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Seeking to Ban Scientology

Guardian Unlimited:

Germany's top security officials said Friday they consider the goals of the U.S.-based Church of Scientology to be in conflict with the principles of the nation's constitution and will seek to ban the group.

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Kyle on :

hahahahahahhaha... the Church of Scientology is a huge joke to most Americans I know. But if Tom Cruise believes, maybe there is something to it... ;)

Reid of America on :

The Church of Scientology is a big joke to most Americans. That is why Americans find the German obsession with Scientology to be problematic. Germany says it is a money making operation. So are most other religous operations worldwide. The problem I have is Germany supports with tax money both the Lutheran and Roman Catholic churches. Germany effectively has two state religions and is not tolerant of new religions that don't adhere to traditional finance methods. My advice to Germany is to ignore the Scientologists. If Germany does outlaw Scientology it will have a Falun Gong style public relations nightmare future. There won't be a diplomatic appearance anywhere in the West without protestors jumping the stage demanding religious freedom.

Pat Patterson on :

It might appear that the accomodation the Catholics and Protestans made after the Thirty Years War was to not persecute each other but to go after "those" guys. Aside from the joke what I find most worrisome, and as noted above many Americans, is not that Germans are hostile to the Scientologists but that the Basic Law allows the government to determine how one worships and with whom.

Zyme on :

Well it all depends on what is considered to be the dominant nature of an organisation. When it is more of a buisness company than a religious organisation, it loses a lot of basic rights. And when it is considered dangerous for the society because it seeks to create a "state within the state", then it has to be persecuted. The principle here is that the government must not tolerate an organisation that is determined to rival the primacy of the state, no matter how small it actually is. So in a way, Scientology has been provoking the state, and now the Leviathan strikes back. "My advice to Germany is to ignore the Scientologists. If Germany does outlaw Scientology it will have a Falun Gong style public relations nightmare future. There won't be a diplomatic appearance anywhere in the West without protestors jumping the stage demanding religious freedom." Are they really that important? I doubt it. Even if there were protests, our officials would just shrug their shoulders and hint at the fact that they are simply protecting the people.

David on :

@Zyme, Are you going to let stand the charge that "Basic Law allows the government to determine how one worships and with whom." I'm no lawyer, but my reading of Articles 3 and 4 of the Grundgesetz is that the consitution unequivocally guarantees equal treatment and freedom of religion.

Zyme on :

"Are you going to let stand the charge that "Basic Law allows the government to determine how one worships and with whom."" Like I said, it all depends on what is considered to be the dominant nature of an organization. In case it is considered to be dominantly religious, it will receive the benefit of Art. 4 GG. But this doesn´t seem to be the case with Scientology. Don´t misunderstand me: Ultimately, the constitutional court will have to decide on this, after Scientology wants to find out whether the actions of our interiour ministers are justified. But up until then, they are free to act.

Pat Patterson on :

But isn't the nature of all religions to be in opposition to"...the primacy of the state..." That ban one religion or sect is the kind of slippery slope whereby one religion or two in conjunction with the other can essentially use the state to persecute a third religion? Plus I think to ask for what must be the rationale of persecuting one religion for what it might do vs. not persecuting some of the various left and in addition to the already banned far right political parties in Germany for what they might do? In in some cases have actually confronted and subverted that state. But I think the comment in regards to protecting the people and the primacy of the state reveals one of those differences that leave both Americans and Germans scratching their heads when realizing that some of our differences are not just cultural artifacts of history but arise completely different ways of looking at the nature of the relationship of the people to the state. In the US, not always successfully, the people are paramount and their government serves to react to the demands of the people not for the state to act on the to assumption of what is best for the people. Many churches, currently, are indeed hauled into court for both civil and criminal actions but not for the mere judgement that one is more successful in raising money than any other.

Zyme on :

"But isn't the nature of all religions to be in opposition to"...the primacy of the state..." Not in Germany. Here the clerical and mundane establishment co-exist under the premise that the state is to handle worldly matters alone. Only this way the churches had been able to save what had remained from their former property in the early 19th century, and they have taken this lesson to heart. This was the result of power struggle that had lasted for centuries. I always found the reports from the early 19th century quite astonishing. While strong proportions of the population were still active christians, with the wind of Napoleon blowing over Europe, even here in conservative Bavaria the newly crowned King ordered his civil servants to go to the monasteries in his realm and confiscate all chattels. In some cases, the furniture was seized right while the monks were dining so that they had to continue their meal without any chairs left to sit on. So one may say, at that time in continental Europe the power struggle came to an end.

John in Michigan, USA on :

The German position on religion goes way deeper than mere opposition to Scientology. The US system and the German Basic Law have similar values (freedom, tolerance, plurality, order, private property), but are based on quite different principles. Also, I'm pretty sure none of the German churches make money. If I recall, they are all subsidized by the State, some at great cost as part of the heritage and yes, as part of the grand bargain to keep the peace after the Thirty Years war. Possibly, the mosques could be self-supporting if they had to be? Anyway, Scientology is feared because it would make money and that's not fair; also, since they would not be part of the subsidy system, they would not be subservient to the state. If they made an exception for Scientology, where would it end, etc, etc. You could even say, the German approach is downright un-American! But that's OK because it is Germany. I like to think of it this way: Each country has a general consensus as to what range of views and practices are acceptable or respectable. If you are part of the consensus in Europe, you get full rights, and full entitlement to a welfare system that is more generous than the American one. However, if you are outside of the consensus, you may find your welfare, and even your basic rights can be taken away. I am thinking of Hirsi Ali, although of course she was Dutch, not German. My point is, she was a duly elected member of parliament who broke no laws and hurt no-one. However, because of her views, certain groups considered her an apostate and were determined to violently silence her. The authorities tried to protect her, but eventually determined that she was a threat to public order and stripped her of her office, made her move away from her district into an inferior house, in which she was a virtual prisoner. I don't know if they revoked her citizenship, or if she left on her own. This simply could not happen in the US, our laws and traditions dictate that her enemies are the threat to public security, not her. It is nearly impossible to take away someone's citizenship, unless they lied in the immigration application. You can't force a citizen to move if they own the house and pay the bills, period. Much less an elected official! For any elected official, or indeed any American who got the national and international attention she did, the authorities would have had no choice but to protect her at all costs. I like to think of the old safety net metaphor. In Europe generally, the net is set so that no-one has to fall very far before they are saved, and there are few gaps or holes. The net is well padded and attractively decorated. The landing is so gentle, you might not even realize you're on it. If you are an immigrant, you aren't really permitted to live your life above the net that everyone else uses; but you are given your own net, that is far better than the old country. In the US, the net is there, but you have much further to fall, and it isn't designed to be comfortable. If you fall, your supposed to get back up again and get off the net. The gaps are larger, but most people don't fall completely through, they instead get stuck in awkward positions. Everyone, native born or immigrant, uses the same net. A critical difference is, in America, people are permitted to live outside of the net entirely. You are on your own, but you aren't limited by the consensus. This applies to non-conformists, free thinkers, nut jobs, etc. but even illegal economic immigrants are widely tolerated once they get past the border (although this might be changing). OK I am painting with a broad brush. What do you think?

Zyme on :

A great description of the differences. You are right that consensus has a very important meaning here. And the point that a religious organisation out of control of the state provokes the state hits the nail on its head. Especially after the age of enlightenment it was a true achievement that the state was able to limit the influence of religions by soaring itself above them. And since peoples don´t change their attitudes quickly, binding the religions with so called "state treaties" proved to be a great way to integrate them. Organisations like Scientology are apart from that consensus, thus they are truely a danger to our society. Now when the public is convinced that such an organisation is dangerous for the society as well as the individuals, then the difference between american and german traits comes into effect: The people instinctively look at the Leviathan (I hope you are all familiar with Hobbes` terminology?) and expect a response that protects them from harm.

John in Michigan, USA on :

Thanks for the complement. Yes, I read the Leviathan in my first year philosophy class. Philosophically, I do see the problem with Scientology in Germany. Practically, I have a hard time seeing how Scientology itself threatens the Germans. None of its practices are incompatible with German law or lifestyle, as far as I can tell. They are a tiny, tiny group. Even in the US there are only about 0.02% Scientologists, and I'd be shocked if they ever got above 1%. However, I *reluctantly* accept the argument that if Scientology were permitted, Germany would have to permit a lot of other non-traditional religions (the slippery slope), and it would break the grand bargain. Reluctantly, because not everything is a slippery slope, and because it is impossible to "prove" that the churches the Germans have accepted are the "true" churches...

Reid of America on :

Are Baptists still illegal in Germany? During colonial times in America large numbers of German Baptists came to America for religious freedom. I guess they were a threat to Germany but they were a tremendous benefit to America. I would encourage German Scientologists to emmigrate to the US for religious freedom if they are banned in Germany. Germany will find itself in a soft power quagmire if they ban Scientology. Scientologists are very well organized and they will make life difficult for high profile Germans in the US and elsewhere. There will be permanent protestors at places like Duetsche Bank headquarters in Manhattan. They will be carrying pictures of Nazis beating Jews and comparing it to present day Germany. Germany will also find itself on NGO lists with China and Saudi Arabia, etc. as a nation that persecutes religious minorities. Banning Scientology will bring lots of soft power pain and very little gain.

Zyme on :

I doubt it that our interior minsters will be bothered with foreign consequences. To them, this is not part of their competence. Instead they will consider our diplomats as responsible for selling this development abroad. They are solely here to save the people from all harm. And if among 16 interior ministers, a few are not up to the job, their own positions are in danger. Nothing works better here to discipline politicians than a threat to their own position.

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