. We are
actively seeking such information.
German Secret Police and "Otto D."
Germany's Interior Minister, Manfred Kanther, announced in 1997-JUN that "All
means available to the state" will be used to monitor Scientology's 30,000
members in that country, because the government believes that the church is a threat to
democracy. Counterintelligence agents will be used. He did not say how the Church
threatens the democratic processes.
The Church of Scientology International filed complaints with the United
Nations High Commissioner, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance
and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. They expected to file
additional complaints with other international civil rights watchdog agencies. Meanwhile,
Switzerland announced that they had found no legal basis to justify the surveillance of
Otto D. is a police officer in Germany. He seems to have been in line for a promotion,
when an unsigned letter came to the attention of the German Office for the Protection
of the Constitution (OPC). The letter claimed that Otto was a leading member of the
Scientology church in Berlin. The secret police raided his house, but found nothing. Otto
was suspended from work. The OPC then tried on multiple occasions to bribe a part-time
employee of the Church of Scientology in Switzerland. They offered $5,000 DM. The OPC
hoped that they could gain access to Scientology membership records and prove that Otto
was a Scientologist. The German branch of Scientology denies that Otto was ever a member.
He has counterattacked with both civil and criminal law suits. He indicates the he is not
a Scientologist; he said that he does not have a religious faith, although he is
tolerant of all. He comes from a long line of persecuted individuals. His mother was
Jewish; many of her relatives were exterminated in concentration camps. These developments
caused a minor international incident between Germany and Switzerland.
It is ironic that the OPC's role is to protect the constitution, is apparently
committing unconstitutional acts when investigating Scientologists. They have been unable
to bring charges against any Scientologist for any criminal act after over a year of
The European Journey for Religious Freedom
The Foundation for Religious Tolerance, a Scientology group, has promoted the European
Journey - a foot race from East Grinstead, Sussex, UK to Frankfort, Germany. It
started on 1998-JUN-24 "In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights." It is also intended to publicize the increasing
governmental persecution being experienced by various religious minorities in some
European countries. 3 Although their name, Web site's URL, and
logo are similar to ours, we have no connection with that group.
A total of five runners, from Canada, South Africa, Switzerland, and the US traversed
about 2,000 miles (3,200 km) through 8 countries - UK, Holland, Belgium, France,
Switzerland, Italy, Austria and Germany. They picked up additional national runners in
each country who accompanied them to the border. They held celebrations at various key
human rights locations, such as the International Court of Justice at the Hague; the
European Parliament in Brussels; Human Rights Square in Trocagero, Paris, etc. The
runners carried a "torch of freedom" and a religious freedom
proclamation. The latter lists 19 human rights reports critical of the German government's
persecution of religious minorities. They have received support from various Buddhist,
Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Raelian, Scientology and Sukio Mahikari groups,
theologians, scholars, politicians, and individuals.
The Journey ended at a "Rally for Truth" celebration in
Frankfurt, Germany on AUG-10. This was attended by about 6,500 individuals, and was well
covered in the media. A new coalition of religions was formed on AUG-11. It includes
representatives from over 20 faith traditions, including Charismatic Christians, Muslims,
Hindus, Sikhs, etc.
The next day, leaders of the Islamic Association of German-Speaking Muslims, Central
Community for Orthodox Judaism in Germany, German Sikh Community, Unification Church in
Germany, and the Church of Scientology in Germany announced the formation of
an Interreligious Coalition to fight religious discrimination in Germany
This Commission is composed of 12 MPs from the Lower House of the Federal Parliament,
and a similar number of experts. Most members have a history of opposing new religious
groups. They labored for 2 years, spent about 2 million DM ($1,150,000 US) and produced a
two volume, 602 page report on new religious groups (NRMs) and "psycho-groups"
in Germany. It is called "So-called Sects and Psychological Groups."
The Commission apparently was a fiasco. Der Spiegel, a leading German newspaper claimed:
"The parliamentary investigation of the controversial psycho-market turned into a
religious war. One participant commented: 'Some acted so hysterically you would
have thought they were themselves members of a sect.'...their report is a
confused conglomerate of banalities, contradictions and dubious recommendations."
The Commission was created largely as a result of two strong opponents of the Church
||Renate Rennebach, a MP and member of the synod of the Evangelic Church, and
||Ursula Caberta, a sect-commissioner from Hamburg. (Many local jurisdictions in Germany
have an official that monitors small religious groups.)
There appears to have been a split between these Scientology opponents and the rest of
the Commission. The group compromised by including almost no material about the Church
of Scientology in their report.
The experts on the Commission produced a total of 6 studies on German sects. They
concluded that there was "no problem and no danger" from small
religious groups in Germany. These studies have been suppressed by the Commission. Two
commission members have called for the reports to be published. They remain sealed.
Angelika Koester-Lossack, the Green Party leader in the Commission, commented "Regarding
the individual groups, we actually came up with little new information." The
Christian Democrat party representative, Ronald Pofalla admitted: "There is no
broad social situation [of concern regarding NRMs]."
Some conclusions of the Commission's report:
||New religious groups "all in all, [present] no danger for the state and the
society, nor for important
branches of society, such as business."
||The German word for "sect" should no longer be used, because its
meaning has degenerated into a pejorative term.
||Investigators found "no case where force was used to get members to pay money.
Manipulations used in an attempt to make money did not exceed the norm one finds in
similar conflict situations of social, every-day life."
||Danger of psychological or physical injury is equal or less than dangers people are
exposed in other social settings.
||35% of individuals who join "psycho-groups" are Protestants; 10.5%
are Roman Catholics.
They made 20 recommendations. Even though they concluded that new religious movements
were not a threat to the state or its people, they recommend a number of actions to
control, regulate and persecute small faith groups. The recommendations include:
||To use the Usury law against NRMs that apply psychological pressure on their members to
contribute. [This recommendation appears unnecessary since their own investigators failed
to find any instances of such pressure.]
||To create a new criminal offense, called "profiteering" for those new
religious groups that apply psychological pressure to their members.
||The Church of Scientology should be further investigated.
||The police should establish special branches for occultism and Satanism. [This also appears unnecessary, because these are
extremely small groups, and probably quite harmless.]
||The State pass a "Life-help Law" which is intended to regulate new
religious groups. Tax exempt donations to certain faith groups would be prohibited. If
they were accused of harming individuals, they would be considered guilty unless they were
able to prove themselves innocent. State-funded churches would be exempt from the law. The
Federal Minister of Justice has rejected the bill.
||They propose that the state fund a foundation to educate young people, so that they
would be directed away from new religious groups and towards established churches.
||Only those new faith groups which proved their loyalty towards the State and its
Constitution would receive state recognition. Again, established denominations would be
exempt from the law.
A group of professors (philosopher Hermann Luebbe, Protestant church historian Gerhard
Besier, former federal minister Hans Apel, University in Tuebingen professor Niels
Birbaumer, Cologne Professor of Public Law Martin Kriele, and Cologne sociologist Erwin
Scheuch) criticized the Commission, saying that they have engaged in defamation of and
discrimination against small religious and ideological minorities. 5
They are concerned that the Commission will develop into an "ideological watchdog".
The academics warned against "inquisitional work of the sect-hunters."
They criticized the makeup of the Commission: "Amongst the experts in the
Commission are sect and ideological commissioners of the two main churches but no experts
from other religions and ideologies; and there are no representatives of the often
criticized free-market for advanced education and management training. The sect
commissioners of the main churches now have the opportunity to sit in judgment on those
with whom they are in ideological competition, and against whom they have been litigating
for years." They accused the objectivity and independence of the Commission.
They point out that some Commission members are "agents of the competing
religious communities...litigating against those about whose actions they are now supposed
to adjudicate." The academics are concerned about the creation of a "hierarchy"
of religions - some "better" and some "worse" in the
eyes of the state.
The professors met with representatives of management training seminars, groups which
had been "particularly criticized" but not interviewed by the
Commission. "There was not one case where we found evidence of destructive
actions by persons, groups or organizations...And, similarly, we could not establish that
any interventions by volunteers had had any effect in any one case -- even though we could
note many useful aspects."
They warned that citizens should be more concerned about danger from fashionable "sect-hunts"
than from most of the NRMs.
||1997-JUL-22: The U.S. government's Bureau of Democracy, Human
Rights, and Labor Affairs issued a report "United States Policies in
Support of Religious Freedom: Focus on Christians" 6 It said,
"The U.S. Government has expressed concern to the German Government about
efforts to monitor religious organizations. The U.S. Government also has told the German
Government that it would be concerned if persons were placed under observation or denied
rights on the basis of mere membership in a group, rather than suspicion of illegal acts
||1997-SEP: An American member of the Church of Scientology initiated a
personal religious discrimination suit against the New York city branch of Deutsche
Bank. She allegedly had worked for the bank for four months, and been harassed by a
vice-president who had learned that she was a member of the Church. She was taken off her
projects, given almost no work to do, and was eventually fired. She sued for lost wages,
emotional distress and punitive damages. The bank has paid her over $125,000 in
compensation and damages and has apologized in writing. The suit mentioned that the German
head office of the bank routinely discriminates against members of the Church, by refusing
to open accounts for them. It further alleged that this pattern and practice of
discrimination against Scientology members extended to the New York branch.
||1998-AUG-7: U.S. Congressman Matt Salmon (R-AZ) and Congresswoman
Sheila Jackson Lee (D TX) introduced a resolution to Congress which demands that the
government of Germany respect religious freedom. The bill has 53 co-sponsors (19
Republicans; 34 Democrats). The resolution cites the conclusions of six U.S. State
Department reports, Helsinki Commission investigations and a study of the United Nations
Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance. Congressman Salmon noted that many people
have had "severe problems in Germany in being able to worship according to the
dictates of their conscience without fear of reprisals... When other countries violate
rights and privileges to worship...we have a responsibility to try to correct these wrongs."
Congresswoman Lee commented: "If we don't speak, who then will speak?"
She asserts that the American government must "stand up firmly for the
Church of Scientology, for the Charismatic Christians, for the Jehovah's Witnesses, for
the Muslims, for the Hindus." Co-sponsor Congressman Bob Ney (R OH), an American
of German descent, said that governmental religious discrimination "is not going
to go away...It's not going to be resolved until German officials want to sit down [and
talk], or are pushed to sit down, or forced to sit down, to have religious freedom for our
citizens and other citizens around the world."
||2000-MAY: According to the Church of Scientology: On MAY-1,
"The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has published its
list of countries [which] it regards as guilty of discriminatory trade
practices. For the first time, a country is included for its anti-cult
policy." The text of the session on Germany states: "In
September 1998, the [German] Federal Economics Ministry issued
procurement guidelines to be put into effect by all Federal Government
Ministries. These procurement guidelines warn that a firm should be
deemed "unreliable" if it refuses to sign a so-called sect
filter. The filter requires a firm's leadership to attest that
Scientology principles will not be used or spread in fulfillment of
any contract; that the leadership of a firm will not recommend or
approve participation in courses or seminars relating to Scientology
principles during the course of business; and that firms reject
Scientology principles in conjunction with any subsidiary. Procurement
entities are permitted to reject bids and immediately terminate
contracts if a firm does not sign the sect filter." 9
These guidelines were intended to apply only for consulting or
training contracts with private firms. However, the use of the sect
filters appears to be more widespread in Germany.
The Church of Scientology maintains a "Hatewatch Germany"
page which documents a program of religious oppression in that country that is
unparalleled in Western Europe since World War II. See: http://hatewatch.freedommag.org/hatewach/
An open letter by many artists and actors was written to Helmut Kohl, Chancellor of
Germany in 1996-DEC. The text is available at: http://hatewatch.freedommag.org/kohl/issu000b.htm
The Foundation for Religious Tolerance played a major role in the
European Journey. They are at: http://www.religioustolerance.net
(almost an identical URL to our own).
"A Kindergarten of Exorcists," Der Spiegel, 1998-JUN-8
Gernot Facius, "Warning Against Sect-Hunters: Doubly prejudiced? Controversy
over Enquete Commission in Bonn," Die Welt, 1998-MAY-28.
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Affairs, "United States Policies
in Support of Religious Freedom: Focus on Christians," 1997-JUL-22. See: http://www.usia.gov/topical/rights/religion/religion.htm
"According to the Church of Scientology, German government Polloried for Human
Rights Abuses...", PRNewswire, 1998-AUG-7. See: http://www.pathfinder.com/money/latest/press/PW/
"A new sekte filter," posting to the NuRel mailing list, 1999-MAR-23.
"Germany blacklisted by the office of the U.S. Trade
Representative for 'Sect Filter, Anti-Scientology Policy," News
release, Church of Scientology. Extracted from the CESNUR website at http://www.cesnur.org
Copyright © 1998 to 2000 incl.
Latest update: 2000-MAY-3
Author: B.A. Robinson