Germany has a long and bitter history of religious intolerance and persecution, a trend which has continued into the present. Many religious and ethnic minorities have become the targets of incidents of violence, xenophobia and religious discrimination. Due to its exponential expansion throughout Europe, and as the only major religion to have emerged in the 20th century, the Scientology religion has become the primary target of religious discrimination in Germany.
In 1997, an acclaimed World Report on Religious Freedom by the Human Rights Centre of the University of Essex, England, found, “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…. [R]ecent 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 [religious] groups… most particularly, the Church of Scientology.”
The U.S. State Department criticized the German government for the “clearly discriminatory practice” of “prevent[ing] a person from practicing his or her profession or participating in public and private form, solely based on that person’s religion or belief.”
For decades, the German government has engaged in a policy and practice of religious discrimination against Scientologists in Germany. Federal and state government officials have urged the public to blacklist and boycott Scientologists from every aspect of German life. This has resulted in widespread and systematic discrimination against the Church of Scientology and individuals identified as Scientology parishioners.
The Church has documented more than 1,500 cases of discrimination against its parishioners in Germany and presented the evidence to international human rights agencies. This documented information has resulted in recognition that a serious problem of religious intolerance exists in Germany, reflected in public statements by the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Trade Representative, the Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe, many U.S. Congress members, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance, the Human Rights Centre of Essex University, England, an ad hoc Committee of British Lords and scholars, many nongovernmental organizations, interfaith groups, human rights groups and independent researchers.
Despite the systematic discrimination of the Church and its parishioners, approximately 50 German court decisions recognize that the Church of Scientology and its members are entitled to the protections of freedom of religion and belief guaranteed by Article 4 of the German Constitution.