delivered at the
International Coalition for Religious Freedom Conference on
"Religious Freedom and the New Millenium"
Washington DC, April 17-19, 1998
I refer to Freedom for Religions in Germany as FRG. You may notice the pun as the former acronym of the Federal Republic of Germany. FRG was formed to address the serious religious freedom abuses being suffered by minority religions at the hands of German officials. It was originally conceived by the Human Rights Department of the Church of Scientology International and has been joined by members of over 10 religious faiths, including Sikh, Hindu, Jewish, Unificationist, Protestant, and Buddhist.
The purpose of FRG is to bring the attention of world institutions to the abuses of religious freedom in modern-day Germany; to give small minority religions a voice, initiate fact-finding missions, expose abuses, issue reports, seek dialogue and resolution of these abuses, and encourage various government bodies to assist in bringing resolution to these problems.
One of the largest obstacles that religious freedom faces in Germany is the German government’s denial that there is any religious discrimination. This statement is from the vice-chancellor in the Foreign Ministry, Klaus Kinkle: “If the German government continues to deny this, it makes it patently impossible to handle the situation and more lives become ruined while the German government debates its own integrity. That integrity is in serious doubt to the rest of the international community. Germany is a signatory to a number of international treaties and accords, which guarantee religious freedom of belief and association to the citizens of Germany. Among these are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the European Convention on Human Rights, just to name a few. With these protections in place it would seem that minorities in Germany are safeguarded against religious persecution.’’
This is theoretically true. The events of the last seven years show that many German officials have undermined both the spirit and the law of Germany’s human rights obligations. Although the constitution is binding on the government, officials have turned it on its head by discriminating against religious minorities such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, charismatic Christians, and the Church of Scientology, with the justification that these religions are unconstitutional.
Ministers of the federal government in Germany have repeatedly made inflammatory public statements against new religions. Germany has a penal code that prohibits incitement of hatred against others. Section 130 states, “He who attacks the human rights of others in a way that disturbs the public peace by, (1) inciting hatred against segments of the population, (2) calling upon people to take part in violent or arbitrary measures against them, or (3) insulting, intentionally libeling, or slandering them is to be sentenced to three months to five years.
Article three, paragraph three of the German constitution states that “no one may be discriminated against because of his sex, his heritage, his race, his language, his birthplace, his beliefs, his religion, or political ideologies.”
Article four, paragraph one holds that “the freedom of faith, of conscience, and the freedom of religious and ideological beliefs are inviolable.” Article four, paragraph two states, “The undisturbed practice of religion is guaranteed.” Yet police brutality against Muslims, predominantly Turks, and Kurds is particularly severe in Germany, compounded by the government’s refusal to take effective remedies.
In one two-year period, more than one thousand hate crimes were documented, many of them against Muslims. Many Muslims are denied citizenship even though they have lived in Germany all their lives. Anti-Semitism is also increasing. In 1997 a major study by the human rights center of Essex University in England found that, “in Germany, democracy is used as an ideology to impose conformity. It is 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 [are] inciting intolerance towards a new religious minority, the Scientologists.”
The study continued, “Recent years have seen an astonishing and for postwar 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” In a move unprecedented anywhere else in the world, the German government placed members of the Church of Scientology under surveillance in June 1997. That surveillance has continued until this day. Despite the constitutional requirement for the government to remain neutral in religious matters, the Catholic and Lutheran Churches exert considerable influence on the government in a nation whose dominant party is the Christian Democratic Union. The CDU is the first national party to exclude Scientologists on its application forms. You state specifically that you are not a member of any other political party and that you are also not a member of Scientology. You can be a child molester, you can be a rapist, but just don’t be a Scientologist!
All of the major parties in Germany soon followed suit. One of the reasons given for the prohibition was the claim by CDU officials that the Scientology understanding that man is basically good conflicts with the Christian doctrine of original sin adhered to by the CDU. There are hundreds of documented cases of discrimination against Scientologists in Germany. Businesses owned by Scientologists are marked with an electronic S in German computer banks. The city of Stuttgart banned Scientologists from providing food and shelter to homeless people. The German government condones the use of “sect filers” to deny Scientologists employment and work contracts. Hotel reservations are canceled if it is found that they have a Scientology connection. Children are kicked out of private schools, and social ostracism of Scientologists has completely permeated German society.
Many theologians of the dominant churches are also leading politicians. Both the Catholic and Lutheran Churches hold a legal status as corporate bodies under public law, giving them the right to receive income from a church tax administered and collected from parishioners by the state. Through the tax and other subsidies, the government provides these churches with more than 17 million deutsch marks annually. The U.S. State Department noted in the July 1997 report on the persecution of Christians around the world that, “numerous religious groups are active in Germany and some German state governments and state and local level organizations. Sect observers work within some political administrative and church structures to educate the public and other officials about how to recognize members of sects.” One Christian charismatic church led by an American pastor reported that it had been subjected over several years to vandalism, threats of violence, and public harassment due to scrutiny by sect commissioners.
The church is challenging a 1995 ruling by authorities in Cologne who revoked its tax exempt status on the grounds that it was “not a charitable organization and does not contribute to cultural, religious or spiritual values of the German society.” The growing intolerance evident in statements and actions by German officials is disturbing. Powerful and influential, state German government officials have attempted through the European community to persuade governments of other European nations to duplicate their policies toward religious minorities.
One case in point, the German government has banned Reverend Sun Myung Moon and his wife, Mrs. Hak Ja Han Moon, from visiting their followers in Germany. The German government has provided no viable evidence to support preventing a septuagenarian religious leader from attending to the spiritual needs of his followers. The German government, using the Schengen treaty, has obtained the agreement of the signers of the treaty—with the exception of the Netherlands—to keep Reverend Moon from visiting their countries as well. There is also evidence to support Germany’s involvement in recent anti-religious bills in Russia and Austria. As a matter of fact, I came across a document where the German government was attempting to influence Austria one year ago about a particular situation regarding religious minorities.
Only last week a German spy was arrested in Switzerland after meeting with a Swiss parliamentarian to coordinate their activities on creating laws specifically to target the Church of Scientology and other religious minorities. This spy was charged with falsification of papers and conducting illegal business for a foreign country. The spy, although bailed out of jail by the German government, still has espionage charges pending against him in Switzerland. However, the German government denies knowing why this spy was in Switzerland. To those of you who are familiar with German efficiency, that comes as very odd.
One German parliamentarian has suggested that the teaching and practices of the Church of Scientology be made punishable offenses. This means that if a non-Scientologist happens to own a book by L. Ron Hubbard that he had brought with him from England or the United States, he potentially could be fined, arrested, or worse.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are being called anti-democratic and denied the status of a religion because their beliefs preclude them from voting for people who could possibly harm their fellow man.
More than any other European democracy with the possible exception of Greece, the German government has in recent years, encountered strong criticism of its human rights practices. These censures have come from the U.S. State Department, the UN Human Rights Committee, various human rights organizations, and individual parliamentarians and scholars.
During public hearings into religious intolerance in Europe held by the Helsinki Commission in Washington, D.C., in September 1997, actor John Travolta, jazz musician Chick Corea, and singer and songwriter Isaac Hayes testified to numerous examples of discrimination by the German government against Scientologists. The celebrities were joined by German Scientologist scholars and leaders of Christian charismatics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Muslims, who also charge officials with severe violations of religious freedom. Immediately afterward, in a move many interpreted as direct retaliation, the German government announced that it was considering using its foreign intelligence service to place Scientologists under surveillance overseas. A few months later it changed its minds about that, however, as evidenced by the German spy’s arrest in Switzerland.
There is no question that there are more serious offenses on the face of religion worldwide. As we have seen during this conference, people have talked about torture, mutilation, and how people are being killed throughout the world solely because of their religious beliefs. What makes Germany different is that it is a democracy, not a Third World country. It is one of the leading lights of Europe and sets examples for the rest of the continent, in some cases bad examples. It cannot allow itself to be the tool of bigots and racists again. The German government needs to come to the realization that religious minorities will be in Germany for a long time to come. Regardless of whatever repressive measures the government chooses to take, they will not go away.
Additional information on the Church of Scientology:
Scientology Effective Solutions
Scientology Volunteer Ministers
Beliefs of the Scientology Religion
A View of Scientology
Article on Scientology
Religious Tolerance: Scientology