Listed below are passages that mention Scientology in certain country sections of the U.S. State Department's July-December, 2010 International Religious Freedom Report
, released on Sept. 13, 2011.
Excerpts from the U.S. State Department's 2010 Report on International Religious Freedom
, released on Nov. 17, 2010 were posted in another OCMB thread
. Excerpts from the 2009 report were posted on WWP
Oddly, there is no mention of Scientology in the report on Australia
Minority religious groups, especially Jehovah's Witnesses and Scientologists, are often identified as "sects," and continue to be viewed with suspicion in many countries.Austria
The vast majority of groups considered "sects" by the government are small organizations with fewer than 100 members. Among the larger groups is the Church of Scientology, which claims between 5,000 and 7,000 members, and the Unification Church, with approximately 700 adherents.
Religious groups that do not qualify for either religious society or religious confessional community status may apply to become associations under the Law of Associations. Associations have juridical standing and have many of the same rights as confessional communities, such as the right to own real estate within the parameters of the law on associations. Some groups organized as associations even while applying for recognition as religious societies. The Church of Scientology (which withdrew its application for religious confessional community status in 1998), the Unification Church, and a number of smaller groups are organized as associations.
As in the previous reporting period, the Church of Scientology reported problems in obtaining concessions for staging public events in downtown Vienna.
There were occasional television and radio shows and reports featuring alleged victims, or relatives and friends of victims, who claimed to be exploited by a group termed a "sect" or a Satanic or esoteric movement. In a March 31 debate on Austrian TV, for example, a former Scientology member raised allegations of financial and psychological abuse against the group.
The embassy maintained an active dialogue with members of the Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim communities, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Church of Scientology, the Unification Church, and other religious groups.Denmark
The European headquarters of the Church of Scientology is located in Copenhagen, although it is not officially recognized by the government as a religious group and did not apply for such recognition during the reporting period.
The Church of Scientology did not seek official approval as a religious organization during the reporting period. Scientologists are free to meet and practice. The Church of Scientology's application for legal recognition was denied three times in prior years, and it claimed it was unable to obtain clarification of the requirements without submitting the registration application for a fourth time. Despite its unofficial status, the Church of Scientology maintained its European headquarters in Copenhagen.France
The government generally respected religious freedom in law and in practice. There were notable changes in the status of respect for religious freedom by the government during the reporting period, with mixed consequences. The government launched a national antidiscrimination plan, and it investigated and prosecuted criminal behavior directed at religious groups. However, the government prohibited the wearing of face-covering veils in public and groups such as the Jehovah's Witnesses and Scientologists expressed concern that government policies contributed to public mistrust of minority religious groups and acts of discrimination against these groups.
In October 2009 a Paris correctional court found the Church of Scientology and four of its leaders guilty of fraud and fined the organization 600,000 euros ($800,000) but stopped short of banning the group's activities. The defendants had been charged under a statute targeting organized crime. Alain Rosenberg, described as the "mastermind" of the Spiritual Association of the Church of Scientology in France, received a two-year suspended sentence and was fined 30,000 euros ($40,000). The three other leaders received suspended prison sentences ranging from 18 months to two years and fines of 5,000 to 30,000 euros ($6,650 to $40,000). The Church of Scientology appealed the ruling. The date for hearing the appeal had not been set at the end of the reporting period.
The Church of Scientology continued to report instances of societal discrimination during the reporting period, including the difficulty some members had obtaining bank accounts. Church officials noted, however, that the French National Bank often reversed the decisions of local banks that refused accounts to church members, even if the accounts ultimately granted were more basic than sought. Church officials also reported positive relations with local police and officials at the Ministry of Interior.
Embassy officials met with and discussed religious freedom with senior representatives from the major faith traditions and the Church of Scientology.Germany
The Church of Scientology operates 18 churches and missions, and according to press reports, has 30,000 members. However, according to the Offices for the Protection of the Constitution (OPC) in Brandenburg and Hamburg, the Church of Scientology has 5,000-7,000 members.
Since 2005 applicants for citizenship in Bavaria have been required to fill out a questionnaire regarding their affiliation with organizations under observation by the state OPC, including Scientology.
The federal government generally respected religious freedom in law and in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the government during the reporting period. Some state governments and federal agencies did not recognize certain belief systems, including Scientology, as religions; however, the absence of recognition did not prevent their adherents from engaging in public and private religious activities.
The federal and state OPCs in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg, and Lower Saxony continued to monitor the Church of Scientology's activities. Federal and some state authorities continued to classify Scientology as a potential threat to democratic order, resulting in discrimination against Scientologists in both the public and private sectors. Several states published pamphlets about Scientology (and other religious groups) that detail the church's ideology and practices. States defended the practice by noting their responsibility to respond to citizens' requests for information about Scientology as well as other subjects. The pamphlets warn of the dangers the church poses to democracy, the legal system, and human rights.
In response to concerns about Scientology's ideology and practices, government agencies at the federal and state levels and private-sector entities established rules or procedures that discriminate against Scientology as an organization and/or against individual members of the church.
Scientologists continued to report instances of societal and governmental discrimination. Over the last decade, the Church of Scientology has filed legal challenges against many practices used to discriminate against its members in public and private life. These have included suits to prohibit monitoring of the church by state OPC offices, against the use in hiring practices of the so-called sect filter, and against workplace discrimination. The courts rendered final, binding decisions on two key issues: the religious bona fides of Scientology and the improper use of so-called sect filters to blacklist and boycott Scientologists in the public and private sector.
In July the Chamber for Industry and Handicraft for Munich and Upper Bavaria issued bidding documents containing a "sect filter" declaration that excludes Scientologists or companies that employ Scientologists from obtaining the contract.
In August the German Federation of Women in Business began using a "sect filter" as part of its application forms. Scientologists cannot become members of the federation. Pursuant to the terms of the "filter," individuals and companies who employ Scientologists also are banned.
In August a Scientologist who applied for a position with the City of Munich was told he had to sign a "sect filter" declaring he was not a Scientologist; otherwise, he would not get the job.
On August 31, the Hamburg interior ministry disbanded its Working Group on Scientology. However, a spokesperson for the ministry stated that "(t)he fight against Scientology will continue, only structured differently." The spokesperson emphasized that the working group's former director would continue to "educate the public and government institutions about Scientology's dangerous practices" and that Hamburg's Office for the Protection of the Constitution would continue to be tasked to counsel individuals, companies, and school drop outs.
On November 24, Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann presented a new edition of the ministry's 60-page brochure entitled "The Scientology System," warning against this "organization, which is clearly hostile to the constitution and in opposition to basic principles of German democracy."
The Catholic Church and the Protestant Church continued publicly to oppose Scientology. Additionally, several public and private organizations continued to issue public warnings about Scientology after-school study programs. The sect commissioners investigated "sects, cults, and psycho groups" and publicized what they consider to be the dangers of these groups to the public. Protestant sect commissioners were especially active in their efforts to warn the public about alleged dangers posed by the Unification Church, Scientology, Bhagwan-Osho, Transcendental Meditation, and Universal Life. Print and Internet literature of the sect commissioners portrayed these groups unfavorably.
Scientologists in Hamburg continued to report discrimination due to the use of "sect filters," stating that the Bundesagentur fur Arbeit (Federal Employment Office) continued to use "filters," as did many small and medium-sized businesses. A sect filter is defined as an assurance a new employee has to sign stating that he or she has no contact with Scientology, has not participated in its training courses, and rejects its doctrines. The Hamburg Chamber of Commerce continued to use the "filter" in its mediation department.
Since the 1990s four of the major political parties (the Christian Democratic Union, Christian Social Union, Social Democratic Party, and Free Democratic Party) have banned Scientologists from party membership. Scientologists have unsuccessfully challenged these bans in courtsGreece
Other groups, such as Scientologists, Hare Krishna devotees, and polytheistic Hellenic religious groups have applied for (but not received) house-of-prayer permits. Some religious groups faced additional legal and administrative burdens because they cannot function as religious legal entities. Scientologists and members of polytheistic Hellenic religious groups practice their faiths as registered nonprofit civil law organizations. Without the recognition afforded by house-of-prayer permits, weddings officiated by religious leaders are not legally recognized.Israel
On October 12, 2010, an arsonist set two fires at Tel Aviv-Yafo's historic Al Hambra Theater, which had been bought by the Church of Scientology in 2007 and largely renovated for future use. Nine workers escaped unharmed from the building. Scientologists complained about incitement by The Israeli Center for Victims of Cults, which had previously suggested the building be burned and whose predominantly religiously based objection filed with the municipality was forestalling the Scientologists from acquiring the final permit needed from the city to fully renovate the building for use.
The embassy also raised with the government issues such as the possibility of expanding the list of officially recognized religious groups; the necessity of investigating religiously motivated acts of violence against minority religious groups, including Messianic Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Scientologists; and the need to end the practice of preventing entry into the country based on the MOI's lists of suspected "missionaries."Kazakhstan
Some minority religious groups, including evangelical Christians and Scientologists, faced negative media coverage.
Several government-controlled media outlets continued to publish or broadcast stories critical of nontraditional religious groups such as evangelical Protestant Christians, Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientologists, and Hare Krishnas, depicting them as dangerous sects harmful to society. During activities related to the country's Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) chairmanship, newly-formed NGOs often criticized these groups at high-level conferences.
The majority of religious groups worshiped largely without government interference; however, local and regional officials attempted on occasion to limit or control several groups' practice of religion, especially minority religious communities such as evangelical Christians, Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientologists, and Muslims not affiliated with the SAMK. The government applied laws governing unregistered religious groups unevenly during the reporting period.
In October 2009 the Almaty district court found the president of the Almaty Church of Scientology, Svetlana Baytinger, guilty of engaging in illegal commercial activities and sentenced her to three years of probation. The prosecution had accused the church of illegally profiting from the sale of its literature and using its status as a religious organization to avoid paying taxes. This followed the October 2008 raid on church premises in Almaty and Medeo.Russia
By law, publications declared extremist by a court are automatically added to the Federal List of Extremist Materials. Those who publish or distribute the texts face a four-year prison term. The current list includes Islamic religious texts, a series of neo-pagan materials intolerant of other religious groups (Christianity in particular), and texts that were explicitly racist or anti-Semitic. The list, which was established in July 2007, increased from 692 items to 768 by year's end. In total the government has banned 58 Jehovah's Witnesses publications, 29 Church of Scientology books, 14 books of Muslim theologian Said Nursi, and four Falun Gong publications.
On July 13 and October 12, an appeals court in Khanty-Mansysk overruled a March 26 decision of a Surgut City Court classifying Scientology literature as extremist. The appeals court dismissed the charges because Scientologists were not permitted to offer testimony or cross examine witnesses and remanded the case for retrial. On December 9, a new panel at the Surgut City Court found in favor of the church. The government appealed that decision. That appeal continued at year's end. Despite these rulings overturning the original decision, the MOJ reportedly included the works of L. Ron Hubbard in the Federal List of Extremist Materials on July 13. A request by the Church of Scientology to the MOJ to remove these works from the list of extremist materials was denied by the ministry, which demanded a note from the Court of Surgut verifying its original decision was no longer in force. The church maintains that the Surgut decision never entered into force, since it was immediately appealed, giving the ministry authority to immediately remove materials from the extremist list. No response to this request had been made at year's end.
Due to legal restrictions, poor administrative procedures on the part of some local authorities, or disputes between religious organizations, an unknown number of groups have been unable to register. Some religious groups, such as the Scientologists, registered as social organizations because they were unable to do so as religious organizations. Others operated without registering with the government, meeting in members' homes.
Despite years of trying to register its religious organizations, the Church of Scientology has no registered religious organizations in the country. The ECHR has ruled in favor of the Church of Scientology in Moscow, finding that the government must re-register it. The ECHR has also ruled in favor of the Churches of Scientology in Surgut and Nizhnekamsk, which the government had denied registration on the grounds that they had existed in those localities for less than 15 years. The ECHR declared that the 15-year requirement violated the European Convention on Human Rights' provisions on the freedoms of religion and association. The court awarded monetary compensation for damages and legal costs to the groups. Another case initiated by the Church of Scientology regarding the 15-year rule remained pending at the ECHR. By the end of the reporting period, the government had not implemented the ECHR decisions.
Within the MOJ there is a Council of Experts for Conducting State Religious Studies Expert Analysis. The head of the council, Alexander Dvorkin, is an outspoken proponent of categorizing minority religious groups as extremist cults and "totalitarian sects." The term "sect" is commonly used pejoratively in the country. Minority religious groups, NGOs, and international observers dispute the council's objectivity in making recommendations on which religious groups should be registered. The Russian Association of Centers for the Study of Religion and Sects and the Information-Consultation Center of Saint Irineus of Lyons (St. Irineus Center) both proclaim the dangers of "totalitarian sects" and are supported by the ROC. Among the groups so labeled are Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientologists, neo-Pentecostals, and Mormons.
According to the SOVA Center, on August 18, the Department of Culture and Art in Nyagan, Khanty-Mansysk published a list of totalitarian sects and required local institutions to prevent groups on the list from using movie theatres and recreation centers and refuse to provide facilities for the groups' events. The list included members of the Russian Associated Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith (ROSKhVE) and the Russian Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith Pentecostals (RSKhVEP), Messianic Jews, Krishnas, Mormons, Scientologists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Christian Scientists.
On August 4, government officials, reportedly including FSB, Special Operations State Militia (OMON), and Moscow police entered the Moscow Scientology offices, destroyed office property, and reportedly assaulted several staff members, leading to one hospitalization. Over the 13-hour period of the raid, the security forces reportedly verbally abused and insulted the Scientologists and stole money, cameras, personal computer equipment, and mobile phones. The office computers and approximately 63 hard drives were reportedly confiscated and not returned. After the raid, 45 Scientology staff and family members were summoned to the prosecutor's office for interrogation focused primarily on the theological beliefs of Scientology. Authorities previously interrogated Scientologists and confiscated literature at the center in March 2010.United Kingdom
The government has not classified the Church of Scientology as a religious institution and, therefore, has not granted the organization recognition for charitable status. However, the government granted its request to obtain tax-exempt status, confirming it was a not-for-profit entity and exempt from the value added tax.
Ministers of the Church of Scientology and the Unification Church are not issued visas as ministers, since their organizations are not accepted as religious groups. Adherents and those wishing to learn about either group may apply for visas as visitors or students, respectively. There were no reports of specific visa denials during the reporting period.