February 23, 2000
President, International Chamber of Commerce
ICC International Secretariat
38, Cours Albert 1er
Dear Mr. President:
I am human rights counsel for Church of Scientology International, the Mother Church of the international ecclesiastical hierarchy of the Scientology religion located in Los Angeles, California. I am writing to apprise the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) of a pattern and practice of discrimination engaged in by German Chambers of Commerce which requires immediate corrective action as they are in direct contravention of fundamental principles of human rights and the principles and policies articulated in the Joint Statement on the Global Compact by the Secretary General of the United Nations and the President of ICC (Geneva, 5 July 1999).
As documented within, the use of declaration forms, chillingly referred to as "sect filters,“ has become a systematic requirement in Germany under the encouragement, promotion, example and leadership of Chambers of Commerce in Germany. Individuals and businesses are routinely required to sign a declaration swearing that they are not Scientologists, do not (and will not in the future) sympathize with Scientology and reject its teachings in order to be hired or maintain a job in a company, or sign a business or service contract, and open a bank account or receive a bank loan. Business which fail to adopt „sect filters“ are punished through blacklisting and the boycotting of their business. This policy is manifestly illegal and contrary to universal human rights instruments
The clauses in these contracts promoted by the German Chamber of Commerce are deliberately designed to require an individual to either declare his religious beliefs and be punished for them by being blacklisted or boycotted through the exclusionary policy or publicly denounce his religious beliefs under the threat of sanctions. Such a policy designed to discriminate on the basis of religious belief and association is reprehensible.
Of course, such an exclusionary policy is also manifestly illegal and in flagrant violation of international human rights treaties which protect the right to freedom of conscience and belief. Moreover, the actions of the German Chambers of Commerce violate both the spirit and letter of the United Nations and ICC Joint Statement on the Global Compact.
The German Chambers’ Exclusionary Policy Violates International Human Rights Principles
We have uncovered only a few historical equivalents to the forms the Chambers of Commerce are promoting in Germany. One historical example: the forms which individuals were required to sign under Nazi occupation to the effect that they were of the „pure“ Aryan race. Refusal to sign resulted in expulsion from the University or loss of employment. The only other analogous example we were able to find is the requirement in some Arab states that prospective foreign employees certify that they are not Jewish.
Professors van Dijk and van Hoof, in their leading textbook on the European Convention on Human Rights, Theory and Practice of the European Convention on Human Rights, 2nd English Edition, 1990 (397-398), note that the use of such forms represents a direct violation of the „untouchable core“ of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and belief:
„The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion is guaranteed in the [European] Convention without qualification. Restrictions are possible only with respect to the expression of thought, conscience and religion, viz. in pursuance of the second paragraph of Article 9 with respect to the manifestation of religious or other beliefs, and in pursuance of the second paragraph of Art. 10 with respect to the expression of one’s opinion in general.
This absolute freedom to entertain any thoughts and any views is not without practical importance. It is true that thoughts, as long as they have not been expressed, are intangible and that convictions are really valuable for he person concerned only if he can express them, but the freedom of thought also implies that one cannot be subjected to a treatment intended to change the process of thinking, that any form of compulsion to express thoughts, to change an opinion, or to divulge a religious conviction is prohibited, and that no sanction may be imposed either on the holding of any view whatever or on the change of a religion or conviction. The prohibition to practise a certain profession („Berufsverbot“) on the mere ground of one’s political or philosophical conviction, for instance, falls under this provision. But in our opinion, even the obligation to reveal one’s religion in a census or other registration conflicts with Article 9, as does also a practice, supported or tolerated by the authorities according to which persons wishing to work in an Arab country must hand in a statement that they are not Jewish.“
Similarly, acclaimed international human rights authorities Harris, O’Boyle and Warbrick write, in their leading treatise on the subject, that:
„The state may not consistently with Article 9 dictate what a person believes or take coercive steps to make him change his beliefs. Nor may it demand to know what he believes. The Commission takes the view that an order to fill a census form interferes with the respect for private life that is guaranteed by Article 8(1) but that the state can justify its interference as being necessary for the economic well-being of the country under Article 8(2). As indicated earlier, this option of justifying an interference is not available with respect to the first part of Article 9(1) because Article 9(2) does not apply to it. If there are some circumstances when a state may not require an individual to reveal his beliefs because of Article 9(1), that prohibition must apply to all circumstances. Perhaps the explanation for this very strong protection of freedom on thought, conscience and religion is that there is no good reason why the state needs the information (though there are bad ones). If there were conceivably good reasons, possibly in the context of national security, for the state to know what a person believes, the resistance to giving it the power to do so reflects the shade of the Inquisition and the coercive investigations of modern totalitarian regimes....“
These unequivocal opinions by the foremost authorities on international human rights law make it crystal clear that the German Chambers’ exclusionary policy is in flagrant violation of fundamental and universally accepted international legal human rights principles.
The promotion of exclusionary contract clauses, known by the odious name of „sect filters“ because its purpose is to filter out members of minority religions, has no place in the German Chamber of Commerce. Under these circumstances, I respectfully submit that the ICC should ensure that the German Chambers of Commerce take action to immediately rescind this repugnant requirement and ensure that corrective measures are taken so that Scientologists and members of other minority religions do not continue to be targets of discrimination by the Chambers of Commerce in Germany.
Evidence Regarding the German Chambers Promotion and Use of Sect Filters
Examples of the promotion and the use of these „sect filters“ by German Chambers of Commerce follow.
Industrie und Handelskammer (IHK) Neumünster
The IHK Neumünster has a suborganization called Wirtschaftsjunioren (Juniors of Economy). As detailed in the enclosed article in the Holsteinischer Courier of 3 February 2000, this organization changed its statutes on 18 February 2000 to implement a Scientology „sect filter“ which must be signed by all its member companies.
In April, 1995 IHK Berlin they promoted the use of „sect filters“ at a public event. In 1999, IHK Berlin published a booklet warning about "infiltration of the economy" by so called „sects. A files inspection at IHK Berlin has disclosed that its „Working Circle for Security in the Economy“ has engaged in promoting the blacklisting of Scientologists and companies believed to be associated with Scientologists.
IHK Weingarten has been promoting and selling „sect filter“ forms for member companies to use (the price is DM 5.) since 1996. IHK Weingarten also requires guest lecturers to execute „sect filters“.
IHK Bremen has been promoting „sect filters since1996.
IHK Dresden requires guest lecturers and business contractors to execute „sect filters“.
IHK Göppingen has been promoting and disseminating „sect filter“ forms for member companies to use since 1997.
IHK Cologne has promoted and encouraged the use of „sect filters“ in its member magazine.
IHK Lübeck has promoted and encouraged the use of „sect filters“ in its member magazine.
IHK Ludwigshafen requires guest lecturers and business contractors
to execute „sect filters“.
IHK Stuttgart has encouarged the blacklisting and boycotting of Scientologists and businesses run by Scientologists.
IHK Ulm requires guest lecturers and business contractors to execute „sect filters“.
IHK Elmshorn promotes and encourages members to use „sect filters“ which it disseminates.
IHK Bayreuth has promoted and encouraged its members to use „sectfilters.
IHK Trier promotes and encourages members to use „sect filters“ which it disseminates.
As a result of the exclusionary policy of the Chambers of Commerce in Germany to promote the use of these odious „filters“, this discriminatory device has become commonplace throughout the private sector in Germany, resulting in systematic discrimination of Scientologists soleley due to their association and personal religious beliefs.
The Actions of the German Chambers of Commerce Violate the Global Compact
As Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has stated:
„The issue of human rights is central to good corporate citizenship and
to a healthy bottom line. Many companies find strength in their human rights
records; others suffer the consequences of ignoring this vital part of
corporate life. Today, human rights is a key performance indicator for
corporations all over the world“.
Unfortunately, the sad truth is that the German Chamber of Commerce and many of its member organizations are failing this key human rights performance indicator through the promotion of „sect filters“ in contravention of a number of the fundamental principles articulated in the Global Compact which emanate from universally agreed standards found in United Nations documents, including the relevant ones listed below:
1. Businesses should support and respect the protection of international human rights within their sphere of influence; and
2. make sure their own corporations are not complicit in human rights abuses.
3. Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; and
6. The elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation“.
By way of background, discrimination against Scientologists and members of other minority faiths in Germany has been the subject of over 25 international human rights reports in the last seven years. The Department of State of the United States Government has reported on such exclusionary policies in the Germany section of its annual human rights report for the last five years. The Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance to the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations regarding the Application of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief has traveled to Germany to discuss this matter with German officials and has reported on such discrimination in a number of United Nations reports since 1994. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has also expressed concern regarding discrimination targeting Scientologists in Germany.
The European Commission of Human rights has expressly ruled that the Church of Scientology has standing as a religious community to raise the Article 9 freedom of conscience and religion rights of itself and its parishioner under the European Convention on Human Rights. See, X and Church of Scientology v. Sweden, Application No. 7805/77, 16 D.R. 58; and Church of Scientology and Members v. Sweden, Application No. 8282/78, 21 D.R. 109. This ruling is consistent with the policy of the Council of Europe as articulated in a study by its Human Rights Directorate that the term religion is „unqualified“ as „the protection of the right to freedom of religion is not confined to widespread and globally recognized religions, but also applies to rare and virtually unknown faiths. Religion is thus understood in a broad sense“.
European Convention on Human Rights jurisprudence makes it clear that, in light of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion protected by Article 9, any different treatment based on religion is inherently repugnant and suspect. That is the very reason why the European Court of Human Rights decided in Hoffman v. Austria, 17 EHRR 293 (1994) that any disparate treatment „based essentially on a difference in religion alone is not acceptable“ under Article 14. The Hoffman case dealt with minority religious discrimination directed at a Jehovah’s Witness. It has been directly applied by the highest court of one European State to strike down discrimination against a Scientologist. The Austrian Supreme Court in In Re Fabio Rasp ( 2 Ob 2192/96h (23 August 1996)) followed the European Court’s dictate in Hoffman to reach the conclusion that any attempt to treat Scientology differently from other religions „is contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights and is therefore in violation of the law.“
As the Human Rights High Commissioner has noted, „Worldwide, groups
and individuals are watching corporations actions attentively, in particular
as they strive towards globalization, and are expecting corporations to
act responsibly. If they do not, the corporation's reputation is at
I am bringing this information to your attention so that the ICC may take
action to restore the reputation of the German Chambers of Commerce and
member organizations by rescinding the Chambers’ illegal and reprehensible
policy and ensuring that corrective measures are taken so that Scientologists
are not targets of religious discrimination by any Chamber of Commerce
in Germany or in any other country.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to your response.
William C. Walsh
cc: ICC Office for United Nations
cc: United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights