Scientology in Germany - Legal Status

Legal Status

See also: Scientology and the legal system

While there have been calls for Scientology to be banned, the Church of Scientology remains legal in Germany and is allowed to operate there. Its precise legal status however is unresolved. Two points are contested: first, whether or not the teachings of Scientology qualify as a "religion or worldview" (Religion or Weltanschauung; these are equal before German law), and secondly, whether or not these teachings are only used as a pretext for purely commercial activity; if the latter were the case, this would most likely imply that Scientology would not qualify for protection as a "religious or worldview community" (Religions- oder Weltanschauungsgemeinschaft) under Article 4 of the German constitution, which guarantees the freedom of belief, religion and worldview. Status as a "religious or worldview community" also affects a broad range of other issues in Germany, such as taxation and freedom of association.

The Federal Court of Justice of Germany has not yet made an explicit decision on the matter, but implicitly assumed in 1980 that Scientology represented a religious or worldview community. The Upper Administrative Court in Hamburg explicitly asserted in 1994 that Scientology should be viewed as a worldview community. In 1995, the Federal Labor Court of Germany decided that the Church of Scientology merely pursued commercial aims and did not represent a religious or worldview community entitled to protection under Article 4 of the German Constitution, although another decision by the same court left the question open again in 2003. In another 2003 decision, the Administrative Court of Baden-Württemberg in Mannheim said there were no indications that the teachings of Scientology merely served as a pretext for commercial activity. In 2005, the Federal Administrative Court of Germany explicitly granted a Scientologist protection under Article 4.1 of the German Constitution, which declares the freedom of religion and worldview inviolate.

Many courts have declined to assess the religious status of Scientology, finding that the question was irrelevant to deciding the case at hand. The Federal Administrative Court for example ruled in 1997 that the question whether or not Scientology was a religion was irrelevant, and that its legal status should be judged by its business activities. The German government does not consider the Church of Scientology to be a religious or worldview community and asserts that Scientology is a profit-making enterprise, rather than a religion. Recent years have seen a number of court decisions in Scientology's favour, despite the very widespread negative attitude to Scientology among politicians and the general public.

Read more about this topic:  Scientology In Germany

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