For more than two decades, officials in the German government have condoned a policy and practice of religious discrimination against Scientologists in Germany. Federal and state 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.
These officials have fueled this climate of hate by publicly urging and implementing a Scientology litmus test to exclude, isolate and ostracize Scientologists from every facet of society simply because of their personal opinions and beliefs. In the last three decades, Scientologists in Germany have been routinely dismissed from jobs, dismissed from schools, dismissed from political parties, dismissed from social, business and political organizations, denied the right to professional licenses, denied the right to perform their art, denied the right to open bank accounts and obtain loans, denied the right to use public facilities and concert halls.
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 information has been compelling enough for the following individuals and organizations, among others, to conclude that a serious problem of minority religious intolerance exists in Germany: U.S. State Department, U.S. Trade Representative, Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe, many U.S. Congressmen, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Religious Freedom, United Nations Human Rights Committee, Human Rights Centre of Essex University, England, an ad hoc Committee of British Lords and scholars, many NGOs, interfaith groups, human rights groups and independent researchers.
In November 1996, the United Nations Human Rights Committee determined that actions taken by Bavarian government officials to exclude Scientologists from public service employment violated Germany’s international human rights obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Following a visit to Germany in 1998, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Religious Freedom issued a report in which he found that a climate of religious intolerance affected Mormons, Muslims, Scientologists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baha’is, Hare Krishnas and Charismatic Christians.
Freedom of Religion and Belief: A World Report, the acclaimed and definitive 1997 study published by the University of Essex Human Rights Centre and written by over 50 experts on freedom of religion with an introduction by the UN Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance, details extensive incidents and cases of human rights violations directed at Scientologists in Germany. The Introduction of the book states:
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 of intolerance towards a new religious minority, the Scientologists.
Germany’s discriminatory policies continue. In February 2009, the Berlin Administrative Court issued a landmark decision affirming the rights of Scientologists to freedom of religion under Article 4 of the German Constitution. The Court ordered the immediate removal of anti-Scientology propaganda placed in front of the Church of Scientology of Berlin by the Charlottenburg District Office of the Berlin City Administration. In reaching its conclusions, the Court held that the City of Berlin had violated its duty of religious neutrality and its obligation to remain objective on religious matters. The Court also ruled that the City’s unlawful action served no justifiable purpose. The decision was upheld on appeal.
Any continued campaign of religious discrimination in Germany is in direct opposition to numerous German legal decisions recognizing that the Church of Scientology and its members are entitled to the protections of freedom of religion and belief granted in Article 4 of the German Constitution. (See Church of Scientology Religious Recognitions and Germany.)
Scientologists in Germany have been blacklisted, boycotted, censored, vilified, ostracized and threatened simply due to their association with the religion of Scientology. The United States State Department has noted this discrimination in its annual reports for the past 15 years. Typical was the State Department’s 1994 Annual Human Rights Report finding:
In 1993, the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe issued a report which noted widespread discrimination by government officials targeting Scientologists simply due to their religious association and beliefs.
It seems clear that Germany’s course of action reflects the determination to marginalize or eradicate groups perceived as extremist or threatening to the established order. While understandable, especially given Germany’s past, this determination can lead the government to engage in discriminatory policy. Members of the Church of Scientology, for example, protested harassment in the form of firings, expulsion from political parties, and discriminatory treatment from local and state authorities, solely based on their affiliation with Scientology. Indeed, in one recently publicized case in which the state of Baden-Württemberg broke off contract negotiations with jazz musician Chick Corea upon learning that Mr. Corea was a Scientologist, state officials explained quite unapologetically to the Helsinki Commission that 'The position that Baden-Württemberg takes toward Scientology is shared by all other German States … We judge the practices of Scientology in a very critical manner,’ and ‘Neither would we engage in a contractual agreement with an artist who is either radically to the left or radically to the right because we feel that it would be bad advertising for the State of Baden-Württemberg.’ Human Rights and Democratization in Unified Germany, Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe, September 1993.
Numerous other instances of censorship in Germany against artists who happened to be Scientologists followed, prompting concern from many United States Congressional members and other officials, including members of the Congressional Arts Caucus, who noted:
A particularly disturbing trend is the pattern and practice of discrimination against artists, particularly American artists who happen to be Scientologists. …[T]he German government has been a willing and active participant in the creation of an atmosphere of intolerance.
Other examples of Germany’s violation of international human rights standards protecting the Church of Scientology and its parishioners‘ rights to religious freedom include the following:
A particularly egregious form of discrimination in Germany is the use of written declarations chillingly called “sect filters” that require an individual or company to disavow any association with Scientology as a precondition for employment or contractual relations with the government. German government officials have used such declarations to blacklist and boycott Scientologists from public and private employment and to deny Scientologists the right to contract with the government and the private sector.
German government officials have used such declarations to blacklist and boycott Scientologists from public and private employment…
The declarations initiated and recommended by the government require individuals and companies to affirm that they do not use technologies developed by Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard, that individual or company personnel are not trained or participating in courses or seminars where such technology is applied, and that the individual or company rejects the application of such technology. Such declaration forms are deliberately designed to require an individual to: (1) either declare his religious beliefs and be punished for them by being blacklisted or boycotted; or (2) publicly denounce his beliefs under threat of economic sanctions. This policy is manifestly illegal and contrary to fundamental human rights.
In its annual human rights reports and annual international religious freedom reports, the U.S. State Department has repeatedly criticized the German government’s use and support of “sect filters.” The findings by the State Department over the years have included:
In April 2000, the U.S. Trade Representative placed Germany on the “watch list” of countries engaged in discriminatory trading practices as a result of these filters and has continued to raise the issue in its National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers. Although the German federal government subsequently modified the filter based on this pressure, even in modified form these declarations are discriminatory and offensive to fundamental human rights in that they require an individual to disavow the use of the principles developed by L. Ron Hubbard, the Founder of the religion.
The subject of “sect filters” continues to remain a topic of concern expressed in the U.S. State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom Reports.
Prior to August 2010, Ursula Caberta headed the “Working Group Scientology” within the Ministry of the Interior. The government closed the office in August 2010 and dismissed Caberta’s staff. More than any other German official, Hamburg city official Ursula Caberta has been responsible for the wide distribution of the “sect filters” that have frequently been criticized as an abuse of human rights. Caberta distributed the filter throughout Germany in both the public and private sector and maintained a copy of the filter on the Working Group website.
The United States State Department has criticized Caberta for human rights abuses against American citizens. She is the “Sect Commissioner” referred to in the Human Rights Report for 2000 who publicly claimed that Microsoft’s Windows 2000 contained a “Trojan Horse” or “back door” that would permit the Church of Scientology to obtain information from an unsuspecting user’s system (See State Department Human Rights Report 2000.) Microsoft allowed the German Federal Office for Security in Information Technology (BSI) to investigate the software. BSI conducted various tests but failed to find any evidence of or anything that in any way validated these concerns.
Caberta has a long record of discrimination against the Scientology religion and individual Scientologists for which she has been condemned in the courts. In 1994, the Hamburg State Court of Appeals enjoined the Interior Ministry from further distribution of an anti-Scientology booklet published by Caberta:
The principle of neutrality and tolerance has been violated by [Caberta] by giving non objective opinions about the doctrine of the [Church]… [Caberta’s] restriction of the fundamental right of the [Church] per article 4, subsect. 1 and 2 …is illegal…(See 1994 Hamburg State Court of Appeals decision.)
In June 2002, Caberta was fined $8,490 for accepting $75,000 from a private individual who at that time was funding anti-Scientology litigation in the United States. Under German law, a government employee is criminally liable if the individual accepts an “advantage” in exchange for the execution of an official function on another’s behalf. As the U.S. State Department noted in its International Religious Freedom Report in December 2003, Caberta has not adequately been brought to task for acceptance of the apparent compensation to attack Scientology. The Report states:
In January, the Hamburg Administrative Court ruled for the Church of Scientology Germany and the Church of Scientology Hamburg against the City of Hamburg and the Hamburg Ministry of Interior. In a public decision, the court issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Interior Ministry from allowing Ursula Caberta, head of the Ministry’s “Working Group Scientology,” from repeating certain public statements of a false and derogatory character about the Church. The court criticized the Interior Ministry for its failure to reprimand Caberta for violating her duty of neutrality as a government employee by accepting a personal loan of $75,000 (approximately 66,250 euros), with no terms of repayment, from a private individual funding anti-Scientology litigation. An earlier criminal investigation into this matter resulted in Caberta being fined approximately $8,490 (7,500 euros) in June 2002; however, the Hamburg Interior Ministry made no requirement that she pay back the $75,000 loan. (See 2003 International Religious Freedom Report by the United States Department of State.)
In June 2004, the Hamburg Administrative Court issued a permanent injunction against Caberta’s Ministry of the Interior working group for false statements concerning Scientology contained in a book published by her office. (See Hamburg State Administrative Court of Appeal decision.)
In 2000, a German Scientologist living and working in the United States filed suit against Caberta after he was presented with her “sect filter” by a German company during contract negotiations. In a subsequent ruling by the U.S. Federal Court in Tampa, Florida, Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Jenkins condemned Caberta’s behavior throughout the litigation as “evasive,” “unresponsive,” “uncooperative” and “argumentative,” and sanctioned her for non-compliance with Court orders.
The use of such “sect filters” also has been condemned by German Courts. In 2004, the Hamburg State Administrative Court of Appeal found that the use of these filters, distributed to the Chamber of Commerce and the public and private sector by Caberta on behalf of “Working Group Scientology,” violates the right of Scientologists to religious freedom under Article 4 of the German Constitution.
The Hamburg Court of Appeal’s decision, upheld by the Federal Supreme Court, constitutes an affirmation of the religious rights of members of the Church of Scientology. The Hamburg Court determined:
Nothing has been argued nor is it evident that the plaintiff herself does not believe in the transcendental elements of the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard as mandatory to her inner self. To the contrary: for her the transcendental elements are a mandatory content of her belief and philosophy. She has recognized the teachings of Scientology as mandatory for herself and by reason of her innermost connection to this teaching has even put up with economic disadvantages.… Thus it has been established that the plaintiff not only professes alone for herself a personal, individual, religious or philosophic belief, but shares this in community with others and thereby obtains the protection of Article 4 of the Constitution. (See Hamburg Court of Appeal Decision.)
In December 2005, the Federal Supreme Administrative Court confirmed that distribution of the filter was an unconstitutional interference with religious beliefs and ordered it discontinued. (See Federal Supreme Administrative Court Sect Filter Decision, Germany.)
In regard to whether freedom of religion is interfered with by use of a “sect filter,” the Court held that its use requires a Scientologist to disclose religious beliefs, which are a personal matter, in the context of professional activities, thereby risking the sanction of loss of employment or contractual relations. The Court also stated in its ruling that no law justified such action against religious freedom.
Thus, the highest administrative court in Germany held that such “filters” constitute an illegal interference with freedom of religion or belief, as their purpose is to “filter out” certain individuals from business contracts and relations. The judgment set a major precedent and prohibits a key source of discrimination against Scientologists in Germany. It not only recognizes that Scientology is a religious belief held in common by Scientologists, but protects the right of Scientologists to hold and practice their beliefs. The “filter” is illegal per se, not merely in certain circumstances.
This important ruling, combined with the impact of European Council Directive 2000/78/EC which prohibits workplace discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, should have sounded the death knell for these odious “sect filters” in Germany.
However, in February 2006, Caberta continued to post the text of the “sect filter” on the Working Group Scientology in flagrant violation of the Court’s order. A new suit was brought against this posting of the filter, and the Hamburg Administrative Court granted an injunction against Caberta. The Hamburg government and Caberta filed an appeal of this injunction, and the injunction was upheld by the Federal Supreme Administrative Court.
Yet the illegal discrimination continued. In a public anti-Scientology event Caberta hosted in Berlin in September 2007, she continued to encourage use of the filter, misinterpreting the Federal Supreme Administrative Court’s order to apply only to Hamburg and advising attendees at the event to obtain filters on the Scientology Working Group website.
In 2008, German Scientologists reported continued instances of use of such filters to discriminate against them even though the German Courts had condemned the filters as illegal as they violate Scientologists’ fundamental religious freedom rights and the right to freedom of religious association.
On July 11, 2008, the Administrative Court of Hamburg issued another decision condemning Caberta and Working Group Scientology for the failure to remove the “sect filter” from all their Internet sites as required by previous legal decisions. The Court determined that Caberta’s continued publication of such filters despite Court orders finding them to be illegal and unconstitutional has resulted in irreparable damage to the Constitutional right to religious freedom of Scientologists and condemned her continued posting of the filters.
Concurrently, Caberta continued to engage in other forms of discrimination to fuel religious intolerance. In 2007, Caberta hosted anti-Scientology events featuring a notorious convicted con man who falsely claimed that he had been a high-level Scientologist. With Caberta’s support (the man even worked with Caberta in her office for a while), to engender prejudice against the religion and its adherents, he made outrageously false and defamatory statements about Church of Scientology activities he purportedly engaged in. In 2008, she hosted anti-Scientologists, at government expense, including members of a cyberterrorist group whose unlawful actions brought about the conviction of one of their members. And again, in late 2011 Caberta organized a press conference with an anti-Scientologist from America. This embittered apostate was expelled from the Church six years earlier for gross malfeasance and acts of violence to Scientology staff. In the last two years this religious hater has admitted suborning perjury and obstructing justice. Moreover, he has been arrested and jailed twice—the most recent offense was attacking and injuring a Scientologist. This incident happened only a few days before his all-expense paid trip to Germany, courtesy of Carberta. Upon his return to America he was arrested and jailed by the police.
Germany’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution (OPC) has been conducting a security “investigation” of the Church of Scientology for over 10 years. The never-ending “investigation” of the Church of Scientology in Germany by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution raises serious issues of human rights. Despite more than a decade of intrusive investigation and harassment of Scientologists, the OPC has completely failed to uncover any credible evidence whatsoever that the Church or its parishioners have ever violated the law in Germany. No Church of Scientology or Scientology official in Germany has ever been convicted of a crime. No evidence has ever been found because none exists. As Green Party Member of Parliament Renate Kuenast stated to Sueddeutsche Zeitung on April 26, 2000, “The Office observes Scientology, but in the meantime everyone knows that Scientology is not a danger for the Federal Republic of Germany.” (See Sueddeutsche Zeitung article, April 26, 2000.)
The U.S. State Department’s Annual Human Rights and Religious Freedom Reports have identified OPC surveillance of Scientologists as providing justification in the public and private sector for the climate of ongoing intolerance and discrimination that Scientologists continue to face in Germany. (See these reports at: https://www.state.gov/international-religious-freedom-reports/ and http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/.)
The majority of German state OPC agencies have dropped their surveillance after continuing to find no wrongdoing by any Scientology Church and after 50 German court decisions have upheld the rights of Scientologists and Scientology Churches to practice their religion. (See Church of Scientology Religious Recognitions and Germany.)
The reality is that the OPC investigation is politically motivated to attempt to justify the systematic discrimination and human rights abuses against Scientologists in Germany that have been ongoing for over two decades. The United Nations, U.S. State Department and numerous international human rights organizations have harshly criticized Germany for its human rights abuses against the Church of Scientology and adherents of the Scientology religion.
The German government’s only justification is a trumped-up “investigation” now in its second decade that has never uncovered any wrongdoing and is nothing more than a political farce. The only wrongdoing uncovered during the investigation has consisted of illegalities committed by OPC agents. As a prominent German politician has said, “The greatest danger for the Constitution is the OPC.” The Church has documented numerous human rights abuses against Scientologists in Germany, including a host of “dirty tricks” by the OPC. These include agents attempting to infiltrate Churches, spreading false reports about Scientologists to their employers to get them fired, sowing dissension between Church members in an effort to create turmoil within the Church, and even trying to bribe Scientologists to bear false witness against their fellow parishioners.
One incident concerned Otto Dreksler, Chief of Operations of the Berlin police force and one of its most senior officers. The OPC incorrectly concluded that Mr. Dreksler belonged to the Church of Scientology, based on a report from an agent who turned out to be a former member of the notorious East German Secret Police, the Stasi. Although the agent’s Stasi membership was known to the OPC, based on his evidence, Mr. Dreksler was suspended from his job, his house, office, car and personal computer raided and he was subjected to social ostracism for a period lasting several months. Only after the Church sued the Berlin Interior Ministry in connection with the Dreksler incident did the OPC capitulate and admit their error. Mr. Dreksler was later reinstated. He sued and won damages from the Berlin Interior Ministry.
In April 1998, Swiss authorities arrested an OPC agent who was caught illegally spying on members of the Church of Scientology in Switzerland. A Swiss court tried the agent on espionage charges and sentenced him to 30 days in prison for spying and falsification of documents, with two years probation. The court noted that his crime had harmed relations between Germany and Switzerland.
In November 2008, the Federal Conference of Interior Ministers, meeting in Berlin, concluded that no justifiable cause existed to approve a motion to institute actions against the German Churches of Scientology. This decision followed a secret report presented to the Conference by the OPC. The agency’s findings and recommendations, which were obtained and published by the news weekly Der Spiegel, reached the conclusion that no evidence of any wrongdoing existed.
This was not the first time that the government had been forced to concede this point in favor of the German Churches of Scientology. Over the past 20 years, government reports regularly detail that no evidence of such wrongdoing exists.
Although some German government officials continue to refuse to accept Scientology as a religion in order to somehow justify systematic religious discrimination targeting Scientologists in Germany, this position cannot withstand scrutiny, as Scientology is recognized as a religion in countries throughout the world, including Germany, and discrimination targeting the Church of Scientology has been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights. (See Church of Scientology Religious Recognitions and Church of Scientology Wins Landmark Decision in European Human Rights Court.) The overwhelming international authority is in addition to the 50 German court decisions recognizing that the Church of Scientology and its members are entitled to the protections of freedom of religion and belief granted in Article 4 of the German Constitution. (See Church of Scientology Religious Recognitions and Germany.) Two of these decisions are summarized here:
The German Federal Supreme Administrative Court issued a landmark decision in 1997 regarding the Church of Scientology’s idealistic nature that set an important precedent. The Federal Supreme Administrative Court not only recognized the religious character of Scientology; it also found nothing untoward about the Church of Scientology Neue Bruecke’s fundraising practices as they serve religious goals and convictions:
Furthermore, it is irrelevant for the establishment of a commercial activity in which form the members fund the activities of their association. That an association claims remuneration for services provided in itself does not form an indicator for a commercial activity.
The Court also noted that the Church of Scientology was an idealistic association serving religious and not commercial purposes.
The Supreme Administrative Court has decided that an idealistic association does not conduct a commercial activity, to the extent that it offers services to its members by the means of which the membership is realized and that cannot be provided by other service providers independent of the membership relationship. For, in such circumstances, no commercial activity of an entrepreneur does exist. (See German Federal Supreme Administrative Court Scientology decision.)
Likewise, in a 1998 decision the Hamburg Superior Court also found the Church’s fundraising practices completely appropriate:
The [Church] is recognised as a religious community, its financing through contributions in the form of donations does not constitute a commercial activity according to the general view…. The services offered by the [Church] therefore cannot be viewed from the position of a normal price-service relationship.
Germany has obligations under international human rights law, as well as under German law, to protect the fundamental rights of all individuals within its territory. The Charter of the United Nations proclaims as one of the organization’s purposes: promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.
In 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which “sets a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.” (See Proclamation of United Nations General Assembly, 10 December 1948.) Article 18 of the Declaration as well as Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights both state:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
In addition to guaranteeing the specific right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights both contain the broader, fundamental principle of nondiscrimination on grounds of religion:
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
The rights in the Universal Declaration were subsequently confirmed and reinforced in two international treaties: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted jointly by the General Assembly in 1966. Together, the Universal Declaration and these two Covenants constitute the UN Bill of Rights.
Germany has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 18 of this International Covenant closely follows the text of the corresponding article in the Universal Declaration and elaborates on it:
1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.
2. No one shall be subject to coercion, which would impair his freedom to have or adopt a religion or belief of his choice.
3. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
In 1993, the United Nations Human Rights Committee completed a General Comment, which specifically recognizes the application of Article 18 of the Covenant to newly established religions. (See Human Rights Committee, United Nations, General Comment No. 22 (48) on Art. 18, ICPR, adopted by the Committee at the 48th Session on 20 July 1993, UN Document CCPR/C/21/Rev. 1/Add. 4/27 September 1993.) The Human Rights Committee found:
Article 18 is not limited in its application to traditional religions or to religions and beliefs with institutional characteristics or practices analogous to those of traditional religions. The Committee therefore views with concern any tendency to discriminate against any religion or belief for any reasons, including the fact that they are newly established, or represent religious minorities that may be the subject of hostility by a predominant religious community.
The sect filter forms requiring individuals to affirmatively declare that “they are not a member of the Scientology sect” are deliberately designed to require an individual to 1) either declare his beliefs and association and be punished for them or 2) publicly denounce such association and beliefs in writing in order not to suffer such a sanction. This constitutes coercion designed to impair the right of belief and to compel one to recant such beliefs, a policy that is manifestly illegal and contrary to human rights. As the Human Rights Committee notes in its General Comment on the right to freedom of religion or belief:
Article 18.2 bars coercion that would impair the right to have or adopt a religion or belief, including the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or
non-believersto adhere to their religious beliefs and congregations, to recant their religion or belief or to convert. Policies or practices having the same intention or effect, such as, for example, those restricting access to education, medical care, employment or the rights guaranteed by article 25 and other provisions of the Covenant, are similarly inconsistent with article 18.2. The same protection is enjoyed by holders of all beliefs of a non-religious nature.
The German government has not only failed to fulfill its obligations under these specific instruments, it has initiated and encouraged a systematic policy of religious discrimination directed at German nationals who are associated with the religion of Scientology.
Some German officials have fueled and sustained a campaign of religious discrimination targeting the Church of Scientology and its parishioners in violation of religious freedom and human rights.
During this period, and despite German government repression, the Church of Scientology has continued to expand exponentially around the world. In the last 20 years, the number of parishioners has grown to millions of members. The number of Scientology Churches, Missions and related groups is now more than 11,000 in 184 countries.
Today, Scientology continues to grow throughout the world and is welcomed by countless countries as a religious organization and an asset to any area, as Churches of Scientology and their parishioners contribute their community outreach and social betterment programs to improving life for all.