Defining Religious Tolerance: German Policy toward the Church of Scientology

By Moseley, Emily A. | Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, November 1997 | Go to article overview

Defining Religious Tolerance: German Policy toward the Church of Scientology


Moseley, Emily A., Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. INTRODUCTION: GERMANY'S SCIENTOLOGY PROBLEM II. A BRIEF HISTORY OF GERMAN CHURCH-STATE RELATIONS

A. The Protestant and Catholic Churches:

From the Reformation to the Third Reich

B. National Socialism, World War Two, and

Allied Occupation

C. Contemporary German Church-State

Relations and Civil Religion III. THE BASIC LAW AND "SUPRA-POSITIVE VALUES": THE NORMATIVE FRAMEWORK FOR GERMANY

A. The Federal Constitutional Court:

Guardians of the Basic Law

B. Basic Law Provisions Guaranteeing

Personal Liberty

C. Basic Law Provisions Guaranteeing Religious

Freedom IV. THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTIONAL COURT: DETERMINING THE BOUNDARIES OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

A. Interdenominational Public Schools and School Prayer

B. The Blood Transfusion Case: Religious

Exemption from a Generally Applicable

C. The Church Tax Cases: The Limits of

Religious Neutrality

D. The Crucifix Cases: Establishing the

Limits of Freedom to Pursue Religion V. "THERE SHALL BE NO NATIONAL CHURCH" VI. CONCLUSION

Only--can religion, must religion mean the same thing to every man? When you look at our vast world, you see thousands to whom it does not mean these things, thousands to whom it never will, whether it be preached to them or not. Must it therefore mean these things to me?

--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther(1)

I. INTRODUCTION: GERMANY'S SCIENTOLOGY PROBLEM

As a society founded on the sacredness of human dignity and under shadow of the Holocaust, Germany prides itself in its strong protection of religious liberty.(2) The Church of Scientology, however, labeled a cult by some and a legitimate religion by others, strains the boundaries of German tolerance of minority religious sects.(3) While both the German government and private citizens attack and ostracize Scientologists, Germany's "Scientology problem" suggests that the protections afforded religious minorities may be inadequate to guard against majoritarian domination.

The German Constitution protects freedom of religion by guaranteeing free exercise of religion, banning the establishment of a state church, and providing some forms of affirmative governmental support to religious and ideological organizations.(4) However, the German government has decided that the Church of Scientology is not a legitimate religion. Thus, the government nullifies the constitutional protections that would otherwise apply to the Scientologists.(5) The Helmut Kohl government considers the Church of Scientology a cult that brainwashes its members and absconds with their money. German officials worry that the teaching of Scientology borders on totalitarianism and that the group ultimately seeks the domination of Germany.(6) Labor Secretary Norbert Blum describes Scientology as "a giant octopus . . . that will stop at nothing in its desire to spread its blind ideology."(7)

Colorful rhetoric aside, such charges against Scientology are not unique to Germany. Other countries, including the United States,(8) France,(9) and Great Britain,(10) have struggled over how to characterize the group for legal purposes. Founded in 1954 by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology strives to help members reach their full spiritual potential by overcoming their "individual history of pain."(11) However, many of the close-knit nontraditional techniques of the Church of Scientology, such as reliance on an "electropsychometer" (E-meter) to track such pain, and its recruiting of new, often wealthy members, worry cult-watchers.(12)

Scientologists face hostility from both the German federal government and the governments of the German Lands, or states. On October 22, 1996, the Christian Democratic Party of Chancellor Helmut Kohl proposed surveilling members of the Church of Scientology and banning its members from the civil service.

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