Caught by Scientology


Munich, Germany
February 5, 1997
Sueddeutsche Zeitung

by Herbert Riehl-Heyse

The Republic is aching at its seams, the politicians are standing around in a daze, but the all-important question of the country is whether a certain painter who never did wrong to anybody would not be a Scientologist. The television magazine of Bavarian Radio broadcasting has addressed this earth-moving issue repeatedly, most recently with a challenge to the "fervid Helnwein defenders" from the SZ [this newspaper] to be more concerned about the distress of two Lower Bavarian Scientology victims, of whom of course no further mention is made. Confronted by such weighty appeals, perhaps there is really nothing left for this newspaper (which lately has been vehemently criticized by a Bavarian sect minister for its "liberal misunderstanding") but to solemnly assure its readers that it is not in the clutches of Scientology nor has it otherwise lost its senses.

The mere fact that we have to do this is part of the problem. There is something totally humiliating when anyone who, for his own reasons pleads for a sense of proportion and a constitutional state, is first forced into a long preamble from which it can be concluded that he is light years away from a so-called church whose most important articles of faith are money and power. One would like to believe that reasonable people would not have any differences of opinion about the quality of this sort of theology cum brachy-ethics; sadly not much reason has been expressed. The others would prefer to shout among themselves in broadcast confrontations. In truth there are only two possibilities when it comes to discussing Scientology or similar manifestations: the spiritual and the legal. In regards to the spiritual, first you have to come to address the puzzling phenomenon of why the established churches have so firmly taken up the battle against "the sects" in a society where less and less believe. If that, as can be assumed, is an indication of the deeply imbedded religious insecurity of many people and of their nevertheless increased hunger to support meaning, then it would be of utmost importance to work out the fundamental differences between the Christian churches and totalitarian organizations. In describing the most important characteristics of the latter, Frankfurt political scientist Hans-Gerd Jaschke used expressions like "sole representative of the truth" and "rigid differentiation between good and evil" - these are concepts which could have quite aptly been used to describe the self-serving Catholic Church, whose dark ages could only be escaped by wending one's way around the funeral pyres. Its attractiveness today for the Christian churches could only be drawn from the reverse concept: that charity is their most important theme - from the freedom of the Christian person who will not be intimidated.

That is also the byword in the legal dispute about Scientology. The ground rule is so simple that almost nobody likes to write it down: everybody may do anything, may believe anything and even make money however he wants to - that which he may not do is listed in the Constitution, in the criminal code and in agency ordinances. That is where the few rules are listed upon which a secular society can agree; it says there that one may not be coerced or blackmailed or have his children indoctrinated by strange people. Anybody who violates these laws must be brought to book, and mercilessly, on which account one is gradually inclined to accuse the Bavarian state government of obstructing justice if it has evidence that a criminal association has been formed but has not notified its state attorney's office. Much else of what is currently under discussion would be nonsensical: banning Scientology, for example, would change nothing about their activities, but would provide them with martyrdom, which is exactly what they so urgently need for PR reasons.

The annoying letter from the Hollywood celebrities to Kohl only shows too well how PR functions and how it could continue: both sides have a huge interest in shaking the other up. Scientology has assembled world-class experts in brute advertising (which the all too naive painter H. had to learn after he thought that he could confidentially relate his experiences to U.S. politicians); PR people of this kind are thankful for every newspaper report. The reverse of that is needed by the professional sect fighters in an octopus-like organization which wants to overturn the world, because otherwise their fight against the organization would not seem heroic enough. What the "Deutsche Evangelische Sonntagsblatt" wrote is sadly true: "Some worldview experts of the Christian churches resemble their opponents."

That is what we have to learn first - to deal with outsiders in a civilized manner, even those which appear dangerous to us. Only the civilized approach, also the stubborn effort to have the outsider abide by the ground rules - something like the unimpeded departure from the "church" - offers the chance to civilize even dangerous people. Insofar as fervid defenders of humanity are coerced, that is the extent to which civil dealings are denied. The alternative would be glowing coals.

German Scientology News