I. Facts of the case
A. On January 5 and 13, 2000, the "Tages-Anzeiger" newspaper published two articles by Hugo Stamm on the topic of "Scientology." In the first report, with the title "Scientology's peculiar tax morals," the journalist got critically involved with Scientology's financial conduct in Switzerland. In spite of its high income, it was said that Scientology did not contribute one centimo to the Swiss treasury and still wanted to be exempt from its obligation to pay taxes, too. According to Hugo Stamm's analysis, the null profit, despite sales in the amount of millions, could be explained in that, among other things, the seminar fees were declared as donations, and the numerous legal disputes caused high financial expenses.
In the second article entitled "Scientology in every PC," the "Tages-Anzeiger" reported on a component of the new operating system Windows 2000, a so-called "defragmentation" program, which had been developed by a California company called Executive Software and which belonged to a high-ranking Scientologist. According to computer specialists, with the help of this program it would hardly be practical, but it would be at least theoretically conceivable, that data from every PC could be copied and sent, unnoticed, via the internet to another computer, thereby making the personal data from millions of PC users available to the Scientology Church. In the second part of the particle, it was indicated, on information from a Scientology specialist in a Hamburg government office, among others, that Executive Software was regarded as one of the leading corporations of Scientology's corporate organization, WISE, allegedly the primary arm of Scientology for infiltrating and spying upon business.
B. The "Aktion-Dialog" association, in its letter of January 25, 2000, reached the Press Council and, under the heading of "Dangerous Hate Journalism", expressed strong criticism of both media reports and of Hugo Stamm in general. The association (hereinafter referred to as the "complainant") took the view that both articles were components of a systematic, defamatory campaign of disparagement against the Scientology Church and its adherents which had been carried out by Tages-Anzeiger journalist Hugo Stamm for years.
C. With a view toward the more general character of the accusations, the complainant requested in a letter of January 28, 2000 that the Secretariat of the Swiss Press Council more clearly explain which points of the "Declaration of the Duties and Rights of Journalists" he thought were violated by the two articles in question.
D. With a letter of February 10, 2000, the complainant detailed his submission of January 25, 2000 and argued that the Tages-Anzeiger or Hugo Stamm, as the case may be, violated numbers 1 (obligation to be truthful), 3 (completeness of information, ban on displacing facts) and 8 (ban on discrimination) of the Declaration. The details presented stated, among other things, that the term "sect" used by Hugo Stamm and the use of the label "pseudo-church" were discriminatory; the title "Peculiar Tax Morals" was not in keeping with truth and displaced facts, and the assertion that Scientology demanded "exorbitant prices" and offered "expensive courses" suppressed vital information. It was said that the statement that Scientology "primarily pursued commercial goals" was not in keeping with Scientology's self-perception and suppressed important information; the statement "Scientology in every PC" was said to be untrue; and finally, it was said to be untrue and discriminatory to say that Scientology wanted to infiltrate and spy on business. To the extent that it seems reasonable in the scope of this opinion, the complainant's individual arguments will be discussed in the following considerations.
E. The Press Presidium referred the complaint to the 1st Chamber for handling, which is comprised of: Prof. Dr. Roger Blum (Chamber President) Marie-Louise Barben, Luisa Ghiringhelli Mazza, Silvana Iannetta, Philip Kuebler, Katharina Luethi and Edy Salmina (members).
F. In its opinion of April 6, 2000, the TA-Media AG (hereinafter: the complaint opponent) applied for complete dismissal of the complaint and submitted numerous documents to the Press Council which, from its point of view, supported the criticism applied to Scientology. The complaint opponent commented only that the selection of name for the title "Scientology in every PC" was not made by Hugo Stamm and was a mishap The Tages-Anzeiger said in reference to the request for a counter-presentation by Scientology, it had made the suggestion not only to publish the counter-presentation, but to issue a correction to the title, which happened on January 26, 2000.
G. In an unsolicited reply, labeled "reply" of May 8, 2000, to the complaint opponent's answer to the complaint, the complainant, among other things, got even more involved in the origin, sense and purpose of the "Aktion-Dialog" association, the role of the Tages-Anzeiger and of Hugo Stamm in the, from the view of the complainant, very one-sided published discussion about sects in Switzerland, about the concept of sects, about the religious character of Scientology and about the documents submitted by the complaint opponent to the Press Council.
I. The 1st Chamber of the Press Council decided in its session of June 7, 2000, after an initial discussion about the complaint, to forego a duplicate meeting with the complaint opponent because the complainant's "reply" essentially added nothing to the content of the process at hand. Rather it decided to hear the complaint opponent's opinion once again on the question of the Executive Software company in connection with the article of January 13, 2000.
H. In its submission of June 29, 2000, the complaint opponent commented, upon being questioned in the hearing, that Hugo Stamm had not managed to get company owner Craig Jensen on the telephone. Without this Stamm would not have asked about WISE membership, since this was said to be absolutely indisputable. The reference to the statement from the Scientology specialist on the dangerousness of WISE without an explicit opinion from Executive Software was permissible. This dealt with an accusation expressed by a government agency and the material was supported by voluminous evidence. The readers of the Tages-Anzeiger, without further explicit reference, would understand that a member company of WISE was being discussed, and that WISE spied on and infiltrated business.
K. The 1st Chamber agreed upon the opinion in its session of August 30, 2000.
1. In the sense of a preliminary comment, a brief mention is made of the extremely sharp tone used by the complainant against the journalist, Hugo Stamm, who is accused of things including massive defamation, journalistic instigation, systematic discrimination and disparagement of the members of the Scientology Church and, above all that, sympathy with terroristic ideology. Such a heavy attack upon the professional qualifications of a journalist can be assessed to be an illicit attack upon the freedom of the press. This is all the more valid as the content of the media reports which are the subject of the complaint are indeed very critical, but are not at all overdone in their tone.
2. The Press Council found further that Hugo Stamm's article was distinguished by a great deal of factual knowledge. He has been working with the theme for years and, in doing so, apparently has an extremely considerable amount of documentation, which is manifest by the numerous documents submitted by the complaint opponent in its answer to the complaint. Years of deep involvement with the theme can essentially be rated as a good qualification for the guarantee of professional ethics in journalism. In contrast to the complainant's claims, the Press Council is not able to detect any sign that Hugo Stamm is lacking in the meticulousness necessary to maintain the professionally ethical rules demanded of him in the discussion about the Scientology Church - even though his statements are extremely critical of it.
3. The Press Council does not have the means, nor it is part of its mission to give extensive explanation about the "true" character of Scientology. The matter at hand cannot deal with requiring the media and those creating the media to determine whether Scientology is a sect or not, whether it is to be regarded as a religious community or whether the commercial purpose of this group is primary, etc. The Press Council only has to state whether the Tages-Anzeiger or Stamm, as the case may be, has violated rules of professional ethics in connection with the media reports questioned by the complainant. In doing that, the Press Council assumes that the self-perception of Scientology and the characterizations of that group by its critics - which do not consist solely of Hugo Stamm and the Tages-Anzeiger - are diametrically opposed to each other. Furthermore, it is indisputable that Scientology's method of operation (in countries including Germany, Switzerland and the USA) has caused concerns on the side of the authorities, and has led to numerous legal disputes and public discussions. Since journalism, by definition, does not consist solely of the self-perception of the social operator, a journalist cannot be accused of wrongdoing when he acts, to a certain extent, as "legal representative" for potential or actual "sect victims" over the course of his work in pointing out, from a view, existing dangers from such organizations.
4. As is generally the case in all themes and social operators, distance and a critical attitude is also appropriate with Scientology from a journalistic perspective. This is shown in number 2 of the "Declaration of Duties", whereby journalists are supposed to defend the freedom of information, commentary and criticism, as well as the independence and perspective of the profession. The two articles by Hugo Stamm generate from one such critical attitude, which the complainant, beyond the individual faults subsequently submitted, obviously believes is impermissible and unjustifiably general. With this view towards freedom of expression an opinion and toward criticism, whether Scientology is rightly described as a sect or not or whether the commercial and financial conduct of this group is compatible with purely spiritual goals can play no role. Each and everybody - Hugo Stamm included - may assert their opinion and publish it if this opinion has a factual basis (see the opinion in the sense of H. vs. "Zuger Presse" of October 1, 1999, Sammlung 1999, pp. 128 f.). From the "Declaration of the Duties and Rights of Journalists" can be derived no obligation for objective journalism, in accordance with established practice of the Press Council. A one-sided media report which takes on a certain party is also compatible with fundamental professional ethics (see the opinions of U. vs. "Beobachter" of June 26, 1996, Sammlung 1996, pp. 44 f., and L. vs. "Eltwoche" of October 15, 1998, Sammlung 1998, pp. 143 f.) There is no issue here of discriminatory journalism in the sense of number 8 of the "Declaration of the Duties and Rights of Journalists," on which account the complainant's accusation in reference to that number can be completely dismissed.
5. But under these provisions, respecting the principle of "audiatur et altera pars," whereby the people involved may have the opportunity to express their opinion in regard to serious accusations before the publication of a media article is especially important (see, among others, the opinions in the case of S. vs. G of May 31, 1996, Sammlung 1996, pp 30, as will as in the case of Bundesanwaltschaft vs. "CASH" of August 25, 1999, Sammlung 1999, pp. 106).
6. In considering the two articles in question, it can be seen that relatively little space has been made available for the position of Scientology, or the Executive Software company, as the case may be. In the article of January 5, 2000 ("Scientology's peculiar tax morals"), it is only the last two lines which explain that Scientology spokesman Juerg Stettler had not been ready to release information about the income and the application for tax exemption.
In the article of January 13, 2000 ("Scientology in almost every PC"), at the end of the first section the position of Executive Software is give, whereby the company vehemently rejected suspicions concerning covert gathering of data from people's personal computers. In contrast to that, the quotes which support the stringent criticism of Scientology or Executive Software, are essentially greater in number. Hugo Stamm made use of personal statements from leading members of Scientology, the text of which was adapted so that it fit his criticism. A negative value judgment was just as much imparted to the readers by the title - ("Scientology in almost every PC"), which on second thought was also deemed untenable by the complaint opponent. Under such conditions it seem rather important that the subject of the criticism also receive an appropriate word.
7. However, the principle of "audiatur et altera pars" does not materialize according to quantitative criteria. The deciding factor cannot be a minimum number of lines, it has to be the total impression (text, title, pictures) of the published item. From this viewpoint, it appears from the serious accusations made about the article of January 5, 2000, that the allocated spaces was insufficient. Nevertheless, violation of the "Declaration of the Duties and Rights of Journalists" should not be applied here, because Scientology passed up its chance to contribute, and the Tages-Anzeiger, under that condition, cannot be blamed.
8. In regard to the accusations made in the first section of the second article of January 13, 2000, the position of Executive Software - as already detailed above in number 6 of the considerations - is clearly related. Subsequently, in the second section of the article, the statement of a Scientology specialist of the Hamburg government office is related, according to which Executive Software is one of the leading corporations of the Scientology business organization, WISE. WISE was said to be Scientology's primary arm to spy on and infiltrate business. There is no corresponding opinion on this second serious accusation in the article from the company which is at least indirectly involved.
Therefore this was more closely looked at to see if hearing from Executive Software and the statement of its position was dispensable in the reasons given by the complaint opponent in its submission of June 29, 2000. The Press Council puts a positive light on the fact that Hugo Stamm apparently had personally tried to get Craig Jensen, the owner of Executive Software, on the telephone. Furthermore, based on the evidence submitted by the complaint opponent, it can be concluded that Jensen is a member of WISE (quoted from Jensen's home page and from a WISE member list) and that WISE also essentially recommends the application of Scientology methods for the expansion of businesses (quoted from www.wise.org).
The argumentation of the complaint opponent cannot be followed to the extent that hearing from a person accused of serious charges is not required solely because the accusation has been published by a government agency in a real case. The duty to hear from the opposing side in serious accusations is a question of fairness, among other things. Therefore even if the source of an accusation - such as the one made by this government agency - is very credible, hearing from the person concerned or at least relating a previously known denial is not generally dispensable.
However, from the view of the Press Council it seems the further assumption of the complaint opponent is not out of place, and that at least a major portion of the Tages-Anzeiger's readers would make a connection with the journalism concerning the theme of Scientology and would anticipate a general denial from Scientology. Even with that seemingly plausible assumption, though, it would be going too far to say that the duty of the media to hear from the other side was dispensable in making serious accusations and to deny relating their opinion in this case. In doing that, the right to be heard would become an empty shell and the intended minimum of fairness would not longer be guaranteed. Besides that, it also lies in the public's interest to be afforded the opportunity, not just in a general sense, of hearing not only the denial from the subject of an accusation, but also of seeing the exact context of what he has to say.
Exceptions can be made in relating the opinion of the person against whom serious accusations have been made only when a theme is of great current interest at the point of publication and the position of that person has already been presented in detail in a medium appearing at the same time, from which it could be concluded that the readers would already be generally aware of his position (opinion of the Press Council 20/2000 in the case of "Comptes rendus de conférences de presse partiales" of June 16, 2000). This condition to dispense with hearing from the person concerned or relating a denial is obviously not met in the indirect accusation at hand that the Executive Software company infiltrates business and spies on it. Since a denial was to be expected and contact had even been made with Executive Software, it would have been easy to briefly mention it in this article of January 13, 2000.
In this point, sufficient justice was not done to the principle of "audiatur et altera pars" and therefore a violation of numbers 3 and 7 of the "Declaration of Duties and Rights of Journalists" is determined.
1. It is not the mission of the Press Council to produce extensive clarifications about the "true" character of Scientology. Since the media need not address solely the self-perception of a social operator, it is permissible, from the viewpoint of professional ethics, for a journalist to point out to the public what appear to him to be existing dangers from a controversial organization insofar as the expressions of his opinion are founded on a basis of fact.
2. The principle of "audiatur et altera pars" contained in number 3 of the "Declaration of the Duties and Rights of Journalists" also applies to involved journalism which serves the purpose of legal representation. In no case would its application prevent critical journalism, rather it would strengthen the credibility in the public's eye. It is not mandatory that the party against whom serious accusations have been made receive the same number of lines as does the criticism. But, in view of the principles of professional ethics of completeness of information and of fairness, it should at least be required that the accused be afforded the opportunity to take a position.
3. The "Tages-Anzeiger" has violated the principle of "audiatur et altera pars" in the article "Scientology in almost every PC" of January 2000 in that an opinion from the company was not obtained or related in regard to the accusation that the company, Executive Software, was one of the leading corporations of Scientology's WISE corporate organization which was a primary arm of Scientology in spying on and infiltrating business. To that extent, therefore, the complaint is partly approved.
4. Beyond that the complaint is dismissed.
Battle Field EarthFrom: "claudius" Newsgroups: de.soc.weltanschauung.scientology Subject: Battle Field Earth : Scientologen schmunzeln Date: Tue, 4 Jul 2000 10:37:28 +0200 Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Battlefield Earth, which is shortly due to arrive in movie theaters in Europe, is dedicated by L. Ron Hubbard to his friend A.E. van Vogt. The dedication is contained in ALL three Battlefield Earth books.
No problem, you might say.
A huge problem for the Scientology Church, however. Because A.E. van Vogt was nobody else than the PRESIDENT of one of the first SQUIRREL GROUPS ever, CADA (Californian Association of Dianetics Auditors) !!!
And that for over 25 years, from 1951 !!!! to 1976.
And CADA is on the SP list of suppressive groups !!!
In order to evade the question of how it is possible that L. Ron Hubbard dedicated three !!! books (the entire Battlefield Earth trilogy) to a first-class Squirrel, the Scientology Church is trying to cover up this fact from the Scientologists. Even though Ethics is such an important point for the Scientology Church.
Just recently there were Scientologists who reacted with disbelief, or even denied or disputed this fact when asked about the dedication, perhaps in the hope that it would not get around.
And then there were smiles, smiles all around an organization that talks so much about truth, but would rather build a wall of silence around itself with it some to a ticklish point.
It was no use, the sensation made its way to the public, anyway.
Quote from a Scientologist, "I don't understand why the organization is so close-mouthed to questions regarding A.E. van Vogt. This man must have been a good person, otherwise Ron surely would have not dedicated three books to him."
Another quote, "I don't give a hoot what the organization says about A.E. van Vogt and CADA, if Ron says he's OK, then that's the way it is."
Zurich attorney takes on Scientologists
May 9, 2000
by Thomas Heer
Zurich - The Scientologists are violating copyrights in the worst way: this is the view taken by renowned Zurich attorney and university docent Wolfgang Larese. Therefore the company which he represents, Prosys AG, will sue the organization.
The bone of contention is the personality test which consists of 200 questions, the so-called Oxford Capacity Analysis. Based on this test, thousands of people have found their way into the controversial organization. Sect expert Georg Otto Schmid said, "The test is not bad. But the Scientologists grade it so that many people fail and gratefully accept the organization's support."
In 1990, Swiss ex-Scientologist Tom Voltz bought the copyright to the test. The Scientologists had wanted to salvage the copyright from Voltz. He, however, would not let himself be intimidated, and turned for help to Zurich media lawyer Wolfgang Larese.
Voltz finally sold the copyrights to the PP Prosys Perception AG. And Larese is the sole executive board member of PP.
Prosys had already tried to validate its claim six years ago. "But the proceedings were suspended," commented Zurich Scientology chief Juerg Stettler. As far as Stettler is concerned, there is no doubt that the copyright to the test is held by the Scientologists.
At the time, Prosys did not pursue the process any further on financial grounds. Now it still wants to find out with a civil suit. Larese said, "In this, only the violation of the copyright must be proven, and not criminal conduct. This is simpler."
For more info (as of May 10, 2000): http://members.tripod.com/German_Scn_News/ocatest.htm
Scientology moving away
After only ten months, Scientology leaving information center on Stauffach
April 29, 2000
by Hugo Stamm
The controversial Scientology psycho-sect began on Friday to vacate its Information and Test Center on 41 Badener Street. To be sure, the American organization will soon be opening a new information center downtown. Where the stubborn street missionaries will be hunting for customers in the future, though, is still not known. Scientology spokesman Juerg Stettler does not intend to betray where Scientology will be pitching its new camp. The public will be informed soon enough and the contract is already being wrapped up, he said.
Driving customers away
It is no surprise that the Scientologists will be leaving their center on Stauffach after only ten months, because the rental contract only ever went up to the end of April 2000. The Hubbard adherents were sub-lessees of the Neuburg sports shop, whose contract with Paradeplatz real estate has run out. Their departure gives primarily the surrounding businesses and residents reason to celebrate. "When the Scientologists stood in front of our shop with their leaflets, some pedestrians would go over to the other side of the street," said a sales lady from an adjacent business. "In the beginning we had to shoo them away, later we just had to give them the 'look'," reported an employee from a different shop. "I called the police on them once," chimed in her colleague. District Association President Max Kuenzig also expressed his relief at the prospect. In a recent session of the Stauffach Interest Association, shop owners, as with one voice, expressed their dissatisfaction about the daily recruitment operations of the Scientologists. "I have gotten many complaints and the residents feel as though they are being harassed," said Kuenzig. The recently broken front window of the Scientology center is one more sign of the tense relations on Stauffach. The saga will soon continue - in a different quarter.
January 8, 2000
The city council has rejected the individual initiative from Scientologist and middle school teacher Peter Thalmann. He had demanded that the city not be allowed to financially support the sect counselling center because it was violating freedom of religion by doing that. It is a matter of 20,000 Swiss franks a year.
The city council wrote in its answer that Infosekta did not direct its activity against religious denominations, but against unwanted outgrowths of certain sects. "These often lead people who had fallen into the vacuum of such groups to dependencies, psychic detriment, to loss of social and emotional relational networks, to economic need and, in individual cases, even to suicide," wrote the city council. Because such people will become a public burden sooner or later, it was in the public interest to support Infosekta. Besides that, the federal court had already clearly decided that such subsidies did not violate the religious neutrality of the state, explained the city council. Now the community council must make a decision on the individual initiative. (sta.)
Neutral on Issues of Religion
Balthasar Glaettli is faction spokesman for the Green Party on the Community Council
November 12, 1999
SVP and Greens have the opinion that the municipal funding for Infosekta ought to be discussed. For two different reasons.
Eva Mackert speaks with Balthasar Glaettli
On Wednesday the Greens in Community Council voted, along with the SVP, for a material discussion of Peter Thalmann's individual initiative, thereby putting them in a position indirectly against municipal funding for the Infosekta information and counselling center. Why?
We supported the initiative out of liberal considerations. A discussion about the attitude of the state on religious issues seems appropriate to us.
In your opinion, is Infosekta not needed?
Infosekta performs valuable work in gathering information. The question concerns whether the city should also be involved with an organization which is supported by the state churches.
And your answer to that?
Our opinion is that the state should conduct its affairs neutrally here. It does not have to do with the state saying what religion is or what it is not. The limits of that which is permitted are laid out adequately for everybody by criminal law.
Now Peter Thalmann's initiative will not be discussed due to a lack of support (only 29 instead of the necessary 42 votes). What route is available for your concerns to be addressed?
The matter is taken care of as far as we are concerned, as the municipal funding for Infosekta is only 20,000 franks. Certainly the city would have to pay that much to get the information on its own.
The initiator, a member of the Scientology Church, has announced that "various groups" are ready to stop municipal funding "by the legal route." Are the Greens one of these groups?
November 11, 1999
Infosekta. The individual initiative from Peter Thalmann for the demand of the deletion of the operating contribution of 20,000 franks to Infosekta received only 29 votes (mainly from SVP) and will therefore not be turned over for factual discussion.
Scientology booted out
February 24, 1999
The controversial organization will not get offices in Albisrieden.
Scientology has been rebuffed in Albisrieden. The sect-like organization is looking for space for a new center and had been negotiating with the two owners of the real estate at 226 Albisrieder Street (Tages-Anzeiger of Feb. 2). The other renters protested and threatened to leave. The woman who runs the "Da Anna" pizzeria was worried that her income might dry up. Additionally, neighboring residents and businesspeople in the quarter were concerned. Scientology tried to turn the mood of the quarter's residents around with goodwill campaigns.
In vain. Both lessors decided not to rent the approximately 1,500 square meters of office space to the Scientologists. The decision could not have been easy for them, since the spaces have been vacant for years. However, they did not wish to state the reason for their refusal. They are worried that that would be pouring gasoline on the fire.
Mini-center also sought
Time is getting short for Scientology. The organization has until the end of April before it has to leave the large center at 141 Badener Street. It is not only looking for a center where it can give its courses, but also space for mini-centers in the central city which could mainly serve its missionary activity. (sta)
From: "Tages-Anzeiger," Switzerland
February 2, 1999
The Scientologists would like to open a new center at 226 Albisrieden Street. The other renters there are threatening to leave.
by Hugo Stamm
The news that the Scientologists wanted to found a new center on Albisrieden spread through the quarter like wildfire. Negotiations are actually underway with both real estate owners. When the other renters on the property - from photographers to commercial businessmen - coincidentally caught wind of the deal, they lodged a protest. Besides verbal intervention, four parties requested, in a letter, that the property owner "urgently desist from [going through with] the new planned rental arrangement." Individuals made no secret of the fact that they would rather move out rather than work in a "Scientology building."
Discussion of Stipulations
The Scientologists would like to rent a good 1,000 square meters to establish training spaces and offices which have, up to now, been located at 141 Badener Street (see Tages-Anzeiger of Jan. 22). The lessor would like to make the stipulation that no pedestrians would be accosted in front of or in the building, but the renters are skeptical. The Scientologists had also initially made that promise on Badener Street, said a businessman, and not kept it.
The biggest anxiety the host of the Da Anna Pizzeria, which is in the same building, has, is that of losing customers. "I was shocked when I heard about the Scientologists. I am afraid that our guests are going to be hassled. The lessor even assured me that the Scientologists will not use my restaurant as a canteen, but I doubt he will enforce that, said the host
The protests of the renters have not gone unheard. One of the two lessors wants to go over the books one more time. He would not like to lose his present renters. The other lessor is interested in renting the offices because they have stood empty for some years. Even he has not yet decided, but will, nevertheless, make stipulations to the Scientologists about recruiting pedestrians.
However, the Scientologists will not have anything to do with that. "We have not yet decided upon a site; we will hardly accept stipulations," said Scientology spokesperson Juerg Stettler.
From: "Tages-Anzeiger" Switzerland
January 22, 1999
Scientology leaves big center
The center at 141 Badener Street has become too big for the Zurich Scientologists. They move out the end of April.
by Hugo Stamm
The message was greeted with joy by all the neighbors and shop owners in the Zurich district. Many are happy that the Scientologists are looking for a new place. Max Kuenzig, President of the Aussersihl District Association, spoke from his heart when he said, "Now we have one less problem in District 4." In reality, all the complaints from the quarter for the past seven years have not quite been silenced.
The New Kid on the Block
The main reason for the surprising move by the Scientologists may lie in their financial situation. When the organization moved in, in 1992, it paid annual rent of about two million franks for the huge building, which encompasses 7,000 square meters in six stories. At the time, the Zurich seat was the largest individual center in Europe. The pseudo-church, which is categorized as a sect, wanted to sub-let the two upper stories, but did not find any external, long-term renters.
Presumably, many prospective renters were frightened off when they saw a building whose facade was covered with Scientology slogans from basement to attic - mainly for "Dianetic Counseling." There are many indications that the organization has been stagnating for some years, and that the income is not near as high as it was at the start of the decade.
Several locations sought
Juerg Stettler, spokesman for Scientology, does not want to reveal the reasons for the move. "We want to be present in various places with services," he stated. This has the strategic advantage that the Scientologists will be able to distribute their little contracts and personality tests in more districts. The Scientology missionaries often invite pedestrians on the street in to take a test or have a trial session, or to watch a video about Scientology and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. Therefore, the danger exists in the future that neighbors and shop owners of even more districts will be confronted with the missionary practices of the Scientologists. They are on the streets at all times of the day and night.
It has still not been determined where Scientology is going to settle down. At the moment, the controversial organization is seeking new places to rent. Their press speaker indirectly stated that the move out of the large center is necessary because its staff is growing so quickly: "We plan on having 200 staff within a couple of months," said Juerg Stettler. Increased efforts to recruit new employees have actually been observed. Staff are sought by means of newspaper and radio advertisements, some of which do not mention that Scientology is behind them.
At the time, up to 150 full time staff work at 141 Badener Street. The wage is dependent upon their work, which is often 60 or more hours per week for which they receive about 150 franks. The Scientology employees mainly ply courses and take care of the administration.
Werner Meier, the owner of the real estate at 141 Badener Street, has had no negative experiences with the Scientologists. "They were always very friendly to me and always paid the rent," he said. He has not yet found a new renter.
Max Kuenzig of the District Association is delighted that the Scientologists are moving out. "The aggressive presence of the Scientologists in their missionary activity is unpleasant and often bothersome to pedestrians, neighbors and shop owners," said Kuenzig. There were also complaints about the additional traffic.
What is going to happen with the Pulcinella Pizzeria, which is integrated into the same building, remains uncertain. The current renter from the Scientology environment had come into financial difficulties, for which reason the restaurant has been closed for some time. Werner Meier would like to rent the real estate with the pizzeria included. When the many Scientology slogans disappear from the building's facade, the income may rise once again. That is to say that many residents have avoided the pizzeria because they did not want to support the Scientologists.
Copyright © TA-Media AG
Letter to the Editor
June 5, 1998
Despite all the possibilities of evolution and change of language, words and ideas may not be arbitrarily re-defined. Unfortunately, that is exactly what radical philosophical (as well as political) movements continue to do. Non-believers are pre-judged to be in the wrong by using this method, which makes any discussion impossible.
"Scientology" can not be called a religion for the following reasons: Religion (lat. religio = binding back) means respectful regard for the origin of man and nature, for a cultic reverence, which is based on belief, of a supernatural, powerful being. "Scientology" promises to train people to a type of willfully controllable, better future. That does not at all correspond with the concept of religion. Neither can "Scientology" be called a church, because a church is a community of people who follow and obey the Lord (from "Kyrios" = Lord; Ecclesia = those who have been chosen (by the Lord)).
Starting with the very first churchly beginnings, by the "Lord" was exclusively meant the only begotten Son of God, Jesus, the Christ (= the Messiah, the "Savior"). Only communities which are based upon specific Christian beliefs can be called a "church." These communities are stamped with a single concept: "only one is our Lord - Jesus Christ." In accordance with this unequivocal principle, one does not speak of Islamic, Buddhist or Jewish "churches."
Robert Wenger (Zurich)
[Note: this is an opinion from the Swiss Press Council of a complaint from Scientology about an article in the Zurich "Tages Anzeiger" by Hugo Stamm (Editor and renowned Sect Specialist). (Unfortunately, the article itself is not available.)]
(In reading this article, one should keep in mind that an Athens court demanded the ban and closure of KEPHE (Scientology) in Greece in December, 1996. Scientology unsuccessfully appealed the decision, which was fully confirmed in December, 1997
Groundless complaints by Scientology
Zurich. The complaints by Scientology about an article by Hugo Stamm, the "Tages-Anzeiger" editor and sect specialist, are, according to the press council, groundless. Nevertheless the Press Council concedes a certain lack of care by Stamm in its opinion, which was published last Friday.
The complaint was about an article in the "Tages-Anzeiger" of October 5, 1996, which described a raid by the Greek investigation officials on the Scientology center in Athens.
Stamm repeated, according to the press council, "the well-documented contents of the investigative report of the prosecuting officials." He also made this explicitly clear in his text. The accusations made by Scientology, that his article contained untruths, is therefore groundless.
Nevertheless the Press Council of the Swiss Association of Journalists (SVJ) also criticized shortcomings, which "broke the rules of journalistic professional ethics." Every person and every organization has the claim to fair treatment in the mass media. Special attention should always be paid to this in controversial topics.
Stamm did not spread untruths at all, as Scientology had maintained. What was missing was the desired clarity. It was not obvious which incidents had been investigated or judged. Additionally, the text lacked an opinion of those concerned, or a reference that such information was not available. Finally, the title "Overturn of Scientology", incorrectly indicated that a fact had taken place.