Scientology in Germany - Initiative To Ban Scientology

Initiative To Ban Scientology

In March 2007, it was reported that German authorities were increasing their efforts to monitor Scientology in response to the opening of a new Scientology headquarters in Berlin. On December 7, 2007, German federal and state interior ministers expressed the opinion that the Scientology organization was continuing to pursue anti-constitutional goals, restricting "essential basic and human rights like the dignity of man or the right to equal treatment", and asked Germany's domestic intelligence agencies to collect and evaluate the information required for a possible judicial inquiry aimed at banning the organization.

The move was criticized by German politicians from all sides of the political spectrum, with legal experts and intelligence agencies expressing concern that an attempt to ban the organization would likely fail in the courts. Sabine Weber, president of the Church of Scientology in Berlin, called the accusations "unrealistic" and "absurd" and said that the German interior ministers' evaluation was based on "a few sentences out of 500,000 pages of Scientological literature". She added, "I can also find hundreds of quotes in the Bible that are totalitarian but that doesn't mean I will demand the ban of Christianity."

In November 2008, the government abandoned its attempts to ban Scientology, after finding insufficient evidence of illegal or unconstitutional activity. The report by the BfV cited knowledge gaps and noted several points that would make the success of any legal undertaking to ban Scientology doubtful. First, the BfV report stated there was no evidence that Scientology could be viewed as a foreign organization; there were German churches and missions, a German board, German bylaws, and no evidence that the organization was "totally remote-controlled" from the United States. A foreign organization would have been much easier to ban than a German one. The second argument on which those proposing the ban had counted was Scientology's aggressive opposition to the constitution. Here, the report found that Scientology's behaviour gave no grounds to assume that Scientology aggressively sought to attack and overthrow Germany's free and democratic basic order. "Neither its bylaws nor any other utterances" supported the "conclusion that the organization had criminal aims". The BfV also considered whether there were grounds to act against the Church of Scientology on the basis that they were practising medicine without a licence, but expressed doubts that a court would accept this reasoning.

Commenting on the decision to drop the ban attempt, Ehrhart Körting, Berlin's interior minister, said, "This organization pursues goals – through its writings, its concept and its disrespect for minorities – that we cannot tolerate and that we consider in violation of the constitution. But they put very little of this into practice. The appraisal of the Government at the moment is that is a lousy organization, but it is not an organization that we have to take a hammer to." The Church of Scientology expressed satisfaction with the decision, describing it as the "only one possible". Monitoring of Scientology's activities by the German intelligence services continues.

In February 2009, the Berlin Administrative Court ruled that a poster placed by local city authorities on an advertising column next to a bus stop in front of the Berlin Scientology headquarters, warning passers-by of the potential dangers Scientology activities posed to democracy and individual freedom, should be removed. The decision was upheld in July 2009 by the Upper Administrative Court of Berlin-Brandenburg which ruled that the poster violated Scientologists' basic religious rights.

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