Plans for internet pages
May 4, 2000
The Bavarian State Office for Constitutional Security ["Verfassungsschutz"] wants to present itself on the internet and report on actual events on its own home page. This was announced by Interior State Secretary Hermann Regensburger yesterday in the discussion of the 1999 Verfassungsschutz report before the legal committee of the state assembly. At the same time, though, the CSU turned down an SPD application for "modern publicity work," since "intelligence work was not child's play." Greens and SPD Representatives criticized that opinion. The publicity work by the Verfassungsschutz resembled that of Scientology, stated SPD Representative Peter Paul Gantzer. "They also distribute many brochures."
Several questions for SPD Representative Peter Paul Gantzer:
If 1. Scientology is a destructive cult,
2. which gives out many brochures, and
3. the State Office for Constitutional Security also gives out many brochures, then...
1. Is the State Office also a destructive cult?
2. Should we be under surveillance by Scientology?
Caught by Scientology
February 5, 1997
by Herbert Riehl-Heyse
The Republic is aching at its seams, the politicians are standing around in a daze, but the all-important question of the country is whether a certain painter who never did wrong to anybody would not be a Scientologist. The television magazine of Bavarian Radio broadcasting has addressed this earth-moving issue repeatedly, most recently with a challenge to the "fervid Helnwein defenders" from the SZ [this newspaper] to be more concerned about the distress of two Lower Bavarian Scientology victims, of whom of course no further mention is made. Confronted by such weighty appeals, perhaps there is really nothing left for this newspaper (which lately has been vehemently criticized by a Bavarian sect minister for its "liberal misunderstanding") but to solemnly assure its readers that it is not in the clutches of Scientology nor has it otherwise lost its senses.
The mere fact that we have to do this is part of the problem. There is something totally humiliating when anyone who, for his own reasons pleads for a sense of proportion and a constitutional state, is first forced into a long preamble from which it can be concluded that he is light years away from a so-called church whose most important articles of faith are money and power. One would like to believe that reasonable people would not have any differences of opinion about the quality of this sort of theology cum brachy-ethics; sadly not much reason has been expressed. The others would prefer to shout among themselves in broadcast confrontations. In truth there are only two possibilities when it comes to discussing Scientology or similar manifestations: the spiritual and the legal. In regards to the spiritual, first you have to come to address the puzzling phenomenon of why the established churches have so firmly taken up the battle against "the sects" in a society where less and less believe. If that, as can be assumed, is an indication of the deeply imbedded religious insecurity of many people and of their nevertheless increased hunger to support meaning, then it would be of utmost importance to work out the fundamental differences between the Christian churches and totalitarian organizations. In describing the most important characteristics of the latter, Frankfurt political scientist Hans-Gerd Jaschke used expressions like "sole representative of the truth" and "rigid differentiation between good and evil" - these are concepts which could have quite aptly been used to describe the self-serving Catholic Church, whose dark ages could only be escaped by wending one's way around the funeral pyres. Its attractiveness today for the Christian churches could only be drawn from the reverse concept: that charity is their most important theme - from the freedom of the Christian person who will not be intimidated.
That is also the byword in the legal dispute about Scientology. The ground rule is so simple that almost nobody likes to write it down: everybody may do anything, may believe anything and even make money however he wants to - that which he may not do is listed in the Constitution, in the criminal code and in agency ordinances. That is where the few rules are listed upon which a secular society can agree; it says there that one may not be coerced or blackmailed or have his children indoctrinated by strange people. Anybody who violates these laws must be brought to book, and mercilessly, on which account one is gradually inclined to accuse the Bavarian state government of obstructing justice if it has evidence that a criminal association has been formed but has not notified its state attorney's office. Much else of what is currently under discussion would be nonsensical: banning Scientology, for example, would change nothing about their activities, but would provide them with martyrdom, which is exactly what they so urgently need for PR reasons.
The annoying letter from the Hollywood celebrities to Kohl only shows too well how PR functions and how it could continue: both sides have a huge interest in shaking the other up. Scientology has assembled world-class experts in brute advertising (which the all too naive painter H. had to learn after he thought that he could confidentially relate his experiences to U.S. politicians); PR people of this kind are thankful for every newspaper report. The reverse of that is needed by the professional sect fighters in an octopus-like organization which wants to overturn the world, because otherwise their fight against the organization would not seem heroic enough. What the "Deutsche Evangelische Sonntagsblatt" wrote is sadly true: "Some worldview experts of the Christian churches resemble their opponents."
That is what we have to learn first - to deal with outsiders in a civilized manner, even those which appear dangerous to us. Only the civilized approach, also the stubborn effort to have the outsider abide by the ground rules - something like the unimpeded departure from the "church" - offers the chance to civilize even dangerous people. Insofar as fervid defenders of humanity are coerced, that is the extent to which civil dealings are denied. The alternative would be glowing coals.
SZ Interview with theologian Hubert Seiwert
"You can ban a religious movement, but not suppress it"
The Leipzig Professor advises calmness in dealing with sects and defends himself against claims that he sympathizes with Scientology.
November 23, 1996
In an article for the SZ he warned of "creation of panic" and said it would be disastrous "when every religious group outside of the popular churches were to be described as 'sects'." That newspaper article, along with a deliberately provoking talk at a podium discussion, which he has since then characterized as being "perhaps a bit too loutish," was enough to cause "suspicions" about Huber Seiwert, a theologian who moved from Hannover to Leipzig two years ago. The suspicion was apparently strengthened in that the SZ article was re-published in full in a magazine which appears in Switzerland and which is regarded as supportive of Scientology, and recently was also cited in the German Scientologist magazine "Freiheit." In Bonn SPD circles, the 47 year old has since then been accused of keeping "too little distance" between himself and the Scientology organization, or even of membership in the alleged "church." That was supposed to hinder him from actually being called upon by the Buendnis/Green party as a technical expert for the Enquete Commission's "So-called sects and psycho-groups in their selection of professors for "general and comparable theologians." At the last session of the commission last week Ursula Caberta, named as Hamburg sect commissioner by the SPD faction, refused to ask questions of witnesses in the presence of Federal Assembly Vice President Antje Vollmer, since [Vollmer] a member of the the Buendnis/Green faction, was affiliated with the painter, Gottfried Helnwein, who has been defending himself for a long time from accusations of being a Scientologist. On their side, the Buendnis/Greens are now demanding the withdrawal of Mrs. Caberta, who also regards Hubert Seiwert as a Scientologist. hsm.
Professor Seiwert, what do you say, then, to the claim that you are a member of Scientology?
First of all, it must be made entirely clear that these accusations are absurd and false. I don't have the least thing to do with Scientology.
You don't even sympathize with this association?
No, I don't sympathize with them either. But I have to add that these are not just any kind of accusations, but - if they were true - would have the consequence in some German states of my being removed from public service under certain circumstances. Nothing else would remain for me but to initiate legal steps against the originators of these libelous statements. I think that those people who are making the accusations know full well that they are false, because there is no factual basis for them at all. That means that false assertions of fact are being deliberately created for the purpose of publicly defaming people who have a different opinion. And that indicates that no interest exists in a factual discussion of the problem which is associated with sects.
In the article which you wrote as part of a series by the Sueddeutsche Zeiting on sect problems, not one word was mentioned about Scientology. Nevertheless, that organization, along with other sects who believe they are being persecuted, have greeted your article with lively applause. Among other things, you described the Inquisition's murderous henchmen as "sect experts of the Middle Ages." By doing that, you have partially assimilated, consciously or not, Scientology's usual choice of words.
If that is so, then it was certainly not deliberate. Moreover, nobody who presents a rational position can keep others from agreeing with him. First of all, one has to take into consideration that the entire discussion about Scientology obviously involves a special case which has no comparison with most of the other groups who are described as sects, or maybe with none of them at all. We find, in Scientology, an unusually strong commercialization of their operations. You find a series of very doubtful symptoms, like internal disciplinary or punitive measures for members who have violated some kind of rules. We find a very aggressive dealing with opponents.
Doesn't that also apply to most of the other sects?
As far as I see, there are no empirical findings which prove that. That accusation has been made, and it is completely possible that it is true, but what I am really pleading for here is that one not judge prematurely, but rather engage in factual, precise investigations, including that of the scientific kind, of which, in Germany, there are as good as none.
In the article mentioned, you also brought to mind the ideal of enlightenment whereby everybody should be happy in his own fashion. And in a podium discussion in Munich, you explained that you would be just as concerned about your daughter if she wanted to become a nun as you would if she were to be snatched up by Scientology. Wouldn't that de-emphasize the dangers of the so-called new religions whereby - as you, yourself, have already said - it is extremely doubtful whether Scientology could be counted as one of them at all.
I can imagine that my comments, which, however, were deliberately formulated as a counter-position to most public opinions, would be misunderstood. I only want to bring about a little more calmness. By the comment that perhaps it was a bit too loutish for a podium discussion, also that I would not be glad if my daughter would want to become a nun, the following was meant: There are always many decisions which grown children can make which will be disapproved of by parents. On the other hand, parents are not legally entitled to have their children decide as they [the parents] would want them to. And neither is it the mission of the state to intervene in such familial conflicts. That means if my grown daughter would want to be a Scientologist, I would indeed be upset, but if she insisted upon it nonetheless, I would have to finally accept it, exactly as if she had wanted to become a nun. I could not invoke state measures against Scientology, unless there were evidence that the decision of my daughter were not voluntary, but was made under pressure. There we are, naturally, in a different area.
If violations of law occur, then we have state attorneys and we have courts to see to them. Also, nobody could invoke freedom of religion there. Therefore I see no reason here to use special measures as a first resort.
Similarly to Helnwein, the painter, you have received a envelope sealed with wax from a secret Scientology promoter. How do you deal with that.
I have already indicated that, in the present discussion, that is comparable to slander, by which I can do nothing else than obtain a clear court or legal explanation once the exact source of this accusation is known. I have to add, if the people who have nothing better to do than to spread that around really have the opinion that these assertions are correct, then one would absolutely have to conclude that a whole series of other assertions which they have brought to life are similarly as poorly founded as this one. In my case, I have the advantage that the truth is relatively easy to determine. In the extreme case, I always have the alternative of filing a disciplinary process against myself.
Is your critical comment directed primarily at Mrs. Caberta?
If Mrs. Caberta is the source, which I cannot prove, then naturally that would concern her.
You would also start legal proceedings against her?
I would discuss with an attorney as to which steps would be suitable there.
How do you now see your role in the planned Enquete Commission? Or do you now believe that things won't get that far?
I don't think anything at all on that point. I am waiting to see if I will be named as a member or not. And what my role will be then, I don't know, because I have not yet been informed as to the content of the Commission's work.
But surely you already have certain intentions which you would want to introduce. Something like in the article, where you say take it easy, no big panic, the whole story is not that wild.
I'm inclined to think that is not entirely wrong. I think or hope that facts will become known to the Enquete Commission which will enable it to form a judgment. I am not one of those people who takes their judgments lightly. Up to now, I have only expressed opinions. When facts are known, then one will have to come to the appropriate conclusions.
Then how do you propose that the state deal with Scientology and other sects and new religions, if we may say them all in the same sentence. Patience, surveillance or prohibition?
The first thing the state must achieve would be to first inform itself more precisely. That means the big problem which exists here is that much, indeed, is being published, but that very little of it is provable or consists of scientifically verified facts. There still exists here an enormous need for information. Not in the sense of more brochures, but in the sense of actual technical work.
Does that mean, as far as you are concerned, surveillance, maybe by Constitutional Security, in order to gain such findings?
I cannot legally judge whether it is possible to have religious groups checked out or observed by Constitutional Security. I would doubt that very much. In Scientology's case, I don't have the information available as to whether this is possible. Here, as you know, the opinions of the Constitutional Security Presidents vary from state to state. Naturally, I have no more information than they. But as concerns a prohibition, I think, on the basis of my experience as a religious historian, that the prospects of successfully banning a religious movement are extremely small. That will not be possible. You can ban it, but you cannot suppress it.
Does that also apply to movements which only bear the label of "religion" but are not really religions at all according to past findings.
If it doesn't have anything to do with religions, then, of course, what I know from the history of religions does not apply. Now we have the problem that we must first know exactly what a religion consists of. Theological definitions exist by the score without anyone ever having agreed on a single one; presumably they vary from those of the lay-speaking lawyers or journalists.
But you have also previously said that, for you, Scientology is a special case. Is that more of a presumption, or do you have more familiarity there?
I have already given several indications of what, in my opinion, is clearly different about Scientology. According to the information which we have available, it is obvious that Scientology employs, at the least, very dubious practices. If the purpose of your question is to determine whether or not Scientology is a religion, then I cannot express any opinion of my own, because I have not done any research into the matter. However, I can point out that, in other countries, there are a whole set of respected theologians who answer that question in the positive. That would have to be the first thing I took note of.
Do you see a general need at the moment to take the theme of "sects" as seriously as is the case in the present situation?
I personally do not see, again with the exception of the special case of Scientology, that we have an objective problem with the so-called "sects" which are bigger than many others which we have. However, one has to see that an objective standard of size is not being used here, since most of the groups don't have more than a couple of hundred members. This is much more about the social observation of the problem. And it cannot be disputed that sects are seen as a problem in German society today. Therefore, in the given situation, the question of whether something like the Enquete Commission is necessary or not is moot. The Commission is there, and they must, in my opinion, bring their mission to a close in a form which is as factual as possible.
The interview was conducted by Ralf Husemann.
[From the Homepage of Bundnis 90 / DIE GRUNEN in the Bavarian State Assembly
Possibly part of Letter of April, 1996]
by Sophie Rieger
First of all, none of us harbors sympathy for the Scientology sect. We think of Scientology as an organization which makes people psychologically dependent and which ruthlessly exploits them. The social Darwinistic elite idealogy which is represented by Scientology, as well as their methods, are not at all compatible with the goals of Bundnis 90/DIE GRUNEN [Alliance 90/The Greens]. What we get vehement about are the witch hunts, which have been started by Gunther Beckstein, Bavarian Secretary of the Interior, include methods such as radical decrees, surveillance under the constitutional protection clause, or even employment prohibitions. We intercede because of the calls for film boycotts, such as the one with Tom Cruise's Mission Impossible or the censure of cultural arrangements such as the appearance of jazz pianist Chick Corea at the Burghauser Jazz festival. Also despicable are articles such as contained in the magazine "Schulreport" [School Report] 1/96 of the Bavarian Ministry of Culture. In that article "Recognition of a SC Member", it was asserted that "...Consequences of sect membership in bodily regards are said to be a change in weight (obese/anorexic), a decline in strength, altered facial hair, chronic exhaustion and psychosomatic illnesses..."
As distasteful as the workings of Scientology are to us, it is stupid to believe that the 30,000 members of this sect seriously endanger our state. What is harmful are the attempts, using references to the dangerousness of Scientology, to question basic rights such as freedom of belief and philosophical perceptions. [What is] harmful is the decision to use the old radical decrees on new groups. We have battled it [the decree] for good reason as it directed itself against adherents of the DKP and other socialistic groups, and we refuse it today, too, if it directs itself against Scientology. Having Scientology put under observation by the Office of Constitutional Protection amounts to spying on [others] convictions.
This conviction-spying is not going to help us in areas of punishable activities. The administration puts Scientology in proximity to organized crime, but it still owes us an reason for this positioning. There are countless reports about the mental and financial exploitation of members, and about manipulation and threats. If conditions exist which merit punishment, they must be pursued. That's what the provincial criminal investigative office is responsible for, but not the Office of Constitutional Protection. Criminal law and police are not able to protect the individuals from themselves. We concede that someone may drink up their inheritance, lose his house by gambling, or hopelessly go into debt by taking the advice to buy superfluous products or by the decision to take out too much insurance. On what basis do we now forbid someone to give away a year's wages on psycho-courses?
The discussion about Scientology is used by the CSU to form a new enemy picture, to distract from other inner political topics, and at the same time to demonstrate strength and conviction. That can be criticized, but it is nothing new. However, if this enemy picture is led so far that parents seriously discuss whether a private school which their children visit may also teach children of a member of Scientology, if a brochure of the Youth Union about Scientology contains a play on words "In-Sects" which is further clarified by [a picture of] a fly swatter, then it's time to say "Caution!" Aiming the cannons which the CSU uses to shoot sparrows may cause more damage than the sparrows themselves.Sophie Rieger, provincial representative, speaker for political rights