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Religious Recognition by the courts

papers  T
hroughout this issue, you have read our claims that discrimination in this country against the Scientology religion and its members is politically motivated and flanked by a lap-dog press.

The courts, however, are not set up to be political. They exist to deliver impartial justice and to keep the executive branch in check. So we offer here a sampling of determinations about the Scientology religion by courts around the world, decisions reached after judicial scrutiny of evidence.

Scientology follows a long tradition of religious philosophy and practice. Its roots lie in the deepest beliefs and aspirations of all great religions, thus encompassing a religious heritage as old and varied as man himself. And this religious nature has been recognized in countries throughout the world.

You do not have to take our word for what we say. Read the words of the courts.

Twenty-five courts throughout Germany have repeatedly ruled that Scientology is a religion, as have courts in many other countries. These courts have found the religiosity of the Church of Scientology to be compelling and irrefutable.

  • With its decision of 24 August 1994, the Hamburg Administrative Appeals Court recognized the Church of Scientology as a religious and philosophical community. The court ruled that statements published in a brochure by the office of Ursula Caberta y Diaz “violate the legal mandate of neutrality and tolerance” and that they constituted a “violation of the constitutional rights [of the Church] as per article 4 [of the Constitution]” (Freedom of Religion).

In issuing this recognition, the court specifically noted that Scientology had been recognized as a religion by the Internal Revenue Service of the United States. The court further noted that theologians of the evangelic church had confirmed Scientology’s religious nature, and that the court had received more than 200 testimonies from parishioners of the Church of Scientology proclaiming Scientology as their religion.

  • On 16 February 1995 the German Federal Admin Court also confirmed the religiosity of Scientology. The case concerned the issue of whether certain activities of the Church, such as the sale of books, need to be registered as a trade. The court held that such registration can be demanded provided the trade law is applied without violating the Church’s right to freedom of religion. The court stressed that “when applying specialized laws it is to be done so that article 4 (freedom of religion) remains unharmed as much as possible”.

  • And the Regional Court of Munich found in 1993 that: “Scientology is a religious belief that cannot be scientifically assessed and its services are of a religious nature.”

  • The conclusion of the Public Prosecutor of the Regional Court of Frankfurt in 1988 was, “The Church of Scientology is a recognized religion in Germany and protected under Article 4 of the German Constitution which guarantees freedom of religion.”

  • The Superior Court of Hamburg found in February 1988, “Scientology is a bona fide religion and an association that is not only united for ideological purposes but also pursues a transcendental purpose.”

The same court further stated, “There are religious communities, such as Buddhism, which do not recognize a god in the usual sense, but this does not make them less religious. The Scientology religion deals mainly with man. Man is also an important subject for reflection in established Christian churches.”

“[The Church of Scientology’s] purpose in this world is considered to help man in his striving for spiritual freedom and to completely free him from problems and burdens to reach total freedom in order to recognize himself as a spiritual being and experience the existence of a Supreme Being....”
Judge Wolf, Stuttgart District Court, 1985


  • “The Church of Scientology is a religious and ideological association,” found the Administrative Court of Frankfurt/Main in 1990.

Courts in the United States, where Scientology originated and where the Mother Church of the religion is located, no longer even consider the religiosity of Scientology to be an issue because it has been established so many times:

  • On 30 September 1993, after reviewing the judicial precedents concerning the religiosity of Scientology, the United States Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization v. City of Clearwater, stated:

“The history, organization, doctrine and practices of Scientology have been thoroughly recounted in numerous judicial decisions. We need not reiterate this background because the district court found that no genuine factual issues existed to dispute Scientology’s claim of being a bona fide religion.”

This conclusion was based on a long line of decisions in the United States finding Scientology to be a religion.

“We have found that it is established in this case that the mission is a religious organization and that Scientology is a religion.”

“The Church of Scientology must be treated the same as any established religion or denominational sect within the United States, Catholic, Protestant or other.”

In Australia, the High Court, which is the highest court in the land, ruled unanimously in 1983 that “the conclusion that it [the Church] is a religious institution entitled to tax exemption is irresistible.”

The Italian courts have ruled in favor of Scientology’s religious nature on more than a dozen occasions. For example, in a tax case in Monza in 1990, the Court ruled that its activities were “aimed at the dissemination of doctrinal and also religious principles, and certainly not of a commercial nature.”

Just last year, following recognition of the Church by the Internal Revenue Service in the U.S.A., the province of Ontario, Canada, granted Scientology ministers the right to conduct state recognized wedding ceremonies. With that done all the Canadian provinces where Scientology Churches and Missions are active have now conveyed this right to Scientology Ministers.

As you can see, courts throughout the world have not hesitated to recognize the religiosity of the Church of Scientology. Nor were these decisions arrived at lightly. They were reached after the courts had extensively reviewed the beliefs and practices of the Church and had compared them with those of other religious traditions. Thus it is only right and proper that the German government too should not only recognize Scientology for what it is, as the courts have done, but treat it with the respect due any religion as mandated by its own constitution.

The traditional impartiality and fairness is being actively threatened today—by the government.

Under a provision enacted after World War II to guarantee religious freedom in Germany and prevent any recurrence of the horrors of the Holocaust, the German Constitution guarantees that a minority religion such as Scientology, even while under assault from the government, can still get a fair hearing in the courts.

The religious nature of Scientology has been confirmed in 25 courts in 17 years, in decisions rendered in local, regional and federal appeal courts throughout the country. Each decision has found Scientology to be a bona fide religion.

The government responded to the pattern of favorable judicial responses with characteristic hostility, and the result is a serious threat to the German Constitution.

In desperation, the government launched a propaganda program to “enlighten” judges about religious minorities. The campaign began in October 1993, with a report issued by the Ministry for Labor, Health and Social Affairs of North Rhine-Westphalia. It stated: “The court cases with Scientology have also shown that the general laws can only be applied forcefully if Scientology is not looked upon as a religious or philosophical society in the sense of the Basic Law...”

In other words, if judges could be swayed to deny Scientologists their constitutional right of free religious belief and practice, the government could then take destructive actions against the Church—without judicial restraint. It would only need to be carried out under the guise of “law enforcement.”

The Ministry’s report also proposed “enlightenment seminars” about religions for judges, teachers, police, and university students and faculty. The first of these took place in December 1993 at the German Academy of Judges near Berlin. The Minister of Health and Social Affairs of North Rhine-Westphalia addressed 32 judges and state prosecutors, two from each state. Other speakers included representatives of groups funded by the government to attack particular religions—government interference the German Supreme Court had found unconstitutional.

In a further step, former state prosecutor Juergen Keltsch urged passage of discriminatory legislation that would strip new religions of rights granted to all other religious communities.

These activities are nothing less than attempts to both subvert the rule of law and politicize the independent judiciary.
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