German court upholds surveillance of Scientology

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A German court has upheld a ruling from a lower court, sanctioning the monitoring of the Church of Scientology by Germany's intelligence services.

The North Rhine-Westphalia Higher Administrative Court in Münster ruled that there is enough information present to continue to allow Germany's intelligence agencies to monitor Scientology activities, asserting that the organization and its members have ambitions contrary to Germany's democratic order. The agency which monitors Scientology in Germany is called the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, and has had the Church of Scientology under surveillance in Germany since 1997.

Cquote1.svg There are concrete indications that Scientology's activities are to implement Scientology's program in Germany and to expand more and more Scientology's principles in government, economy and society. Cquote2.svg

—North Rhine-Westphalia Higher Administrative Court

The ruling stated: "There are concrete indications that Scientology's activities are to implement Scientology's program in Germany and to expand more and more Scientology's principles in government, economy and society". The court did not rule on whether or not the organization should be considered a religion, saying that was irrelevant to the ruling. The German government considers Scientology a business, and not a religion.

The court cited "numerous indications" that "central constitutional values such as the dignity of mankind and the right to equal treatment would be suspended or restricted," in a Scientology society. The statement released along with the court's decision also said that "In particular, there is the suspicion that in a scientological society only Scientologists would enjoy civil rights".

During the court proceedings the German court heard testimony concerning anti-democratic statements made by L. Ron Hubbard, the American founder of Scientology who died in 1986. The court did not find any evidence that the organization had distanced itself from Hubbard's statements. Certain statements made by Hubbard detail how to harass ex-members and critics of Scientology. Scientologists presented other writings by Hubbard, and asserted that he was a peaceful person and was being quoted out of context.

Other evidence considered by the court included "The Way to Happiness" brochures, part of the organization's campaign to disseminate Scientology principles worldwide. The project is called "Operation Planetary Calm". A brochure was sent to the office of German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, whose office monitors Scientology and other groups deemed a threat to Germany's constitution.

When the Church of Scientology opened new headquarters in Berlin in January, opponents of Scientology protested outside the building and accused the organization of brainwashing its members. In December, Germany's top security officials stated that they believe Scientology is in violation of the German constitution, and requested state officials to investigate whether they have sufficient information to ban the organization in Germany.

Cquote1.svg Despite over 10 years of intrusive investigation and harassment of Scientologists, not one shred of evidence has been uncovered to justify this politically motivated investigation. Cquote2.svg

—Karin Pouw, Scientology spokeswoman

Scientology spokeswoman Sabine Weber said that the organization will appeal the ruling. Karin Pouw, public affairs director for the Church of Scientology International told the Associated Press: "Despite over 10 years of intrusive investigation and harassment of Scientologists, not one shred of evidence has been uncovered to justify this politically motivated investigation". A statement released by the Church of Scientology in Germany said: "The German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution should finally end this farce and turn its attention to real enemies of the Constitution and real danger so as to do what it is there for: to protect the German constitution and the basic rights of the people".

The Church of Scientology took German authorities to court in March 2003, seeking to stop further surveillance of their organization. In a November 2004 ruling, a court in Cologne upheld the legality of the German government's surveillance of the Church of Scientology.

The United States Department of State has criticized Germany for its surveillance of Scientology in its annual Human Rights Report.


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Sources

Wikipedia Learn more about Politics of Germany and Scientology controversies on Wikipedia.
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