FINAL REPORT OF THE ENQUETE COMMISSION ON "SO-CALLED SECTS AND PSYCHOGROUPS"
5.4 International aspects of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups
The phenomenon of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups has greatly exercised the countries of Europe since the seventies.
The Scientology Organisation in particular has long been surrounded by controversy, not only in the Federal Republic of Germany.
A great many of the new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups have an international presence in terms of their commercial and missionary activities. That is not in itself a problem, these being features of the Christian Churches, Islam and Buddhism as well. A number of the groups have their headquarters abroad (e.g. Scientology/United States; Moon or Unification Church/Korea, Transcendental Meditation/Switzerland, Osho/India) and/or their activities extend to one or more third countries (e.g. The Family in South America). From what we know from the literature, judicial rulings and the reports of counselling and information centres, their activities are not always socially or legally uncontroversial. The European Parliament's draft report on "Sects in Europe" also touches on these aspects. 232 )
It is not easy to gauge the full extent of the international activities of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups. Some groups are considered to constitute a serious potential threat to democratic countries and to have high levels of criminal energy. 233 ) Crimes are on record which were committed by members or followers of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups and were associated with membership of certain groups. In recent years, some European parliaments have also looked into the subject in response to complaints and enquiries from concerned members of the public -- not only about Scientology.
Some groups have little significance nationally, they are not involved locally in any serious political controversy and/or have attracted little public censure.
Nevertheless, they remain a latent problem through being linked to international organisations that are significant and controversial elsewhere. One such example came to light at the hearing of Soka Gakkai, which in Germany is a fairly inconspicuous group of about 3,000 people, but is highly significant in Japan, the United States, etc. 234 )
The Enquete Commission realised that restricting its analysis and description of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups to the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany would not do justice to the phenomenon.
A systematic account of the available literature on study reports from Europe has been lacking hitherto. Also lacking -- and likely to continue that way -- is a systematic account of court rulings in this field. The Enquete Commission is well aware that the present report cannot make good such gaps. That sort of work must be left to the scientific community.
The Enquete Commission, within the scope of its mandate, has set out to discover:
Political enquiry into the subject of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups has generated the following reports:
Australia 1965 235 ) (parliamentary board of enquiry report, known as the Anderson Report, concerned solely with the Scientology Organisation); New Zealand 1969 236 ) (report concerned solely with Scientology); Great Britain 1971 237 ) (the "Foster Report" is concerned solely with the Scientology Organisation); Netherlands 1984 238 ) (report concerned mainly with groups operating in the Netherlands, their influence on their members and the impact on national health); Israel 1987 (report of an interministerial commission to study sects ("new groups") in Israel); Spain 239 ) 1989 (main focus was to determine whether Spanish legislation was appropriate to controlling the phenomenon); France 1985 (known as the "Vivien Report"); France 240 ) 1995 (deals generally with the phenomenon of sects in France and publishes a list of groups which are thought to constitute a danger to individuals and society); Belgium 241 ) 1996 (the aim was to devise a policy to combat the threat posed to society and individuals, especially minors, by the illegal practices of sects). In July 1997, the Enquete Commission presented its Interim Report, entitled "So-called Sects and Psychogroups", to the German Bundestag. In April 1998, the Italian Ministry of the Interior presented a report on "Religious Sects and New Cult Movements in Italy" 242 ) to the parliamentary committee on the Constitution. The object of the report was to gauge the threat potential of sects for anniversary year 2000. This report arrived too late for evaluation by the Enquete Commission.
In terms of their methods and objectives, the reports approach the subject matter in different ways.
In consideration of the findings of these reports and to throw light on the above questions, the Enquete Commission held two hearings on 5 June and 22 September 1997 on the situation regarding new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups in Europe and approaches to dealing with them.
The hearing on 5 June 1997 was attended by Prof. Dr. James A. Beckford, United Kingdom, Prof. Dr. Massimo Introvigne, Italy, Dr. Nicola Corti, Switzerland, Rev. Thomas Gandow, Germany, Prof. Dr. Hans-Jürgen Kerner, Germany, and Prof. Dr. Nikos Passas, United States.
The aim of the hearing was to review the evidence and the allegations surrounding the international activities of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups.
The "International Forum" on 22 September 1997 was attended by Ms. Ursula MacKenzie, United Kingdom, Prof. Dr. Alexander L. Dvorkin, Russia, Dr. George Krippas, Greece, Dr. Tobias Witteveen, Netherlands, Prof. Dr. Joan Manuel del Pozo Alvarez, Spain, and Prof. Stephen Kent, Canada. The event took place under the aegis of the Speaker of the German Bundestag, Prof. Dr. Rita Süssmuth, MP.
The aim of the International Forum was, first, to obtain information and opinions from countries for which no parliamentary reports on the phenomenon were available and, second, to determine how the recommendations from the reports had been translated into legislative or social practice.
In her opening address, the President of the German Bundestag, Prof. Dr. Rita Süssmuth, MP, made the point that the problems and conflicts connected with new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups have become more acute in the course of the past decade. She said it would be a mistake to assume, however, that the problems and conflicts could be solved without international cooperation in this field. She pointed out that this could be regarded as a result of the reports produced in European countries in recent years. She stressed that many of the groups addressed by the reports operated internationally and the problems and conflicts arising were not specific to any one country.
Ms Süûmuth also pointed out that the accusation that Germany was an intolerant country where personal liberties were disregarded must, however, be emphatically refuted. Article 4 of the German Constitution, which governs religious and ideological freedom, had served as a guiding principle for the Enquete Commission. Where other fundamental rights were violated, however, government had to intervene. There was no more to it than that. However, that was the difficulty for the Commission: to develop that point and to make recommendations for action.
New religious and ideological communities and psychogroups are a social reality in Europe. They are regarded as an expression of a modern society in flux and of a pluralistic lifestyle. New religious and ideological communities and psychogroups are just one manifestation of this development.
The reports of European national parliaments and the outcome of the hearings of the Enquete Commission have shown that the problems resulting from this phenomenon are similar within Europe. The scene does not vary a great deal from country to country; it merely displays one or two local features. The phenomenon has proved to be quantitatively and qualitatively difficult to evaluate.
All the experts agree that, in terms of quantity, new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups or new religious movements are a peripheral phenomenon in every country. Very few groups have an effective global or international organisation with structures in accordance. Not all internationally or globally operating groups are conflict-prone by any means, or at least not to the same extent. It should be noted that some of the groups are at an intermediate stage between stable institutionalisation and forms of informal organisation, so in most cases they are at the least socially tolerated, or actually accepted, integrated and inconspicuous. Official data and statistics from the European countries are not available. But data and figures on followers or members of groups are available, however, for the Federal Republic of Germany 243 ) from representative empirical studies, and for Austria from the Central Office of Statistics (Austria: 3.5 percent are said to be followers of groups which are not public-law corporations). 244 ) In Italy, it is estimated that about 1.2 percent of the population 245 ) are followers of so-called new religious movements. The other figures quoted elsewhere for Germany, as well as for Europe, are largely based on estimates. They put the number of members/followers in the vast majority of cases in a range of up to 2 percent of the population. This applies to a large number of otherwise unspecified groups.
Information on the number of groups in existence differs greatly, a function of the differing understanding of what sort of groups come under the category under review. For the Netherlands, the number of active groups is estimated to be about 2,000. 246 ) According to the French report, 170 sects were counted in France in 1995. For the United Kingdom, the INFORM 247 ) data base gives over 2,500 movements.
From the experts' opening statements at the Enquete Commission's hearings, it was clear that in their respective countries the situation regarding the manifestation of, and social response to, the phenomenon is influenced by specific individual and socio-cultural variables.
The participants were unanimous in the view that a changing socio-economic context brings with it a change in social and individual values. One form of its expression was the orientation of the individual within a new religious or ideological movement. Being able to live out such forms of expression was part of the democratic constitution of countries. The reorientation was not a sign of disinterest in religion or ideology as such.
An analysis of the available information shows a broad social consensus in Europe that the fundamental right to freedom of religion and conscience should not be subject to restriction. There is a feeling that Government should maintain a neutral religious and ideological stance. Of course, it was important to ensure that this fundamental right was not used as a cloak for the pursuit of other interests and objectives (economic, political or other). Evidently, therefore, while formal laws should not restrict religious freedom, they must come into play where the fundamental rights of the individual or protected legal interests were being violated. It was the duty of Government to protect its citizens in this regard.
Everyone had the right to practise his or her religion freely, as long as it did not conflict with the laws in force or offend against common decency.
Dr. Witteveen of the Netherlands raised a problem at another level, namely participation in social life through religion practice inevitably bringing contact with various areas of the legal order and thus perhaps unwittingly provoking conflicts and problems. It was easy to endorse restrictions on religious freedom through formal laws, e.g. no human sacrifices were to be made, or in the case of polygamous religious views. The problem was more difficult, he explained, when Muslims believe that animals could be slaughtered for religious reasons.
In Eastern Europe, the issue has acquired a particular relevance following the fall of Communism. We will take the situation in the Russian Federation as an example.
The Russian Constitution of 12 December 1993 addresses the subject of religion, religious associations and ideology 248 ) in Articles 13 (pluralism), 14 (equality of all religions), 19 (principle of equality), 28 (freedom of belief, conscience and religion) and 29 (freedom of expression, ban on censorship). Most of the fundamental freedoms are not subject to any special proviso, though all of them are subject to the general constitutional proviso of the non-violation of the rights of third parties (Article 17 ). 249 ) The Russian Parliament (Duma) passed a law in 1990 on religious freedom. The law was based on the assumption of the equal treatment of all religions and it established the ban on religious instruction in public schools. The law was based on the American model and an association of ten persons who designated themselves a religious organisation was sufficient for official registration as a religious organisation. There was no provision for refusing registration. In the amended version of 1997, the Russian Orthodox Church's special role as the traditional religion is emphasised and reference is made to the importance of Christianity as the traditional moral authority. Under the new law, Islam, Buddhism and Judaism are named alongside Christianity as traditional religious faiths. 250 ) Under the terms of the law, only organisations that have operated in Russia for at least 15 years may be registered as religious organisations (Article 9). All other religious communities are subject to restrictions.
Civil and criminal law
An international comparison shows that nowhere, at least not in the Western industrialised nations, is there specific civil or criminal legislation governing sects, but that complaints or actions brought by the public are dealt with by means of the usual instruments of statute law or the law as established by the courts.
Hence religious organisations which have no business interests are simply voluntary associations and not under any obligation to register. Large religious organisations are usually made up of a mixture of charitable foundations, voluntary associations and for- profit enterprises.
English and Scottish laws impose certain restrictions on the activities of some religious organisations regarding conducting funerals, registering buildings for religious purposes, conducting and registering marriages, registering births, and the religious welfare of prisoners in prison.
Notwithstanding the principle of no religion being allowed preferential treatment, there is a tendency in court rulings to interpret the term religion in such a way that preference is automatically given to the traditional Churches.
Other legal regulations concern the dissemination of religious messages: up until 1990, advertising by religious organisations on radio or television had been banned. After advertising was permitted in 1990 under a new law, the Scientologists in particular have made use of it.
The Italian expert explained that there was no specific legal framework in Italy restricting the activities of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups. Until 1981, however, Article 603 of the Italian Penal Code had dealt with the crime of "mental manipulation". This rule had been repealed in 1981 by the Italian constitutional court as it had been invoked mainly against charismatic Catholic priests and homosexuals. The reason given was that, because the provision had been drafted so vaguely, it could be invoked de facto against any unpopular minority, thus constituting a threat to democracy.
The Swiss expert explained that new religious and ideological
communities and psychogroups could invoke the right to religious freedom
under a "corporation complaint" (Korporationsbeschwerde), provided that
they were acting in the
Invocation of economic freedom, though, excluded the religious status of a corporation as predominant and entailed the loss of privileges enjoyed by religious communities.
The United States expert drew attention to the strict distinction in his country between freedom of religion and freedom of action. Any person able to show probable cause that his/her group constituted a religion could claim protection under the Constitution. The Federal Supreme Court had ruled in 1981 that the need to protect freedom of religion as laid down in the First Amendment to the Constitution did not require that the religious principles should be acceptable, logical, sensible or understandable to others.
Although the First Amendment to the Constitution favours religious individualism and to some extent encourages its political representation, 251 ) it must be said that American judicial rulings do not in fact follow blindly what in European eyes looks like a consistent tendency to grant exceptional privileges to minority and marginal religions, and that historical changes are observable. 252 )
A paper from the Scientific Research Unit of the German Bundestag holds to the view that, even at the legal level, conditions in the United States are, all in all, much further removed from a system of radical separation of Church and Government than is generally assumed.
Dr. Krippas added that in all modern legal systems deceitful, misleading or malicious acts were contrary to the existing laws.
The European Court of Justice had also handed down a ruling on the Greek provision. The Court had had to deal with the appeal of a Jehovah's witness accused of proselytising. The plaintiff had disputed the judgement of the Greek court of appeal on the grounds that the above-mentioned provision was not consistent with Article 9 (and other articles) of the European Convention of Human Rights. While not questioning the legality of the Greek law in this specific case (Kokkinakis vs. Greece), the European Court ruled that the judgement violated Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The Greek Government was ordered to pay compensation. 254 )
In all Western countries, we find examples of conflicts leading to litigation in courts between new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups on the one hand and Government, the business community and society on the other. This applies in particular to Scientology. However, there is no systematic analysis of the misconduct of these groups as collective entities or of the misconduct of individual members; i.e. there is no typology of wrong-doing.
According to Prof. Dr. Kerner, however, such a typology is needed in order to arrive at a classification of the options for reactions and sanctions under the law, and dogmatically convincing legal solutions for the Federal Republic of Germany.
An initial approximation to such a typology might be based on the following criteria:
Professor Dr. Beckford explained that in Great Britain legal disputes had arisen mainly with the Scientology Organisation in connection with their recognition as a charitable organisation and in connection with television promotions.
The Church of Scientology had been denied charitable status in 1979 on the grounds that it was not a true religion but a "philosophy of human existence". In 1996, the Scientologists had again applied for recognition as a charitable organisation.
An attempt to deprive the Unification Church of its charitable status had failed in 1983, as had an attempt in 1981 in the case of a Christian sect accused of destroying families. The Charity Commissioner can bring charges against a charitable institution if the charitable aims are no longer met or if proper bookkeeping cannot be presented. However, the decision to deprive an organisation of its charitable status is a matter for the High Court only.
Other disputes involved accusations of defamation, disregard of employment laws and the granting of building permission. These cases concerned a very small number of religious groups and have all been settled. Scientology failed in 1980 to obtain exemption from the employers' contribution.
Professor Beckford said that he was not aware of any conflicts relating to the involvement of German nationals in new religious movements.
The Italian expert drew attention to the following case types which were cause for legal intervention. Violations of consumer rights: the consumer of spiritual goods was entitled to no less protection than the consumer of chocolate or wine. These were more often matters for commercial and civil law than for criminal law.
In cases of use of physical pressure or threats, abuse of minors or the mentally vulnerable and instigation to crime or suicide, it was necessary to apply the relevant penal provisions.
Disputes within the field of criminal law were reported from Switzerland.
Offences against property: there had been convictions of individuals on account of usury and deception in connection with their involvement with sects.
Offences against freedom: extortion and coercion were recurring themes; one conviction (extortion through black magic rituals) was reported and one acquittal (faith healing).
In the case of unlawful detention and abduction, the locus delicti was mostly suspected of being abroad (especially the United States). The Swiss Federal Council had had to answer an enquiry in this regard in 1988.
Sexual offences and offences against life and limb: one conviction was reported for a sexual offence; no case of personal injury resulting from psychotechniques had been reported by a criminal court in Switzerland.
Charges had been brought where, for example, life and health had been endangered when other medical care had been forgone in favour of faith healing.
In the case of instigation to collective suicide, surviving sect leaders were exempt from punishment under the prevailing law if they themselves had taken part.
It was emphasised that, generally speaking, successful criminal prosecutions were rare.
The expert from the United States reported on a huge number of conflicts in different fields of activity and legal spheres: recruitment, brainwashing, manipulative therapies, parental custody, drug use, tax evasion, fraud, employment laws, abuse of social benefits, immigration laws.
The impression was that actual problem pressure tends to be created by the United States' historical "lead" and its size (it can be regarded as the exporter of at least 90 percent of these groups) and the large number of cases which can be reported (for this and other reasons).
The second problem regarding the wealth of available conflict material is also a qualitative one and relates not least to the aggressiveness with which conflicts are tackled and pursued. On the one hand, there is the deprogramming phenomenon, which plays hardly any part at all in Europe, and on the other the violent suppression of conflict as in the case of the Branch Davidians and some precursors. No explanation was given for the ferocity of the counter-reaction in this liberal country.
There was general agreement that some of the new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups in the countries belonged to international networks. According to the experts, globalisation was as much a religious and cultural phenomenon as an economic and political one. The American expert believed that religious communities, like international firms, make use of the advantages of globalisation and shrinking distances to build complex organisational networks in many countries, including countries with intact banking secrecy or tax havens.
He said that -- although it was possible that in some groups religious swindling was used for fund-raising -- he could find no clear-cut evidence of illegal machinations in financial transactions.
There were serious problems for individuals in child custody cases where groups had established branches abroad.
In general terms, Rev. Gandow drew attention to three aspects: the transfer of activities to other countries, influences from abroad on Germany, the invasion of religions, cults and various groups into Central and Eastern Europe. The reasons for this were, he believed, the unstable social situation, the relative weakness of traditional institutions as a result of the Socialist past, and the relative strength of the spiritual "intruders".
Perceptions of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups depend on a host of socio-cultural and other factors (e.g. society's assessment of the potential threat, specific legal disputes, etc). We would only refer at this point to the divergent legal evolution of religious freedom in the United States and Europe. Even within Europe, perceptions vary with the region and the social class involved. Differences can be observed between Western Europe and the new democracies in Eastern Europe in terms of society's perception of the prevailing economic, political and social situation.
The emergence of a wide variety of new religious or ideological communities and psychogroups reflects a phenomenon that is also beginning to emerge in other fields in the industrialised nations of Western Europe.
This is due to individualisation tendencies and the fact that people are once again guided by standards and values. The emergence of these groups -- as an expression of social pluralism -- should, according to the experts, be seen as a social fact and not in itself as a cause for concern for the time being. Government should exercise passive tolerance. This was also reflected in the fact that the first information and educational activities had come not from Government but from the Churches and from citizen action groups involving parents and other affected individuals. What was more, they were the ones who had placed the problems and conflicts surrounding new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups in the political arena. The ideological struggle between the "anti-cult groups" and the new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups had intensified. This struggle was not only being waged at the ideological level but quite often in the courts too. Parliamentary reports and the statements of experts showed that existing laws were, as a rule, adequate to solving the problems within the sphere of criminal and civil law without clashing with religious and ideological freedoms. The judgements passed in Italy, France and the Federal Republic of Germany in recent years were also testimony to this. That did not, according to the experts, mean that the freedom offered by democratic countries was not exploited by groups to create a regime of repression. Religious and ideological neutrality on the part of Government therefore did not mean, they concluded, that societal evolution and its associated conflicts were ignored -- at whatever level -- or that the concerns and appeals of the public were not taken seriously. However, the problem enjoyed varying degrees of attention in the different countries.
The expert gave the following account of public opinion:
There were several organisations in Great Britain which tried to influence public debate on new religious movements. Of these, however, only two (INFORM and FAIR) had sufficient funds and credibility to do so successfully.
In summary, it could be said that very few people were really worried by the new religious movements and even fewer regarded them as a serious threat.
Official fears were outweighed by the need for freedom, pluralism and tolerance.
Professor Dr. Dvorkin said that the upheavals in Russia after the fall of the Iron Curtain had encouraged the spread of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups and their scope for action. By apparent contrast with other Western European countries, the groups had immediately attempted to penetrate the echelons of power -- though similar endeavours seemed to be going on in Great Britain too. The difficult economic situation and widespread poverty in the Russian Federation had made it easy for rich cults to "buy their way upwards". Promoters had often entered the country with a tourist visa. The result of this situation was a sharp increase in the number of members or followers. 255 )
The expert from the United States, Prof. Dr. Passas, said it was paradoxical in view of the First Amendment that the social controversy and conflicts surrounding the new religious movements were conducted with so much more ferocity in the United States than in other industrialised nations.
He believed that both the "anti-sect movement" and Scientology had adopted a strategy of bleeding the opponent by overwhelming them with legal proceedings and driving them to bankruptcy. The areas in which the worst conflicts had arisen had all gone to court.
In the various European countries, many private and Church counselling and information centres have been set up to deal with the conflicts and problems arising from membership in the groups under review. Counselling work in this area is largely undertaken by voluntary helpers or by former members of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups. Private initiatives seem generally to be in serious financial straits.
Ms MacKenzie of Great Britain reported that the counselling situation generally in Great Britain could be called catastrophic. Initiatives received no financial support either from government or from the regions and cities. INFORM (Information Network Focus on Religious Movements), whose chairman was Eileen Barker, had been set up in 1988. The organisation's main aim was to provide a service to the public by offering as objective, balanced and up-to-date information as possible on new religious movements. To that end, INFORM organised conferences, kept a data base, answered telephone enquiries and prepared brochures on the potential threats of some groups. INFORM also advised the Metropolitan Police.
At the time of the Conservative government under Prime Minister Thatcher, INFORM had been financed through two three-year loans from the Home Office, the sale of its own publications and funds from religious organisations and charitable foundations. It was itself recognised as a charitable organisation and was constituted as a limited liability company. INFORM had a staff of three permanent employees and a large number of volunteers. Since 1997 the work of INFORM had received financial support in the form of annual grants (£ 2,000) from the Home Office.
FAIR (Family Action Information and Rescue) was set up in 1976 at the initiative of Paul Rose, a former Labour MP, and concerned relatives of members of the Unification Church. Today, it was a voluntary association of parents, former sect members, doctors, Church members and other concerned people who dealt with the problem of sect and cult membership, not from an academic or doctrinaire point of view, but on grounds of human rights and social responsibility (own description). FAIR was not registered as a charitable organisation, it rarely had enough funds to take on staff, accepted evidence only from persons critical of sects and operated above all with the witness statements of hundreds of disappointed former members of religious movements and their relatives.
Professor Dr. Dvorkin said that an "anti-cult movement" had emerged in Russia fairly late on. It had been initiated by concerned parents and the Russian Orthodox Church. He gave no information about the quantity and quality of counselling.
Dr. Valentin reported that in Austria the archdiocese of Vienna had set up a sect unit as long ago as 1952 to keep an eye on the scene. Furthermore, parent initiatives had been in existence for 20 years. Generally speaking, the sect and psychogroup scene was not all that different from the one in the Federal Republic of Germany. At government level, the policy was to inform and educate through brochures. The Austrian Minister for the Family had proposed that the family counselling centres should be equipped to deal with the sect issue.
Consideration was being given to setting up one counselling centre per federal state. In parallel, a project had already been launched, whereby in each federal state a school psychologist was given special responsibility for counselling. As for legislation, a draft bill regulating the status of the religious community was currently under appraisal. It envisaged that a group of 100 persons who did not belong to any other religious community, could apply for this status.
Recognition could be granted after a probationary period of 15 years and corporate status granted. If, after this period of time, membership made up 0.2 percent of the population, the granting of corporate status could be considered. Otherwise, the Austrian Government put its faith in information and education. There was no dialogue with the groups.
Prof. Dr. del Pozo Alvarez reported on the poor financial situation of Spain's counselling and information centres. In any case, there were only 10 such centres throughout Spain. He could not therefore report anything positive about the present situation.
In 1996 the parliamentary committee of enquiry of the Belgian House of Representatives published its conclusions. The aim was to "draw up a policy to combat the illegal practices of sects and the danger they represent to society and individuals, especially minors". 256 ) Before the committee of enquiry was set up there had been no "real policy on this matter" 257 ) in Belgium, with the exception of the mandate of the National Security Service (Suret' de l'Etat) "to collect, analyse and process information on all activities which endangered or could endanger the internal security of the country and the maintenance of the democratic system". 258 )
The committee found that there was only fragmentary knowledge on the quantitative dimension. Crimes committed in the context of sect activities had only recently been registered, but not necessarily systematically recorded. For example, drug-related crimes were not registered under sect activities even if there was a connection. The committee also found that the police authorities did not have the necessary selection, identification and information instruments to enable them to react quickly. The shortage of manpower and material resources had forced the authorities to prioritise. The financial and social authorities in particular did not appear to be sensitised to the sect problem. Convictions had been brought only on grounds of personal misconduct but not on grounds of membership of a given organisation. Few sects had attempted as yet to exercise direct influence on political parties. In this connection, the committee drew particular attention to the possibility of indirect influence being exercised by the Scientology Organisation.
The committee of enquiry found in its conclusions that the existing set of legal instruments was by and large sufficient to "combat the harmful policy of sect organisations". 259 ) In concrete terms, it proposes that a new provision be included in the penal code making exploitation of a person's weak position and active incitement to commit suicide an offence. The committee also suggested that the competent authorities should be better sensitised to the issues involved and co-ordination between them improved, that international co-operation should be intensified and public information, especially addressed to young people, stepped up. The committee also proposes the setting up of an office to observe the further developments and activities of sects.
We will not go into any details with regard to the Vivien report published in France in 1995.
The 1995 French report states that sects represent threats which the Government must address. It must do so by applying rigorously the existing legal instruments to punish unlawful acts, including acts committed by sects. The judiciary should be sensitised to this issue and informed about the dangerous nature of these dubious groups. Moreover, education was necessary in all spheres. The report takes an ethical approach to the question of what a sect is.
A movement which portrays itself as religious is considered to be a sect where one or more of ten criteria are met, e.g. "mental destabilisation" of members or attempts to infiltrate public institutions. 260 ) The term is applied to any group that represents a presumed or actual threat to the individual and society. The report also contains a list of "sects" compiled by the security services according to the supposed threat represented by them.
The report found that sects undoubtedly posed considerable threats, in the face of which Government could not stand aside and remain passive. Article 2 of the French Constitution guarantees religious freedom, and therefore every measure must be carefully considered before being implemented. The existing body of law offers a number of options for punishing unlawful acts committed by sects.
Special legislation regarding sects should therefore be rejected. Alongside better information on sects for the judiciary and the public and the rigorous application of the existing body of law, the report proposes an interministerial observation unit with direct access to the Prime Minister.
The report is strongly critical of the ideological system of Scientology, finding fault in particular with its rigid friend-or-foe approach and the way it handles its critics both inside and outside the organisation. Dianetics as a psychotherapy also comes in for criticism, since it was not open for discussion in accordance with normal scientific practice.
The report concluded that Scientology was socially harmful, that its methods represented a serious threat to health and that there was evidence of child indoctrination. However, the report also found that there was no possibility in Great Britain of banning Scientology's practices. Following the report, the British Government tried to restrict the right to enter the country, not only for leading members of the Scientology Organisation. The restrictions were lifted in 1980. Netherlands The 1984 Dutch report 261 ) takes a completely different line. The Dutch Committee was primarily interested, not in coming out in favour of or against a particular group, but gaining insights into the activities of these groups in order to judge whether or not the Government might be required to act.
Which movements were to be covered by the study was not publicised. Every accessible source of information was accessed for the purposes of the report.
Moreover the groups which were covered by the study were involved in the work, orally and in writing.
The Dutch report found, in summary, that the groups studied did not represent any real threat to public mental health. Even the claim that new religious movements used coercion to recruit new members had not been substantiated by the study. They found that there was no need to introduce special protection measures, and therefore that no special legal measures were required. The findings gave no cause whatsoever to recommend an extension of the legal options for the dissolution of legal persons, i.e. dissolving movements which had the status of a "religious community". The aim of the study had also been to facilitate an evaluation of government policy towards new religious movements. But the study should not be over-estimated since it was a snapshot -- p particularly with regard to the description of groups -- which could be overtaken by new developments, both positive and negative.
The Spanish report, published in 1989, concentrates on the question of whether current Spanish legislation offers an adequate response to sect-related problems. Methodologically, the report takes a three-pronged approach: (1) analysis of documents (e.g. European reports, documentation on Spanish legislation in the area of secular and religious associations, education, youth, penal code and religious education, directory of religious associations listed in the register of the Ministry of Justice, petitions, as well as offences and complaints reported to police), (2) hearings (e.g. members of the working group "Associations and Individual Freedom", the head of the inland revenue department of the Finance Ministry, the ombudsman) and (3) the internal debate among members of the parliamentary parties.
The Committee explicitly stated that its task was not to "appraise persons and sects", 262 ) nor was it under any obligation to draw up a precise catalogue or list of sects. Generally, the report concluded that Spanish legislation was sufficient to deal with infringements of the law committed in actual or only apparent connection with so-called sects or psychogroups. That applied both in the regulation of constitutional rights and in terms of civil and criminal law. In administrative terms, the Commission saw inadequacies only in regard to the tendency of groups to obtain tax concessions by pretending to be charitable non-profit organisations.
The Commission therefore proposed, inter alia, the resolute application of existing laws, stepping up the exchange of information, processing information and conducting education campaigns in the educational and cultural spheres. It also recommended the conclusion of an international convention on child abduction with a view to "facilitating the exchange of information and immediate return of children who had been taken unlawfully out of the country and, similarly, the exchange of information on the whereabouts of children taken out of the country". 263 )
In 1984, the European Parliament published a report "on the activities of certain "new religious movements" within the European Community" 264 ) (Cottrell report).
(The was a revised version from 1983). The core of this report is a rough summary of accusations against new religious movements. 265 ) The 1984 revised version found that existing legal provisions in Member States were largely adequate. The report concluded that was required was co-existence based on equal rights and the social integration of groups which had become a feature of the social landscape. The report proposed a number of "voluntary guidelines" which groups should observe, such as the right of prospective members to sufficient time for reflection before joining up, respect for the rights of the child, the right to maintain social contracts outside the group.
In February 1996, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on "Sects in Europe". 266 ) In it the European Parliament, referring to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of 4 November 1950, the Treaty of the European Union, especially Article F (2), Article K.1 para. 2, 5, 6, 7, 9 and Article K.3, and to the resolution on a charter of the rights of the child of 8 July 1992, called on Member States to work together more closely in this field, exchange information, desist from automatically conferring the status of a religious community, and examine whether national legislation was sufficient to deal with unlawful acts committed by such groups. The resolution called upon the European Council "to appraise, propose and introduce all measures (...) to curb and control illegal activities of sects in the Union", 267 ) and further, to prevent such groups from enjoying Community aid and to promote co-operation between the Member States and third countries with a view to "locating missing persons and facilitating and promoting their re-integration into society". 268 ) In this resolution, the Parliament charged its Committee for Fundamental Freedoms and Internal Affairs to propose to the relevant committees of the national parliaments that they should hold a joint session on the issue and that their conclusions should be submitted to the plenary.
This joint session was held on 21 November 1996. The results were made available in September 1997. The draft report 269 ) of this session expresses regret that neither the Council nor the Commission had taken up the recommendations made in the resolution and that no further steps had been taken. The report also found that the number of sects in Central and Eastern European countries was growing and the governmental authorities there were unable to cope with what for them was a new problem. 270 ) The rapporteur was however unable to furnish any empirical evidence for this claim.
The 1997 report of the European Parliament found that the use of the term "sects" led to uncertainty and discrepancies. 271 ) In keeping with the text of the European Parliament resolution of February 1996, the 1997 draft report used the word "sects" after stating that the term was not meant in a discriminating sense in the resolution and that the same applied to the draft report.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in its Recommendation 1178 of 1992, also addressed the subject of sects and new religious movements. 272 ) In this Recommendation, the Assembly proposed that greater efforts should be made to provide information about established religions and the phenomenon of sects in the educational sector and that groups with corporate status should be registered; it also called upon all countries which had not yet done so to sign the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Moreover, the Recommendation postulated that child protection within sects should be strengthened and that efforts should be made to ensure compliance with the rights to protection of persons employed by sects. The Council of Europe's Sub-Committee on Human Rights held a hearing in Paris in April 1997 on sects in Europe in order to determine the status of measures at European level. 273 ) In its conclusions, the participants in the hearing once again drew attention to difficulty in the use of terminology, which also led to problems with court rulings.
The Sub-Committee pointed out that universally applying criteria for assessing conflict potential should be developed. Governments should remain neutral, but they should also take appropriate action against infringements of the law or violations of human dignity. Furthermore, criteria should be developed to define what manipulation was and how it could be verified. 274 )
In terms of their methodology, the manner of dealing with the parties heard, the definition of the subject of enquiry (sects) and the conclusions drawn in respect of governmental action, the reports are coloured by the cultural and legal peculiarities of each country.
Quantitative and qualitative dimension
The common conclusion of the reports is that both the quantitative and the qualitative dimensions of the phenomenon are difficult to assess. Most of them find that the existing laws are largely sufficient -- with minor additions -- to dealing with the problems that arise in connection with new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups.
The reports explicitly rule out passing judgement on the doctrines of groups on the basis of the articles of a country's constitution which guarantee freedom of religion and conscience.
Violations of laws
The interests of citizens could be harmed under certain circumstances. The question of whether Government should take counter-action in such cases is answered in different ways. Court rulings in recent years have clearly shown that there are cases of criminal offences being committed in that milieu (fraud, forgery, personal injury, abuse, unlawful detention). The reports have also shown that in no country are criminal acts systematically recorded in connection with membership of a group. In considering the above question, the Government is caught between the fundamental right to religious freedom and freedom of conscience on the one hand and concrete social situations on the other. The European countries consider a reaction to the phenomenon essential, but in a non-discriminatory form. Special "anti-sect legislation" was rejected in the parliamentary reports, by participants of the International Forum and by the experts attending the hearings. The available legal instruments are, by and large, considered sufficient to deal with the problem.
The parliamentary reports and expert hearings make plain the difficulty of establishing a clear-cut scientific definition of the object of enquiry (sects).
The Belgian report, for example, does not define "sects" at all. But a list of the organisations mentioned in the report is appended to it. The Dutch report draws attention to the difficulties the Commission had with the term. Since the term has a strongly negative connotation in the Netherlands, it was not used. The term "cult" did not seem appropriate to their work either. Because of these terminology problems the term "new religious movements" had been used. By contrast, the French report draws up a detailed catalogue of criteria by which groups may be classified as "sects": "mental destabilisation, excessively high financial demands, break with one's traditional environment, impaired health, integration of children into the organisation, anti-social talk, public order offences, conflicts with the law, infiltration of economic systems, infiltration of governmental bodies". 275 ) The Spanish report uses the term "sects" despite the negative connotations it has in Spain too. The reason given is that the term had fairly wide currency in Spain.
The European reports considered deal essentially with the phenomenon of "so- called sects". Only the Belgian report considers the "therapeutics" on two of its pages. The area of "psychogroups" laid down in the mandate of the German Enquete Commission is not considered by the other reports. Moreover, it would seem that the term "psychogroup" used in German is not familiar in this sense in international usage. The Canadian expert at the International Forum drew attention to the fact that the English-speaking world tended to use the term "therapeutic group" or -- to come closer to the German term -- "pseudotherapeutic group".
The participants at the International Forum also stressed that there
were substantial problems with the definition of the term. It was not
defined in the hearing, and participants continued to use the definition
borrowed from common
The international experts also used different definitions. In the English-speaking scientific world, the term "new religious movement" has gained currency and is also used by some of the European experts. Others continue to use terms such as "sect" or "cult".
We can only partly tell from the information available how far the recommendations made by the various European commissions have been translated into legal and daily practice.
The recommendation of the Foster Report ("Enquiry into the Practice and Effects of Scientology", 1971) to consider laws regulating psychologically oriented medicine has not yet led to the adoption of corresponding legislation.
According to the Dutch expert, the legislature in the Netherlands did not consider that the findings of the report gave occasion for action, with respect either to legal measures or to public health and child welfare. Little regard was paid to the subject in current debate. Though sects were still poorly regarded, politicians were under little pressure to tighten existing regulations. The Dutch public reacted to this phenomenon like the public of other countries: with scepticism and concern. The Dutch position could be summed up as follows: sects were not above the law; they had the scope to which they were entitled as an expression of intellectual freedom; it had been decided not to stigmatise these groups by passing special legislation. Nevertheless, the Dutch felt that vigilance was required, particularly in light of its climate of tolerance.
According to Prof. Dr. del Pozo Alvarez, the Spanish reports had found little resonance in political circles. He had found the political response rather general and evasive. In parliament there had been few initiatives towards implementing the recommendations. In the provinces, for example, a few police officers had been specially trained to deal with these problems. In particular, advanced training courses had been organised for judges to enable them to go in greater depth on the rights of the child where so-called sects had some involvement.
Suggestions to the effect that educational institutions and research should be more closely involved had only played a secondary role in the past.
According to information from the German embassy in Brussels, the Belgian report had helped to heighten awareness of the phenomenon among the public and in governmental bodies. The observation unit called for by the Commission of Enquiry had meanwhile been set up. The Commission had no intention either consciously or unconsciously of making a link between dangerous associations and simply "normal" unconventional conduct. "It has never been the intention of the Commission to lay down behavioural norms or act as the upholder of moral values." 276 ) It remained to be seen what long-term effects the report would have.
Nothing is currently known about the implementation of the recommendations contained in the French report, except that the interministerial observation unit (Observatoire interminist'riel) was set up under the auspices of the Prime Minister's office on 12 September 1996, consisting of 12 members (senators, psychiatrists, local authority representatives, educational experts, representatives of family associations, etc.).
The expert on criminal law said that the first step should be to consider whether provisions in other countries had succeeded in formulating elements of offences in the field of foreign trade law, exchange control regulations and fiscal law in such a way that, for example, money laundering legislation was more effective than in Germany. In principle, this would then also cover any new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups that showed such conduct.
Appraisal of national criminal law with international relevance International criminal law (international law, Act on International Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters) currently had nothing to offer on "sect-related matters"; that just left internationally relevant national criminal law which was laid down in Sections 4-7 of the German Penal Code. The following might be of interest: "Acts committed abroad against domestic legal interests" (Section 5), "Acts committed abroad against internationally protected legal interests" (Section 6). It was worth debating, for example, whether subsidy fraud (Section 6 (8)) could not be applied to other forms of financial exploitation as well or to criminal acts such as the sexual abuse of children. There was a need for a systematic review in this regard.
Existing international co-operation
The experts and parliamentary reports all agreed that the phenomenon of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups was a global problem requiring global solutions. The European Parliament "calls upon the Council to examine, propose and introduce all measures following from the effective application of the instruments foreseen under title VI of the European Union Treaty (Maastricht Treaty) and the existing legal provisions of the Community to control and combat the illegal activities of sects in the Union; (it) calls upon the Council to promote co-operation among the Member States and third countries with a view to locating missing persons and facilitating their re- integration into society". 277 )
The President of the European Commission, Jacques Santer, pointed out in a letter to the Enquete Commission, however, that the work of the German Commission did not fall within the competence of the Community; instead, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, it was within the competence of Member States. The draft report on "Sects in the European Union" states that "neither the Council nor the European Commission has taken up the recommendations", 278 ) nor had any concrete steps been taken. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in its Recommendation 1178, 279 ) also called for international co-operation.
There is no international political co-operation in this field at the present time.
Although hearings take place at regular intervals at national and international parliamentary level, no common line of approach seems to have emerged. Individual countries are coping with the phenomenon largely in isolation. On 11/12 December 1997, Franco-German talks were held in Paris to exchange information on the subject of "new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups". The meeting resulted in a decision to continue the bilateral exchange and intensify contacts at the working level.
Recommendations for international co-operation
Numerous bodies have called for international co-operation, but so far there has been little in the way of practical implementation.
According to Prof. Dr. Passas, the framework within which action had been and could be taken to date, is such that de facto there is organisational and economic globalisation, while de jure there are only national authorities to deal nationally with the problems that arise. In principle, this situation applied to all such actors. But the imbalance created opportunities for crime.
In the problem area under review (new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups), there was, for example, not even any internationally recognised standard for determining which forms should be recognised as religious practices and be granted privileges accordingly.
He called for the creation of bodies endowed with powers of standardisation or, at least, the possibility of formulating and establishing standardisation interests.
That pre-supposed readiness to cede national sovereign powers to international organisations, greater readiness to accept the costs involved and education regarding existing risks.
Objective studies on the harm caused by certain patterns of behaviour would be required to bring this message home to the public.
In the past, international legal action had often been ad hoc and based on personal friendships across borders.
The Enquete Commission found that the international exchange of information and cross-border co-operation on problems associated with new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups are still rudimentary. Contacts between government authorities in different countries are the exception rather than the rule. Precisely because of attempts by certain groups (e.g. Moon movement, Scientology) to maintain a global presence and the appearance of problematic groups in a number of countries (e.g. Sun Templers, Aum Shinrikyo) a better exchange of information would seem not just useful, but highly desirable. The Enquete Commission is convinced that the effectiveness of government measures could be considerably improved, both in the field of information and in cases of infringements of the law, by the cross-border exchange of information and co-ordinated joint action.
In addition, the Enquete Commission considers it important that the international debate should become more objective and not be dominated by one question, namely whether certain groups should or should not be able to claim religious freedom. As in the case of consumer protection, the aim should be to debate the risks and dangers of certain practices and ideologies and to ensure that government authorities protect the interests of the vulnerable, while at the same time protecting religious or ideological liberties.
The Enquete Commission also feels that it is important that as part of their international contacts, especially with foreign partner organisations, the political parties, trade unions, business and industrial associations, Churches and other associations should discuss the questions and problems related to new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups.
Consideration of the international links of the various controversial groups is an important aspect of the Enquete Commission's work. In the overall context, another aspect to explore is how far new religious or ideological communities and psychogroups originating abroad are active in Germany. Not all of them have the same internationally established, interwoven operational structures. Some of the conflict-prone groups of Asian origin (Ananda Marga, ISKCON, TM, Unification Church, etc.) or American origin (especially Scientology) have a global presence, others are limited to certain regions, for example, the German-speaking world, i.e. Germany, Austria, Switzerland (Fiat Lux, VPM, etc).
Alongside the Unification Church of San Myung Moon, the most
controversial and globally active organisation is Scientology with its
headquarters in the United States. The founder of the Scientology
Organisation, L. Ron Hubbard,
And since Scientology's instructions are globally binding, they apply in full to the Federal Republic of Germany.
Since the German authorities and the German Bundestag have been taking a closer look at the accusations levelled against Scientology, the Scientology Organisation has been trying to combat criticism in Germany by building international pressure. The Scientology Organisation deploys material resources more than any other group, in order to obstruct, and if possible eventually to put a stop to, critical information about Scientology in Germany, the organisation is using as its tool the assertion spread about in world opinion that Scientology and religions in general are being increasingly subjected to repression and persecution by the Government in Germany. According to the propaganda, the German Federal Government is an instrument of the established Churches and as such investigated every deviation from the religious norm and discriminated against people simply on grounds of their membership of a "minority religion".
The organisation has failed to submit verifiable facts, instead a list of unfounded assertions drawn up by themselves served as the "evidence". Since this action is unprecedented, we have decided to document below the international campaign of disinformation.
International bodies using the approach described above, Scientology made formal representations to international bodies such as the OSCE, the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance. It was repeatedly emphasised that individual members of Scientology had been "persecuted" or "discriminated against" solely on grounds of their membership of the organisation. Both the OSCE and the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner rejected these assertions after preliminary consideration.
Of the international bodies mentioned, only the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance reproduced in earlier reports the uninvestigated accusations of the Scientology Organisation. However, after a visit to the Federal Republic of Germany in 1997 and numerous meetings with, among others, the German Bundestag, the German Federal Government and state-level governments, the reporting changed. The findings now are that the German measures serve merely to protect citizens and Germany's liberal democracy.
The Scientology Organisation's assertions have been expressly dismissed as "childish".
Alongside these attempts to influence the position of international and supranational organisations, the Scientology Organisation launched a campaign in the United States to mobilise public opinion and influential circles in Congress and the administration against Germany's critical stance towards Scientology.
Again, the argument used was the assertion that German as well as American citizens were being discriminated against and had sustained lasting damage to their civil rights solely on account of their membership of a minority religion, and Scientology in particular. This argument took advantage of the fact that the constitutional situation regarding religious freedom on the one hand and the rights of private and public bodies on the other have a very different cultural and constitutional background in Germany and the United States, a fact which few people know or are aware of in either country. One aspect of this is the different interpretation of the role of government vis-à-vis its duty of care towards its citizens. The outcome of all this is that the campaign, which was -- and still is -- supported by professional lobbying in Congress, has had some degree of success.
The campaign reached its climax with the advertisements placed in the New York Times and the Washington Post by the Scientology Organisation in autumn 1994 and 1996, in which the Federal Republic of Germany was accused of treating members of the organisation like Nazi Germany had treated the Jews, right up to the Holocaust. Though these advertisements did not have the desired effect on the American public and brought fierce protests from Jewish organisations, they caused quite a stir and attracted media interest world wide.
The same goes for an open letter dated 9 January 1997 from 34 Hollywood celebrities to Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl which also draws parallels between the persecution of the Jews in the Third Reich and the alleged "persecution" of Scientologists in Germany. In the meantime, some of the signatories have distanced themselves from the letter.
As a result of intense professional lobbying of members of Congress and the State Department, Scientology has nevertheless managed on several occasions to get the Federal Republic of Germany criticised, at times very vehemently, by the United States on account of "religious discrimination" of Scientologists. For example, in 1997 a number of members of Congress tabled a resolution in the House of Representatives levelling serious accusations of religious and artistic discrimination against Germany. The procedure was rushed through, leaving the German ambassador to the United States no opportunity to answer the accusations before Members of the House. When it came to the vote on 9 November 1997, however, the full session of the House of Representatives rejected the resolution with a clear majority of 318 to 101.
A hearing of the Commission on Security and Co-operation in Europe held on 18 September 1997 under the chairmanship of Senator D'Amato was also the result of a colossal effort by the Scientology lobby. Although the subject was supposed to be religious freedom in Europe generally, the Commission considered the situation of Scientology in Germany almost to the exclusion of all else.
The hearing gave prominent Scientologists like John Travolta, Chick Corea and Isaac Hayes a platform from which to launch their accusations against the Federal Republic of Germany. A representative of the Christian Community of Cologne even appeared at the hearing to protest against alleged discrimination of his association by the German authorities. 280 ) The Cologne tax authorities had withdrawn the association's recognition as a charitable organisation. The Christian Community of Cologne pursued the case through the courts.
At the third OSCE implementation meeting in Warsaw on 13 November 1997, a member of the US delegation, David Little, criticised the German position on Scientology.
Although the US State Department has publicly distanced itself from the comparison between Nazi policy towards the Jews and the German measures against Scientology, the human rights report of the State Department in 1996 deplores alleged excessive action taken against Scientology solely on grounds of membership of the organisation. In this connection, Scientology initiated a demonstration in Berlin at which a woman dressed as the Statue of Liberty was constantly brought into view, as if to suggest that Germany was not allowing the freedoms which in the United States were taken for granted.
Neither the German authorities nor the Enquete Commission have allowed themselves in any way to be pressured by this campaign. The German government has protested with the utmost vigour against all the accusations raised by the American Congress and the US State Department in the course of this "concerted" campaign. The matter has also been discussed in direct talks between the foreign ministers of the two countries.
The Enquete Commission has constantly kept in view the foreign policy component both of its own work and of the German position on Scientology. After the onslaught of events in autumn 1997, the Commission decided to visit Washington in February 1998 to explain the German position on Scientology, to correct misconceptions and put across to American parliamentarians and the State Department a realistic picture of its own work. This seemed particularly important to correct misconceptions about alleged curtailments of religious freedom.
The Commission also wanted to take the opportunity of the visit to obtain information about the Scientology Organisation and to find out how the phenomenon of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups, especially Scientology, the potential conflicts and victims are dealt with by politicians and society in the United States.
A delegation of the Enquete Commission visited Washington from 23 to 27 February 1998. The delegation had meetings with members of Congress, officials from the State Department, members of the Helsinki Commission, representatives of Jewish organisations, representatives of religious minorities, lawyers, ex-members and relatives, parent groups and information initiatives.
At the meetings with politicians and State Department officials the political strategies of Scientology became clear. The organisation had set itself the target of influencing the German position on Scientology by lobbying in American political circles. It had tried to make alleged religious discrimination of Scientologists in Germany an issue in bilateral relations and thus through foreign policy bring about a change in its situation in Germany. In accordance with its maxim of finding the opponent's "ruin point" and using it against him, Scientology is trying to evoke Germany's crimes under National Socialism to discredit the country abroad. The existence of the Enquete Commission was misrepresented by Scientology to mean that religious minorities as a whole were being investigated and persecuted in Germany. Generally speaking, religious freedom in Germany so it was claimed -- was no longer allowed. For lobbying purposes, Scientology targeted the representatives of minorities in Congress in order to take advantage of their endeavours on behalf of minorities generally. Their arguments did not fall on deaf ears.
Scientology also managed to take advantage of Americans' historically
rooted concern with religious freedom as a whole. At almost all the
meetings with US government representatives the delegation encountered
concerns that individuals in Germany might be persecuted and excluded by
the Government on account of their religious affinity.
At the meetings with members of Congress and the State Department, it became evident that another aspect of Hubbard's doctrine on fighting the opponent was being strictly applied, namely to invent lies about the enemy when doing so seems helpful. The delegation was, for example, asked about alleged incidents which were demonstrably untrue or it came up against assumptions based on false accounts by the Scientologists. The delegation was able to make clear, for example, that the children of Scientologists had never been excluded from public schools; that Chick Corea was able to appear, and actually did appear in Germany, the same as any other artist; and that John Travolta's assertion that a boycott of his film "Phenomenon" had been called for was deliberate disinformation. In fact, the 1996 Hamburg Film Festival opened with "Phenomenon".
The delegation made clear that religious freedom in Germany was in no way called into question. They reported on their work and explained that the religious beliefs of individuals was not the Commission's subject, but that after receiving a large number of petitions from concerned citizens, the German Bundestag had decided to clarify the controversy that had arisen surrounding new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups. Their work was concerned with that clarification, not drawing up a black list.
The delegation repeatedly pointed out that Scientology was classified in Germany as a corporate group with a totalitarian orientation. For historical reasons, Germany was vigilant towards violations of personal liberties. It was particularly sensitive to all forms of totalitarianism. Furthermore, the Scientology Organisation was considered in the Federal Republic of Germany to be an extremist political movement, and that there was hard evidence to back that claim.
Since as a result of Scientology's deliberate information and disinformation policy there was some ignorance about Scientology's methods in Germany itself, the delegation explained that Scientology had never opted to go before the Federal Constitutional Court to have its alleged religious quality conclusively clarified, that Scientology had never brought charges on grounds of observation by the security services, and that it had withdrawn its action against Bavaria's measures in respect of public service employment.
Scientology was spreading disinformation even during the delegation's visit to Washington, claiming for example that a member of the Enquete Commission, Mrs Renate Rennebach MP, wanted to have Hubbard's teaching banned in Germany. The delegation was able to refute this claim in its discussions. Scientology's strategic response to the visit was to convene a conference to criticise the Enquete Commission, which was also attended by representatives of religious minorities. Scientology also tried to employ against the delegation the tactic prescribed by Hubbard of intimidating the opponent. A group of chanting Scientology demonstrators was waiting before and after each of the delegation's appointments with banners and cameras.
Having expressed their concerns about the protection of religious freedom in Germany based on Scientological representations, the members of Congress conceded that they knew nothing at all about the organisation's practices and structure. They were even unaware of the existence of the Rehabilitation Project Forces, called a penal camp by former Scientology members. It is impossible to tell when the American authorities will become interested again in the organisation, as they once were. 281 ) Nonetheless, both Members of the Congress and representatives of the State Department emphasised that the organisation was not well regarded in the United States and that they personally distanced themselves from it. However, they viewed the talks with the delegation of the Enquete Commission as a first step to improving knowledge about Scientology on the American side.
The delegation's partners in the talks reported that public perceptions of the Scientology Organisation had recently become more critical, in particular criticism in the media had become more strident. The rather hostile mood that had developed was a result of the discovery by the internal revenue service of incidents involving tax concessions, investigations into the death of Lisa McPherson and the CAN case, in the course of which Scientology had sued CAN to oblivion and eventually taken it over.
In meetings with lawyers, former members, relatives and information initiatives, the accusations against the Scientology Organisation, already familiar to the delegation from experience in Germany, were emphatically endorsed. Above all, it became clear that the Scientology Organisation is double-faced, especially in the United States: the light side, a socially adapted facade of Hollywood celebrities, glamour and wealth; and the dark side, a totalitarian structure internally, with exploitation of members and massive threats, persecution and intimidation of dissenters.
Hollywood celebrities play a special role in Scientology. Certain artists serve as promoters and are strategically deployed in the political arena. John Travolta, for example, was able to bring a charge of alleged discrimination against Germany not just in Congress, but in the White House too. The delegation's partners confirmed that the Scientology Organisation had long-term political plans. Its declared aim was "clear planet", meaning a world dominated by Scientology. In that world only Scientologists could govern and only Scientologists could enjoy civil rights. In order to achieve that goal, Scientologists attacked their critics without restraint or scruple, for the "ethics" of Scientology admitted no dissent. There was strong criticism of the practice of attacking critics and ex-members. Scientology was exploiting the American legal system in an endeavour to overwhelm its critics with an avalanche of deliberately engineered lawsuits to silence them with the threat of financial ruin; for in the United States, all litigants have to meet their own costs even if they win. There are not many lawyers in the United States who are prepared to work against the organisation for fear of the possible consequences. There was no government aid for the victims.
Nonetheless, there were a number of important lawsuits currently being fought against Scientology. They included the case surrounding the death of the scientologist Lisa McPherson, which had attracted a great deal of public attention, cases involving breaches of copyright by the organisation, the retrial sought by CAN on the grounds of the abuse of legal rights, and an action for damages during which the structure of Scientology's intertwined organisational units could be exposed. Experts believe that tax exemptions secured in the past would then have to be re-negotiated and might be withdrawn.
Scientology also uses defamation of its opponents, according to people who have been affected. Intimidation is attempted by spreading rumours in the opponents' immediate environment or among clients. To defend itself against criticism and counter-measures, Scientology is said to operate its own secret service, the "Office of Special Affairs" (OSA). One ex-member, himself a former "intelligence officer" for the OSA, reported that surveillance methods employed against opponents included monitoring telephone and credit cards, inspecting airline tickets and employing private detectives to collect information. This information was then kept in a file on the person concerned.
All in all, the Enquete Commission considered the visit a success. The delegation made plain that the Enquete Commission was not a "Scientology Commission", nor was it a commission of enquiry into the religious beliefs of German citizens. The Commission found that the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States were in full agreement in believing that nobody should be discriminated against on account of his/her religious affinity, and it made clear that there is no such discrimination in Germany.
It also became plain that the question of religious freedom is only one facet in bilateral relations and that the American partners in the discussions held both democracy in Germany and the German commitment to the defence of human rights throughout the world in high regard.
The approach to dealing with the phenomenon of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups is different in the two countries. This has to do with their different historical backgrounds and different interpretations of the role of Government. Preventive action by Government to protect the individual against dubious practices by a religious community was rejected by American government representatives. They nevertheless considered education to be the correct approach by Government and told the delegation that they felt encouraged and strengthened by the work of the Enquete Commission and German action against Scientology. Furthermore, the people that the delegation met in their talks in the United States quite clearly confirmed that Scientology was an organisation in pursuit of political goals.
232 ) Cf. European Parliament, Draft Report on Sects in Europe, Committee on Fundamental Freedoms and Internal Affairs, Raporteur Maria Berger, PE 223.630.
233 ) See the ruling of the Court of Appeal for Ontario, Canada: Regina vs. Church of Scientology et al., 1997, translated into German by the Bundessprachenamt. Factual position: In the seventies, according to the ruling, the Guardian Office of Scientology instructed Scientology members to infiltrate public authorities (Province of Ontario police and the Ministry of Justice in Ontario) considered by Scientology to be their enemies. These members were employed by the authorities, and they passed confidential files to Scientology in violation of their official oath. The members, as well as Scientology as the instigator, were found guilty of breach of trust. With this ruling, judgement was passed for the first time against Scientology as an organisation. Along the same lines, nine high-ranking Scientologists -- including Mary Sue Hubbard -- were convicted of theft and conspiracy against the government in 1979 in the United States. We would also mention the lawsuits in Japan concerning the activities of Aum-Shinrikyô, cf. also Schwarzenegger, Ch.: Über das Verhältnis von Religion, Sekten und Kriminalität, Eine Analyse der kriminologischen und strafrechtlichen Aspekte am Beispiel der japanischen Aum-Shinrikyô-Sekte, in: Sekten und Okkultismus, Kriminologische Aspekte, Reihe Kriminologie, 14m Schweizerische Arbeitsgruppe für Kriminologie, ed. Bauhofer, St./Bolle, Pierre-Henri/Dittmann,Volker, Chur/Zurich 1996; Kisala, R.J.: Reactions to Aum: The Revision of the Religious Corporation Law, in: Japanese Religions, Vol. 22 (1, 1997), pp. 60 -- 74.
234 ) In Japan and the United States, Soka Gakkai is accused of infringements of the law, violations of human rights and extreme right-wing tendencies. Most of the literature, however, is only in Japanese (but see: Tsurumi, Y.: An Unconventional Method for Killing America. Tokuura Shoten 1994, pp. 206ff.; see also the controversy between Soka Gakkai International and Nichiren Shoshu put on the Internet in English e.g. htta:// coyote, accessuv.com... and http://members. aol. com/nichiheret...)
235 ) Report of the Board of Enquiry into Scientology, Anderson, K.V., Q.C., State of Victoria, Australia 1965.
236 ) Hubbard Scientology Organisation in New Zealand and any Associated Scientology Organisation or Bodies in New Zealand, Report of the Commission of Inquiry, Wellington 1969.
237 ) Enquiry into the Practice and Effects of Scientology, Report by Sir John G. Foster, K.B.E., Q.C., M.P., Published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London 1971.
238 ) Onderzoek betreffende Sekten, Overheid en nieuwe religieuze bewegingen, Tobias A.M. Witteveen, Tweede Kamer der Staaten-Generaal, Vergaaderjaar 1983 -- 1984, Doc. 16635, 1984.
239 ) Sectas en Espaæa, Enquete Commission, Joan Manuel del Pozo Alvarez, III Legislatura, Madrid, 1989.
240 ) Les sectes en France, Assembl'e Nationale, No. 2468, Paris 1995.
241 ) Enqu†te Parlamentaire visant à 'laborer une politique en vue de lutter contre les pratiques ill'gales des sectes et le danger qu'elles repr'sentent pour les personnes, particuli›rement les mineurs d'âge, Chambre des Repr'sentants de Belgique, Session ordinaire 1996 -- 1997, Bruxelles 1997.
242 ) Sette religiose e nuovi movimenti magici in Italia, Ministero dell' Interno, Dipartimento della Publica Sicurezza, Rome 1998.
243 ) Cf. German Bundestag, Interim Report of the Enquete Commission on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups", Bundestag Doc. 13/8170, 1997, pp. 33ff.; see also Schmidtchen, G.: Sekten und Psychokultur, Freiburg, Basle, Vienna, 1987; ibid.: Wie weit ist der Weg nach Deutschland? Sozialpsychologie der Jugend in der postkommunistischen Welt, Part 2, on behalf of BMFSFJ, 1996; Fokom Institute: Neue religiöse Organisationen und Kultpraktiken, 1993.
244 ) Information from Dr. F. Valentin, adapted from Central Office of Statistics, Austria, at the "International Forum", organised by the German Bundestag, Enquete Commission on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups" on 22 September 1997.
245 ) Of this number about one-half are said to be followers of Jehovah's Witnesses. There could therefore be no question of an "invasion of sects", according to Prof. Dr. M. Introvigne.
246 ) Quoted from Dr. T. Witteveen, Netherlands, at "International Forum" organised by the German Bundestag, Enquete Commission on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups" on 22 September 1997.
247 ) INFORM = Information Network Focus on Religious Movements. Of the few movements that give rise to public concern, the following are mentioned: The Family with approx. 200, ISKCON with 600, the London Church of Christ with 1,500, the Unification Church with 350 and Scientology with approx. 1,000 active followers.
248 ) Constitution of the Russian Federation, 12 Dec. 1993, in: EuGRZ 1994, pp. 519 -- 533.
249 ) Cf. Schweisfurth, Th.: Die Verfassung Ruûlands vom 12. Dezember 1993. Entstehungsgeschichte und Grundzüge, in: EuGRZ 1994, p. 486.
250 ) Uncorrected copy of the "Federal Bill on the Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations" of the Russian Federation, made available by Prof. Dr. Dvorkin.
251 ) Cf. Zorn, J.: Cults and the Ideology of Individualism in First Amendment Discourse. In: Journal of Law and Religion 7 (1989), pp. 483 -- 530.
252 ) Cf. Way, F./ Burt, B.: Religious Marginality and the Free Exercise Clause. In: The American Political Science Review 77 (1983), pp. 652 -- 665, here p. 665 and Richardson, J.: Legal Status of Minority Religions in the United States, in: Social Compass 42 (2, 1995), here pp. 249 -- 260; see also the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act", recently declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court which in 1993, supported by President Clinton, was passed unanimously by the House of Representatives and with only three votes against by the Senate. In essence, this law provided that governmental authorities could restrict religious practices only if there were compelling reasons to do so, like national security or public health.
253 ) In the sense of importunate endeavours to convert people to a faith or ideology.
254 ) Cf. Richardson, J.: Minority Religions, Religious Freedom and the New Pan-European Political and Judicial Institutions, in: Journal of Church and State, Vol. 37, No. 1, 1995, p. 47.
255 ) According to Prof. Dr. Dvorkin's report to the International Forum on 22 September 1997, the groups active in Russia had divided up certain "markets" among themselves. The Scientologists concentrated on selling their administration technology and management courses. They had managed to get the former mayor of Perm to join the Scientology Organisation and have the Hubbard administration technology installed in the municipal authorities. However, the mayor had not been re-elected, upon which the Scientology experiment at the municipal authorities had come to an end as part of his team resigned with him. The Scientologists were also active in the health sector, for example with Narconon since 1990. The Hare Krishna groups built up their influence mainly in the food and pharmaceutical industries, Jehovah's Witnesses were particularly successful among workers and farmers. Apparently the Boston Church of Christ was successful in Russia's universities. The Unification Church concentrated primarily on education and was also trying to establish links with the army. According to Professor Dr. Dvorkin, all these groups had obtained logistical and man-power support in a wide range of fields. Nevertheless, some groups were already in decline. In many cases, they were not only being denied manpower support but permits, e.g. to apply cleansing run-down as a method of treatment, were being withdrawn. Some groups were apparently increasingly finding that their huge investments were not bearing fruit and were scaling down their investment as a consequence. One type of missionary work practised in Eastern European countries, in particular by the Unification Church, was to organise summer camps at which English courses were also offered.
256 ) Cf. 313/8 -- 95/96 Chambre des Repr'sentants de Belgique, Enqu†te Parlementaire visant à 'laborer une politique en vue de lutter contre les pratiques ill'gales des sectes et le danger qu'elles repr'sentent pour la societ' et pour les personnes, particuli›rement les mineurs d'âge, 1997.
257 ) Loc. cit., p. 209.
258 ) Loc. cit., p. 209.
259 ) Loc. cit., p. 220.
260 ) Cf. Les sectes en France, op. cit., p. 13.
261 ) Cf. Onderzoek betreffende Sekten, Overheid en nieuwe religieuze bewegingen, loc. cit.
262 ) Cf. Sectas en Espana, op. cit., p. 7.
263 ) Loc. cit., p. 13
264 ) Cf. European Parliament Records, 1984 -- 1985, Report on behalf of the Committee for Youth, Culture, Education, Information and Sport on the activities of certain new religious movements within the European Communities, Rapporteur Richard Cottrell, Document 1 -- 47/84, 1984.
265 ) Cf. Richardson, J./ van Driel, B.: New Religious Movements in Europe: Developments and Reactions, in: Shupe, Anson, Bromley, David G., Anti-cult movements in cross-cultural perspective, 1994.
266 ) Cf. European Parliament, Resolution on Sects in Europe, OJ C 078 of 18 March 1996, p. 31.
267 ) Loc. cit.
268 ) Loc. cit.
269 ) Cf. European Parliament, draft report on sects in the European Union, loc. cit.
270 ) Loc. cit., p. 16.
271 ) Loc. cit., p.9.
272 ) Cf. Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Forty-Third Ordinary Session, Recommendation 1178 (1992) on sects and new religious movements, 1992.
273 ) Cf. Council of Europe, Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Sub-Committee on Human Rights, Sects in Europe, Hearing held on 8 April 1997 in Paris (National Assembly), 1997.
274 ) Loc cit., p. 15.
275 ) Cf. Les sectes en France, loc. cit., p. 13.
276 ) 313/8 -- 95/96, Chambre des Repr'sentants de Belgique, loc. cit., p. 5.
277 ) Cf. European Parliament, Resolution on Sects in Europe, loc. cit., p. 32.
278 ) Cf. European Parliament, draft report on sects in the European Union, loc. cit., p. 15.
279 ) Loc. cit.
280 ) In the meantime, the Christian Community in Cologne has distanced itself from Scientology.
281 ) For example, the Federal Court of the United States of America for the District of Columbia in 1979 in case No. 78 -- 401: United States of America vs. Mary Sue Hubbard and others on account of various violations of laws (conspiracy, theft of public property, aiding and abetting, incitement, perverting the course of justice, making false statements before the investigating magistrate, interception of oral communication, breaking and entering, aiding and abetting and incitement). Mary Sue Hubbard, third wife of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, then head of the Scientology secret service Guardians Office, was condemned, among other things, to several years of imprisonment.