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Religious Intolerance

in Germany

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Quotations from the German Constitution:

bullet 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."
bullet Article 4:1: "The freedom of faith, of conscience, and the freedom of religious and ideological beliefs are inviolable."
bullet Article 4:2: "The undisturbed practice of religion is guaranteed."

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Statements that new employees must sign in two German firms before being hired: 8

bullet "Affidavit:...I hearby declare that....I am not a member of a Sect or Free Church..."
bullet "11. I testify that I (neither in the past, nor now, nor in the future) - am a member of a sect..."

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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 business.

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.

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German Persecution of Religious and Other Minorities:

bullet 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."
bullet 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.
bullet 1995-MAR: The United States State Department issued its annual "Human Rights Report". They observed that:
bullet "major German political parties exclude Scientologists from membership."
bullet "business firms whose owners or executives belong to the Church of Scientology may face boycotts and discrimination, sometimes with governmental approval."
bullet "artists have been prevented from performing or displaying their works because of their Scientology membership."
bullet "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."
bullet "Scientologists continued to take such grievances to court, and the courts have frequently ruled in their favor."
bullet 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
bullet 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.
bullet 1996-JAN: A group of 34 actors, artists and executives from the entertainment industry sent an open letter to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Goldie Hawn, 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

bullet 1996-JAN: The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance cited Germany for the second consecutive year.
bullet 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."
bullet 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.
bullet 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.
bullet 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.
bullet 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 groundless.
bullet 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."
bullet 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.
bullet 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.
bullet 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 Germany."

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.

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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 church members.

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 investigation.

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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

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Enquete Commission:

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." 4

The Commission was created largely as a result of two strong opponents of the Church of Scientology:

bullet Renate Rennebach, a MP and member of the synod of the Evangelic Church, and
bullet 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:

bullet New religious groups "all in all, [present] no danger for the state and the society, nor for important
branches of society, such as business.
bullet The German word for "sect" should no longer be used, because its meaning has degenerated into a pejorative term.
bullet 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."
bullet Danger of psychological or physical injury is equal or less than dangers people are exposed in other social settings.
bullet 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:

bullet 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.]
bullet To create a new criminal offense, called "profiteering" for those new religious groups that apply psychological pressure to their members.
bullet The Church of Scientology should be further investigated.
bullet The police should establish special branches for occultism and Satanism. [This also appears unnecessary, because these are extremely small groups, and probably quite harmless.]
bullet 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.
bullet 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.
bullet 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.

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Recent Developments:

bullet 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, in part:

"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 by individuals."

bullet 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.
bullet 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."
bullet 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.

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  1. 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:
  2. An open letter by many artists and actors was written to Helmut Kohl, Chancellor of Germany in 1996-DEC. The text is available at:
  3. The Foundation for Religious Tolerance played a major role in the European Journey. They are at: (almost an identical URL to our own).
  4. "A Kindergarten of Exorcists," Der Spiegel, 1998-JUN-8
  5. Gernot Facius, "Warning Against Sect-Hunters: Doubly prejudiced? Controversy over Enquete Commission in Bonn," Die Welt, 1998-MAY-28.
  6. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Affairs, "United States Policies in Support of Religious Freedom: Focus on Christians," 1997-JUL-22. See:
  7. "According to the Church of Scientology, German government Polloried for Human Rights Abuses...", PRNewswire, 1998-AUG-7. See:
  8. "A new sekte filter," posting to the NuRel mailing list, 1999-MAR-23.
  9. "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  

Copyright © 1998 to 2000 incl.
Latest update: 2000-MAY-3
Author: B.A. Robinson

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