Leader of the Inter-Ministerial Working Group of Baden-Württemberg
for questions of the so called cults and psycho-groups,
Department for Culture, Youth and Sport of the State (Land) Baden-Württemberg,
Cults and Psycho-Groups in Baden-Württemberg:
Situation – Endangering Potentials – Challenges
Honourable Minister, honourable President, Ladies and Gentlemen,
it is for me a great honour and joy to talk today at the FECRIS conference in St. Petersburg. I may transfer to you the best greetings from Minister Helmut Rau who wished this conference a good success.
Since years, the Government of the State (Land) Baden-Württemberg watches the appearance and the activity of so called cults and psycho-groups with critical concern. This attitude has been made clear again and again in the last twenty years by various documents and official announcements, but also in the Parliament of the State (Land) Baden-Württemberg and by initiatives in the federal council (Bundesrat), in which the 16 States (Länder) of Germany are represented.
Cults and psycho-groups may, by their activity, be a serious danger for the state and society. The Government of the Land of Baden-Württemberg does not tolerate parallel societies, extremists do not have any chance in Baden-Württemberg, and also in future the Government of the Land of the State (Land) Baden-Württemberg will not accept that religion is abused for extremist purpose.
Statistical basic data
The State (Land) Baden-Württemberg has approximately 11 million inhabitants. By its industry and its scientific-technological research, Baden-Württemberg belongs to the most powerful economical regions of Europe. Renowned companies and tradition-rich enterprises as Daimler, Bosch and Porsche have their origin in Baden-Württemberg.
Baden-Württemberg lies in the heart pf Europe. Immediate European neighbours are France, Switzerland and Austria. With average 298 inhabitants per square kilometre the density of population is very high.
People belonging to various faith communities live peacefully side by side:
- about 4 million Catholics,
- about 3,6 million members of the Protestant churches,
- about 600.000 Muslims, who’s number will increase during the next years, and
- about 9.000 people of mosaic faith.
Baden-Württemberg has a high percentage of foreign citizens (11%) mainly from South- and Southeast-Europe, and from Turkey.
The constitution of the Federal Republic Germany - the basic law – and the constitution of the State (Land) Baden-Württemberg define: The social life of the people in our country is based on
- the respect for the basic rights and human rights,
- the observation of the current laws,
- the observation of equal rights of women and men
- and the respect for the religious conviction of the fellow-citizens.
Action of the state is required if by cults and psycho-groups
- psychological health,
- corporal intactness, and all above
- freedom of people
In Germany, the governmental activity is strongly determined by the historical consciousness about the disastrous consequences that extremist antidemocratic structures and ideologies may have for men. Therefore the defence of the democratic constitution enjoys highest priority. This may also be the reason why state and society with high watchfulness react on the development and the activities of cults and psycho-groups, especially with respect to Scientology.
Again and again numerous citizens of Baden-Württemberg demand at public authorities their legal claim for protection against psycho-manipulative techniques and problematic healing promises of various tenders. In letter, emails, petitions and party appearing personally at departments and administration offices it is made clear that there are many people who feel their freedom rights to be impaired by offers from and the contact to cults and psycho-groups.
1. The situation in Baden-Württemberg with respect to cults and psycho-groups
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Since the end of the seventies and the beginning of the eighties of last century, in Baden-Württemberg – as also in other regions of the Federal Republic Germany – increasingly groups appear, that in the guise of new-religious and ideological movements try to make people dependent from them by manipulative and often by repressive and aggressive and at the same time subtle methods. These events appear throughout in Europe, as various resolutions of the European Parliament demonstrate.
These groups and organisations are not special traditional religious communities, but partly worldwide active new religious and/or ideological communities or groups that define themselves as such (this means pseudo-religious creations) and a large number of various so called psycho-groups.
Since about 15 years, also strong missionary groups are in the focus, originating mainly in the protestant charismatic environment of Northern America. Partly their mission is performed without taking into account cultural views of faith and society in Middle Europe; sometimes the missionary activities of those groups also become aggressive and militant.
Based on the cases which became known to the office of the inter-ministerial working group for questions of so called cults and psycho-groups and taking into account enquiries of citizens and the evaluation of self-presentations, we could determine between 120 and 130 organisations and groups which totally or partly fulfil the criteria set up by the German federal government for cults and psycho-groups, inclusive the organisations connected to them by legal, economical, religious or ideological relations. Those criteria are documented in federal document 13/4132.
The individual groups are very different by number of adherents and density of organisation. For Baden-Württemberg the number of organisations and groups is approximately constant since several years.
Using the criteria in the above mentioned federal document to characterise questionable groups, we can estimate a core potential of between 30.000 and 35.000 people in Baden-Württemberg who are active in cults or psycho-groups, where multiple memberships cannot be excluded. The number of sympathisers is probably a multiple of this, while those people at least formally seem to be integrated in traditional religious and ideological groups.
The attribution of groups to “cults and psycho-groups” partly has resulted in extended legal battles. The following groups
- Transcendental Meditation
- Universal Life
- and others
have protested against this attribution at the highest court of the Federal Republic of Germany as to be unconstitutional, because they felt discriminated and they regard themselves as a religion. Because of those legal problems the Government of the State (Land) Baden-Württemberg will not publish a “list” of relevant groups.
The scene of cults and psycho-groups is subject to continuous change. Many of those groups operate with camouflage and subgroups. The names change frequently. In some cases the groups have several names, as for example the “Great White Brotherhood” which also exists in Baden-Württemberg: “Universal Church”, “Brotherhood of mankind”, “Fundament for higher spiritual learning”, “World-fundament for natural science”, ”The inner light” etc.
Some groups have just a small – rather local – activity area. But in many cases the groups are active in the whole of Germany. Most groups tend to expand and have branches elsewhere in Europe and overseas. Many groups come from abroad, most of them from the United States, and their staff are partly foreigners.
Besides a large number of cults, psycho-groups and obscure mainly smaller associations that create sensations by occult and satanic practices, the activities of the Scientology-organisation and their Dianetic-centres, founded by L. Ron Hubbard, constitute a special area of problems.
Scientology is the undisputed market leader in the area of cults – an essentially political and commercial organisation, which acts under the cover of a pseudo-religious mask of a religious community and therefore pretends to use the right of religious freedom, guaranteed by our constitution.
Definitely, Baden-Württemberg is a goal of an intensive Scientology-propaganda which in most cases is commanded by the centre of Scientology in the United States. The switch positions in Europe are the „European Office for Public Affairs and Human Rights” in Brussels (Belgium) as the European office of Scientology, and the centre of Scientology for Continental Europe in Copenhagen (Denmark).
In Baden-Württemberg, since 12 years the Scientology-organisation has been observed by the regional office for the protection of the constitution. This observation has, in a remarkable extent, brought light about this partly conspiratorial organisation. The examination of the Scientology-organisation by the office for the protection of the constitution has made it clear: there are in fact indications of tendencies in the Scientology-organisation which are directed against the liberal democratic fundamental order of our State.
In Baden-Württemberg, Scientology owns one of its largest points of support in Germany and a very dense organisational network. It consist of a “Class V Org“ (“church”) in the regional capital Stuttgart and three “Missions” in the cities Ulm, Karlsruhe and Göppingen, as well as six smaller “Missions” which partly bear harmless code names as “Centre for questions of life” etc. The Scientology-suborganisation „Commission for Offences of Psychiatry against Human Rights” (KVPM) is represented in Stuttgart and Karlsruhe. In Baden-Württemberg, especially the trade association „World Institute of Scientology Enterprises” (WISE) should promote the teachings of the Scientology-founder Hubbard in trade and politics. In addition, there are various organisations in Baden-Württemberg which are in connection with Scientology and partly must be regarded as camouflage organisations of Scientology. With the campaign “Youth for Human Rights”, Scientology wants to exploit the idealism of young people. Also with the repetition courses of „Applied Scholastics“, Scientology tries to approach children and youngsters. More and more youngsters are introduced to Scientology by their parents who are Scientology-adherents since many years.
However during the last years, the Scientology-organisation in Baden-Württemberg did not manage to obtain a dynamic development of membership. But in its member-oriented propaganda, Scientology openly defines the goal to obtain control and political power. In this connection, the Scientology-organisation urges its adherents with partly aggressive undertone to remove the active resistance against it “out of the way”.
The real number of members and adherents of Scientology in Baden-Württemberg is with 1.100 persons – in spite of the supposed low number – a potential which should be taken seriously. Anyway, Scientology can rely on a financially powerful centre. As the reports of the office for the protection of the constitution show, the organisation manages to interfere with the private life conduct of its adherents.
2. The competency of the State for defence of the dangers caused by cults and psycho-groups / Scientology
Decisive for the defence against the dangers caused by cultic and so called psycho-groups / Scientology is the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court from 26 June 2002 (1 BvR 670/91), the highest court of the Federal Republic of Germany. Consequently, for the Federal Republic of Germany it is valid that with respect to the constitution, the State is not allowed to publish evaluating information about religious and ideological communities. If however assumptions about a danger for human beings exist, caused by a new religious/ideological group or a so called psycho-group, an intervention of the state is possible. Even the suspicion of such a danger is sufficient. An admissible means for the State in the presence of such a situation of danger is especially the educational work in public. A potential of conflict exists especially if the opinion about mankind and the world of an association contradicts the order of values of the democratic constitution.
This means that the state has a competency to defend its citizens against the dangers caused by cultic and psycho-groups as Scientology. Hereby it is not important if these groups are religious or ideological communities or if these groups just pretend to be a “church”. However the state is not allowed to spread defaming, discriminating or false information about such a group. There must be facts and proves to be confirmed in order to allow critical judgements.
3. Inter-ministerial working group for questions about so called cults and psycho-groups
Already on 21 June 1993, the Government of the State (Land) Baden-Württemberg has installed a permanent inter-ministerial working group for questions of so called cults and psycho-groups. This working group has the task to inform the state and the society about the activity of so called cults and psycho-groups, and to warn if required. Since its foundation, I have been the leader of this group.
Permanent members of this working group are the ministries of internal affaires, of cultural affaires, of justice, of economy and of social affaires, each delegating one representative who is responsible for the coordination of the related activities in his area. The ministries of state, of finances and of science will be informed. The responsible ministry for the working group is the ministry of cultural affaires
Baden-Württemberg was one of the first regions in Germany that directed special attention to the appearance of so called cults ad psycho-groups. Already in 1984, a subject section was installed in the ministry of cultural affairs in order to watch the building up, the structure and the activity of relevant groups.
The inter-ministerial working group coordinates the activity of the ministries about all questions related to cult and psycho-groups, which especially concerns the following areas: public security, questions of trade and tax legislation, questions of labour and social assurance legislation, health, education in and outside school, education and training of specialists, and public relations.
The office of the inter-ministerial working group, located at the ministry of cultural affairs, has the task to document material related to the individual groups and to cross connect knowledge with the relevant offices on federal and regional level. The work of the inter-ministerial working group also aims at securing the exchange of general information with groups relevant to society and to deepen the cooperation with relevant help and consulting offices in Baden-Württemberg.
The inter-ministerial working group acquires target group oriented information material and works on parliamentarian inquiries and proposals related to the subject cults and psycho-groups. At regular intervals, the regional government receives voluminous reports. On 2 December 2008, the eighth report has been presented to the government. This report has also been processed by the committees of the regional parliament which has published it as document 14/3613.
Related to the subject cults and psycho-groups are teacher (multiplier) trainings and informational arrangements in the schools and in the work with youngsters. Further, arrangements for police, justice, trade, associations of parents and teachers and social institutions are organised, where especially the information about the activity of Scientology is in the focus. I could say a lot more about prevention, especially in the area of education, but this would necessitate another lecture.
But I want to mention something about the aspect “cults ad psycho-groups” in the work of the office for the protection of the constitution, the authority being responsible for the public security in Baden-Württemberg.
Since 1 January 1997, the regional office for the protection of the constitution observes the Scientology-Organisation, using means of the intelligence service. Based on a common decision of the federal government and the regions (“Bundesländer”), since 1 July 1997 the Scientology-Organisation has been observed by the respective office for the protection of the constitution. An exception is Schleswig-Holstein because of its law for the protection of the constitution. The observation hitherto carried out has confirmed the suspicion of the public authorities. Therefore the observation will be continued according to necessity.
In the inter-ministerial working group, a member of the supervisory group of the ministry for internal affairs represents the office for the protection of the constitution.
4. Offers for concerned people and their relatives in Baden-Württemberg
Victims of so called cults and psycho-groups often do not have money of their own any more to pay consulting and therapies or even lawyers, because they have transferred their assets to the group. Thus financial bottlenecks often determine the situation of ex-members but also of relatives.
Because of this, also in Baden-Württemberg often the public authorities, the public assistance, the unemployment relief etc, must take over the debts of former cult members.
During the years 2000 - 2003, a private stationary institution existed in Baden-Württemberg, the „Odenwälder Wohnhof”. In this institution, people who had been harmed financially and professionally by cults and psycho-groups could live for a while. The institution was supported by the State (Land) of Baden-Württemberg und the Federal Ministry for Families as well by a private foundation. The time in the Wohnhof has been used for therapies and the building up of a new professional existence. Since 2004, ambulant care is preferred.
The Initiative of parents and concerned people for self-help with respect to new religious and ideological movements (Eltern- und Betroffeneninitiative zur Selbsthilfe gegenüber neuen religiösen und ideologischen Bewegungen e. V., EBIS) of Baden-Württemberg takes care mainly of relatives of cult members and of people who want to leave a group. They do not enjoy any public financial support.
Within the Protestant and Catholic Churches there are expert institutions for information and consulting about questions related to cults and psycho-groups.
The State (Land) Baden-Württemberg supports the “Consulting office for people harmed by occultism” („Beratungsstelle für Okkultismusgeschädigte“, para-psychological consulting office) in Freiburg by 98.000 Euro and the “Action for educational information” ( Aktion Bildungsinformation, ABI) in Stuttgart by more than 102.000 Euro. Both institutions serve for prevention, information and consulting, the ABI also for legal consulting.
5. Final conclusions and perspectives
The state must react on the quite conscious provocation by individual groups if those – as it is the case with the Scientology-Organisation – use their pretended religious character in their propaganda campaigns. It is wise not to react to this very intensive propaganda with vehement counter attacks. In spite of the obvious threat by fanaticism and extremism, communication and dialogue are important. However the concerned groups must be aware that they also may be made responsible for their actions. It may also become necessary for the State to have recourse to legal means to fight against the dangers of cults and psycho-groups.
The confrontation with the modern pluralism of religions is just at its beginning and certainly will mark this 21st century. Syncretistic tendencies will increase. As long as cults and psycho-groups in their actual operation oppose elementary human rights and freedoms and interfere with human rights in a subtle and partially conspiratorial way, this will threaten the social peace and the existence of the democratic order of society. Here the state has a special responsibility. The citizen demands transparency of information and protection against exploitation and criminal practices. And the youngsters want clear perspectives and trustworthy answers. These are the basic things which can protect against pseudo-religious manipulation and destructive cults.
Thank you for your attention.