St. Poelten (red.) "Applicants for the Lower Austria state civil service do not have to out themselves as to whether they are members of Scientology." Peter Pitzinger, state sect commissioner, mentioned that while Scientology was not acknowledged as a church or a religious congregation in Austria, neither was it prohibited. He does not think that a professional ban on Scientologists would contribute to anything, since it would only create martyrs. Instead of that, people should be kept up to date on the activities of the organization which makes widespread use of anonymous operations. "In all of Austria, there are between 50,000 and 200,000 members of various sects. In Lower Austria it is about 10,000 to 40,000 people," stated Pitzinger. According to what Scientology says, it has around 10,000 Austrian adherents.
From "Scientology" to UFO Believers
From: "Kleine Online", Hartbergerland / Styria Online
Graz, Sunday, August 23, 1998
A former affected youth spoke to other youths in Hartberg about the danger of sects and occultism.
by Waltraud Posch
A workshop was held in Hartberg to for the purpose of increasing critical ability in regards to sects and spiritual providers. "You will never gain individuality with a sect. Sects mean group-think. They mean norms. They mean you no longer have a private sphere," stated Enrico Hosak from the Styrian "Network-Association against destructive Cults." The twenty year old, himself a former sect member, counsels sect members and their relatives. He was invited to the workshop by Mario Fiedler from the "Youth Culture" initiative, "our basic idea was to have a youth speak to youth, because he can speak the same language."
Control. Sects boom as never before. According to a study by the Fessel Institute, in Austria there are 400 destructive categories active who have about 150,000 members under their spell. The members are supposed to break with the past and live entirely for the sects. Hosak stated, "The new sect conformist identity is comprised of strong control mechanisms that range from withdrawal of social contact to deprivation of sleep and food. Everything is controlled: behavior, thought, feelings and information."
The public of the sects form a colorful mixture, stated Hosak, "popular opinion tells you that only stupid people go to sects, but what would the sects want with stupid people?" In principle, it is possible that anybody could appeal to a group that promises him something up front. It is this basic human need for acknowledgment, harmony and security which is exploited by sects.
The problem is that it is difficult or impossible to recognize many sects. Until the beginning of this year, sects in Austria were covered by association law and could "change their name as often as their underwear," said Hosak. That is no longer so easy for them to do, but because of the large number providers and their nebulous strategies, the market is impossible to define. For instance, "Scientology" has about 80 sub-organizations, few of which are recognizable as such.
UFOs and Esoterica. According to "Network - Association against destructive Cults," esoterica and UFOlogy are especially booming. In Germany alone, the esoterica business brought in approximately 140 million schillings last year. Of the original meaning of the word - "inner truth" - very little remains; "Esoterica has turned into a supermarket and been heavily infiltrated by sects," said Hosak. For the normal consumer, what stands behind the individual seminars, cassettes and books is invisible.
UFOlogy is just as strongly on the rise [as esoterica]. It is concerned with supernatural phenomenon such as UFOs or beings from outer space. It has been reinforced by Hollywood films, and recently has spread mass panic about the change of the millennium. "The current confused shop leads to an uncritical belief in extra-sensory phenomena," warns sect critic Hosak. Numerous sects have developed this trend as well as its theories of world destruction around the turn of the millennium.
One thing is clear for sect critic Hosak and "Youth Culture" chief Fiedler: only information can protect people from sects. Hosak's biggest wish is "to strengthen the critical ability in regards to spiritual providers." [phone number]