Controversial Law against Sects
Paris fighting against "Mental Manipulation"
June 24, 2000
by Rudolf Balmer
Paris On Thursday, France's National Assembly decided upon an anti-sect law without a dissenting vote. If the French representatives get what they want, "mental manipulation" of sect victims will be added as a misdemeanor in the criminal code. The National Assembly has long been involved with the fight against sects which do business with gullible innocents under the cloak of religious freedom, which infiltrate institutions and, especially, influence weak citizens with occasionally morbid ideas. As a result of the shock of the collective suicide of members of the Order of the Sun Temple, the delegates have already produced a list of sects which would have to be categorized as a threat to society. Legal handling has previously almost always been lacking in the fight against the sect nuisance.
Information is not good enough
Since 1996 the justice department has initiated 280 court proceedings, most of them based on complaints by former sect members, a hundred of them were dropped without a trial, convictions resulted in only 48 cases - mostly for deception, fraud or illegal practice of medicine. The government also has the opinion that, in view of the often very tightly organized and well-financed sects, preventive information alone is not sufficient. But their legislative proposal has now been strengthened so much by the representatives in many respects, that the proposal has little chance of getting the vote even in the conservative Senate.
Scientologists sounding the alarm
The discussion involves the definition of the new crime of "mental manipulation." "Who decides which organization is using repeated, heavy pressure upon a person so as to make a profit from physical or moral dependency?" asked, for example, the sect delegation of the French Bishop's Conference. Other representatives of the major denominations also voiced similar objections. The government would like to get the opinion of the consultative Human Rights Commission in the debate before the Senate. The law also says that organizations revealed to be sects will not be permitted to open - similar to sex shops - branches in the direct vicinity of schools, retirement homes and hospitals. A spokeswoman for the Scientologists, who see themselves, probably not completely by accident, as being targeted by the anti-sect law, stated, "If this law is passed, then democracy in France is over."
Judgment may Boomerang
October 23, 1999
In a surprising turn of events, two Scientologists have been exonerated in a legal proceeding in Basel. The judgment, however, could turn out to be a boomerang.
by Hugo Stamm, Basel
The new law in Basel-City Canton which prohibits deceptive advertising on public land has not passed its baptism by fire. The solitary judge in the Basel Criminal Court exonerated two Scientologists on formal grounds. They had repeatedly accosted pedestrians in an aggressive manner and were fined 500 franks, which they then appealed.
But the Scientologists will have to accept the exoneration with a grain of salt. In the basis of his judgment, the judge stated that the distribution of personality tests by Scientologists is part of a comprehensive sales strategy, which makes it commercial activity. The goal of their operation consists of selling astronomically expensive course and materials, as the one accused had demonstrated. He had stated that he had paid out about 15,000 franks [over $10,000] for such "religious services."
Because of that, the judge did not rate the advertising as an idealist or religious activity, but as commercial. Therefore the new law could not be applied; the Scientologists have to be charged for unfair [commercial] competition. But because the sect is using everything it has to look like a church, the exoneration may hurt more than help. Now their advertising can be assessed as commercial activity, and the "missionaries" have to count on being prosecuted for unfair competition, which carries heavier penalties.
Scientologists may now be charged everywhere
The judge came to his decision mainly for official reasons. In his complaint, the accuser had not been precise enough in the the facts of the matter as required by law; he had not listed deceptive and unfair advertising on his specifications, instead these arguments first appeared at the hearings.
Because of this, the defense criticized that the principle of bringing charges had been violated because he had not been able to prepare for the new accusations. The judge agreed with him and stated that the law was not applicable in the case. But he indicated that the Scientologists would have had to reckon with conviction if they would have been charged with unfair competition. This means that now sect members may be charged all over Switzerland, not just in Basel.
Fight against the fear business
Sect Expert Hugo Stamm:
Portrait of an untiring "preacher"
August 13, 1999
For events like the solar eclipse or the change of the millennium, self-proclaimed prophets strongly stoke the fires of world doom. During these times sect expert Hugo Stamm is particularly sought after. Who is this preacher against the "soul-trappers"?
Basel public high school. Hugo Stamm heads toward the auditorium with fast steps, a skateboard - "his bicycle" - under his arm. The man's in a hurry. Always. The 50 year old is a sect expert and a sought-after speaker. On the theme of the Apocalypse he talks about concepts addressing the end of the world in sects, churches and cults. Hugo Stamm has charisma and is something of a go-getter. He articulates with a pregnant voice, engaged, tough and unyielding. The advice which he wants to give: "Protect yourselves from the 'soul-trappers'." For almost 25 years the "Tages-Anzeiger" newspaper editor has fought against self-proclaimed gurus of every flavor. His book which appeared in Fall 1998, "Under the Spell of the Apocalypse," and numerous media articles have given him great publicity. When he put his message on posters for "Passugger" mineral water though, he himself dealt with accusations of acting as a seducer. Stamm doesn't see it that way, "If it has to do with prevention and I can reach a wide audience, I don't feel too sorry about that."
Deficiencies in Society
Sect, cults and new religious movements are currently experiencing a dangerous prosperity. There are about 1,000 groups and sub-groups in Switzerland; it is said to be somewhat more in Germany. Stamm places responsibility for many people being driven into the arms of prophets of salvation on a "deficiency in common sense, security and orientation." "In these times of radical pluralism, we are no longer capable of recognizing indoctrination mechanisms to find our own way between false gurus and groups. Tradition, the faith of our parents and society no longer contribute adequate values." On top of that the upcoming turn of the millennium, wars and natural catastrophes are interpreted as signs of impending world doom. "Behind the prophecies, though, are mostly the entirely personal needs of the prophets."
Hope instead of Fear
Nobody knows the future, but everybody talks about it. Apocalyptic pictures are, thanks to not least of all the Old and the New Testaments, deeply steeped in occidental consciousness. According to the Revelations of John, hail and fire "mixed with blood" will fall to the earth, stars will fall from the firmament, people who seek but not find death will be set upon by scorpions. That is the fertile ground for the Apocalyptics of all times - along with the visions of the end of time by star prophet Nostradamus from the 16th century. "It becomes dangerous," said Stamm, "when the associated, irrational fear is intentionally used for indoctrination."
On August 11 of this year - as the metaphors of astrologer and physician Karl IX are interpreted by gurus - the "Terror King" of heaven is supposed to rise and cause something catastrophic. A rare constellation of planets has warmed up the speculation and there will also be an eclipse of the sun that day. "The event was - without the apocalyptic background - a beautiful spectacle of nature in the heavens and impressively contradicted the oracle," said Stamm, and he hopes that it gives courage to people insecure about the turn of the millennium. Stamm also sees the turn of the millennium as a "sign of departure and the chance to form the world in a more human way." Moreover, the Scythian monk, Dionysius Exiguus (approx. 497-545 A.D.) had erred in the revision of the Christian reckoning of time. Jesus was not born in the year 1, but six or seven years earlier. Turn of the millennium? It is already long past!
Freedom and Tolerance
It was not entirely coincidental that Hugo Stamm advanced to a sought-after sect expert from being a former philosophy student and graduate of teaching seminars. Brought up in his Catholic parents' house in Schaffhausen, Stamm had early been sensitized to religious and humanistic importances. In doing that he did not cling to one faith. "With our consciousness we are not able to grasp only approximate cosmic dimensions," believes Hugo Stamm. For him, tolerance and freedom are essential. "That is why I am disturbed when people fall into a system of dependency. Most of the time with fatal consequences: the rule is material exploitation, fear to the point of seeking death and addictive tendencies."
In 1974 Stamm graduated editor's unpaid training at the "Tages-Anzeiger," later became editor, and continues to work for the newspaper, even if no longer as a full-time job. He never anticipated the avalanche which began in the 1970s when he began to track various youth and psycho sects, primarily Scientology. After the report on the Scientologists he was flooded with mail, including many letters of thanks from parents. Shortly thereafter he established himself as an author with the book "Scientology - Souls in Stranglehold" and numerous published articles. Hugo Stamm also appeared in public for lectures and continuing education seminars - and found himself the object of criticism as a result. His opponents were presenting him, in turn, as a guru and a figure of power. He vehemently defended himself, "I do not proscribe for anybody what they have to think and to do." As far as he was concerned he was only warning others of missing events and showing connections. He said he was investigating neither world views nor models of thought.
The Patty Schnyder "case"
The supermarket of obscure groups is blooming. From former sect members and their relatives, Hugo Stamm learns what is goes on behind the facades of doomsday sects and cults like "Solar Templists" and "Aum," in Apocalyptic new revelations groups like "Universal Life" or "Fiat Lux," which ideologies and visions are being pursued by esoteric or theosophical movements, New Age circles as well as neo-Pagan and new religious tides. For these people he is an important partner in discussion. Carefully, Stamm analyzes with those affected the ways which have led them into dependency and develops a counter-strategy with them. He sees his main work, though, as supporting the social environment of those who believe in sects. "Above anything else parents and relatives must learn how to deal with the situation without getting entangled up with it themselves."
A prominent example of his involvement are Patty Schnyder, the tennis player, and her parents. A few months ago Patty had fallen into the clutches of the controversial healer, Rainer Harnecker, from whom she has since dissociated herself. "What was destructive was that Harnecker had wanted to destroy everything that Patty Schnyder had built in the previous years." She will have to digest this experience in her life a little bit at a time. "A person can only look at as much as he is able to." Patty Schnyder will probably not get around to psychological care, Stamm cautiously presumes. However this segment of her life - as a so-called border experience - could also contribute positively to her personal history when Patty is ready to consistently work everything out.
Experiences from the often painful lives of people affected are found in Stamm's books. He supports his work with numerous original documents from former sect members and with information from other observers on the international scene. However, he himself has not yet been baptized in the name of his own research. "They all know me already," he says laconically. "At certain public events I am tolerated only reluctantly" [literally: "with the gnashing of teeth" - trans.].
Although Hugo Stamm will soon have 25 years insight into the indoctrination mechanisms, it is still incomprehensible to him today that the pressure inside the groups can build up to collective suicide and the state is powerless. One example he gives is the doomsday massacre of the "Heaven's Gate" sect in 1997. "Near San Diego in California, 38 deluded disciples took their own lives with poison. They died in the belief that a spaceship was waiting for them in the tail of the Hale-Bopp comet which was coming to pick them up. By their beds were found travel bags with Nike shoes, five dollar bills and tooth paste."
"When it comes to justice and information I don't mince words," said Stamm. Anybody who positions himself as a critic against the sect leaders, though, should not be timid. Stamm has reported of anonymous murder threats, of being shadowed round the clock, of libel in the form of leaflets, of rock-throwing, of feces sent to him at home and naturally of countless legal processes. "After one presentation I was even beaten up." That did not intimidate him, just the opposite. "Repression stimulates my creative ability." Neither does Stamm think about retreat. "Without the annoyances it would be unbearable for me and my environment."
Private by nature
Hugo Stamm would rather not talk about his private life. He avoid parties; one looks for him in vain in the gossip hang-outs. "Popularity and life are a symptom of my involvement." When he was in his early 20s, he was told that he would "calm down." The prediction, however, has not come true. He continues to be driven by "fire and temperament." His creed goes "heart on the side of the weak, politically progressive, personally straight, critical of self and independent." For that reason he does not believe in media appearances or hefty honoraria. He would rather do his counselling free of charge. But the psychic annoyances, seven-day weeks, office hours often into the night - after a vacation a couple of weeks ago he had 200 e-mails to answer -, expensive research: Hugo Stamm cannot just hide all that away. To compensate for his nerve-wracking work he goes biking and jogging or takes a vacation with his companion, preferably on the beach. That is where the wind and waves inspire him, with his surf board and his skateboard, "and where I have the necessary drive to work on my new book," he sums up, grinning.
Today, Hugo Stamm is among the most renowned sect experts in Europe. He has published several books on the theme [in German], among them: "Scientology. Soul in a Stranglehold" (1982, Gegenverlang), "VPM. The Soul Trap" (1993, Werdverlang), "Sects. In the Spell of Passion and Power" (1995, Kreuzverlag), "In the Spell of the Apocalypse" (1998, Pendo Verlag). His next book is to appear in the coming year. Stamm does not want to reveal anything else about it. In 1996, Hugo Stamm was given the Award for Civil Courage by the Christian Business Association. Hugo Stamm's work offers extensive information and analyses into the problems of sects. For people who have been affected by sects, Stamm's books can be of useful argumentation and immediate assistance.
Police tighten up control in Steinen suburbs
July 7, 1999
Control is being stepped up in the Steinen suburbs for the purpose of implementing the law against deceptive or unfair advertising. AM.
How will the police react now? That is the cardinal question after the Federal Court's judgment that prohibiting deceptive or unfair methods of advertising on public land is to be regarded as compatible with the Constitution. The answer: on the one side the police are intensifying controls in the Steinen suburbs, on the other side they are waiting on the basis of judgment as well as court decisions pertaining to real cases.
vks. "I hope that the police will now react and tell people to be on their way." Rolf Fuhrer, President of the Steinen Community Association spoke frankly last Wednesday, after the Federal Court judged as constitutional the new entry in the Basel City criminal code violations which makes deceptive or unfair methods of advertising on public land a punishable offense, thereby dismissing an official complaint by the Scientology organization and one of its members (see BaZ of July 1, 1999). The new criminal code, which passed the Great Council in September 1998 without major debate and with only four votes against it, did not explicitly mention Scientology, but was primarily directed at that organization, which makes its presence particularly known in the Steinen suburbs.
"Nothing will change" in Practice
No one is more interested in the reaction by the police than the Basel criminal investigation officials who have been waiting on the decision from Lausanne and have, as a result, interpreted their mission in a reserved manner. On top of that, Scientology included in its opinion of the federal court judgment that "nothing would change" in the practice of its organization in Basel. It was completely agreed that the act of proselytizing could be carried out in a manner which was neither unfair, deceptive or annoying; its members were said to have been long ago instructed in this respect.
Waiting on the courts
The cardinal question after the federal court's judgment was answered for "Baz" [this newspaper] by Herbet Maritz, Provisional Representative of the Police Commandant: his statements can be summarized by saying that the police, on one side "will intensify control operations" - out of tactical consideration for the police, no detailed information is available -, but on the other side he would not like to speak too hastily as the written basis of decision and actual individual court cases are outstanding.
The guidelines followed by the police in the Steinen suburbs now say that no more than two people may advertise at the same time, as the Commandant Representative mentioned. Otherwise an order to disperse will be given. If someone is annoyed by the advertising, then a citation will result. And herein lies the problem of the open-ended text of the law, which Maritz states is "no simple application." "What does 'annoy' mean?" In their vote, the seven federal judges of the First Public-Legal Department gave to understand that there would still be some problem associated with the application of the code.
"Not all that much help"
Because of this Maritz described the chosen wording of the new code as "not all that much help." From the police perspective the criminal standard needs to be better worded, however he is very well aware of the fact that government and parliament were reserved in their legislation on legal grounds. Accordingly the police hope for the written basis of the federal court's decision and an actual court case for orientation purposes as soon as possible. Before such a court decision occurs it makes little sense, said Maritz, to extensively interpret the law because that could increase the chances for acquittal and have a prejudicial effect on the first court decision.
Two cases in the Criminal Court
The police may not have to wait on the court cases much longer: there are two cases, which originated in the period before the federal court's judgment, which are already in the Basel Criminal Court. Since last Wednesday, according to the police, there have been no further citations, nor have any dispersements been ordered.
At BaZ's question as to whether the police, in view of the much-discussed, self-admitted lack of personnel in the police and justice departments, as well as other factors which are currently in effect (Ocalan, Kleinbasel or gas chamber), would be able to seriously enforce the code , the Commandant Representative unmistakably stated, "That is a question of setting priorities. We cannot perform miracles, but we have the opinion that we will now have to enforce this code as well as we can."
Downtown Business Association squares off with Scientology
From: "BaZ - Basler Zeitung"
Wednesday, December 2, 1998
Charges of unfair methods of advertisement on public land have been brought against Scientologists. "IG Steinen," [a district business association in Basel] wants the criminal law to be enforced.
gs. The IG Steinen wants to see the law against "unfair or deceptive methods," which went into effect last week, enforced. The new law is directed, ipso facto against the Scientology organization, even though it is not explicitly mentioned in the text of the law (see BaZ of Nov. 19).
In a letter to the Canton police on November 25, the IG Steinen asked that "the Scientologists be directed off the street" "daily, so that we can to conduct our business in peace without having our customers continually and repeatedly accosted in front of our shops." Many customers stay away from the Steinen district because of the Scientologists. The letter was signed by 35 people, a regular "Who's who" of the Steinen district, even if it does not contain every possible name and business. According to Rolf Fuhrer, the President of the IG Steinen, the discussion is about what to do next. Scientologists have actually been charged, shop owners have told the BaZ.
Herbert Maritz, Acting Commandant of the Canton Police, told the BaZ that he had not (yet) seen the letter by the IG Steinen. He would have to line up a plan - together with Department Director Jörg Schild - to deal with "Scientology doctrine." The situation is not exactly going to be simple for the police. The interrogations of the witnesses about being bothered by unfair advertising in relation to the charges made need to be conducted. By itself, a charge leads only to one man's word against another's before the court. The validity of the facts of the matter still need to be proven by due process. In talking with reporters, Maritz brought up the fact that it would be not be pretty if individual Scientologists received fines - and subsequently the federal court in Lausanne decided in favor of the grievance against the public law. So far, the highest court in Switzerland has denied "only" Scientology's application to postpone the effective date of the law. Maritz hopes for a quick decision by the federal court, that would simplify matters greatly. André Steffen, the press spokesman for Scientology Basel, thinks that the law is "not applicable": "We are not deceptive because we carry written signs. Anybody who doesn't want to know about us can continue with no problem, because we aren't bothersome, either." All-purpose fines will be contested.
The Law Should only prevent abuse
From: Basler Zeitung
September 8, 1998
The proposed law which would punish importunate methods of recruitment on public land is one of the items of business which occupy a central point of interest in the September session. "The restriction should only prevent the abuse," argued Susanne Haller (SP).
vks. Proposal "8838" of the state assembly is on the agenda for the September session of the great assembly. Hiding behind this insignificant number is a legislative proposal which has already been in the limelight of publicity repeatedly since its inception (see BaZ of July 10 and September 1). On the surface, it concerns a new resolution which would make importunate recruitment methods on Basel public land a punishable offense. Despite the fact the the administration's proposal does not mention the word "Scientology" a single time, it is directed predominately at this organization.
A unique proceeding world wide
In order to be able to oppose the controversial recruitment methods of Scientology and similar organizations the administration is now recommending a supplement to canton punishable violations by the great council. The new punishment will apply to "those who bother passers-by on public land in an importunate method." The police are to receive authority "to direct recruiters away from individual or general locations, if their making contact with passers-by presents an importunate annoyance or when there are indications that illicit, particularly deceptive or otherwise vile methods are being used in recruitment."
In his opinion of the matter, Jurg Stettler, the speaker of the Swiss Scientologists, told BaZ [this newspaper] that the resolution of the administrative council would be unique world wide, and that freedom of religion and speech of individual citizens would be restricted.
He even mentioned that a press release of the organization stated that the proposed legislation would open the "door to arbitrariness by the state and by the police," and that state repression in Basel was being used to prevent social discussion. The trigger which brought the state into this generally delicate legislative situation was a motion by Susanne Haller (SP) from 1996. The motion was widely supported; at the time it was signed by 70 members of Parliament from all parties.
"The restriction of undesirable practices on public land is only supposed to prevent their abuse," argued Susanne Haller in a meeting with BaZ [this newspaper]. The new law is the result of an intensive legislative process of the last two years. The resolution was constructed so that neither freedom of speech nor freedom of belief, and not even freedom of trade or advertisement are being violated; it is compatible with Basic Law, as has been mentioned by Justice Director Hans Martin Tschudi. The member of the Basel great council pointed out in her text that the new resolution would permit both the aids information booths and the distribution of the unemployment newspaper as it had before. "And," continued Haller, "the form of state which first made it possible for Scientology to operate was our democracy. Their organization is being left alone."
No Application by the Administration
The thing that is interesting to the administration about proposal "8838" is not just the novelty of the legislation, but also that the executive waived the application to Parliament. A majority of the seven administrative members were all of the view that neither the resolution worked out by the Justice Department nor the police means were suitable to handle the problems which are brought about in connection with sects. This seemed to be more of a problem suffered by all of society. Haller commented on this process to the BaZ [this newspaper] that it would be no problem for parliament whether the administrative council recommended a business for application or not: "The Great Council legitimizes it, and not the administration."
Because the new law against sect recruitment is listed in 23rd place on the agenda without commission advisement before the plenum, and in view of the important business in a heavy September session, it may be predicted that the bill will not come up during the first session tomorrow, September 9, but during the session continuation of September 16. The chances that it will be approved by a parliamentary majority, Haller estimates, are good. The reactions of the council members with whom she has been in contact appear to be "quite clearly positive."
Susanne Haller can at least be assured of the support of her own party, the Social Democrats. "The SP faction and unions are unanimous when it comes to consumer protection from recruitment on public property!" stated a communiqué which was handed to the editorial staff yesterday. The Great Council could now send a political signal by passing the bill. For years, the laws have been more and more in favor of protection of the population of Basel.
From: "Basler Zeitung"
September 1, 1998
(from left to right)
Federal Police Chief Urs von Daeniken,
KSK President Andreas Huber and sect
specialist Jean-François Mayer
yesterday at the presentation of the
Foto Ruben Sprich/Reuters
Scientology: totalitarian, but not a target of state security
by Daniel Gerny
The massacre at Waco or the mass suicides of the Solar Templers are examples of sect episodes which have made headlines. In 1996, an ad hoc work group was commissioned in which Scientology was categorized as particularly dangerous. The report has now been presented - and downplays the dangers for the state.
Berne. In Basel, the Scientologists, as it appears on some Saturday afternoons, are omnipresent: the sect aggressively recruits new members on Barfuesser Place and elsewhere with the help of so-called "personality tests." Several passers-by are annoyed by acquisition methods of this sort so that they want to proceed against Scientology with the help of the legislature: there is currently a proposed law on the floor in the canton of Basel City which would prohibit importunate recruitment methods - so far, this type of proposal is one of a kind in Switzerland.
Are the Scientologists a danger for state and society? Should the political police take the sect into their purview? A federal work group under the direction of Urs von Daeniken, Chief of the Federal Police researched this issue, and came to the following conclusion: "That there are no tangible references at hand which show that Scientology is trying to intrude into the Swiss state structure speaks for the postponement of preventive police surveillance." Nevertheless numerous members are under enormous pressure to attain new services, devices and books, and the organization exhibits a totalitarian structure, but "the authorities and consumer protection agencies will devote their attention to these aspects; they do not fall with the in the the legal purview of the state security organ."
The approximately 130 page report contains large sections of previously known observations about the existence and structure of the sect as well as about the founder, Ron Hubbard, but few precise numbers or statements about the spread of Scientology in Switzerland. That has to do with the fact that the report is based on publicly available sources and the work group had no special investigative police authority. The number of active Scientologists, it said, was placed by most sources, at "under 4,000" because it was not possible "to come up with an exact figure." In any case, the organization does not find itself in an upswing at the moment. In Basel, the growth appears "not to correspond with the expectations of Scientology." Also, the presence of Scientology has not changed measurably in the course of the past few years.
More recent literature from Scientology also exists in Switzerland which proves the intention to take over control of society. An excerpt from a Scientology document states, "Switzerland is the first cleared country on this planet. Switzerland is the country in which Scientology and LRH technology can bloom and thrive in all areas of life." The work group, under the direction of Urs von Daeniken judged these kind of documents to contain little threat. The report stated, "In Scientology, the ideal of a [here and now] cleared nation appears to belong more to a repertoire of themes to promote enthusiasm.
The fact that Scientology operates using intelligence service methods was the source of most concern. Even though public proof was missing in this area, observations by various people who were questioned led to the conclusion that Scientology was conducting operations "of a continuing nature to inform themselves of their environment." In that manner, the organization proceeds as an intelligence service.
Nevertheless, the activities never reached "the point of an actual strategy for the takeover of power," but were more of a means for self-defense by the use of ideologically colored precepts. In any case, that is still not acceptable, but is not enough to have the sect put under surveillance by the political police. It can be presumed from various statements at the press conference yesterday that the 'fiche' affair was also cause for a certain amount of reservation in this area [an affair which symbolizes to the Swiss people the error of putting citizens under surveillance].
The work group and the Consulting State Security Commission (KSK) still recommended that the situation be re-evaluated after a certain period of time based on publicly accessible information, especially the observations of other European nations.
Besides that, an observation center should be commissioned at an institute of higher learning to gather information about the development of sects in Switzerland.
Basel. vks. The report "Scientology in Switzerland" described the efforts of the Canton of Basel City in regard to sects as an "interesting development." In July, the Basel administration was able to make a new proposal: at a media conference, which aroused a great deal of interest, Justice Minister Hans Martin Tschudi presented proposed legislation meant to close the door on the controversial recruitment methods of Scientology and similar organizations. The proposed resolution would entail a change to the criminal code (see BaZ of July 10).
It is proposed that punishment be an option for "anyone who harasses passers-by on public land by importunate methods of recruitment." The police would have the authority "to generally direct recruiters away from individual locations if their contact with passers-by presents an obtrusive annoyance, or if there are signs that the recruitment is illicit, in particular if deceptive or otherwise vile methods are being used." As easy as the wording of the proposed legislation is to read, there is no mention of the word "Scientology." The legislation is, nevertheless, aimed primarily at this organization. The new Basel law against sect recruitment, which is scheduled to go before the September session of the Greater Assembly (Sept. 9 and 16), goes back to 1996 and a proposal by the Social Democrat, Susanne Haller. The motion was signed by no less than 70 members of all parties in Parliament, which is an indication that the proposal may be well received in the Greater Assembly.
Sect Specialist Hugo Stamm:
"The Influence is enormous"
The BaZ [this newspaper] spoke with Hugo Stamm, sect expert and editor at the "Tages-Anzeiger." He says it is right that the federal police are not being used on Scientology.
BaZ: Mr. Stamm, what do you think of the Scientology report?
Hugo Stamm: On the positive side: the federal government has made a decision as to how to deal with sects, and Scientology exhibits a totalitarian tendency and uses intelligence agency methods. These signals have previously been absent. However, the report, in all, has too moderate of an effect and does not do justice to the actual menace.
How dangerous do you think Scientology is?
The real danger is actually not very high. This is not because the authorities are undertaking anything, but because the media points out and explains where Scientology tries to gain influence. However, the potential for danger is gigantic: Scientology derides democracy, draws their adherents into dependency, and wants to spread their totalitarian system upon the world. Scientology is striving for total power, and if that would not have been recognized in a timely manner, their area of influence would today be gigantic. The authorities failed to get this point across.
What needs to be done now?
I am not for setting the federal police on Scientology. Existing, legal alternatives must be used to restrict the radius of operation for Scientology. Health law would offer a way of dealing with Scientology when they distribute vitamin B preparations for the "purification rundown" or when they endanger the mental or bodily health of their members in other ways. Besides that, the operating and sales methods of Scientology have to be examined for violations of the UWG.
What do you think of the law which is being worked up in Basel?
It is urgently necessary and right. Scientology must be prevented from taking in pedestrians with questionable tricks or sales speeches. The long road this law has taken also shows how difficult it is for the authorities to do this.
And how are things going for Scientology world wide?
Scientology is stagnating in regards to number of members. What is decisive, however, is the huge financial power which stands behind the organization. Because of that, their influence is enormous.
Does this group show the most threat?
The deciding factor for me is what happens with the members. That is where Scientology has the most absolute and dangerous system. Nevertheless, members of other groups can also experience serious dependency or a change of personal judgment. For this reason, focusing only upon Scientology is, in my eyes, a delicate matter.
Street Advertising for Scientology in Germany
Closely Observed in Germany
Germany is having Scientology "observed" by state security because the sect is ranked as "totalitarian" and anti-constitutional. That has led to a grotesque dispute with the USA.
Bonn. The Federal Republic of Germany (80 million inhabitants) and the Scientology sect (10,000 - 30,000 members in Germany) are having a public relations war which has been bordering on madness for the past few years. The sect has held protest demonstrations in Frankfurt and Berlin, and they have placed full-page newspaper advertisements which place Germany in the same context as that of National Socialism - signed by the upper echelon of American cultural celebrities (Gore Vidal, Costa-Gavras, Dustin Hoffman). The German administration has - a great rarity - permitted their disagreement in the matter to be expressed to Washington, in particular, after they were branded a violator of religious freedom in an official UN report, and were targeted in a proposed motion for censure by the US Congress. This was dismissed last year. Since then the theme has fallen into the background, although a new resolution has been introduced in Congress.
A cause for the Scientologist's anger is their "surveillance" by German state security, which had been voted upon last year by the Interior Ministries of the states. Since then the organization is officially suspected of acting in opposition to the principle of German basic law. "Surveillance" means no restrictions of freedom. However, state security systematically evaluates material accumulated on Scientology, and it hires informants to use classic espionage techniques upon the sect and its members. As early as 1995, the Federal Labor Court had designated the appearance of Scientology as a church as a "pretext" for commercial interests whose practices were categorized as "humanly contemptible." Since then the German officials have been hard on the heels of the "psycho-business" (state security jargon) with the tax laws, the commercial police and the labor laws. Scientologists may not be members of the major parties, and in Bavaria, the civil service must affirm under oath that they have nothing to do with the organization. In contrast to that, Scientology has propelled itself to tax exemption and the status of a "church" in the USA.
The "surveillance" is officially of a fixed duration. The states' Interior Ministries want an extension to be decided this coming November on the basis of a "state of affairs report." Individual states have already signalled a willingness to extend. The security reports originating from Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg "confirm" the assumption that Scientology is anti-constitutional. Interior Minister Schauble from Baden-Wurttemberg has already spoken in favor of an extension of the surveillance this past spring. A report made by Hamburg state security about the Scientology secret service (Office of Special Affairs) described this service as the department which installs the "totalitarian goals and strategies" of the organization.
The state security agents have had some success, along with the risk. The Hamburg report and also the security report recently released from Munich have announced a fortunate stemming of the opposition. The surveillance has "perceptibly affected", wrote the Hamburg agency. Sales are going "constantly down." The number of people departing have "never been so high as they are now," and the number of members is said to be significantly under 10,000. The Hamburg agency states that Scientology is "further from their goals now than ever." There appears to be some discussion among the security agencies as to what Scientology has up its sleeve. Hamburg believes there will be a a call for instigation ("massive struggle") from Los Angeles. On the other hand, Munich sees Scientology "intentionally appearing to withdraw from Germany for tactical reasons."
A Parliamentary commission on "sects and psycho-groups" which presented its final report this summer requested the surveillance of Scientology by state security. The Green Party does not agree with this request. The commission categorized the majority of the approximately 150 communities as harmless, but called for more consumer protection for the spiritual assistance market. The commission proposed a law on "life administration help."
July 10, 1998
The Swiss city of Basel wants a law to prevent aggressive recruitment methods such as those used by Scientology
by Felix Maise, Basel
For years the city of Basel has been one of the preferred hunting grounds of the controversial Scientology sect. Many passers-by feel harassed by the sect's obtrusive recruitment methods. These methods would be restricted by a new ordinance proposed by Basel's Planning Commissioner, Hans-Martin Tschudi, at the behest of Susanne Haller, SP senior council member and Scientology critic. "Anybody who molests passers-by with obtrusive recruitment methods will receive a fine; repeat offenders will do time. The police will be instructed to direct recruiters away from specific or general locations when their contact with passers-by presents obtrusive harassment, or when there is evidence of recruitment methods being used which are illegal, deceptive, or otherwise sordid," states the proposal. "Scientology" is not mentioned.
This is not intended to be a "Scientology law," but a type of ordinance for the public good, stated Tschudi. The goal is to prevent the ballooning of sect recruitment methods, and not to prohibit any category or to create punitive standards to fight undesired consequences of the activities of sects, as the Canton of Geneva has proposed (TA from yesterday).
The proposal is supposed to be a sensible compromise between the necessities of a constitutional state and the interests of protecting the populace from obtrusive recruitment methods, according to Tschudi. It maintains perspective and does not restrict normal functions of a democracy such as information campaigns or political activities. It is only the unnecessary degree of annoyance which is prohibited. "Our new standard is well within the limits of what our liberal constitutional fundamentals permit," comments Tschudi.
The sect problem will not be solved solely with laws. An extensive information campaign is even more important. Tshudi thinks that it would be better still if the problem were addressed at the federal level. The Business Review Commission of the National Council is working on a related report, related Urs Eschmann, co-founder and former President of the Zurich sect advisory center "Info-Sekta." A general prohibition on Scientology, as is being considered in Zurich, is held to be counter-productive. Sects would only use that to present themselves as martyrs.
Copyright: TA-Media AG
From: "Basler Zeitung"
July 10, 1998
Against Their Own Will
by Valentin Kressler
The Basel administration has - against their own will - chosen a promising middle road in its fight against the controversial recruitment methods of sects.
The media had an enormous interest in yesterday's press conference held by Justice Minister Hans Martin Tschudi. The information room at 16 Rheinsprung was filled to the last place. No surprise there. State commissioner Tschudi (finally) presented the legal measures proposed to be taken by the Greater Council against the recruitment methods of Scientology and similar organizations. A legal foundation in this area is new ground on a national, if not an international, level.
The administrative council has decided to take the middle road. The canton can now say that it is in the realm of criminal law, and that excessive recruitment methods can be prohibited on public ground. The executive had to walk the straight and narrow path between the valued legal principles of the organizations concerned and justifiably protecting the interests of the public at large. This may be the reason that the attorneys in Tschudi's department have been working on the documents for over one and a half years.
The limitation of basic rights is associated with a whole series of exigencies. First, a legal foundation is required. Second, it must be in the public interest, third, allowances must be made for proportionality. Fourth, the core content of basic law must remain the same. The federal court and, especially, the European Human Rights Commission in Strassburg have repeatedly shown that they assign an extremely high measure of importance to the protection of basic law.
Whether the proposed legislation will stand up to a complaint before the court will not be seen until the first case is tried. At first glance, it appears that the legal groundwork will stand a good chance in any case. A few unforeseen circumstances may still arise that determine whether the prescribed laws will be put into effect or not. What was interesting at the press conference was the circumstance that the administrative council was of the opinion that that the proposal is not suited to solve the problems which are associated with sects. They were more inclined to call it a commercial phenomenon which would be better approached by means of an information campaign for parents, schools, churches and [political] parties. The opposing view is that information about the mechanisms of sects is more important today than ever, yet it is still not enough. The current proposed legislation is a modern variant, whose preventive effectiveness is not to be underestimated.
Sunday News (Switzerland)
March 15, 1998
"In Swiss areas of commerce the necessary common sense is not yet there."
A German sect expert warns of the influence of Scientology
by Peter Knechtli
Basel - Switzerland needs an agency which specializes in Scientology. This is what the official Hamburg sect specialist, Ursula Caberta, recommends. On Thursday she took part in a scheduled discussion in Basel.
Mrs. Caberta, to what degree has Switzerland been infiltrated by Scientology?
Ursula Caberta: In Switzerland the discussion about Scientology has progressed considerably, so that many people know what lies behind this organization. However I imagine that in areas of commerce the necessary common sense is still not there.
The commercial elite as a bastion of Scientology?
Caberta: In Germany nobody paid attention in the beginning to what was really happening in commerce with Scientology. Also in Switzerland, at least this is my impression, this awareness has not yet properly taken effect. In the meantime in Germany commerce has become very alert, but that does not mean that the problems they've had have been solved.
In the city of Basel there is now a proposed legal ban of recruitment by psycho-sects on public property. Do you think that is a good solution?
Caberta: I have my problems with the ban. You cannot ban freedom of speech. But there ought to be a way to use existing laws consistently. I would interpret the political intention so that the Scientologists would not be able to recruit in an annoying manner any more.
Scientology claims it is a religion and not a commercial enterprise.
Caberta: Whoever presents Scientology as a religion or a church is throwing smoke bombs. The claim to religion is only camouflage for a dangerous, extremist ideology. Scientology is a new form of political extremism.
What should the Swiss officials be doing?
Caberta: The state has been called upon, and I can only recommend, that state agencies occupy themselves intensely with the subject. The solution cannot be left up to private initiative and private people. The deciding judicial process will be won by the state and not by the people. It must be made clear to the governmental administration that this is not some kind of a game. We educated the people in Hamburg. For example, auditors had to learn when they were dealing with a company which belonged to Scientology.
You publicly use plain language with a frankness which can not be imagined in Switzerland.
Caberta: In Germany there is a mandate which I am carrying out, also in Hamburg. But we are active nationwide, and all German states have joined us in our work. I can only make the most urgent appeal to the responsible Swiss authorities to establish similar agencies in the Swiss cantons or cities.
Does your example serve as a lesson for other German states?
Caberta: Yes, there is a good exchange between administrative planes up to and including the federal government; Bavaria and Hamburg especially are working closely together here. A decision such as the one by the Secretaries of the Interior Conference about the surveillance of Scientology by the Office of Constitutional Protection could not come about without cooperation with the other German states.
Are you under pressure?
Caberta: I am not under pressure [per se], but of course something is is always going on, from private detectives following one about to murder threats. That's not always funny, but one comes to expect it if one assumes such a job [as I have].
Do you have bodyguards?
Caberta: No, for heaven's sake! Besides, if anything happens to me everybody's going to know who it was.