November 22, 2000
Frankfurter Neue Presse
Very few sects are violent
Hoechst. Grade 9a of the Robert-Koch School in Hoechst had the opportunity to speak with sect commissioner Lutz Lemhoefer in the scope of their project "Newspaper in School." The 52-year-old theologian and political scientist is responsible for addressing sect problems in the department of weltanschauung in the Limburg bishopric.
What is the daily routine of a sect commissioner like?
LEMHOEFER: First thing in the morning I read what the newspapers say about the various groups. But I spend most of my time on the telephone, that is how much counseling takes place. I get up to 20 calls a day. The people who come to see me personally are not those in sects, but their family or friends. I also give many talks.
Could you describe a particular instance for us?
LEMHOEFER: I counseled a former Jehovas Witness who worked for a long time in the sect as a missionary. He was not getting paid his rent and was not getting credited for his education. When the predicted end of the world did not occur, he wanted to get out. But the Jehovas Witnesses did not want to verify that he had worked as a missionary for the sect. I helped him to force them to give him verification of employment in court. That was important, otherwise he would have had a giant gap in his work history.
Do Jehovas Witnesses have contact with other people?
LEMHOEFER: Privately seldom, because contact with "worldly people" is avoided, for the most part.
May the Jehovas Witnesses be acknowledged as a church?
LEMHOEFER: "Church" is not a protected word, any group from seven members could call itself that. However, the Jehovas Witnesses want to become a corporation with public rights.
Which sects use the most violence?
LEMHOEFER: Only a few sects use physical violence. In Japan, for example, the Aum-Shinrykio, who were responsible for the poison gas attack in the subway in Tokyo. Psychic violence, however, is often used on sect members.
Hendrik Hertel, Kai Wensel, Sidara Kaylan-Landeck, Michél Contreras-Gomez, Patrick Müller, Benjamin Horn
Members under surveillance
Frankfurt. The word "sect" comes from the Latin and means something like a "sub-category of one teaching," which is a neutral description. Further definitions come from the Latin word "secare" which means "separate" or "break away from," and from "sec" which translates into "follow." Well-known sects include Mormons, Jehovahs Witnesses, Scientology and Satanists (those who pray to the devil(s) ... trans.)
In Germany about 200,000 children and adolescents grow up in 600 so-called sects. People end up in sects because, for instance, they have family problems or because they want to make social connections or meet friends. Often members get help in sects in that they are helped with their problems and obtain advice. But frequently sect adherents are psychically terrorized through surveillance and alienated from family and outsiders.
Aida Biserovi´c, Claudia Bohigas, Anela Klari´c and Stefan Walter
Universal Life operates schools and kindergartens
Frankfurt. Gabriele Wittek is the prophet and foundress of "Universellen Lebens." She formed a predecessor group in 1975, which went public two years later as "Heimholungswerk Jesu Christi." The expansion of this group is associated with the acquisition of farms, retail operations, presses, medical practices, hospitals and kindergartens. Throughout Europe - the headquarters in in Wuerzburg - there are about 40,000 adherents; the inner circle consists of about 1,000 people.
The Universal Life children enter the UL kindergartens, then go to their own schools, which is also where they find their spouses. Then they move into Universal Life residential communities.
The death of her mother was a deep shock for Gabriele Wittek so that she visited a group to meet people. That is how Gabriele Wittek is supposed to have come upon "the Inner Word" on January 6, 1975. Since then "Jesus Christus" and the "spirit teacher Emanuel" are supposed to have spoken through her.
Mine Göksin, Selale Kiraz and Vildan Keskinoglu
Jehovah's Witnesses expect the end of the world
and refuse blood transfusions
Frankfurt. The Jehovas Witnesses have 4.9 million members worldwide (167,000 in Germany) and were founded in 1881 by Charles FNPe Russel under the name "Watch Tower Society." The "Jehovas Witnesses" came out of that in 1931. Their headquarters is in the Brooklyn district of New York city.
The Jehovas Witnesses await the end of the world and for this reason will even separate from their children: if their child needs a blood transfusion, they do not permit it, even if death would be a consequence. According to an interpretation of an old Bible version they refuse blood transfusions in order to keep religious law. They also intimidate their children in that they talk them into believing that they will not get to Paradise if they commit minor sins. They put the lives of their children in the hands of God.
The Jehovas Witnesses do not force anybody to stay in their community and neither are they as aggressive as other sects. They require only little money and help the psychically handicapped.
Yasser Wasiri, Manuel Gessner, Daniel Alvarez Blazquez, Ruben Parrado Arias and Ricardo C. de Freitas
Scientology: 25 hours counseling for 10,260 marks [approx. 6,000 dollars]
Frankfurt. L. Ron Hubbard founded the Scientology sect in order to receive more power in the world. The Father of the Scientologists lived from 1911 to 1986. Scientology includes various sub-groups which cover the areas of churches, schools, welfare and educational institutions. The sect members are active in business, in currency exchange and offer management training courses. The Scientology sect can be found all over the world, but is mainly in America. About 7,000 members live in Germany. Large Scientology centers are situated in Duesseldorf, Hamburg, Frankfurt and Munich.
Many critics have the view that Scientology is not a religious community - although it is what it calls itself - but a multi-national psycho- and business concern. Scientology recruits with personality tests and advertises that, through them, people can get a good position in the work place.
People who seek help from Scientology have to pay the "necessary change" in advance. For instance 25 hours counseling with a Scientologist costs 10,260 marks. Therefore it is a matter of wealth as to whether a person can graduate in Scientology or not. There are more than a few people who have become poor through Scientology.
Vanessa Dietrich, Jennifer Fuchs, Davina Erbach and Juliane Elsner
When mother and daughter can no longer speak with each other
Initiative helps sect victims - re-establishing broken social contact
Frankfurt am Main, Germany
March 31, 2000
by Mirjam Mohr
Frankfurt/Main - Nora Herzog can finally talk with her daughter again. What normally would not have been a problem was, for her, impossible for a long time. For almost ten years, her daughter has been a member of a sect. At some point the two lived in worlds that were so different that understanding was no longer possible. "I couldn't understand how a grown person could change herself so," Herzog recalls. Together with others who have been affected in the same way, two years ago she founded the "Ausstieg" ["departure"] initiative. Also, thanks to this group, she has since made contact to her daughter, who, today, is 37 years old.
Herzog is not the only one to have gone through this experience. "An incomprehensible loss of communication occurs for many people when a member of their family joins a sect," said the sect commissioner of Speyer Diocese, Christoph Bussen. He is the co-founder of the southern Palatinate initiative. "We want to offer a forum for discussion to people who, because of various reasons, are going through the same thing.
The parliamentary Enquete Commission "So-called Sects and Pycho-cults" mentioned 800,000 adherents and 1.2 million sect customers in Germany. Exact numbers, according to Ingo Heinemann of the group association "Campaign for Intellectual and Psychic Freedom," are difficult [to ascertain]. He said there are no hard and fast statistics which differentiate between members, adherents and customers. Also, he said, the term "sect" was not clearly defined and is in use with diverse groups.
According to Bussen, such groups become problematic when they exhibit certain characteristics. "Sects are characterized by a disproportionately steep hierarchy. Anybody who falls for them hook, line and sinker loses any critical distance." He said members have to give up a part of their personality in order to give up the organization. That affects the problem with relatives who do not intend to join the sect. "Social contacts are systematically torn down; part of a sect's world picture is to demonize the outside world," said Bussen.
This manipulation does not always work. "After the first euphoria has worn off, and the sober day-to-day routine of the sect begins, some become doubtful," said the sect commissioner. But since any contact to the environment has been cut off, it becomes difficult to find a way back out of the ideology. Therefore the "Ausstieg" initiative, originally conceived of primarily for relatives, has been receiving more bewildered sect members. "That is exactly what we wanted," said Nora Herzog. "These people need help; they have their doubts, but do not know which way to turn."
Building up a front only hurts
The group intends to offer help. The most pressing goal, according to Bussen, is to help the affected people re-build their social contacts. Only after that comes the "distant goal of helping people back to their freedom." One need not make the mistake of continually bombarding the sect members with arguments, thereby building up a front. "Results of that mistake includes the problem with relatives." Sect ideology always communicates to its adherents that outside of the allegedly good sect world lurks an evil outside world, he said. You would want to refute that in the group, said Bussen.
That can be achieved by not obligating anybody in the group for anything. "Whoever does not want to say his name does not have to, and nobody must come on a regular basis." By doing that, a counter-picture to that of the extreme sects is constructed. "We want to give people a space in which they can say what they would not say otherwise," said the sect commissioner of the Speyer bishopric. What's important, he said, was to let those seeking help have the right to their own belief and to take them seriously. "We do not want to take people in, but to set them free. Therefore we listen to them." Thus the initiative in not an arrangement of the church, despite participation of sect commissioners from both major denominations.
"What I value so highly about this group is the fact that it avoids any extreme tone," Bussen praised. Above anything else, it is there to offer support. Bussen warned against considering oneself immune from sects. "In my opinion, there is no defined personality structure which makes a person susceptible to sects." Penetrating changes in a person's environment can make a person accessible by such groups. "The people who are mainly at risk are those who say: Something like that could never happen to me."
Visitors want to remain anonymous
February 29, 2000
Frankfurter Neue Presse
Frankfurt. Friendly, smiling people in smart clothes, yellow and white tulips on the tables, clean, white tablecloths. The Scientologists are back in the city. Practically unnoticed, they opened their controversial "What is Scientology?" exhibition in the Schirn Cafe yesterday. Only a few posters and direction signs directed the barely 100 adherents to the spaces on Roemerberg. The three days in the Frankfurt art building was said to have cost them 45,000 marks.
"What does this exhibition have to do with art?" inquired a passing woman. Many did not at all want to talk about the theme of Scientology and preferred to hang back. Even the 70 year old company chief who drove here from Hochtaunus did not wish to read his name in the newspaper. He wanted to take a peek behind the scenes because several of his employees complained about the unscrupulous dealings of a co-worker. Apparently he is a member of Scientology, and his boss wanted to find out what it was about.
Wall displays with sect goals and texts, history and biography of the founder Ron L. Hubbard, deceased in 1986, and video presentation awaited the visitors. Georg Stoffel (47), Scientology press spokesman in Munich, wanted to communicate the organization's texts and teachings first-hand with the exhibition.
Scientology is not recognized as a religious denomination in Germany. This was again criticized in a statement published this past weekend by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Democracy on the theme of human rights. In Frankfurt, on the other hand, there was criticism for the controversial organization being able to put on an exhibition. The conference location in particular is a thorn in the side for many. Schirn Cafe lessee Klaus-Peter Kofler had granted the exhibition to the sect members - but without first obtaining the agreement of Hellmut Seeman, the director of the Schirn Art Hall.
"This was not a good idea," also thinks a visitor from Wiesbad, who also wanted to keep his name to himself so that nobody he knows will speak to him about it. "I condemn the people who believe in this sect."
According to Scientology's statements, they have about 30,000 people in Germany. Every year, according to Stoffel, about 1,000 new members join, while 50 people leave. They expect between 3,000 and 40,000 visitors in the next three days, stated press spokeswoman and vice president of the Frankfurt Scientologists, Barbara Lieser (42).
Scientology says it has about 1,700 members in the Rhein-Main area. After the end of the exhibition, there will be 100 to 150 more people, thought Lieser. The exhibition was put on in Frankfurt last year. And that was on "Wappen von Frankfurt," one of the excursion boats on the Main.
One of the things to see is the so-called "e-meter," which can allegedly measure thought with the help of electrodes. However, the thoughts of passers-by cannot be read with it. Not even those of the 23-year-old student, Katharina, "One cannot form a picture of Scientology by going to its adherents. For that you should ask those who are acquainted with the negative side." (tat)
Striving for a "new world"
February 26, 2000
Frankfurter Neue Presse
Frankfurt. The Scientology Organization was founded in 1954 by American science fiction author Ron Hubbard in the USA. Exact membership figures are not known. According to a statement by Herder Lexicon, the sect is supposed to have between eight and 25 million worldwide. In Germany, the self-proclaimed "church" has operated with an estimated 30,000 members since 1970. Centers are in Hamburg, Munich and Frankfurt.
The hierarchically structured organization is viewed by critics as a profit-oriented enterprize which operates with dubious methods. The areas in which the Scientologists are active include real estate. The sect is under suspicion of following objectives hostile to the Constitution. There are indications that Scientology wants to access state and society in an absolutist manner. The organization works toward a "new world." Free "personality tests" are offered in street recruitment. Then an attempt is made to sell a program of courses. So-called "auditing" promises individual concepts for "happier people."
Numerous courts are involved with Scientology. According to one decision by the Berlin Federal Administrative Court, the association must report as a commercial business with an estimated sales of 150 million marks of books, courses and "electrometers." The Cassel Federal Labor decided that Scientology is a commercial business and not a church. In the USA, the IRS national tax agency granted Scientology the status of a religious denomination after years of dispute.
Scientology Advertising is legal
June 30, 1999
Frankfurter Neue Presse
Frankfurt. The man in the poster - he looks like an artist - makes a sympathetic impression. "Scientology has helped me to develop my creative abilities," is what he wants to get across. Thousands of Frankfurt residents recognize the poster; it is one of a series which can be seen in the city in recent weeks. Another portrays what looks to be a woman doctor who alleges to have advanced her professional career faster with Scientology. Already citizens are asking if they have to put up with this kind of advertisement. The Scientology sect is still under surveillance by the Constitutional Security agency.
SPD State Representative Andrea Ypsilanti has already accused the DSR German Cities Advertising agency of having put up the posters for the sect. To be sure she is wrong. The DSR is not responsible for the posters, as asserted by legal advisor Klaus Seeger. Private poster companies have put up the Scientology advertising posters on construction fences and lane underpasses.
And they cannot be prevented from doing business with Scientology. "Scientology is not illegal and therefore may advertise," said the Director of the Ordinance Office, Rolf Menzer. In principle posters can only be torn down by the office "if they present a danger to public safety and order." That has not yet happened in the 1990s. Even the Benetton advertisement at the beginning of the 1990s, which included shocking material and which led to controversial debates, was left alone by the office. The fact that it disappeared soon thereafter was attributed to public pressure.
Neither did the clearly duplicitous cigarette advertisement which was seen in the city at the time have to disappear. "Try something different in bed - at least afterwards," was what that one said.
Dieter Becker, business manager of the Beba Advertising poster company, does not have a bad conscience for having put up 50 Scientology posters in Frankfurt. "We are a business and do not receive subsidies like Cities Advertising. After all, Scientology is not illegal. I think alcohol and cigarette advertisement is much worse." Cities Advertising had declined the Scientologist's proposal, but still runs a risk of being sued for that.
As stated by DSR legal advisor Seeger, "In putting up posters, freedom of speech is applicable, but so is the fair competition law. Posters may not violate the laws in force and neither may they discriminate against foreigners." (mm)
How do you deal with sects?
June 30, 1999
Frankfurter Neue Presse
SPD State Representative Andrea Ypsilanti has accused DSR of having put up posters for the Scientology sect. Is that right?
No. We did not do the posters. We do not do any business with Scientology on principle.
That is a self-imposed restriction. We decided on that about ten years ago after having made inquires from the church sect commissioner.
What criteria do you use?
If the proposal is recognizable as advertisement for a religious congregation which is not recognized as a church, we refuse on principle. Per year that is three to five proposals. For instance, we have absolutely no problem advertising for Islam.
Is [your self-imposed restriction] backed by law?
Lawsuits are not ruled out. But experience has shown that groups like Scientology have become very cautious recently when it comes to legal proceedings.
Klaus Seeger (52) is legal advisor of the DSR German Cities Advertising, Inc. [DSR: Deutsche Städte-Reklame GmbH]
Scientologist faces taxes audit
AMK Chief has his back to the wall
From: "Frankfurter Neue Presse"
October 19, 1998
by Thomas Wanhoff
Frankfurt. At first glance, Martin K. appears to be a successful businessman. He drives fast cars and loves the good life. As a communications and business consultant he is in a field which is much in demand. However, K's company, AMK, the Akademie for Marketing and Kommunication, is a company which belongs to an association of the Scientology Church. He prefers not to say so publicly. Soon, however, he will have to assume the position, as the tax agency is taking an interest in the Akademie.
The operating manager has practically had his back to the wall since 1993: If he had only not paid bills for earthly goods (rent, wages, taxes, insurance), then he would only have owed 1,600,000 marks to other Scientologists. That does not appeal to the senior men of the organization; they have downgraded their debts internally, according to research done by the Kronberg Timeservice commercial detective agency.
The plot of the AMK is always the same. It begins with a seminar. Strengthening the personality, learning, applying oneself to the job - who does not want that? For many, it happens as it did with Susanne R., secretary. She is a staff member of a large business from the Rhein-Main region. She showed up informally at the AMK, the Akademie for Marketing and Kommication. They immediately had her fill out the questionnaire, which contained questions like "In your opinion, what is wrong with your company?" and "Do you have the feeling that your company needs management advisement?" How this served to open up new business opportunities soon became clear. Susanne R. answered the question of who she would recommend take the seminar with, "My one boss would be good, since he has a pile of unfinished work." The secretary, it turns out, is a prominent Scientologist who advertises her "beliefs" on her own home page.
Susanne R. is not an isolated case. Hundreds of course participants go through Scientology training with the AMK, which started out in Eschborn, and now works out of Rauenberg. Staff from the Frankfurt police central, the federal railroad office and large companies in the Rhein-Main region attend. Some do not notice until it is too late what is being sold to them, and they demand, successfully, a refund.
The AMK deals with its own staff a little less friendly. Internal records show that the staff member who works in public relations only gets paid several hundred marks per month. If somebody leaves, then the power of Scientology comes into play, as determined by the Timeservice business detective agency. "Try to make them see reason with ethics, if that doesn't work - sue," reads an internal note to the OSA, the security service of the organization. Former members describe "ethics" as being flown to England, to the Scientology correctional camp of Saint Hill in England or California where they must learn to toe the line under demeaning conditions.
For the authorities, Scientology has rated surveillance by state security for some time. Even if the organization is considerably far removed from reaching its goal of having a "cleared" planet under the control of Scientology, in light of their fanatical ideology of salvation, their selective sense of relaying information and not least of all the use of their secret service, there is no reason to underestimate Scientology. "As long as we are difficult to catch by working relatively fabian," according to Hubbard in 1967, "we become stronger and stronger." By "fabian" he meant that the administrative directives of Scientology be heeded. "His prophecy has proved itself, and should serve as a warning today," wrote the Hamburg security agency in a report.
Hubbard, the founder of the Scientology Church, was clever enough to keep himself covered. He built an almost perfect money-making machine: the Church, which sees to a never-ending stream of believers (and spenders), the WISE organization, which is a franchise system which spreads the administration ideology of Scientology among the populace, and finally OSA and DSA, a type of Stasi (secret police) who see to it that the flock boldly follows their leader.
The method by which Scientology finances itself follows the principle of the Golden Jackass: anybody who wants to be a member has to try to go across the Bridge. The "Bridge" is the various steps which lead to "enlightenment," and this path is paved with dollar bills. An e-meter, a type of lie detector, has to be paid for, also there are Hubbard books galore, and finally countless "auditing" sessions await the member. In these - expensive - sessions the Scientologists must reveal their soul's life - often for several hours at a time. This auditing goes so far as to have the individual Scientologist ask himself questions - and pay money for it.
Recruitment is quite open. The Frankfurt Org - as it is called by the locals - is very lively the whole day long. In front of the building on a side street of Kaiser Street stand up to five recruiters who address pedestrians. Anyone who shows an interest in taking a personality test is immediately led to the steel door with the surveillance camera. The words "Scientology Church" cannot be overlooked, but many go in anyway - young people as well as retirees.
Experts disagree over the number of members. While the Hessian Interior Minister Gerhard Bökel mentioned "about 500 Scientologists in Hesse," critics, such as the Timeservice commercial detective agency feel that the number could be several thousand. To that Jeanette Schweitzer, an ex-Scientologist thinks that there have never been "more than 4,000 Scientologists." She would know since she was a member for years. Now she is trying to establish an information group -- for money. Anybody who listens to her lecture is shaken by her experiences. She is persecuted, humiliated, and tormented, however she is not without her own controversy. Critics accuse her of wanting to cash in on business. Her own association board resigned in protest because Schweitzer had "a dictatorial manner of leadership," as stated in a letter from a board member.
The insider knowledge of the former member is impressive, but it is not as up-to-date as it once was. Her allegedly real data is partially superceded: some Scientology companies no longer exist, as determined by detectives from Timeservice. Scientology is not the only one that makes money; money can be made from Scientology. Data base information about alleged Scientologists or companies cost up to 300 marks; it is difficult to find out how good these data bases are.
The anxiety about the Scientologists now has to do with whether irregularities will be discovered with Martin K. and his AMK company. They will have to try to cover him, and if that does not work, they will abandon him. Even the organization is not allowed to do everything to gain success, especially not when it has to do with publicity. If K. is no longer covered by his own people then the business manager, who has been one of the largest donation collectors for Scientology and who until recently lived in Konigstein in Taunus, may as well leave. Even the great Scientology Church is afraid of that.
More information about Scientology may be gotten from the internet:
© Frankfurter Neue Presse 1998
A Cartel of Suppression
Frankfurt. Founded by American science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986) in 1954, the Scientology Church has been recognized as a religious group in the United States since 1993. In Germany, however, the organization is counted by critical groups as a for-profit business which is suspected of anti-constitutional objectives. According to statements by Interior Minister Manfred Kanther (CDU), there is evidence that Scientology intends to take on state and society in an absolutist manner.
The Federal Labor Court in Kassel decided that Scientology was a commercial business and not a church. The Superior Administrative Court of Munster decided that the group may be described as a "cartel of suppression" with no regard for people - that its members were subject to a type of "brainwashing." An Enquete Commission of the German Parliament stated after thorough research that Scientology was one of the most dangerous internationally active sects. It was therefore not completely unexpected that the interior ministers of the country and states decided to have the organization put under surveillance by the office of Constitutional Protection [state security].
According to findings by the Hamburg state security, Scientology apparently employs its own secret service to spy on disloyal members and potential opponents: the Office of Special Affairs (OSA), founded in 1983. Moreover, the Hamburg state security agency describes Scientology as a "multi-national, strongly hierarchical and totalitarian psycho[logical]-business." It needs a religious terminology for publicity in order to obtain protection under constitutional guarantees for religions and other tax advantages.
For this reasons, the CDU excluded three Scientology members from the party in mid April of this year, per court order.
The number of people who belong to the Scientology Church can not be stated for a fact. In Germany the estimates hover between 4,000, 10,000 and 30,000 members, worldwide there are said to be between 100,000 and 150,000 Scientologists.
© Frankfurter Neue Presse 1998