Scientology Sect Comes Under Fire in Germany

San Francisco Chronicle/October 13, 1994
New York Times / Bonn

Leading members of the German government and opposition parties have attacked the American based Scientology movement as a danger to democracy and have called on the next government to ban it.

Last spring, the interior ministers of the 16 German states called Scientology "an organization that combines elements of business crime and psychological terror against its own members with economic activities and sectarian traits, under the protective cover of a religious group."

But full page advertisements paid for by the British-based International Association of Scientologists that appeared in the New York Times and the Washington Post last month have sparked fresh anger against the movement.

The Scientology ads recounted the rise of militant right-wing violence against foreign asylum-seekers and immigrants in Germany since unification four years ago and said "fascism is on the rise again, condoned and encouraged by the German government."

Labor Minister Norbert Blum denounced the ads yesterday as a campaign of defamation against the government, which has condemned the attacks against foreigners and since 1992 has outlawed five neo-Nazi parties that it said inspired them.

"Scientology is not a church or a religious organization," Blum said. "Scientology is a machine for manipulating human beings."

On Tuesday, Renate Rennebach, a member of Parliament from the opposition Social Democratic Party, asserted that Scientology is not a religion but a conspiratorial movement with global political aims.

"At present Scientology is misusing international concern about right-wing radical attacks in the Federal Republic to cause serious damage to the reputation of the country abroad, with an advertising campaign in influential American newspapers," she said.

Rennebach, her party's spokesman on sects, said the news federal government that will be elected next Sunday should put the group under surveillance.

With an estimated two million members in Germany alone, Scientology has aroused considerable controversy since it first came here in 1970. Since then, at least six books have been published denouncing it for defrauding adherents of their savings, threatening opponents with violence and seeking to infiltrate companies and entire branches of commerce - such as commercial real estate - in major cities.

Ursula Cabertha, who heads a department of the Hamburg state Ministry of the Interior that is devoted exclusively to dealing with complaints about Scientology, supported Rennebach's call to outlaw the movement and said the Hamburg authorities would pursue legal action against it all the way to the German supreme court.

"Scientology is by far the most dangerous and the most wide-spread of these psycho-technical groups," she said.

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