Scientology may officially marry people in Sweden
May 5, 2000
Stockholm (AP) From now on the Scientology organization may officially perform marriages in Sweden. The decision was preceded by the acknowledgment of Scientology as a religious community in March. The organization fulfilled the conditions that are connected with the right to perform marriages, said the state committee responsible for the action on Thursday. Those include the existence of church services and marriage ceremonies as well as a membership of more than 3,000.
Scientology sect may perform marriages in Sweden
May 4, 2000
Stockholm, May 4, (AFP) - Seven weeks after their recognition as a community of faith in Sweden, the Scientology sect may also perform marriage ceremonies there. As the sect itself announced on Thursday, the Swedish authorities had rejected two applications in the past few weeks. In Sweden, where church and state have just been separated since January 1, 2000, only the Lutheran church is regarded as a denomination. All other religions and denominations can register as a community of faith. With acknowledgment as a community of faith, the Scientology sect in Sweden has the same legal status as the Catholic Church.
Scientology recognized as church in Sweden
Registration as religious denomination brings the sect tax advantages - Heavy protest
March 17, 2000
by Hannes Gamillscheg
Stockholm. A dispute has flared up in Sweden about the recognition of Scientology as a religious denomination. Through that recognition, the sect stands legally on the same plane as the Catholic Church. Opponents of the organization criticize the decision.
Sweden's recognition of the Scientology movement as a confessional denomination is the result of a new law - not of a new attitude toward Scientologists. Since January 1, the law on the separation of church and state has been in force which marks the end of Sweden's special treatment of the Evangelical Lutheran state church.
Other religious denomination which were previously officially recognized only as associations can now be registered as churches. The conditions are easily met - a certain number of members and charitable missions, as well as holding church services are sufficient. It is not regarded as an "acknowledgment," but as a "registration" as religious denomination, stressed chief legal representative Bertil Kallner of the "Kammarkollegiet," which has jurisdiction over the matter.
Sweden's Scientologists were acknowledged last fall by the revenue authorities as a "charitable organization" which does not strive for profit. That exempted them from paying income and luxury tax. A second step has been taken with the registration as a religious community. It has not yet been decided, though, whether the organization will receive support from the government. The decision has been met with acerbic criticism by sect opponents. "Sweden hardly has any requirements for religious association, therefore authoritarian organizations can also receive tax advantages as well as a sort of public recognition," said Liberal party Barbro Westerhold. She is a supporter of the Swedish sect commission.
The progress in Sweden has given hope to Denmark's Scientologists. The decision about their application for acknowledgment of the sect as a religious community is to be made shortly. The movement's European headquarters is in Copenhagen; for that reason state acknowledgment as a religious community is rated as having a potentially great ripple effect. However, the conditions in Denmark are stronger than in Sweden, and the Scientology Organization has experienced public criticism of its business practices there within the past year. According to a supreme court decision in Germany, Scientology is primarily a commercial enterprise, which, in Germany, would not be granted the status of a religious or weltanschauung community.
New Church law in force
Only Lutheran Church recognized as Religion
March 15, 2000
The Scientology Organization has been acknowledged in Sweden, after many years of effort, as a church. As the Stockholm newspaper "Svenska Dagbladet" reported Tuesday, the state "Kammerkollegium" made this decision about the acknowledgment of religious denominations.
The basis is a church law which came into force at the turn of the year, by which the status of the Protestant Church as State Church was removed.
Like non-Swedish churches
A spokeswoman of the government agency responsible said on Tuesday that Scientology has the same legal basis as do the Roman Catholic Church and other non-Swedish churches.
There are no special rights associated with that; the organization was acknowledged only as a legal entity and registered as an association. Only the Lutheran Church is officially recognized by the government in Sweden as a religion.
Complete tax exemption
Sweden's tax agency recognized Scientology as a charitable, idealistic association last November, thereby exempting it from both income and luxury taxes.
EuGH decided against France
Besides that, Scientology won a legal process over investment restrictions against France before the European Court ["Europaeischen Gerichtshof"] (EuGH). In a judgment released Tuesday afternoon, an alternative was objected to by which French law could be used to stop foreign investors for "disturbing the public order, health or safety."
In the view of the Luxemburg judge, that law was "too general" and not compatible with the free flow of capital in united Europe. The French Scientology Organization and the Scientology International Reserve Trust from Great Britain had sued against the French law in 1996.
In France, the actions of the Scientologists are closely followed. There is fear that political and commercial key positions will be infiltrated by means including targeted purchase of companies. More can be read in "Frankreich 'entschlossen'."
The organization, founded in 1954 and headquartered in Los Angeles, says it has eight million members. There is dispute over the Scientologists in numerous European nations. The controversy about Scientology reflect the difficulties with religious terms. More can be read in "Church or Commercial Power?"
The fight against sects
Parisian authorities classify Scientology as "totalitarian"
French Justice Minister Elisabeth Guigou intends to increase the effort in the fight against dangerous sects. "We can, without doubt, still develop the available legal arsenal," said Guigou recently in Paris. She confirmed the "utmost decisiveness" by the government to take action against organizations which are ill disposed toward law.
The representatives are currently involved with legislative proposals which should make it easier to dissolve associations which are regarded as dangerous. The administration is reviewing this proposal from the conservative camp "with great interest," said the socialist Minister [Guigou].
The French administration's sect report has recommended new laws against "undemocratic sects" and a possible prohibition. The Scientology Organization and the Order of the Solar Temple were classified as particularly dangerous sects.
"Human Dignity" at risk
Chairman of the Sect Commission, Alain Vivien, accused the Scientologists of, among other things, maintaining data banks with personal statements on its members. But the administration would decide on dissolution or prohibition, said Vivien.
According to an assessment by the French agency to combat sects, Scientology threatened "human dignity and social equality." Even though Scientology also propagated religious goals, the report said that it was an organization with a "totalitarian structure."
That means that Scientology is one of the groups which represent a danger to "public order" and "human dignity." Months ago, Vivien had classified Scientology, in a newspaper interview, as a "totalitarian" and "extremely dangerous" sect. The organization has eight million members worldwide. In France, the number of Scientology adherents is estimated at 30,000.
Search for the "perfect person"
Founded by Lafayette Ronald Hubbard in 1954
The Scientology movement, founded in the USA in the 1950s, strives for the "perfect person" and for leadership in society. Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, the founder and science fiction author who died in 1986, associated mystical concepts with a secular form of psychoanalysis.
Scientology promises its adherents to free them of unknown obstacles, thereby leading them into "total Freedom." Not the least of which Hollywood greats like Mission Impossible hero Tom Cruise and Pulp Fiction gangster John Travolta profess to be Scientology adherents.
The perfect person which Scientology strives for is supposed to be free from "all bodily pain and painful emotions," as it says in one brochure. Its "spiritual soul," called "Thetan" in the Scientology language, is said to strive for a state of "complete spiritual freedom," to which end it becomes an "Operating Thetan."
Opponents: "Profit-oriented and totalitarian"
Scientology opponents, who refer to a series of studies and judgments, emphasize that, in reality, the organization deals neither with spiritual consolation nor with unselfish help in managing personal problems.
Scientology only pursues the goal of getting people's confidence in the movement's teachings and assimilating them for themselves. Under the cloak of a religious denomination, the organization operates oriented to profit and in a totalitarian manner, say opponents.
"Private Surveillance Agency"
According to Berlin Constitutional Security, Scientology has a strictly hierarchical structure with many branches in a large number of countries. The supreme management organ is the Religious Technology Center (RTC), which has its offices in Los Angeles. Within the structure are a number of elements of surveillance.
Besides that, Scientology uses its own intelligence agency, the Office for Special Affairs (OSA). According to credible statements by former members, the organization even runs its own prison camps, Constitutional Security emphasized.
"Infiltration of the Economy"
According to experts, Scientology has "declared ruthless striving for profit to be its operating maxims." To infiltrate business, it uses the Word Institute of Scientology Enterprises (WISE), a worldwide association founded in 1979. This directs an entire empire of commercial enterprises.
Nothing is known about the exact size of this "combine." Sect experts are observing their main activities in the software and management areas. The profits are also used to infiltrate, or even to completely take over, normal industry management.
According to its own statement, Scientology has eight million members worldwide. In Austria, their number is estimated at between 7,000 and 10,000. You can read more about that in "controversial status."
"No second-class Religion"
7,000 - 10,00 adherents in Austria
The Scientologists are controversial in numerous European nations. In the USA, their country of origin, the organization has been acknowledged as a religious denomination since 1993 - with corresponding tax privileges. Scientology, which operates many sub-organizations under names like "Center for Applied Philosophy," is striving for that same status in other countries, as well.
In Austria, Scientology is recognized as a registered association, but not as a religious denomination. By its own statement, Scientology has, here at home [referring to Austria], between 7,000 and 10,000 adherents, whereby the number of "active members" is said to be somewhat less.
In the "Lexicon of Sects," the number of Scientology members in Austria is given at 2,000 to 3,000. The movement operates two "churches" in Vienna, and one mission each in Salzburg, Kaernten and Styria.
Nine religious denominational congregations
According to the "Federal law on religious denominational congregations" - "sect law" for short - nine groups have been acknowledged so far. Scientology withdrew its application, Sahaja Yoga was turned down.
A Scientology spokesman explained that "the recognition as a denominational congregation was not a real acknowledgment, instead the new law was being used to declare groups second-class religions." Scientology withdrew its application since then.
The nine denominational congregations are: Jehovah's Witnesses, Bahai' Religion, Alliance of Baptist Congregations, Alliance of Evangelical Communities, Christian Association - Movement for religious revival, Independent Christian / Pentecostal Congregations, Church of Seven Day Adventists, the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Hindu Religion Society.
Big Success for Controversial Organization
Scientology publicly revalorized
March 15, 2000
Scientology receives status as religious denomination in Sweden - Consequence of a law separating church and state
On Monday an administrative agency, called a "Kammerkollegiet," made a decision to give Swedish Scientology the status of a religious denomination. Since January 1 of this year, the church in Sweden is no longer a fixed part of the state. The new church law made it necessary for all churches to register as religious denominations. The reformed state churches have to also do that, and besides the state church, ten other church have asked for this status so far.
Purely a rote review
Eva Uerbrandt from the KammerKollegiet emphasized that any church is subject to a purely rote review in obtaining status as religious denomination. Things checked, for instance, include whether the applying organization would be an idealistic association, whether it has a board of directors, whether it held church services thereby acting like a church. All those conditions were filled with Scientology, and therefore the Kammerkollegiet granted it the status of religious denomination. "This, however, is not at all a qualitative assessment of the Scientology Church, neither does it give it any special rights," said Uerbrandt to our newspaper. She said the administration has not yet decided whether Scientology will receive state support.
No Protection from Justice Department
In addition, the status of religious denomination does not automatically mean protection against legal prosecution in the event that Scientology were to transgress any Swedish law in force, opined Uerbrandt. There is currently a legislative proposal in progress which, among other things, is meant to more severely punish "illicit" practice of religion. What is also important is that the churches registered as religious denominations will be required to have a certain degree of openness which would simplify governmental review.
By November of last year, the Scientology Church was recognized by the Stockholm revenue agency as a "charitable idealist" association without intentions of profit, resulting in tax exemption.
Separated January 1
The Swedish State and Church started off this year by reorganizing their relationship. The Church, according to the new church law, is no longer a part of the state. But the break is not as dramatic as it appears at first glance. For example, the Swedish Parliament (Reichstag) is responsible for the church law and, in the next nine years, the state will transfer 1.9 billion Kroner (about 360 million franks) to the Swedish Church to maintain the old churches. The state will continue to help the church collect church taxes. But how the money will be used, since the beginning of the year, is left completely up to the church. The church is also completely sovereign in another important issue: while the bishops were previously named by the government, now it will be the church itself which decides on the bishops.
Thomas Hug, Oslo
Scientologists continue to gain influence in Europe
French law rapped - Now recognized as church in Sweden
March 15, 2000
BM Luxemburg/Stockholm - The Scientology Organization won a hearing on limiting investment against France in the European Court. In the decision published yesterday, the court objected to the possibility prescribed by French law of blocking foreign investors for "disturbing public order, health or safety." From the view of the Luxemburg judge that law is "too general" and is incompatible with the free flow of capital in united Europe. The French Scientology Organization and the Scientology International Reserve Trust from Great Britain sued against the French law in 1996.
The actions of the Scientologists in France are just as closely observed as they are in Germany, where they are under surveillance by Constitutional Security. Infiltration of political and business key positions is feared, through targeted purchase of companies, among other methods.
The organization, which is acknowledged as a church in the USA, has its offices in Los Angeles and was founded in 1954; it says it has eight million members worldwide. The number is estimated at 30,000 in France; in Germany the Nordrhein-Wesfalian Constitutional Security says there are about 5,000 Scientologists. Moreover, the Cassel Federal Labor Court decided in 1995 that Scientology was "a commercial enterprise and not a church."
Amid all this, the Scientology Organization has been officially recognized as a church in Sweden. The basis for that was the church law, which went into effect at the turn of the year, which also does away with the status of the Protestant church as the State Church. A spokesperson of the government agency responsible said that Scientology had the same legal basis as the Roman Catholic Church and other non-Swedish churches. There was no special rights associated with that; the organization was only recognized as a legal entity and registered as an association. Last November, Sweden's tax agency had recognized the Scientology Organization as a charitable, idealistic association which did not strive for profit.
On the Advance in Europe
Recognized as Church in Sweden
March 15, 2000
In Sweden the official registration of the Scientology Organization as a Church resulted from the basis of the new church law, which also does away with the status of the Protestant Church as the State Church. The decision about recognizing religious denominations was made by the "Kammerkollegium." The revenue agency had already recognized Scientology last November as a charitable, idealistic association, thereby granting it income and luxury tax exemption.
Representatives of Swiss Scientology expressed great joy at the decision. Gabriela Arm of the "Scientology Church Zurich" said she hoped that this "is an initial spark for Europe." The sect commissioner of the reformed Aargau State Church, Frank Worbs, critically assessed the Scientology's public, legal acknowledgment. He did not rate Scientology as a church, but as a "company which aimed at commercial success" and an "ideology with psychological interests and para-scientific claims."
Scientology achieved their second success in the European Court, which objected, in a decision yesterday, to a French law on restricting investment. The law states that authorities would be permitted to block foreign investors for "disturbing the public order, health or safety." From the view of the Luxemburg court that law is "too general" and not compatible with free traffic in capital in Europe. The French Scientology Organization and the Scientology International Reserve Trust out of Great Britain had sued against the law. (az)
Scientologists in Sweden recognized as church
March 14, 2000
Stockholm (dpa) - the Scientology Organization has been acknowledged as a church in Sweden.
That was reported by the Stockholm newspaper, "Svenska Dagbladet." The basis of it is a church law that went into effect at the turn of the year by which the status of the Protestant churches has also been changed into a state church. In November, Sweden's revenue office recognized the Scientology Organization as a charitable, idealist association without goals of profit.
Sweden recognizes Scientologists
Luxemburg/Stockholm aft - The Scientology Organization has been recorded in Sweden as a "religious association." A government spokeswoman said yesterday that no special rights were associated with it, just that the organization was recognized as a legal persona. In the European Court yesterday, Scientology won a process against France for restriction of investiture. In the judgment the possibility effected by French law was contested which blocked foreign investors for "disturbing the public order, health or safety."
Sweden's highest administrative court makes a decision and brings the administration into an awkward situation
Newspaper put text on internet
From: "Frankfurter Rundschau"
June 20, 1998
by Hannes Gamillscheg
The Swedish "principle of public availability" is more important than international copyright. By this decision, Sweden's highest administrative court has compelled the administration to make secret scriptures of the Scientology movement available as public documents.
Copenhagen, June 19, 1998. Six months ago, after massive pressure from the Scientologists and the US administration, the Stockholm cabinet declared the "holy books" of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard to be secret material. After last Thursday's judgment, this decision must be revised. With that, the long-term struggle over the public availability of the Scientology books escalates anew. The organization, recognized as a church in Sweden, has designated Hubbard's texts as "religious material to which outsiders should not have access," explained information chief Tarja Wulto. In Hubbard's opinion, a person is possessed with alien beings which limit his development. This is supposed to be a consequence of the settlement of earth 75 million years ago by galactic Lord Xenu with spaceships full of beings. The understanding of the texts, from the Scientologist perspective, requires a development of awareness which can only be obtained through expensive courses offered by the organization.
It is for this reason that the writings with the titles of OT and NOT are strongly secret. However, they were publicly accessible in Sweden, after Zenon Panoussis, a Scientology critic, sent a copies of them to the administration and to Parliament. By that action the books became "public documents" which, according to the Swedish principle of public availability, can be viewed by anybody. A tug-of-war between the authorities and the Scientologists ensued. In the parliamentary library, where Hubbard's texts were made available, members of the movement had the writings checked out round the clock so that nobody else could get at their "Bible."
At the same time Sweden was put under pressure by Washington. The US administration complained about the violation of the copyrights which belonged to the Scientology Church and threatened to sue Stockholm in the World Trade Organization. The Swedish government gave in to the pressure and pulled the controversial material off the shelves. By that, they invoked a determination that the principle of public availability could be restricted if it harmed the relationship with another country. However, the administration court rejected this interpretation. The administration can only invoke secrecy if the content of the document would endanger the relationship with another country. The "Scientology Bible" contains nothing which could harm the relationship to the USA, said the judge. Because of this, the principle of public available remains in effect. Justice Minister Laila Freivalds said that she would submit to this decision.
Now the Scientologists want to sue Sweden in the European Court. The US embassy in Stockholm expressed regret that the rights of a "corporate body of the USA" were being violated, and stated that it was the duty of the Swedish administration to solve this problem.
After the court's decision, the Stockholm newspaper, "Dagens Nyheter", placed the entire "Scientology Bible" on their internet home page. On Friday afternoon, it had been taken down for unstated reasons.
"Peter, would you rather have a brother or a sister?"
"Oh, if it's not too difficult for you, Mommy, I would like most of all to have a pony."
Aftenposten March 8, 1998
Scientology Bible classified as Secret
Members of the constitutional committee in the Swedish Parliament have received a muzzle order while officials examine the Scientology Bible.
Swedish officials have apparently let themselves be put under pressure by the USA and the Scientology Church, since they taken such a drastic measure. The Scientology Church in the USA had protested against the Swedish custom of publication, after the teachings of the Scientologists were made publicly accessible in Sweden two years ago. The sect has lost much money through this kind of publication, and the sect members themselves must pay dearly to be permitted to read their Bible. This was followed up by protest from the American government and individual members of Congress. After that the Swedish authorities suddenly decided last Fall that the Scientology Bible should be regarded as a secret matter.
Now the Constitutional Committee is investigating this decision. In this context, the members of the committee have been muzzled -- in respect to state security. The obligation of silence means that if one of the committee should leak anything in this matter, complaints would ensue.
- It is no secret, however, that the USA has applied pressure to Sweden. But the reason why the obligation to be silent has been made is mainly that this situation is embarrassing for Sweden, said committee member Peter Eriksson on Swedish TV2 News over the weekend.
It is sensational that the entire constitutional committee has been put under an obligation of silence. Peter Eriksson is himself surprised that such a drastic step has been undertaken. For the moment it is not known when the committee can relate its decision to the government as to whether the Scientology Bible should be regarded as a secret matter.