"Spiritual Salvation, Inc."

German Bundestag sees no risk in sects for the nation, but for citizens

From: "SZ"
June 20, 1998

by Hans-Jorg Heims

The work of the Bundestag's Enquete Commission's "So-called Sects and Psycho-groups" committee began two years ago with trivial party squabbles over [selection of] experts. Now that the final report of the committee has been presented, there is trouble again. Seven renowned professors, including Niels Bierbaumer, the Tubinger psychologist, Erwin K. Scheuch, the sociologist from Cologne, the former SPD minister Hans Apel, and a few other less known attorneys have brought serious accusations against the representatives. They characterized the parliamentary commission as "inquisition-like officials" whose work extended to "world philosophy control" and "heresy hysteria."

On Friday, the committee members demonstrated unity and defended their activities of the past two years. Ronald Pofalla, the CDU chairman, called the final report "proof of neutrality and tolerance." He was supported in his position by the SPD representative, Angelika Mertens, who said that the individuals of the committee had dedicated themselves to the solution of difficult problems in a level-headed fashion. All parties were unanimous in the decision that the current sects and psycho-groups posed no danger to the individual nor to the state or society. For this reason, the commission recommended no change to Article 4 of basic law (freedom of conscience and belief).

This is not to say that such groups should be absolved of conflict or harm suffered by people under their care, stated the commission. They have proposed a series of recommendations to continue the categorizations of individual organizations and communities which they have begun. A federal committee should be established for this purpose to give counseling, to conduct research and to promote international cooperation. The commission members have deleted the term "sects" on the basis that it has a "stigmatizing effect." The mission will be re-designated as "new religious and ideological communities and psycho-groups."

While the committee majority of Union, SPD and FDP agreed on the surveillance of the Scientology organization by the Office of Constitutional Protection, the Bundnis90/Green Party contested that decision. The Bundnis/Greens believe that the decision for surveillance is not justified, and that criminal law and information campaigns are the suitable weapons for the battle against Scientology. According to Ortrun Schatzle (CDU), the commission chairperson, Scientology is a politically extremist organization, one that must continue to be observed by the Interior departments of the states and nation.

Schatzle said that the Commission's report was quantitatively and qualitatively the most intensive analysis of the phenomenon of the new religious and ideological communities and psycho-groups in German-speaking countries. This opinion is also shared by the Bundnis/Green representative, Angelika Koster-Lossack. However, Koster-Lossack did not agree to the final results presented by the Union, SPD and FPD, which were based upon inquiries made of experts and former members, as well as a field trip to the USA. She presented a dissenting opinion, instead