Sunday, December 9, 2007

Germany vs. Scientology

Late this week, German federal and state interior ministers declared the Church of Scientology "unconstitutional." Ehrhart Koerting, Berlin's interior minister, said Germany's domestic intelligence agencies would "continue gathering information on the legality of Scientology's activities in Germany so that a decision could be made on what to do about it next year." Here is a link to the German Embassy in Washington, D.C. were they posted a background paper on Scientology to justify the Country's criticism of the organization. One interesting excerpt says, "...Germany, as well as Belgium, France, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Israel and Mexico, remain unconvinced that Scientology is a religion."

I am not a big fan of Scientology, to say the least. With that said, it frightens me when a government has the right to say what is and isn't a religion. It is one thing to arrest leaders of a cult or religious movement when they break the law (see the case against Warren Jeffs). It is a whole different story to declare a belief system illegal or unconstitutional. As dumb or as great as an idea may be, let it stand or fall on its own merits. Protect the followers of a so-called religion if they are being abused, but let the free-flow of ideas take place. When we start to ban ideas, as much as they might be worth hating, that takes us down a scary road.

Other equally frightening cases in Germany, like this, are also floating around. As recently as last year, a European Human Rights Court affirmed Germany's ban on homeschooling (instituted by the Nazi's in the late 1930's). Part of the court's reasoning was that society has a significant interest in preventing the development of dissent through "separate philosophical convictions." The news story I link to above ends with the following: "The problem with entrusting the education of children to the state is, of course, that instead of parents “indoctrinating” their children with their own ideological and philosophical beliefs, they will be indoctrinated with those of the state – which is exactly why Hitler banned homeschooling in Germany in 1938."

Wow is about all I can say.

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