Transcendence or Commerce
Transatlantic cultural combat over religious freedom: France and Germany exercise stronger criteria for public corporation than the USA does for so-called "sects"
July 9, 2001
by Gerhard Besier
In October 1998 the United States of American passed a law to protect religious freedom all over the world. An office was established in the US State Department which records persecution and discrimination against persons and religious groups. Every year the State Department publishes a report, sorted by continent and country, which notes violations of freedoms of religion and conscience. The USA bases its involvement with the fact that religious freedom is part of the traditional heart of American basic rights and that, according to their experiences, where there is no religious freedom, other basic rights are not adequately covered. Besides this they note that Europeans signed the Human Rights Charta in 1948.
Michael E. Parmly, the leading official for Issues of Religious Freedom in the US State Department, explained on April 26, 2001, that several European states, despite signing the international human rights agreements, have violation freedom of religion. Germany and France are listed on the year 2000 annual report.
A look at the report on Germany determines that the Jehovah's Witnesses were refused the status of a corporation for public rights, and that the federal government had denied the "Church of Scientology" recognition as religion. In French religious politics there was criticism for that country differentiating between cults and sects; the latter were said to be discriminated against and their free space for development was restricted.
From the number of strong bilateral discussion it became clear that there was a difference of understanding in regard to religious freedom. That has something to do with cultural traditions, and also with legal relationships. While the Germans have reacted diplomatically the the American warnings, France feels that its national honor has suffered, has rejected the American objections and has broken off dialogue.
The American state has no definition law which validates a community as a religion or not. Rather than this, it is done through the Internal Revenue Service, which decides on the tax exemption of the self-declared religious congregations. If the commercial points outweigh the transcendent, tax exemption, along with the establishment status, is refused. All religious confessions and denominations are put on the same level horizontally and pluralistically. Moreover in the USA there exists, based on the First Amendment to the Constitution, a strict separation of Church and State, which is not - as in France - laically founded, but is to understood as an expression of positive religious freedom: only that kind of separation enables, to the American way of understanding, all religious communities to develop on the same level, unhindered, without the state being able to give one-sided privileges or obstacles to the free dynamics of religion. As a consequence of this regulation, the number of religious communities in the USA is constantly increasing. And ever more US citizens - so far more than 70 percent - take part in the life of the religious community they have chosen for themselves.
In France, however, where a strict separation of Church and State has ruled since 1905, 70 percent of the citizens make no use of the offers from established religions. Although Germany, with its "limping separation" of Church and State and with high privileges for established religious communities awarded by superior rights (corporation for public rights), possesses an altogether different model, it looks similar to France in regard to abstinence of religious life.
Both countries also agree that risks exude from "sects and psychocults", and, in the second half of the 1990s, engaged commissions of inquiry and had several groups put under surveillance by their intelligence agencies. Although neither commission could find any acceptable scientific proof of the accusations most frequently used against religious communities - such as they used "mental control" on their members or that they engaged in "brainwashing" - the French Senate passed an Anti-Sect Law in early May 2001.
Yet Germany hesitates because such a procedure could also disturb the status of the two major "popular churches." So far their sect commissioners have been viewed by the state as if they were simply experts and not employees of a competing "religious congregation." Because whether you call them "churches" or "sects" they're all just religious communities. This is a fact of the matter which the "popular churches" would have us forget.
While German Protestantism works diligently against the smaller religious opponents with parents' groups, French Protestantism condemns the proceedings of the French government. Since they are not privileged like their neighbors who are filthy rich with church taxes, they have not forgotten what it's like to be persecuted or discriminated against for their religious convictions.
After the French anti-sect law was passed, American State Secretary Michael L. Parmly expressed "concern" over this development because his government saw a threat to religious freedom in it. He said the law was "dangerously ambiguous" and that it could just as well be used against valid religious associations like religious schools, seminars and other religious establishments.
The "Interministerial Mission to Combat Sects", started under Minister President Lionel Jospin, has put psychological-political labels on about 180 small religious communities which also could have been put on the major, long-established religious communities.
France perseveres with its mystic, excessive progress, Germany with conservative religious care by those who have been established. In spite of opposed motives they have come to the same conclusion: fight sects. By doing that, the privileged "popular churches" with the status of corporations of the public rights have a legally approved chance at a commission in the "public interest" without having to worry about competition. The religious vacuum brought on by the chill of the "popular churches" has to be kept clear for their reawakening.
How little religious communities are being strangled
October 14, 2000
by Gerhard Besier
In 1940 alone over 1,000 Jehovah's Witnesses were attacked because they did not want to salute the American flag or perform military service. Members of the little religious community were defamed, beaten, stoned, chained and forced to drink castor oil. Some were fired, their children expelled from public schools and their houses were burned.
Shan Francis Peters has presented the fate of the religious community in the 1930s and '40s in America. He gave his main point of view to the battle by theologians, lawyers and citizens initiatives who fought for religious freedom blow by blow before the Supreme Court, for Jehovah's Witnesses too, who are treated in the USA today like any other religious denomination. Currently the US State Department is reporting violations of religious freedom every year all over the world - including Europe. Unfortunately there is a reason for that.
In Georgia [in the Caucasus] and Russia, adherents of smaller religious denominations are discriminated against and actually attacked without the state effectively intervening on their behalf. On August 20th, fifteen Cossacks intruded into a Jehovah's Witnesses church services building in Volgograd, destroyed Bibles, reviled them as "Jewish literature," called the believers "traitors" and demanded that they "return to Orthodoxy." They blackjacked the assembly leader. Eight actual mob attacks, some with serious bodily consequences, have been records since October 1999 in Georgia.
In the American "Journal of Church and State", James D. Richardson and Marat S. Shterin now maintain that the discrimination against religious minorities in the former Soviet Union is based on the activities of sect commissioners in western and middle Europe. The authors said the sect commissioners work closely together with the "anti-cult movements ... inside Russia and other former socialist countries." He said that, under the influence of interest groups of the major churches, warnings are issued about religious denominations by state governments of western states, mainly France, Belgium and Germany. Besides Jehovah's Witnesses, groups mentioned were said to be Zen Buddhists, Seventh Day Adventists, Catholic charismatic movements, Baptists, Mormons, many Pentecostal churches, Bahais, Quakers and others.
In the article, the European Dialogue Center was named as the one of the most active establishments of the "anti-cult industry." Its German department, the Berlin Dialog Zentrum, in which Evangelical minister and sect commissioner Thomas Gandow works to considerable effect, is allegedly regarded as the toughest battle organization. It and other western institutions allegedly deliver "arguments" to eastern groups and parties to mobilize anti-western sentiment. In May 1994 western cult fighters, along with the Russian Orthodox Church and the former Academy of Sciences, set up the "International Christian Seminar on Totalitarian Sects" with the Central Committee of the Communist Part of the Soviet Union and were engaged the year following as experts in public Duma hearings. According to the article, the expert witnesses included Thomas Gandow. He had the opinion that "totalitarian sects" exploited the weakness of eastern democracies in order to force their own values upon them. He was reported to have said that members of such groups could never become peaceful citizens in Russia since their activities contradicted any democratic Constitution. The sects were also said to be seeking to expand their influence and to take on power. Such labels were gratefully accepted in Russia, "the picture of sects merged," according to the authors of the articles, "with that of 'foreign religions' - with the goal of producing the picture of a threat to the Russian society."
Shan Francis Peters: Judging Jehova's Witnesses. Religious Persecution and the Dawn of the Rights Revolution. University Press of Kansas 2000. 342 p., $ 34,95.
Well meant, poorly done
June 16, 2000
Hamburg's government agencies are walking on thin ice. Stopping the installation of a computer program because it comes from the company of a high-ranking Scientologist is objectionable. This is not a matter of free selection of a product by a private operation. What is going on in Hamburg is happening officially. Therein lies the problem. The pious intention is that Hamburg avoid anything which could be of use to Scientology. But a ban on products will affect any business which accuses Germany of discriminating against a religious denomination. The Scientology lobby in the USA will vigorously exploit this case. And Hamburg does not have the best argument in the world. Scientology as an object of justified suspicion is not sufficient enough for an official refusal. It has to be stated in a legally binding way that this is a matter of a psycho-concern with anti-Constitutional goals. That is exactly what has not yet happened. Furthermore, any objection to the computer program in question has to be proven before a committee. But only assumptions have been given play here - which are fed by Scientology's incontestable urge for expansion and by growing discomfort of people who do business with the Microsoft company. The fact that not even computer experts can agree about the importance of the program does not help the situation. Of course the state should not play into the hands of sects. But it must place its obstacles to them more wisely.
State money for sect counseling
Nothing good anticipated from preventive measures against religious communities
February 10, 2000
The German Parliament's Enquete Commission on "so-called sects and psychogroups" ended its work in summer 1998 with a set of procedural recommendations. It suggested a change to the association and tax laws, strengthening the usury paragraphs, state promotion of private counselling centers, as well as the collection and distribution of relevant data by the Cologne federal management office.
Certainly the necessity of these measures were disputed in advance. That is because the research and opinions of the Enquete Commission in fulfillment of its mission led, with surprising clarity, to the conclusion that no great danger emanates from the new religious and worldview movements any more than it does from the traditional religions or other worldview alliances. The tight financial situation may also have contributed to the new federal administration letting the matter lie, at first. When nothing had happened after a year, the PDS directed a small inquiry to the President of the German Parliament on October 20, 1999. It asked for information about the "posture of the federal administration towards new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups in the Federal Republic of Germany." It wanted to know when the federal administration would implement any procedural recommendations.
In the name of the federal administration, the presiding federal ministry for Family, Seniors, Women and Youth communicated in the inquiry that several procedural recommendations raised "considerable Constitutional legal questions." There were plans to finance a research project, though, to follow another financed project for the qualification of expert personnel in "established counseling institutions." An "overlapping network of available counseling centers" is envisioned by this. In the law passed by the federal president on December, 1999, two and a quarter million German marks were set aside for the "Pilot plan for prevention in the area of so-called sects and psychogroups." That is supposed to cover expenses for the next three years. It is not only those directly affected - small religious communities, continuing psychological education providers and others - that fear that the flow of money from the state will increase the supply and give life to the sect hunt. budget
Then there is always the religious competition - church counseling centers and "independent" initiatives - also benefitting from [government] promotion. Even the theological conservative denominational movement "Kein anderes Evangelium" detects something wrong. It wrote in the December 1999 issue of its newsletter, "Among the experts of the Enquete Commission are representatives of the "Gesellschaft fuer Biblisch-Therapeutische Seelsorge" (BTS) - church sect commissioners Hansjoerg Hemminger and Reverend Wilfried Veeser. And to judge what is regarded as a sect and who as a sectarian, a 'personality structure test' from Michael Dieterich is used, a variety of the layer model of occultist C. G. Jung."
As it appears, the church lay psychologists from the BTS now wish to separate the foxes from the chickens with their test. "The model project should be value neutral," said the federal administration. One can hardly wait to see how that will be guaranteed in the face of such applicants and where the money will go.
The Enquete Commission has already helped cause serious harm to individual religious groups with all kinds of indiscretions and stigmatizations without there being concrete evidence of a law being violated. Since the experts assigned will not yield anything tangible, one has to ask what the "prevention" is supposed to be aimed at in the area of counselling. The whole thing could expand into a case for the alliance of taxpayers.
Gerhard Besier is a professor for church history at Heidelberg University.
July 31, 1999
by Torsten Koerner
Das Netz, ZDF: After three quarters of an hour of journalistic fumbling around in the Scientology fog, the meager results on the activities of the sect failed to take place. "The net is finely woven and almost invisible," spoke the commentator in an ominous voice. Vague suppositions were presented which hardly qualified as proof. The author, Jens Monath, wanted to show that the Scientologists have become big wheels in the real estate sector and are operating with new strategies. Have we ever heard that one before? Nothing new here. So what else?
As have most of the stories on the subject of conspiracy, this one presented a shocking narrative about a sinister society. It had little to do with investigative journalism. The synthesizer wailed and moaned out a background of sound which seemed to come straight out of an Edgar Wallace film from the 1950s; the only thing missing was the billowing fog of the Themes.
For that there were all kinds of impenetrable, obscure concepts: the central concept of the story was "infiltration." "A picture book infiltration," said the expert. One wonders why the country has not yet collapsed with all this underground mole activity.
The Scientology expert Renate Hartwig was presented as an exorcist, the reporter styled himself after an unshakable investigator a la Heinz Drache, and Bavarian Interior Minister Beckstein lent the expert an air of credible professionalism. Where was Klaus Kinski as the squint-eyed sect stooge?
Scientology is a precarious profit maximization machine which is efficient in several areas, has stew of ideology, and exploits gullible people and puts them in material and psychic dependency.
Much more cannot be said. Films which stoke fear, offer poor analyses and try to exploit the theme for its effects should not even be shown to fill the summer lull.
Shoot the messenger,
Not the message
July 16, 1999
Jon Turteltaub wonders why his film "Phenomenon" stirred up a Scientology debate, but "Instinct" did not.
The new theater film "Instinct" (see WELT from Thursday for criticism) poses culturally critical questions as to the role of the human in civilization. Producer Jon Turteltaub stated his views in a meeting with Hanns-Georg Rodek about racial cliches, evolution - and Scientology.
"Instinct" appears to be one of the few U.S. films which poses philosophical questions . . .
I could hug you for that. Some people say, "Oh, just another typical American film." It was not at all that for me. We wanted to get away from the Hollywood mentality of success, superficiality and good looks. But apparently that is exactly what the public likes. They would rather see Julia Roberts kiss somebody than Anthony Hopkins an ape.
The part by Cuba Gooding, Jr. could just as well have been played by a white person. Why did he get the role?
Because he is a 30 year old, good-looking, ambitious and extremely talented actor. The race of the character is irrelevant for the story, but the race of the actor is relevant for the public. We could pretend that that is not so, but it is so. You would not ask a white actor if the part had been written for a white man. The notion that Hollywood dictates to us our view on race relations does not check out. It is the public that brings their opinion into the film.
Hollywood also reacts to the view of the public ...
Certainly. In a film three men rob a building. One is black, the second white, the third Chinese. Then nobody writes a letter of protest. It used to be that terrorists were always Arab. That was the good part about the Cold War: you could always fall back on an evil Russian.
Is the philosophy in "Instinct" comparable with that your previous film, "Phenomenon"? Jon Turteltaub:
Yes. It is the same author, Gerald DiPego. He has a very integral concept of humanity and tries to describe its potential to make contact and to understand each other. The journey which John Travolta embarked upon in "Phenomenon" led him out of his own little world to make thought his whole little city.
In "Instinct" Anthony Hopkins is involved with issues which concern all of mankind. It has to do with Evolution still going on. We may not be so arrogant as to think that its goal has been achieved with the appearance of man. DiPego is trying to say that man still has a long ways to go, not just physically, mostly mentally.
In Germany there was a whole lot of excitement about the alleged Scientology content of "Phenomenon." Do you also anticipate that with "Instinct"?
It is like the race question: people bring their own prejudices to the film. I guarantee you that if not a single line had been changed and that if Mel Gibson had played the title role, nobody would have mentioned Scientology. They are shooting the messenger, not the message.
That is remarkable because "Instinct" has far stronger connections to Scientology concepts than "Phenomenon" ever had - and nobody dwelled on that. I am not a Scientologist and my writer is not a Scientologist. John Travolta is a Scientologist, and the theme appealed to him. If we would have had Richard Gere in "Instinct," would it have been a Buddhist propaganda film for the CDU?
The fight about "Phenomenon" was very frustrating for me. It was a classic Christ-story about a man who was enlightened and filled with love. It had to do with the reinforcement of Biblical values, and the right Christian Democrats in Germany did not recognize that in their arrogance.
May 7, 1999
Some "law-abiding citizens" don't exactly keep the law
The Central Council for Jews is getting competition - from whom it is difficult to say.
by Otto Joerg Weis (Berlin)
A dubious association wants to establish itself as a rival organization of the Central Council for Jews. Little or nothing is known about the members and board of directors. Austrian Peter Sichrovsky is said to function as one of the errand-boys - he represents the populist FPOe in the European Parliament.
"Solemn" was used to describe the founding meeting of the "National Law-Abiding Jewish Community reg. in Germany" ["Bundes Gesetzestreuer Jüdischer Gemeinden e. V. in Deutschland"] Behind the scenes, initiators had worked, quiet as clams, to set up a rival organization to the established Central Council of Jews in Germany, which has Ignatz Bubis as its chairman. Supposedly, according to the invitation, only a new "umbrella association for orthodox Jewish communities" could guarantee any "religious multiplicity for Jews "as there should, of course, be in a modern democracy." It was stated that since the takeover of power by the National Socialists it had not been possible for Jews in Germany "to join one of the other communities of their religious conviction."
But then, on Wednesday evening, one was rather hard put at the local gathering in Cologne Park in the middle of Berlin to accept the "multi-cultural program" and "greetings and wellwishing." That may have had something to do with the fact that of the Rabbis introduced as theological foster fathers, there were two from whom almost all had wanted to keep their distance: one, said Bubis, "is being investigated by the state attorney because he certified contingent refugees as Jews when he knew that they were not." The other is an ancient hardliner from Israel.
It may have also had something to do with the selection for the workhorse of the new foundation being, of all people, the controversial Austrian author and journalist, Peter Sichrovsky. Since November 1996 he has been sitting for Joerg Haiders (FPOe) in the European Parliament - attracted by what he says is the "enthusiasm, the involvement, the political goals and the consistency of liberalism." According to newspaper reports, he does not view personal lack of religiousness as a deficiency in his leadership role in the "Law-Abiding Community": "the business manager of the German Soccer Association does not also have to be the best goalie," he stated.
And it is even possible that people are not suffering grievously from alleged suppression of religious freedom in Germany. Nothing further could be determined about this on the day after the "personal" invitations to the new Jewish organization were distributed. The opposing club to the Central Council calls itself, on its letterhead, a registered association. One such registration, as anyone can find out, was refused by the Berlin-Charlotteburg municipal court some time ago. An unknown "president" was cited with fax and telephone numbers, which nobody answered on the day after the grand opening in the building at Cologne Park.
The Chairman of the Central Council has known that this is connected with a man by the name of Eli Gampel. "Outside of his being one of the Scientologists" - he is being investigated for fraud to the detriment of the Jewish community in Halle. Besides that, according to Bubis, Gampel has had to declare bankruptcy on multiple occasions.
As to what else concerns the "law-abiding" co-founder of this new association, Ignatz Bubis casually remarked that two years ago Eli Gampel, by power of the Arbitration Court, had been removed in all capacity as chairman of the Jewish community in Halle. The Sachsen-Anhalt State Audit Office had added to that, "Our findings are sufficient for the long-term exclusion of Mr. Gampel from any position or activity in a Jewish community in Germany."
nc.htm#g80811ce 19980814 Original Text
bp.htm#g80916be 19980916 Sect Commissioner
From TAZ magazine Nr. 5773, pages 1-2
February 27, 1999
by Horst Meier
The poor Constitutional Protection agency is losing customers. In the confusing battle against meaninglessness it has to create new enemies. The dealings with Scientology are a typical example. Horst Meier reports why the spying agency has not yet been done away with
Scientology going around "gaining control over kindergartens, schools, businesses, media and public administration" sounds rather exaggerated today, but in the heated discussion about the Scientology Church much is taken for granted. In the meantime the revelation of the public statistics have surpassed their high points, the sect commissioners of the large churches have presented research, and the reports of the former members have been written. In short, everything has been said about the [Scientology] association. If it were not for the Constitutional Protection agency.
The obscure church is surrounded by a nimbus of an internationally operating secret society whose opponents work almost as diligently as do the Scientologists themselves. When one tries to take a sober position, one thing becomes perfectly clear. In many regards, Scientology is a dubious religious congregation which also appears as a commercial provider of therapy. A horrid mixture of self-salvation and pure capitalism, of missionary zeal and business sense.
The creation myth and the teaching of salvation of the founder and former science fiction author, Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, are not particularly original. Hubbard asserted that today's people have suppressed negative memories of their "thetanic" past lives in the origin of the universe. They are said to be in a position to recover their inner balance only when they have invoked these "engrams." Accomplishing this in an endless course system under a registered trademark is the fine line between belief and commerce.
That is not exactly earthshaking - even if one takes into account that the personal fate of the individual who comes into contact with the remarkable association takes a dramatic, even a disastrous, turn. However, every adult should know what he is putting himself in for. He who becomes a Scientologist is taking a calculated risk.
Naturally, belief is not exempt from the law. Criminal practices such as usury, coercion or tax evasion are cases for the courts.
In the USA, Scientology is dealt with casually and liberally. In Germany, however, the Constitutional Protection agency is brought into play. What once sounded like a bad joke has turned into a bad reality. Since the decision of the Interior Ministers Conference of June 1997, German Constitutional Security agents have been spying on the Scientology Church; only Schleswig-Holstein has excluded itself.
This use of the secret intelligence service proves the endemic inability to approach a problem through public dispute and information; it signals the way of bureaucratic control and restriction. The Enquete Commissions "so-called sects and psycho-groups" committee welcomed this action; only the Greens spoke against the use of the intelligence service.
However, may the Constitutional Security agents be legally used in something so politically devious? Are the activities of the Scientologists dangerous to the state in some sort of way? This organization continues to invoke Basic Law: if not religious freedom according to Article 4, then at least associative freedom according to Article 9.
The authority of the Constitutional Security agencies is a product of the individual laws of the nation and states, in which it states: "Mission of the Constitutional Security agency is the collection and evaluation of information ... on endeavors which are directed ... against constitutional democratic order. As covered by this law ... such endeavors are politically determined, goal and purpose oriented manners of conduct by a group of persons which is intended to remove or nullify one of the constitutional principles."
Under the above-named "endeavors," one conventionally recognizes the activities of political parties. How did a group come to be taken under consideration which previously had nothing to do with politics? How does one figure that a commercially industrious religious congregation is an anti-governmental endeavor?
In the middle of the 1990's that had still not been decided in various interior ministries. At the time informed Constitutional Security agents such as the former chief of the Hamburg agency, Ernst Uhrlau - he coordinated work between the intelligence services in the federal chancellor's office - waved off. Then opinions were commissioned.
The issue in question which the Nordrhein-Westphalian Interior Minister gave to political scientist Hans-Gerd Jaschke, ran: "What effects does the application of Scientology's concepts have upon a pluralistic society or parts thereof in a liberal, democratic, constitutional state?
That sounds rather roundabout, but runs, simply worded, into a judgment over a steep hypothesis: what would happen if the Scientology Church set the tone in this society and was able to transform its goals one day into reality? Would that lead to the removal of German democracy? Just the text of the question alone reveals the unreality of this method of thought: as sure as it is that a thoroughly Scientology state would be a very uncosy formative dictatorship, so unsure, not to say impossible, it would be that Scientology would ever be in the position to take over power here at home or anyplace else.
The unreal kernel of the issue in question led the person commissioned with the opinion to go off on his own into the delusory ideas of sects and to completely blind himself to real dangers. But since when is the state prone to test simple ideas for compatibility with democratic principles? This question describes the basic problem of the German federal Constitutional Security agency.
So that Scientology would come under the long arm of the Constitutional Security agency, at least a trace element of politics had to be accounted for. Anybody who wants to connect Scientology with political endeavors against liberal democratic basic order has one problem, though. Hubbard's troops behave in theory and in practice non-politically.
Opinion writer Jaschke worded the crux thus: "The cumulative social basis of the membership of the Scientology Church is not politically motivated in the direct sense. It does not want to primarily alter the world, but itself... Scientology Church does not participate in elections, organizes no public rallies and barely endorses political positions."
The opinion writer has even taken the trouble to forge through the works of the master and his church. He did not strike paydirt because "in all the scriptures of Hubbard and the Scientology Church political issues are mostly dealt with as a sideline." Better said, not at all. Therefore, how can an organization which is not politically competitive be promoted to an anti-governmental enterprise nonetheless?
The opinion writer knows how. Scientology pursues a "long-term political objective," and not a very modest one at that - it has to do with world domination: there appears in Scientology "a new form of political extremism, oriented towards the concept of an absolute, heroic, superhuman ... on the way to a world domination which is based upon basic totalitarian principles," which "force the nullification of essential portions of liberal democratic principles based on constitutional order." "If one thinks the concept of the Scientology 'clear planet' through, so ... the direction in which such a society would develop seems undeniable."
Jaschke's readiness to think through the plan by the name of "clear planet" is characteristic of his work methods. If one would consistently think the lies of Hubbard through to their end sufficiently, and if one tried to project what would happen if his lies were literally put into practice - then one would have have fallen into a science fiction world by the name of "clear Germany."
That is how "endeavors against the liberal democratic basic order" were derived: somehow Scientology is striving for world domination, which, logically, would include their total domination of Germany. Therefore they have an anti-governmental goal which they want to bring about one day; consequently they need to be put under intelligence surveillance today by the Constitutional Security agency.
The "actual reference points" which the law demands have no reference in reality; they result from the calculations of the Scientology delusions. The opinion writer succumbs to every mechanism which many involved Scientology opponents succumb to: he means well but he takes the eccentricities of the sect at face value. The question as to whether there is a real danger for law and order is shut out entirely. It has to do with, as Jaschke quite guilelessly conveys, the "intensity of constitutionally hostile thought."
It is no small thing for a governmental intelligence agency to systematically investigate an organization solely because of "constitutionally hostile thought," that means using undercover agents, secretly photographing and planting bugs, under conditions eavesdropping on the telephone or opening mail. In democratic states that is not usual, but according to German federal law, it is legal.
However, the Interior Ministers have taken measures against Hubbard's community which are not covered by even the German non-liberal legal situation. The Scientologists can be generally accused, just no "endeavors against the liberal democratic basic order."
A work group of Constitutional Security agents, however, who work daily against the Scientologists in the wake of the decision, maintain the opposite. Their assertions are based on a sweeping interpretation of the law whose vaguely formulated premises are lost over the horizon. If this type of reading should find its way before the court, one will have less option than is usual here at home to be able to refute each and every constitutionally hostile endeavor.
The Scientology case indicates a structural problem of our Constitutional Security agency: its restriction to simple objectives, yes, the fixation on vague, remote goals. This leads on one side to the wave of action being set extremely low - which brings along with it a danger for the civil rights of those under surveillance.
On the other side it leads to the Constitutional Security agency having no rational criteria to distinguish important from unimportant, dangerous from innocent, or fantasy from plans for a coup. The intelligence literature on Scientology impressively documents this lack of orientation and measurement.
As has been shown for decades in the surveillance of rightwing and leftwing mini-political parties and smaller organizations, the investigation of Scientology has likewise ended up in the surreal: the German federal Constitutional Security agency has now landed in the area of science fiction.
Meanwhile, there is a clear, easy-to-handle criteria with which to differentiate verbally radical hotheads from dangerous state enemies: the use of force. If someone organizes forceful politics, then there is solid proof available, but not the political question of belief as to whether a certain goal is compatible with liberal democratic basic order.
The criteria of force is the turning and hinge point of a liberal democratic self-determination. However, the Constitutional Security agents do not want to know anything about this politically neutral, uni-ideological measure, because they are sworn to function as an "early warning system." So it is no accident that the relevant literature offers nothing definite on the issue of force.
Their objective non-dangerousness, as concerns the existence of the state, of course has something in common with all other customers of the Constitutional Security agency. From the long-term debate about domestic surveillance the hard-core Republicans or at least the PDS have let themselves be diverted from the rule of thumb: when the "early warning system" goes into action, the public has already long been aware. That's the way it is here: after the talk is circumvented about what a fine church that is, the Interior Ministers send in the Constitutional Security agency.
Do the Constitutional Security agents have nothing better to do than to spy on an obscure, insignificant group? The answer is simple, but hard to believe: no they have not. They have wasted much hard work and effort all year long on observing bizarre, objectively harmless groups and parties. Our Constitutional Security agents are specialists in the state's pedagogic question of whether certain goals are compatible with the most liberal of all democratic basic laws or not.
Their matter is more of the determination of constitutionally hostile political intentions. Their speciality is ideological high treason which has nothing to do with classic high treason, which is the attempt of a coup by force. Therefore our Constitutional Security agents need not interest themselves to this day in real danger. What was once, in 1949, begun with the "police letter" of the Western Allies when the German Federal administration was permitted to gather information on "subversive" activities has been manipulated from the start for inner political restrictions for alleged constitutional enemies. The specific West German type of concerned political control continued to be the issue, especially at the time of the radicalism of the 1970's, but it still is the dominating consensus of the Bonn Republic.
That is, until 1989, with the epochal implosion of the communist East Bloc countries which broke away the political way of doing business for the preventive Constitutional Security agency. Since then they have been on the lookout for a new field of operation - a rather bleak undertaking, as thoughtful Constitutional Security agents have suspected. Therefore they would rather look for a new job instead of putting a vague hope upon the Islamic fundamentalists or an extremism "of a new kind."
The slowly approaching loss of function which cannot be stopped is provoking an addle-brained search for motion in the interior of the security building. Certainly, the traditionalists can rely upon their old customers: the DKP, the NPD, the DVU, on Trotskyites or on legally misguided boy scouts; in the past few years the Republicans were added, then the PDS. But that can't go on for a long time without producing any material for the state's leading articles. New assignments must be found, but there are none in sight. Out of necessity the spy cameras and eavesdropping devices are being used upon the adherents of a science fiction author.
Scientology, the last station on the long march into meaninglessness, could actually be the final stop - if it were not necessary for the security politics, which are influenced by West German thinking, to believe so firmly in the necessity of the Constitutional Security.
All that speaks against the disestablishment of this authority, which is often interchanged with a normal domestic intelligence service, is really only the brazen law of bureaucracy: an office which was once installed with a budget and experts, maintenance men and secretaries, is always busy trying to prove its indispensability to itself and to the world. It can only be relieved of the torture of its senselessness and self-justification by a radical censure by Parliament. There is no political majority for this, not even a red-green. Because anyone who undertakes the removal of the Constitutional Security agency, is doubtlessly himself an enemy of the constitution.
Horst Meier, 44, is an attorney and author. He lives in Hamburg. His last work was the book "Republikschutz: measures for the defense of democracy" (together with Claus Leggewie, Rowohlt, Reinbek 1995, 19.80 marks). We have abridged this excerpt from Issue 599 of the "Merkur" - German magazine for European thought (Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1999, 19 marks).
Scientology: Helnwein colors beautifully
An exhibit by Gottfried Helnwein, the comics artist from Duesseldorf, has created a stir in Prenzlauer Berg. The 47 year old's work is being celebrated by the dubious Scientology sect.
February 10, 1996
by Frank Nordhausen
Copyright © contrapress media GmbH
It has just recently been posted on the walls of the subway stations, and already it has cause vehement protests - the picture of a chained child with a steel pipe like a phallus in its mouth. The gruesome scene originates from blood and shock painter Gottfried Helnwein. It is an advertisement for the play, "A and K or a fratricide made good" which is to be opened on February 11 in the cultural center (Prenslauer Berg). The 47 year old Helnwein painted the stage scenery and is also presenting an exhibition there.
On Thursday the culture center invited the eccentric pop artist and stage manager Gert Hof. As the painter appeared with his head band and sunglasses, he called his shocking pictures of tortured children a "discussion with the subject of violence and abuse." He does not want to aestheticize violence, but mobilize resistance against it. As a further contribution to the theme, on Sunday he wants to present a one hundred meter long street picture with the title of "Selektion" in the court of the cultural center - a series of life-sized children's faces which is supposed to be reminiscent of the Nazi murders and which is dedicated to "the Reich's Crystal Night." After he made that statement, he had to listen to several awkward questions. Evangelical sect commissioner Thomas Gandow pointed out that the totalitarian Scientology organization had recently highlighted Helnwein as a "Class IV Auditor" and public representative in their brochures - together with his photograph and quote ("Scientology is the biggest breakthrough in the history of human thought"). Gandow stated that "the concept of 'Selektion' is being proclaimed by a politically extremist group, Scientology." Scientology calculates that 20 percent of all humanity are plain "humanoids" (beings similar to humans); in their program, they advocate the use of force. How was Helnwein's engagement supposed to reconcile the "fascistoid ideology" of Scientology founder Hubbard with the planned exhibition against force and fascism?
Upon that, Helnwein stated that he did not belong to any sect, and that he had never belonged to one. "I am not a member of Scientology," he stated. He even stated that he had forcefully proceeded against Scientology. Gandow responded that that was only a "protective claim," which the painter had been making for years and had never been able to prove. To the question as to whether he had removed himself from the Hubbard ideology as well as from the organization, Helnwein wished to say nothing concrete, and indulged in insults. Helnwein replied, "I don't have to make excuses to every piece of shit."
Is he, or is he not? In any case, Hubbard's disciples see Helnwein's shock pictures as "the best the area has to offer," as the Scientologist, Horst Mehler, wrote in his book, "Self made Heir and Millions." The organizers of the cultural center now wish to put up a small info stand about Scientology. It could easily become one of a permanent nature, since Helnwein is planning to exhibit his comic collection in the long term at the cultural center - sponsored by the state of Berlin.
Helnwein Corrections in re: "Scientology: Helnwein colors beautifully" "taz" of Feb. 10, 1996
February 12, 1996
Copyright © contrapress media GmbH
In the article, "Scientology: Helnwein colors beautifully" of Saturday, several errors escaped the attention of the editors. First, Helnwein proceeded not "forcefully", but "legally" against Scientology. The book by Scientologist Horst Mehler is not called "Self Made Heirs and Millions," but "Self Made Men and Millions." Finally, Helnwein is not a comic artist, but a collector of comics. taz
"I need neither guru nor preacher nor pope"
February 29, 1996
in re: "Scientology: Helnwein colors beautifully", taz of Feb. 10, 1996
Letter to the Editor by Gottfried Helnwein
Copyright © contrapress media GmbH
When I read the article by Frank Nordhausen about me in "taz", I thought - if Frank would switch to the electronic media, with his talents he could earn himself a cash cow with "Stern TV."
Unencumbered by any sort of burdensome research, he cheerfully fantasized, "The comics artist Gottfried Helnwein from Dusseldorf created a stir." This is the first time I have heard that I come from Dusseldorf - what makes him say that? (Vienna lies approximately 1,200 kilometers to the southeast - and not even in Germany.)
Since I have still not drawn one single comic strip in my life, I ask myself how am I supposed to be a comics artist. Or has Frank mistaken me for somebody else? Does he think that an artist who has a comics collection is a comics artist?
Under a picture of a water color by me were the words, "Helnwein's shock poster - Inspired by Scientology founder Ron I. Hubbard?" Unfortunately this picture came from the year 1970, and since at that time I had never heard anything of Scientology or its founder, I was not at all able to be inspired by him.
Since Frank is unobservant and does not listen to what people say to him, I will be happy to repeat: I remove myself from Scientology and all sects and churches of any sort forever, and from their ideologies - this also goes for Reverend Gandow's sect. I need neither a guru nor a preacher or pope to tell me what I should think or do.
In 1988, in memory of the so-called "Reich's Crystal Night" of 50 years ago I set up a street picture between the Ludwig Museum and the Cologne Dome. I applied children's faces for almost 100 meters to an approximately four meter high strip, and applied the Nazi word "Selektion." This was an attempt to remind us of how this insane idea of worthy and unworthy lives cost millions of people their lives. Following that, Neonazis committed an attack upon this picture and destroyed it in that they cut up the children's faces with knives.
If Reverend Gandow now tries to secretly make a connection between this picture and some sort of alleged sect ideology, and asserts that they advocate open violence, then I can only recommend that he seek medical help. How sick must somebody be to see a call to violence in the look of a child's face!
Besides that, I recommend that the preacher occupy himself with the history of his own sect in the Thousand Year Reich. Maybe he would then be able to explain to us what the official slogan of the German Evangelical Christians is supposed to mean, "We are the SA of Jesus Christ."