How is Scientology legal

Scientology crash: Money, money over everything?


John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Chick Corea. Many celebrities have promoted Scientology. The association always emphasizes its religious orientation. Critics, on the other hand, see only one thing in it: a commercial enterprise. As so often, the lawyers are divided. The fire letter from a Scientologist could now rekindle the discussion, says Arnd Diringer.

There are few associations in Germany that are discussed as often and as emotionally as the so-called Scientology organization. And there is probably no community from the broad field of new religious movements that has so often preoccupied the courts. But despite the debate that has been going on for decades, surprisingly little is known about the association.

This could change now. According to Spiegel information, a Scientologist has sent a letter to several thousand members of the association. Debbie Cook, who previously held high positions in the organization, is said to complain in particular about the donation practice.

According to their information, Scientology is now said to have amassed over a billion dollars. However, contrary to Hubbard's instructions, this money is not used to spread the "religious doctrine", but is hoarded or invested in unnecessary real estate.

The letter should not only contain explosive information about the association, but could also fundamentally change its legal assessment in Germany. For forty years, one question in particular has been the subject of controversial debate in jurisprudence and teaching: Can the organization invoke the fundamental rights protection of religious freedom?

BAG 1995: Second-hand facts

So far, answering this question has been difficult, mainly because of the barely manageable amount of Scientology materials.

According to his own statements, the complete works of its founder L. Ron Hubbard alone comprise over 5,000 writings and 3,000 tape recordings, the writings of the "Scientology religion" contain a total of 35 million words (The Scientology Handbook, 1994, p. 787). In addition, there is a very complex organizational structure that you can only understand if you have also understood its teaching.

Against this background, book authors, journalists and, unfortunately, also lawyers tended only too gladly not to be too precise when researching the factual basis. This can also be seen in a judgment of the Federal Labor Court (BAG) from 1995 (Az. 5 AZB 21/94). On the basis of this decision, many lawyers still believe that the economic direction of the Scientology organization has been proven.

"Make money"

In this decision, the Erfurt judges used, among other things, what is probably Hubbard's most famous instruction: "make money, make more money, make other people so as to produce money". They wanted to prove that the Scientology organization is not a religious community, but merely an "institution for the marketing of certain products". The statement is quoted after a judgment of the Hamburg Higher Administrative Court (from July 6th, 1993, Az. Bf VI 12/01).

If the chief labor judges had bothered to read the primary source (Hubbard Communication Office (HCO), Policy Letter dated 3/9/1972), they would have seen that it was a financial policy. It only contains instructions to ensure the solvency of the individual Scientology divisions.

This includes, for example, that no more can be spent than can be paid for, that nothing can never be borrowed and that all (cash flow) lines must be constantly monitored. In this context, "make money" is nothing more than a requirement for establishing the solvency of the association - no matter how unusual it may sound out of context.

Hubbard and the love of money

Other statements by Hubbard, however, show that he always viewed money as a means to an end. For example, in a text entitled "Money Motivation", he states that money is only "the oil for the machine, not the engine itself". It goes on to say: "You also need dirt to build things, but dirt cannot be seen as the main motivation in life. Money is a tool, a gas tank. It is a means of making sure that something is done" .

The instructions in other policy letters show what purpose the Scientologists' founders mean by this. It states that economic means only serve to enable the organization to grow and spread its teachings (see e.g. HCO Policy Letter of 7.2.1965).

Such Hubbard determinations are binding on Scientologists. They see the refusal to comply with the instruction in a guideline as a so-called suppressive act (HCO Policy Letter of April 5, 1965). According to Hubbard, it aims to hinder or destroy Scientology or a Scientologist ”(Hubbard, Introduction to Scientology Ethics, 2007, p. 308). The Association considers "suppressive acts" to be "serious crimes" (Hubbard, op. Cit., P. 307).

What's going on in Scientology?

Against this background, the explosive power of the letter that Debbie Cook is said to have sent becomes apparent. Because in it the Scientology leadership is accused of the "serious crime" of not adhering to Hubbard's guidelines.

A complete version of this letter is now circulating on the Internet. After that, the allegations go much further than stated in the Spiegel report. Among other things, it states that a large number of executives were removed from their offices and had to go through so-called ethics programs, i.e. punitive measures by the association.

The sole "leader" of Scientology is now David Miscavige, the director of the Religious Technology Center (RTC). This center is not part of the Church of Scientology, but rather a "parallel monitoring organization" (The Scientology Leadership Channels, 1988, p. 6). The Center also owns the trademarks and copyrights of Scientology (see What Is Scientology, 1998, p. 406).

A debate and its possible consequences

It is currently not possible to reliably determine whether the statements mentioned in the Spiegel actually come from Debbie Cook. Also, nobody can say with certainty whether the letter circulating on the Internet is genuine.

For this reason alone, the allegations made in the letter should be viewed critically. They have not yet been proven, even if at least some of the allegations do not seem absurd. Should they be true, Scientology would be facing another acid test.

The organization already had similar problems after structural and personnel changes at the beginning of the eighties. At that time, many members, including high-ranking Scientologists close to Hubbard, left the association and joined forces in the so-called Freezone. The latter sees its goal in "using the technology and philosophy of L. Ron Hubbard (...) in freedom", but expressly delimits itself "from the official and unofficial organizations of the Church of Scientology".

The free Scientologists also raise serious allegations against the management of the "Church of Scientology" and criticize their monetary policy. You are aiming in the same direction as the allegations from the letter that is now at hand.

If the claims prove to be true, it could have far-reaching consequences. Last but not least, the question of whether the association is a commercial enterprise or a religious community would have to be answered on a different factual basis. The wrong decision of the BAG from 1995 would then possibly be correct in 2012, at least in terms of the result.

The author Prof. Dr. Arnd Diringer teaches at the Ludwigsburg University of Applied Sciences, where he heads the research center for personnel and labor law. He has a PhD in Scientology and has published several books and scientific papers on the subject.


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