Monday, November 24, 2008

Why Germany Bothered.

The German government recently announced that it was no longer looking to ban Scientology in Germany. This has been heralded by many a Scientologist as a victory for their church, despite the government also stating that both its Domestic Intelligence Services and its Office for the Protection of the Constitution will continue to monitor the organisation.

The reason the attempt to ban has been abandoned appears to be the large divide between what Scientology says and what it does. Germany's annual report on Human Rights described the organisation as "[seeking] to limit or rescind basic and human rights, such as the right to develop one's personality and the right to be treated equally." This is in no doubt based on the writings of Hubbard himself, who declared that Civil Liberties should be withdrawn from people who are 2 or lower on the tone scale (people suffering from grief, or fear, for instance). Hubbard also declared quite openly his political ambitions. In discussing a "clear" planet, he envisioned a society wherein local government would be run from Scientology orgs, where policies would be based entirely on Scientology principles. He describes democracy as a failed experiment. Germany has, in light of these writings, decided that, at its heart, Scientology is an unconstitutional organisation. Its attempt to ban the Church was in this context, and Germany has, due to its own history, charged itself with taking a very close rein on the organisations that practice within its borders.

But happily, Scientology does not practice what it preaches. Not outside Clearwater at least. Erhart Koertig, Berlin's top security official, said "This organization pursues goals — through its writings, its concept and its disrespect for minorities — that we cannot tolerate and that we consider in violation of the constitution. But they put very little of this into practice. The appraisal of the government at the moment is that [Scientology] is a lousy organization, but it is not an organization that we have to take a hammer to."

CoS might point to the number of Euros that have been spent in surveilling the organisation, only to shy away from putting a ban in place. I suspect that the German government has also seen wisdom in this; that there is little ground to be had in attempting to outlaw an organisation that is held in such low public regard to begin with. They are, in effect, saying that Scientology in Germany is so poorly organised that should they seek to put into practice those policies of Hubbard that are unconstitutional, they wouldn't be able to. Also, like it or not, Germany has to walk a tightrope between outlawing unconstitutional organisations and being seen to be unconstitutional in doing so - its own First Amendment paradox.

I suspect Germany's biggest mistake in pursuing the Church of Scientology is that it attempted to address the organisation's vision of a Scientology-run planet. A more effective approach would be to look at the church's recruitment methods and its practices; its fraudulent marketing, its dodgy employment policies, its medical claims. Al Capone went to prison for tax evasion...

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