Although some officials in the German Government continue to support systematic religious discrimination targeting Scientologists in Germany, there is no question of Scientology’s legitimate status as one of the world religions. Scientology is fully developed in its theology, religious practice and organization. The breadth and scope of the religion include more than eleven thousand Churches of Scientology, missions and related organizations in countries all over the world.
Millions of Scientologists around the world sincerely believe in freedom of religion and the religious tenets and practices of Scientology. For every one of these individuals, Scientology is their religion. This is the most important test of any true religion of the world—indeed, it is the test used by the High Courts of many countries, including the United States Supreme Court.
German Decisions Finding that the Church of Scientology is an Idealistic Association Serving Noncommercial Purposes
An idealistic association in Germany is one that forwards a non-commercial purpose, working for the society in the same way that a charitable organization does.
The German courts have thoroughly examined the Church’s fundraising practices, activities and purpose and have reached the unequivocal determination that it serves religious or philosophical aims protected by the German Constitution.
Some fifty German judicial decisions have recognized that the Church of Scientology and its members are entitled to the protections of freedom of religion and belief granted in Article 4 of the German Constitution, including the following:
The German Federal Administrative Court issued a landmark decision in 1997 regarding the Church of Scientology’s idealistic nature that set an important precedent. The Federal Administrative Court not only recognized the religious character of Scientology; it also found nothing untoward about the Church of Scientology Neue Brücke’s fundraising practices, as they serve religious goals and convictions:
Furthermore, it is irrelevant for the establishment of a commercial activity in which form the members fund the activities of their association. That an association claims remuneration for services provided in itself does not form an indicator for a commercial activity.
The Court also noted that the Church of Scientology was an idealistic association serving religious and not commercial purposes.
The Administrative Court has decided that an idealistic association does not conduct a commercial activity to the extent that it offers services to its members by the means of which the membership is realized and that cannot be provided by other service providers independent of the membership relationship. For, in such circumstances, no commercial activity of an entrepreneur does exist.1
Likewise, in a 1998 decision the Hamburg Superior Court found the Church’s fundraising practices completely appropriate.
The [Church] is recognized as a religious community, its financing through contributions in the form of donations does not constitute a commercial activity according to the general view…. The services offered by the [Church] therefore cannot be viewed from the position of a normal price-service relationship.2
A November 1999 decision of the Stuttgart Administrative Court, in a case involving the Church of Scientology of Stuttgart, concluded:
Based on the arguments of the parties, the extensive contents of the Court file and the witness testimony the Court reached the conviction that the plaintiff does not maintain a commercial business operation in the meaning of the precedents outlined above which this court does follow.3
In October 2002, the Federal Labor Court ruled that staff members who work in a Church of Scientology are motivated by idealistic and spiritual aims. In reaching its decision, the Court relied on the landmark 1997 decision by the German Federal Supreme Administrative Court finding that Scientology religious practices are intended for spiritual gain and serve a religious purpose.4
In January 2003, the Federal Finance Office in Germany: (1) issued letters granting tax exemption to Scientology Missions International (SMI) with respect to payments of fees to SMI from all Scientology missions in Germany; and (2) issued letters granting tax exemption to the Church of Scientology International (CSI), the Mother Church of the Scientology religion, with respect to film-lease payments it receives from nine Churches of Scientology in Germany.
In December 2003, the Administrative Court of Appeal of Baden-Württemberg confirmed the 1999 decision of the Administrative Court of Stuttgart, as cited above, finding that the Church of Scientology of Stuttgart was not a commercial organization based on its fundraising practices:
On the basis of recent scientific examinations that deal with the aims of the Scientology organization, there are no tangible indications that support the allegation that the teachings of Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard are used as mere pretence for a commercial activity.
The association Scientology Community Baden-Württemberg cannot be deprived of its legal capacity because it does not pursue a commercial activity.5
On March 23, 2004, the Church of Scientology Düsseldorf received official registration as an idealistic association from the District Court of Düsseldorf.6
In June 2004, the Hamburg State Administrative Court of Appeal determined that actions taken by the Hamburg government to discriminate against a Scientologist interfered with her right to religious freedom protected by Article 4 of the German Constitution. The Court’s decision represents a clear affirmation of the religious rights of members of the Church of Scientology:
Thus it has been established that the plaintiff not only professes alone for herself a personal, individual, religious or philosophic belief, but shares this in community with others and thereby obtains the protection of Article 4 [freedom of religion or belief] of the Constitution. According to Article 4, section 1 of the German Constitution, freedom of belief and of conscience and the freedom of the religious and philosophical denomination are inviolable.
The volume of ideas of the Scientology Organization deals with transcendental contents and the position and meaning of Man in the world. If these teachings of L. Ron Hubbard regarding the immortal soul as the carrier of a life energy (THETA) and regarding the THETAN, and regarding its relation to the material universe designated as MEST, and regarding the path of the soul through innumerable lifetimes, are believed, and if the path to higher levels of existence (CLEAR and [OPERATING] THETAN) that remind one of levels of salvation, are identified with, this then characterizes a philosophic belief or a religious denomination.7
The decision of the Hamburg State Administrative Court of Appeal was confirmed by the Federal Supreme Administrative Court in its precedent-setting decision in December 2005:
The plaintiff, for her practice as a Scientologist, can claim the protection of the religious or philosophical denomination according to Article 4, section 1 of the German Constitution. The [Hamburg] State Administrative Court of Appeal has correctly assumed that such declarations in the teachings of Scientology are qualified to fulfill the term of belief or philosophic denomination. Therefore the reprimand of the defendant, that the decision under appeal would be based on an incorrect understanding of these terms because the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard about the world as a whole as well as to the origin and aim of human life would lack elements in the meaning of transcendental or immanent relations, is unfounded.8
In November 2005, the Bavarian State Administrative Court of Appeal rejected the Munich government’s claim regarding a Church of Scientology in Munich. The Court found that the Church pursues idealistic purposes that are not commercial in nature:
According to both the old and the new corporate statutes, the plaintiff [Church of Scientology] pursues an idealistic purpose, namely the dissemination of the ideas and teachings of the Church of Scientology as its mission and on the basis of its creed. The overall conduct of the plaintiff as based on the association’s intent doesn’t show any commercial activity in the meaning of the association law that would deviate from the corporate purposes and exceed the subordinate purpose privilege.9
The wholly religious purpose and activity of the Church of Scientology, without commercial purpose or activity, has been thoroughly investigated and confirmed by courts and administrative bodies in Germany and throughout the world.
In February 2009, the Berlin Administrative Court issued a landmark decision affirming the rights of Scientologists to freedom of religion under Article 4 of the German Constitution. The Court ordered the immediate removal of anti-Scientology propaganda placed by the Charlottenburg District Office of the Berlin City Administration in front of the Church of Scientology of Berlin. In reaching its conclusions, the Court held that the City of Berlin had violated its duty of religious neutrality and its obligation to remain objective on religious matters. The Court also ruled that the City’s unlawful actions served no justifiable purpose.
The Church has documented more than 1,500 cases of discrimination against its parishioners in Germany and presented the evidence to international human rights agencies. This information has been compelling enough for the following individuals and organizations, among others, to conclude that a serious problem of religious intolerance toward minority religions continues to be perpetuated by some officials of the German Government: the US State Department, the US Trade Representative, the Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe, many US Congressmen, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance, the Human Rights Centre of Essex University, England, an ad hoc Committee of British Lords and scholars, many non-governmental organizations, interfaith groups, human rights groups and independent researchers.
The officials causing religious discrimination should accept the numerous German legal decisions recognizing that the Church of Scientology and its members are entitled to the protections of freedom of religion and belief granted in Article 4 of the German Constitution.
- German Federal Administrative Court, case no. BVerfG 1 C 18,95, 1997.
- Hamburg Superior Court decision, case no. 330 O 169/97,1998.
- Stuttgart Administrative Court, case no. 16 K 3182/98, 1999.
- Federal Labor Court, case no. 5 AZB 19/01, 2002.
- Administrative Court of Appeal Baden-Württemberg, case no. 1 S 1972/00, 2003.
- District Court Düsseldorf, Association Register no. VR 9371, 2004.
- Hamburg State Administrative Court of Appeal, case no. 1 Bf 198/00, 2004.
- Federal Supreme Administrative Court, case no. 7 C 20.04, 2005.
- Bavarian State Administrative Court of Appeal, November 2005.
German Court Decisions Finding Scientology and Scientologists to be Protected Under Article 4 of the German Constitution
The decisions in this list contain findings that the Church of Scientology and/or Scientologists are to be afforded protection under Article 4 of the German Constitution, which protects freedom of religion and belief.
- Church of Scientology of Berlin v. City of Berlin, 27 February 2009, Berlin Administrative Court.
- B. v. City of Hamburg, 27 June 2008, Hamburg Administrative Court.
- Church of Scientology of Germany, Church of Scientology of Hamburg v. City of Hamburg, 7 March 2008, Hamburg Civil Court of Appeal.
- B. v. City of Hamburg, 19 December 2007, Hamburg State Administrative Court of Appeal (referred to in #2 above at page 5).
- Church of Scientology of Berlin v. City of Berlin, 29 June 2006, Administrative Court Berlin.
- B. v. City of Hamburg, 15 June 2006, Administrative Court Hamburg.
- K. v. City of Hamburg, 15 December 2005, Federal Administrative Supreme Court.
- Winkler v. State of Bavaria, Federal Supreme Administrative Court, March 2005.
- Celebrity Centre Church of Scientology Munich v. County of Upper Bavaria, 2 November 2005, Bavarian State Administrative Court of Appeal.
- K. v. City of Hamburg, 17 June 2004, Hamburg State Administrative Court of Appeal.
- Church of Scientology of Dusseldorf v. City of Dusseldorf, District Court Dusseldorf, March 2004.
- Church of Scientology Stuttgart v. State of Baden-Württemberg, 12 December 2003, State Administrative Court of Appeal Baden-Württemberg.
- Church of Scientology International v. City of Hamburg, 22 April 2003, State Administrative Court of Appeal Hamburg.
- Church of Scientology International v. City of Munich, 26 March 2003, Munich Administrative Court.
- Z. v. Church of Scientology Berlin, 26 September 2002, Federal Supreme Labor Court.
- Church of Scientology International v. City of Hamburg, July 2002, State Administrative Court of Appeal Hamburg.
- Scientology Mission Ulm v. City of Kempten/Allgäu, 25 November 1996, Administrative Court Augsburg.
- Church of Scientology Bavaria v. Federal Labor Office, 19 January 2000, Social Court Nuremburg.
- Church of Scientology Stuttgart v. City of Stuttgart, 17 November 1999, Administrative Court Stuttgart.
- H. v. Church of Scientology Hamburg, 5 January 1998, District Civil Court of Hamburg.
- Scientology Mission Neue Brücke v. State of Baden-Württemberg, 6 November 1997, Federal Supreme Administrative Court.
- City of Freiburg v. E., 6 February 1996, District Court Freiburg.
- Scientology Mission Neue Brücke v. State of Baden-Württemberg, 2 August 1995, State Administrative Court of Appeal Baden-Württemberg.
- Church of Scientology Hamburg v. City of Hamburg, 16 February 1995, Federal Supreme Administrative Court.
- Church of Scientology Hamburg v. City of Hamburg, 24 August 1994, State Administrative Court of Appeal Hamburg.
- S. v. Scientology Mission Nymphenburg, 30 March 1993, Superior Civil Court Munich.
- Church of Scientology Germany v. State Baden-Württemberg/ABI, 26 August 1992, Administrative Court Stuttgart.
- G. v. Church of Scientology Frankfurt, 27 May 1992, Superior Civil Court of Frankfurt.
- Scientologist v. Newspaper Publishing House, June 1992, Civil Court of Appeal Stuttgart.
- State Attorney with Superior Court Berlin v. Church of Scientology of Berlin, 22 January 1991.
- City of Hannover v. H., 19 September 1990, District Court Hannover.
- Church of Scientology Frankfurt v. City of Frankfurt, 4 September 1990, Administrative Court Frankfurt.
- P. v. Church of Scientology Frankfurt, 7 June 1989, Superior Civil Court Frankfurt.
- Church of Scientology Berlin v. State of Berlin, 12 October 1988, Administrative Court Berlin.
- Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre Hamburg v. City of Hamburg, 17 February 1988, Superior Civil Court Hamburg.
- Church of Scientology of Frankfurt v. City of Frankfurt, 7 October 1987, State Attorney with the Superior Court of Frankfurt.
- Scientology Mission Ulm v. State of Baden-Württemberg, 3 September 1986, Administrative Court Sigmaringen.
- Church of Scientology Germany v. City of Munich, 10 December 1985, Bavarian State Administrative Court of Appeal.
- Church of Scientology Hamburg v. City of Hamburg, 14 October 1985, Administrative Court Hamburg.
- Church of Scientology Germany v. City of Munich, 25 June 1985, Bavarian State Administrative Court of Appeal.
- In re City of Stuttgart v. K., 20 May 1985, District Court Stuttgart.
- In re City of Stuttgart v. M., 30 January 1985, District Court Stuttgart.
- Church of Scientology Germany v. City of Munich, 25 July 1984, Administrative Court Munich.
- X. v. City of Berlin, 11 February 1981, Administrative Court Berlin.
- Church of Scientology Germany v. Federal Republic of Germany, 25 September 1980, Federal Supreme Court.
- S. v. Federal Republic of Germany, 27 August 1980, Administrative Court Frankfurt.
- X. v. Federal Republic of Germany, 14 December 1978, Administrative Court Darmstadt (and appeal of 14 November 1980).
- F. v. Church of Scientology Stuttgart, 8 December 1976, District Court Stuttgart.