Sue Taylor, Church of Scientology, International
delivered at the
International Coalition for Religious Freedom Conference on
"Religious Freedom in Latin America and the New Millennium"
October 10-12, 1998, Sheraton Mofarrej Hotel, Sao Paolo, Brazil
I have to tell you just a little bit about the discrimination against our church over the years. The religion of Scientology was founded by humanitarian L. Ron Hubbard in the early 1950s. We now have about eight million members around the world and churches and missions in about 100 countries. As a new religion, we have experienced a lot of abuse and discrimination over the years from those who are anti-religious and those that have originated and passed false information in an effort to suppress our religion.
The discrimination has come in various forms. In the United States it has come from the government agencies that have conducted raids upon our church and spread false information. As a result, our members from foreign countries were not allowed to enter the United States during the 1970s. This was greatly relieved in 1993 when the Internal Revenue Service formally recognized our church as a religion and we became tax exempt. In England in the 1960s, all foreign Scientologists attempting to enter that country were banned. Fortunately the ban was lifted several years later. In Australia, Scientology was banned from one of the states. In 1983, the Supreme Court of Australia recognized not only the Church of Scientology, but also 500 other religions in that country.
In the 1980s, there was widespread kidnapping and deprogramming in the United States and in Europe by anti-religious groups. Members of our church were held sometimes for many months against their will. Then, in the late 1980s, raids upon our churches in Italy closed all of them on the same day. Only after several months were we to reopen some of our churches. This situation was solved years later by several court decisions. Also in the late 1980s, when the President of the Church of Scientology International visited Spain, within 24 hours there was a raid upon the luncheon at which he was speaking. He and all of the members in the room from Portugal and Spain were placed in prison. Fortunately, he was in prison for only three weeks, but he was under house detention for over three months—again, for no reason. Even today, raids on our church continue in France.
In the early 1990s, a wave of discrimination started in Germany, which has continued to escalate up to the present day. The discrimination in Germany is institutional. It comes from the federal, state, and local government. It started with a wave of anti-religious stories in the media directed against our church. Once public opinion was turned against us, numerous things started to happen to our members. Scientology members are banned from the major political parties. One of the political parties, the CDU Party, even has an application form in which, right at the top, anyone who wants to become a member must attest that they are not members of the Church of Scientology.
There is also artistic discrimination. Scientology artists are banned from performing in Germany. This includes musicians, painters, actors, actresses, etc. The CDU political party has published numerous publications against our church, as well as other minorities. Just a couple of years ago, what we call an "electronic Star of David" was placed in all government computers in Germany branding Scientology companies and businesses so that everybody can see if they don’t want to deal with those particular companies.
An "enlightenment" program is mandatory in all the public schools in the state of Bavaria and several other states. In this program, children are taught how dangerous Scientology is and that they should stay away from it. The children have to draw little cartoons to express what they have learned in school.
There is a term called "sect filters," that is used by many government agencies and private businesses now. Furthermore, a person who is working for a company has to sign a piece of paper saying he is not a Scientologist and that he does not use any of the works of L. Ron Hubbard. Scientologists who refuse to sign these pieces of paper lose their jobs instantly. They lose their jobs solely because they are Scientologists, not for any other reason.
Scientologists cannot be teachers or doctors, nor can we hold civil service positions in Germany. Several years ago our church was put under formal surveillance by the government, and to this day, the surveillance continues even though they have found nothing wrong with our church. They keep saying, "We need to look deeper. There must be something wrong." Banks refuse Scientologists loans. There have been numerous death threats and bomb threats. Fortunately, we have not experienced any deaths in Germany. But because of all this, many Scientologists have left Germany to raise their families.
In Germany, the court system is different than the administrative system. The courts investigated our church for years and found nothing wrong. They keep trying to tell the administrative side that they cannot find anything wrong and they refuse to investigate any further. Yet, the abuses continue. The courts have also declared that Scientology is a religion. Yet, as I said, the discrimination continues.
This discrimination by Germany has now spread as far as the United States. Members of our church who are working for German organizations—for instance, a German bank in New York City—have actually lost their jobs because they are Scientologists. In the United States this is not legal. Any foreign company working on our soil has to abide by US law. This means they cannot discriminate against people on the basis of race, color, or creed. One member in New York City actually brought a court case against a German bank and she won. Even Scientologists who have companies in the United States that do business in Germany have been banned from doing business in Germany. Today, it is not just discrimination against Scientology, but also against Orthodox Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Unificationists, and many others.
This discrimination has been met with an outcry from the United States State Department, the Helsinki Commission, the US Congress—through a resolution that is soon to be adopted—and by human rights organizations around the world. Yet discrimination against minorities continues. All we are asking from the German government is to have a sincere dialogue, to come to the table, sit down and work out our differences. The German officials continue to say, however, that there is no discrimination against Scientology. According to them, there is nothing wrong. Because of this attitude on the part of the German government, it is very difficult to have a dialogue. We are totally convinced that having a dialogue will solve this problem and that this hatred can actually come to an end. Fortunately, the CDU party lost the election a few weeks ago and we are looking forward to working with a new administration. Thank you very much.
Further information on the Church of Scientology:
Church of Scientology International European Human Rights Office
Religious Tolerance: Scientology
Scientology Effective Solutions
Scientology Volunteer Ministers
Beliefs of the Scientology Religion
Article on Scientology