Light, warmth and music in the most diverse facets

Basel, Switzerland<
April 25, 2000
Basler Zeitung

by Marc Krebs (Text) und Takaya (Fotos [none in the translated version])

What would it be like to spend Easter in Basel? This question was pursued by a reporter and a photographer from the Basler Zeitung for four days and nights. From the Joggeli Bath and the devotional services in Muenster to the wild house party near the French border: the Easter holidays were spent enjoyably by residents of the city.

Good Friday, 12 noon: The unofficial day of the deck-chair. Whether on balconies, on the shore of the Rhein or in parks: people are lounging about and smugly smiling at those who are stuck in front of Gotthard. Or in front of the Three Roses Bridge, because there is a traffic jam there, too - even if only for one hour. The scene could be comfortably enjoyed with glass in hand - even on a day of church fast and abstinence.

The outdoor cafes are enjoying a brisk business in the city's center. In the Steinen suburb, some of the strolling pedestrians have a hard time finding a free chair. Anybody who would rather spend the early summer day filling out a psycho-test instead of sipping a cool beer will not be disappointed there: even today members of Scientology are making small talk to unsuspecting citizens - no day seems too sacred for the Hubbard disciples to be doing their thing.

10 p.m. It is not only the known traffic nerve centers which are jammed up; columns of vehicles are also in line by the train station. "Business is not at all good for a Friday," said a taxi driver. "A lousy evening." Two teenagers agree with him, "It's totally dead - and of course this happens when we don't have school on Saturday." They find some little consolation in the TV programs, "At least they broadcast good movies over Easter ... except the piles of action and trashy junk..."

Saturday, 2 p.m.: in Basel the thermometer reaches 27.7C (87F) degrees: a national record! Last minute provisions are purchased from the shops - the pastries that are threatening to melt disappear especially quickly. After their shopping, many city residents retreat to the recreation areas. 600 people are splashing in the Joggeli Bath, on the day before there were 700 water lovers. The "Green 80" is also a great favorite. Soccer balls, "Hackisacks" and Frisbees fly through the air. Families, youngsters and retirees - everybody strolls, tumbles about on the playground or fans themselves.

Saturday, 10 p.m.: the inner city comes alive! For the first time this year, the feeling of summer is in the evening air. Youngster are lounging on steps to the art history museum, just as they are in the square by Tinguely Springs. Caught in the thrill of the moment, the automobile drivers rev their engines and and spin their steering wheels with one hand. Like a little raceway. On one LCD display, the bright right numbers read 22C (76F). Magnificent. At the same time the chandeliers of the city casino throw a subdued light on the dance floor of the hall. "And they dance a Tango .... "

Saturday, 11:30 p.m. Candles lead the mystic way through Munster into the crypt where an Easter youth service was being held for the first time at midnight. 12-14 year olds spoke in rhyme of everyday stress, as well as of Moses and the Egyptians. The singing was quiet and the service was contemplative. While the young people go into the cloister afterwards to sneak up on the hidden Easter rabbit, a fire is lit in the grill. Several meters below, the Rhein flows tranquilly in the direction of the North Sea. If you go along it for a piece, you will end up in the Cargo Bar at the foot of Johanniter Bridge. Sounds of fusion accompany the conversations of the bar visitors, but nobody is dancing.

Sunday 3 a.m. on Hagenauer Street, near the airport, steam is not just coming out of the chimney flues. In the "House" club "Echo" a clinging steam wafts through the air. 200 guests are hopping to the booming sounds of Zurich DJ Mas Ricardo. The sweeping beams of the lasers have nothing in common with the sense of Easter. The main thing is that people enjoy their holiday. "Finally I can dance all Saturday night without having to crawl into work Monday morning exhausted," said a guest. He grinned and sipped his energy drink and turned right back to the dance floor.

Sunday, 5:30 a.m. Easter fire for the second time: quiet, peaceful, and some still with sleepy eyes, visitors around St. Elisabeth's Church. The flames of the small fire go towards the sky, which is colored a magnificent dark royal blue. An empty two-seater goes by as Reverent Felix Felix [sic] welcomes people into his unlit church. The experimental church service has to do with the dark side and the new beginning. In the middle of the church is a lit cross as a symbol of the tree of life. "Death is overcome, Life can arise." An African Djembe melody sounds rhythmically and the hundred guests follow the lively beat.

Sunday, 2 p.m. Both doors are open at the main entrance of the Zollis. "We figure on more visitors," you can learn at the gate. "Ten years ago 14,000 would visit on Easter Sunday, today there might be 4,000." It can't be because of the weather - there is hardly a cloud in the sky - despite the gloomy forecast which had been predicted. It is completely comfortable with the number of visitors, there were no bottlenecks near the various animal buildings. Many new families were underway, one is tempted to call them "Kinderwagen Convoys." Many youngsters take delight in the special Easter children's theater called "Egg, egg, egg."

"Where did you find your Easter eggs?" one actress took turns asking her young audience. "Behind a chair" and "In a pitcher" came her responses. At the same time, the question was answered of where the Easter rabbit mostly made his rounds: home sweet home. As it has always been, Sunday is primarily a day of family togetherness. This hypothesis was verified by a short drive through the city. Not only in Zolli, but also in the parks and in Joggeli Bath there were relative few people. When clouds began to build up later that afternoon, the hope completely disappeared that Easter 2000 would go down in the city's annals as the "most beautiful four days" [stated in Swiss dialect].

Sunday, 10 p.m.: "There, I completely forgot to go shopping for Monday." Daniel is one of the customers typical for this evening on the large retail shops at the train station. They had also stayed open for the holidays, to the joy of their clientele, who consisted mainly of a) people under 40 and b) singles and apartment dwellers. Anyone faced with an empty refrigerator can still find salvation at the train station up until 10 at night. Anybody who did not go to the theater will get sleepy-eyed in front of his own flickering screen. Behind the curtains of nearly every second residence can be seen the flicker of a television set.

Easter Monday, 1:30 p.m.: The weather leaves much to be desired, the TV programs, too. Several parents go off to the movies with their children or go for a ride in the Steinen suburbs. And trips to the museum are also part of the day's routine for some, while all-night party-goers seek to soothe their aching heads. Those who had left town are slowly coming back, as can be seen in the districts where parking places are again getting scarce. The weekend's crowning moment came as the sun smiled conciliatorily through the clouds to create a good mood for the next weekend - because - thanks to the 1st of May, that is another Monday off!

A Scientology recruiter (left) accosts two young people in the Steinen suburb about the Scientology personality test (foto: Roland Schmid)

Recruitment paragraph?

Basel, Switzerland
March 23, 2000
Basler Zeitung

Despite a misfire of the first police charges against two Scientology recruiters, the new Basel ban against improper recruitment on public land has had its effect. Nevertheless, the police charges will also serve as a basis for other ban standards.

Scientology recruiters distribute "free personality tests" with 200 questions in the Steinen suburb. The people accosted are invited to fill out the test and have it evaluated in a nearby office. It serves to find out the personal capabilities and weaknesses of the person approached, stated Andre Steffen from the Scientology Church. The voids are addressed by "auditing" with the e-meter, a device which indicates emotions.

To improve the situation of the subject person, books, privately formed courses and seminars are offered, like the communication course for 250 franks. Bigger courses could cost from 1,000 to 2,000 franks. Andre Steffen decisively rejected any relationship between the questioning in auditing and psychotherapeutical activity. He said auditing was about a religious view of spiritual life. Scientology is actually based on religious premises of the immortality of the "Thetan," the human spirit. Awareness of that is supposed to grow by following the eight "dynamics" of life, containing individually and socially related components. The goal of the personality test, auditing and the courses is to become "clear," that means free from the "reactive mind" as a source of undesired fears, emotions, spiritually caused suffering and open to the personal power, talents, goodness and respectability of one's own life.

Dependencies and expenses

Anybody who is going through a crisis is susceptible to those kind of promises, answers SP greater council member Susanne Haller. She said the flip side of pressure to perform and performance evaluations is, after failures, people doubt their own personal values. First, she said, the person accosted is overwhelmed with "love bombing," a salvo of "stroke units," as Susanne Haller further states. She said that whoever uncritically follows up on the offers ends up in a closed, self-justifying system of thought and behavior. Personal risk for the person recruited is associated with dependencies outside the network of psychological services and associated with considerable expenses.

PMD complaints against free speech

To oppose that sort of risk, the Greater Council decision of September 16, 1998, in effect since November 1, 1998 was added to the criminal code as paragraph 23a on "recruitment on public land." It prohibits recruiting passersby by using "deceptive or obtrusive methods." Recruitment personnel in violation of that ordinance can be dispersed "from specific locations or in general." In response to the state rights complaint of the "Scientology Church Association," the Federal Court confirmed the validity of this regulation. At the same time the criminal court exonerated two Scientology recruiters who had been charged. That is because it judged the recruitment to be commercial, and therefore not religious, activity. Paragraph 23a of the criminal ordinances cannot be applied for that. The Department of Police and Military submitted an appeal to that judgment, reported the chief of the legal service, Stephan Blaesi. A hearing date has not yet been set. Administrative council member Joerg Schild is determined to go through with the new paragraph 23a regulation, PMD spokesman Klaus Mannhart verified.

Two paragraphs applied

Bruno Loetscher of the Justice Department said that there were plans in the future that paragraph 23a would not just be applied to idealist purposes. Paragraph 20 of the street traffic codes, prohibiting the distribution of commercial printed matter on public land, was also cited. Punishment can be applied regardless of whether the improper recruitment is declared to be idealist or commercial. Recruitment other than that which is customarily thought of to be religious can be prohibited, determined the Federal Court. "Negative religious freedom does not protect the public from confrontations with the religious convictions of others." "But the persons accosted have the right to reject these opinions and to not talk about them. As soon as a pedestrian makes the recruiter aware of that - and not until then - the recruiter must forego further efforts at recruitment." In order for the recruitment to remain licit, there must be no pressure, deception or irrelevant costs applied in further meetings, auditing or courses.

Juerg Meyer

The court employee did it

Letters to the Editor

Basel, Switzerland
December 29, 1999
Basler Zeitung

in response to "Member of Scientology get stiff sentences" BaZ Nr. 268

One has to make it clear here that this judgment was not handed down explicitly "against Scientology," but against a few members ... or would the "Catholic Church" be condemned when several of their staff are punished? The principal accused verified that his actions had been in violation of church directives. A total of five members were sentenced, two were exonerated. These kinds of judgments with Scientology often involve tons of prejudice, as one can also see in the journalism of BaZ [this newspaper]. For instance, it was reported that portions of the files were placed in records destruction under "peculiar" circumstances, not that they were put into the shredder by a court employee through oversight. Officially signed and sealed! This destruction harmed the accused, since important documents for exoneration disappeared.

Gabi Schaer,

Spokeswoman of Scientology Zurich


Letter to the Editor

From: "Basler Zeitung"
September 8, 1998

In reference to: Scientology: Totalitarian, but not a target for State Security BaZ Nr. 202

The one and a half pages about Scientology are symptomatic of how the discussion about Scientology is led in public. Exactly two sentences were set aside to note the reaction of the Scientology Church, whereas the opposing extremists were quoted in detail. Perhaps this aspect will be looked into sometime, too, because the controversy can be sustained in this form only so long as our opinion is diluted as much as possible. Several aspects of this article must be clarified.

Even though we welcome the fact that surveillance will not take place, it must still be noted that our "intelligence-like activity" is no more or less than what journalists do in order to research a topic. Also, the word "totalitarian" has been sucked dry. One would have to describe institutions such as the state churches or the military as totalitarian if one were to apply the criteria of the Commission. Scientology wanting to do away with democracy or human rights is utter stupidity.

What is interesting is that in the entire discussion about Scientology, the religious creed - fundamentally the most important document of a denomination - was never mentioned. It would have contradicted all these prejudices. I could cite dozens of passages out of the Bible which could be re-interpreted to be anti-democratic - would State Security have to write a report about that, too? Aren't Christians also constantly involved in conflicts, persecutions and lawsuits all over the world? The report of the State Security Commission is so teeming with "could's," "possibly's," and "in case's" but clear facts are not found. This is the way one foments slander and spreads rumors. The report reveals so much incorrect information of the kind that we have already applied to the Federal Police to bring about a corrected version.

Jürg Stettler, Scientology Zürich

Scientology plans anti-drug campaign

The sect would like to be active in Basel but is not getting support from government agencies or social experts

Basel, Switzerland
February 25, 2001
Sonntagszeitung Zuerich

by Peter Knechtli

Basel - Scientology would like to mingle with the drug politic in Basel: a representative of the controversial sect is sounding out openings in government agencies and anti-addiction institutions. The "Gassenzimmer" manager wanted nothing to do with cooperation.

Annette Klug, public relations Scientologist for the Basel region, first made inquiries at the city horticultural nursery. Several days ago she met with Samuel Bertschi, the director of the Basel center for issues of addiction. Bertschi said she wanted to know "to what extent Scientology could perform an active role in combatting drugs": "I told her only who is responsible for that, nothing more and nothing less." If Scientology is getting involved in the politics of drugs, he said, then coordinated action was indicated.

Basel Region Addiction aid center expressed "stark surprise"

The Scientologist woman showed up in the offices of Walter Meury, the director of the "Gassenzimmer Riehenring und Spitalstrasse," last week. Meury said, "Mrs. Klug explained that Scientology wanted to take part in a needle-collection operation." Klug verified for "Der SonntagsZeitung" that the planned needle-collection action was only part of a larger international project: "We are making an anti-drug campaign," she said. They will set up stands and send out brochures to make the public aware of the "methods by which we remove drugs from bodies."

A source at "Suchthilfe Region Basel" (SRB), which runs two "Gassenzimmer," said the atmosphere was one of "stark surprise" when the Scientologist gave the impression that she had been "forwarded" there from Bertschi. "No, thanks," SRB business manager Gabi Maechler turned down the offer and told us, "The problems with drugs are delicate enough without Scientology having to get involved here."

Walter Meury also said he saw no need to cooperate with Scientology. "This thing is too hot politically." Basel is aware of Scientology; it is the first Canton in Switzerland to pass a law against aggressive membership recruitment on public land. According to Meury there exists "at the moment no need" for a needle-collection operation. He said the operation they already had to collect needles was good enough, "Today there are no longer piles of needles lying around." Doctor Silva Keberle said in response to Scientology that there was a possibility drug addicts "could be manipulated for a private purpose."

Basel Health Director Carlo Conti (CVP) has made his position clear. If Scientology wanted to collect needles then "note would be taken of it," and he also said, "But the Canton has no intention and no need to cooperate with Scientology on the theme of drugs."

GPK of the Greater Council is to clarify role of the state attorney

From: "News-Window", Switzerland
August 26, 1998

(sda/yz) Scientology brought serious charges against the Basel state attorney's office in connection with the failed espionage attempt in Basel. It demanded an "extensive investigation" by the Business Oversight Commission of the Greater Council's GPK.

In the case of the German intelligence agent who was arrested in Basel while searching for information on Scientology, the state district attorney's office refused a request for a public review of documents, said Scientology at a press conference. The state attorney's office did not add violation of data security law to its charges, as Scientology would have done in connection with the affair.

Scientology filed for redress of both points. They want the GPK to clarify what role the Basel state district attorney's office played in the matter. Scientology accuses them of being arbitrary. The office is trying to close the case with little or no uproar.

At this point the espionage case is waiting on the criminal court in Basel. After the close of the investigation by the federal attorney's office, the Basel state attorney's office brought charges against the German intelligence agent and against a Zurich sect specialist in June. The German official was charged with having false identification, illicit activity for a foreign country, and political intelligence gathering. The Swiss woman will have to answer to charges of political intelligence service.