Berlin, Germany
January 4, 2002

The most horrible scenes only seldom become visible: such as with the suicide of three adolescents who ended their lives by jumping from the Goeltzschtal Bridge in Saxon; or shortly before that with a gruesome ritual murder committed by a young couple on a 33 year old man in Witten. Investigators suspect satanic motives are behind both deeds. In the case of the three adolescents, cultists could have instigated a desire for death; with the murderous young couple, for whom a trial will be held in Bochum on January 10th, it is possible that past cult excesses led to their violent act. Although the suspects were easily caught in these two cases, government agencies and politicians can do practically nothing about most cult operations.

While satanistic groups are not as rigidly organized as other cults, "the satanism business is still functioning," said Thomas Gandow, clergyman and the Berlin-Brandenburg Evangelical Lutheran Church's appointee for matters of worldviews and cults. He says the theme is transported via magazines and music, such as "Death Metal Rock"; it's even made its way into cultural criticism. "What's being overlooked there, though, is that this sort of thing builds role models aimed at youngsters," Gandow criticized.

Satanism the tabu topic

In the opinion of the SPD parliamentary faction cult spokesperson, Renate Rennebach, Satanism is regarded as one of society's "tabu topics." While Rennebach does not say that Satanism is particularly dangerous for young people, she stresses, "I am familiar with cases of ritual abuse, I know children have had to be removed and I know people who have had to make their way out of those kind of groups. But the topic gets people's attention only when something dramatic happens." In Rennebach's judgment a far greater risk than Satanism is posed by so-called cults and psychogroups, whose number in Germany is estimated at 600 (with two million members). They range from apocalyptic groups like Fiat Lux to psycho-cults like Scientology. Many promise personal salvation, but end up making people dependent, isolating them and leading them to personal ruin. There was even a Parliamentary committee of inquiry on the topic, which presented a report of recommendations in 1998, but so far nearly nothing has happened. There is hardly any coordination between researchers, politicians and clergymen. Neither is any notable action being taken in prevention. "The only ones involved in the topic are clergy, individual religious instructors and parents initiatives. That's basically it," Rennebach summed it up.

Esoterica the "beginners' drug of choice"

Rennebach commented that the proposed law to regulate commercial life management assistance is still dragging, although it was introduced in Parliament back in 1997 at the SPD's initiative. But they are still working on it tirelessly. The law is meant to protect consumers from charlatan on the psycho-market, who cause psycho-users not only financial loss - such as through progressively more expensive seminars and courses - but can also lead to psychic dependency. Rennebach looks at the esoterica market as the "beginners' drug of choice."

"The committee's report was relatively misleading," Rennebach commented. She said the main problem was that the Green Party showed no interest in pursuing the topic. Cult expert Gandow also sees it that way: "My impression is that the Greens have absolutely no interest in regulating the psycho-market." This presumably shows that the Greens believe they are acting in the interest of some of their constituents. "The objection about protecting constituents was raised not only by church sect commissioners, but also by parents' initiatives," according to Gandow.

Green Party Parliamentary representative Angelika Koester-Lossack, who, like Rennebach, was also a member of the Parliamentary investigative committee on so-called sects and psycho-groups, rejected those presumptions, "That is completely absurd. Who are we saying here the constituents of the Green Party are?" She said the discussion is about maintaining the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. She said the Greens are doing information work regarding psychogroups. Moreover, she said, "the responsibility of consumers and people who have reached the age of consent" applies," said Koester-Lossack, and that special measures were not necessary.

"People are being recruited"

Gandow, however, does not believe that people are going into psychogroups of their own free will. "People are being acquired and recruited with methods, some of which are deceptive," like being lured into a contract with a misportrayal of facts. "The problem is that, with the present law, the groups are not required to say in advance what they are up to."

But it looks like nothing is going to change, and not just because of Koester-Lossack, who said "I still think that no special measures are necessary." After the committee's report was presented, it went to ten committees in January 2000. "Even the Defense Committee," Gandow complained. "This is not just going to hold things up, it will bury them."

German Scientology News