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Background Papers: Understanding the German View of Scientology (from German embassy web site)

Article Index
Background Papers: Understanding the German View of Scientology (from German embassy web site)
Fact Sheet on Scientology
Is Scientology a threat?
Federal and Regional Action Taken Against the Scientologists in Germany
What is the Truth about the Scientologists
The Scientology Public Relations Campaign Against Germany
American Media Reports on Scientology


Should Scientology Be Considered a Religion?

In its ads and writings, the Scientology organization claims it is internationally recognized as a religion, except in Germany.  This is false. 

Among the countries that do not consider Scientology a religion are Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, and Spain, as well as Israel and Mexico. 

In the United States, the Scientology organization did in fact receive tax-exempt status as a religious congregation in 1993 — after a decades-long, contentious battle with the IRS.  Referring to this battle, The New York Times in a front-page article published March 9, 1997, "found that the (tax) exemption followed a series of unusual internal IRS actions that came after an extraordinary campaign orchestrated by Scientology against the agency and people who work there.  Among the findings were these: Scientology's lawyers hired private investigators to dig into the private lives of IRS officials and to conduct surveillance operations to uncover potential vulnerabilities."  A related New York Times article on December 1, 1997, added that earlier IRS refusals to grant tax exemption "had been upheld by every court."  (On December 30, 1997, a Wall Street Journal article outlined details of the $12.5 million tax settlement between the IRS and Scientology, including the Scientology agreement to drop thousands of lawsuits against the IRS.)

In Germany, there is no process by which the government officially recognizes a religion.  However tax authorities grant tax-exempt status to organizations that act in the public interest and are non-profit.  Some 10,000 groups have requested and received tax free status, but to date, the Scientology organization has repeatedly failed to establish its qualifications.  Among the groups that are tax free are the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons. 

Two of the highest German courts recently dealt with cases involving the Scientology organization.  On March 22, 1995, the Federal Labor Court (Bundesarbeitsgericht) ruled that the Scientology branch in Hamburg was not a religious congregation, but clearly a commercial enterprise.  In its decision, the court quotes one of L. Ron Hubbard's instructions "make money, make more money — make other people produce so as to make money" and concludes that Scientology purports to be a "church" merely as a cover to pursue its economic interests. 

In a November 6, 1997, decision , the Federal Administrative Court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht) sent a case back to a lower court saying it was irrelevant whether Scientology was a religion.  The court stated that the Scientology organization's legal status must be judged by its level of commercial activity. 

Also in France, the Scientology organization is neither a religion nor a non-profit institution.  The organization's Paris head office was closed in early 1996 for not paying back taxes. 

In Great Britain, the Scientology organization has been rebuffed repeatedly by the Charity Commission which insisted as recently as 1995 that the organization could not be considered a religion under British law and could, therefore, not enjoy any tax-exempt status.