Zurück zur Pressemitteilung    Originaldokument   Deutsche Übersetzung

Menschenrechtsbeschwerde an die Vereinten Nationen vom 10. Oktober 2000


 
    10th October 2000

Mr. Abid Hussain
U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
CH 1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland

Re: Government Censorship in Public Libraries: Germany

Dear Mr. Hussain:   

 I am human rights counsel for the Church of Scientology.  I am writing to you on behalf of approximately 30,000 German Scientologists regarding a pattern and practice of government censorship of publications by L.  Ron Hubbard, the Founder of the Scientology religion, in public libraries throughout Germany.

Background to the Complaint

There are now more than thirty reports by international human rights organizations and government bodies criticizing the German government for violating the rights of Scientologists and other minority religious members. Scientologists’ rights to freedom of expression are routinely violated in Germany. Scientologists in Germany are routinely dismissed from jobs, dismissed from schools, dismissed from political parties, dismissed from social, business and political organizations, denied the right to professional licenses, denied the right to perform their art, denied the right to open bank accounts and obtain loans, denied the right to use public facilities and concert halls, and 
 are blacklisted, boycotted, vilified, ostracized and threatened simply due to their rights to freedom of expression and association with the religion of Scientology. As the University of Essex Human Rights Centre study on Freedom of Religion and Belief: 

„In Germany, democracy is used as an ideology to impose conformity. It has been dismaying to discover that the state, and some of its politicians and people, are using what are known from the past to be well-worn paths of discrimination and intolerance and of inciting of intolerance towards a new religious minority, the Scientologists."  

In March 1998, following a fact-finding visit to Germany the previous year, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance, Professor Abdelfattah Amor, reported to  the United Nations Human Rights Commission that what Scientologists face in Germany „can be described as a climate of suspicious, or latent intolerance."The Special Rapporteur recommended that „the State, beyond day-to-day management, must implement a strategy to prevent intolerance in the field of religion and belief." Instead of implementing the Special Rapporteur's recommendations, the German government has continued and intensified, its campaign of ostracism and discrimination against Scientologists. 

Governmental religious discrimination against Scientologists in Germany has been criticized in seven successive U.S.  State Department Annual Human Rights reports and in the Department's Annual Reports on International Religious Freedom published in 1999 and 2000.

In April 2000, the U.S.  Trade Representative placed Germany on the „watch list" over the German government's use and promotion of so-called „sect filters" -- forms which make employment or contractual relations with the government conditional upon an individual or company declaring that he does not attend courses or seminars in Scientology and does not use the technology of Mr.  Hubbard. 

The U.S.  Trade Representative and the State Department have both condemned „sect filters" as blatantly discriminatory and a violation of Germany's commitments under international human rights laws.  By putting Germany on the watch list, the U.S. 
 government has indicated that it perceives Germany's mistreatment of Scientologists as a threat to American trade. These „filters" also violate the fundamental freedom of expression rights of Scientologists by providing sanctions in the form of loss of employment or business relations if an individual admits that he adheres to Scientology religious precepts and beliefs. 

Members of the Church of Scientology and certain other minority religions have been contending against governmental denials of their right to freedom of expression for many years.  Scientologists are denied political expression since they are prohibited from joining Germany's political parties.  The application form to join the Christian Democratic Union actually includes a clause requiring an individual to declare that he is not a Scientologist.  

These actions targeting 30,000 Scientologists who represent less than .0004 % 
of the German population to curry political favor with the majority violate Germany's obligations to protect its citizens' right to full and equal political expression without distinction based on race, color, religion or ideology. Taking part in the conduct of public affairs is a basic human right prized by people throughout the world and recognized as a basic human right protected by Article 19.  International instruments for the promotion and protection of human rights are replete with admonitions that political participation be free.  Moreover, these instruments protect the rights of individuals to meaningfully participate in the political process and require the removal of obstacles to such participation such as measures which prohibit individuals from joining political parties based on their associations or beliefs. 

The freedom to create and communicate an artist's vision free from state interference is one of the most cherished of all freedoms and the most fundamental of human rights.  Yet, the German government continues its policy to blacklist artists who happen to be Scientologists in violation of these rights Musicians who are Scientologists are banned from performing at government-sponsored concerts and artists have had their painting and sculpture exhibitions banned or boycotted. 

These bans and restrictions are amply documented in a series of reports by 
 international human rights organizations since 1993.  The renowned American jazz musician Chick Corea, for example, was described in a July 4, 1998 article in the German magazine Sueddeutsche Zeitung as „one of the artists most hated by the Bavarian state government." Mr.  Corea's only „error" is his desire to perform to his many German admirers, but he has been banned from playing at the prestigious Burghausen Jazz Music Festival since 1996, solely because of his religious beliefs.

Mr. Corea has suffered similar denials of his right to perform in other German states.  For example, as he testified to the U.S.  House International Relations Committee in June 2000, he had been due to perform in October at a music festival with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, but the performance had to be canceled after the Bremen coalition of the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats threatened to fire the artistic director of the festival over Mr.  Corea's invitation.

Likewise, a top fencing manager with the German Olympic team was fired a few years ago simply because he stated to a journalist, when asked in an interview, that he read and liked books by L. Ron Hubbard.  Hundreds of such cases exist in Germany where individuals have been fired or their businesses boycotted due to their expression, association and beliefs. 

In 1996, some German politicians tried to organize nationwide boycotts of the movies Mission Impossible and Phenomenon because the lead actors in these films are members of the Church of Scientology. Although the boycotts failed, not a single German government official at state or federal level came out against them, nor did any utter a word of criticism of the German politicians urging the boycotts.

Current Censorship in Public Libraries

It is against this backdrop of religious intolerance that we examine the refusal of state and city libraries in Germany to make available to the public the works of the Founder of the religion of Scientology, publications produced by the Church of Scientology, and even books with a favorable reference to Scientology or Mr.  Hubbard.

In 1997, the Church of Scientology commissioned a survey by Opinion 
 Research Corporation International into the degree and type of information possessed about Scientology by the German population.  The survey found that less than five percent of Germans had any first-hand information about Scientology at all, i.e, they had never visited a Church of Scientology, did not know any Scientologists, and had never read a book on Scientology written by Mr.  Hubbard or produced by the Church. Instead, ninety-eight percent had received any information they possessed about Scientology from the media.

Unfortunately, as the U.N.  Special Rapporteur noted in his 1998 report on Germany, the media „all too often portrays matters relating to religion and belief in a grotesque, not to say totally distorted and harmful light."

To counter the misinformation and lack of accurate information about Scientology aggravating the climate of intolerance against Scientologists in Germany, the Church of Scientology and individual Scientologists have made a number of attempts to place literature describing the nature and activities of Scientology in public libraries throughout the country.  The need for the actual texts of the Scientology religion to be available in public libraries is especially urgent given the predominance in those libraries of books written by non-Scientologists portraying the Church and its members in false, derogatory, stereotyped and prejudicial terms.  Such works are replete with inaccurate and distorted information and contribute to a climate chilling to the rights of Scientologists living in Germany. 

These efforts to place factual material in libraries, however, have been met with almost complete government censorship of Mr.  Hubbard's works.  Citing government orders or recommendations, libraries not only refuse to stock Mr.  Hubbard's religious and philosophical books, but in some cases even his fiction.  (Tab 1)

One basis for what amounts to a virtual ban on Mr.  Hubbard's books in public libraries is a strong recommendation, tantamount to an order, from the Berlin Senate of Science, Research and Culture to all libraries not to accept Mr.  Hubbard's books, even when offered as donations.  Any library which does accept them is instructed to keep them out of public view and to give a book out only in response to a specific request. The Jerusalem Library in Berlin has stated that it is „a decision of the office heads for the whole of Berlin not to accept books of the author L.  Ron Hubbard because of their content." (Tab 2)

This blanket ban extends even to works that have nothing to do with
 Scientology, as shown the city library of Koepenick, Berlin's refusal to accept a donation of the international bestseller (now a major movie), Battlefield Earth. In fact, when contacted directly, the librarian confirmed that there is an order that no public libraries in Berlin may accept works by the founder of Scientology.

In mid-1998, the Deutsches Bibliotheksinstitut (German Library Institute), a state-founded and state-supported institute which advised all German state and city libraries, issued a directive listing several state censorship regulations in regards to the works of Mr.  Hubbard. Although the German Library Institute closed in 1999, all the orders cited in its 1998 directive are still valid and current. The directive included an order from the Ministry of Culture for Hessia to all regional and local libraries not to accept or offer books from „Scientology" and an order from the Minister for Science and Culture of Lower Saxony to state libraries to reject any book donations from „Scientology."

The directive instructed librarians that „in public libraries it should not be possible to loan publications of Scientology" and noted that „the regional association of German libraries in Baden-Wuerttemberg (DBV) established already in 1994 that it will take care that publications of Scientology cannot be loaned in public libraries."The directive instead informed the librarians that „information material about new religions and ideological movements, youth sects, 'psychogroups' and especially about the Scientology church can be ordered from state and Church authorities (sect commissioners)."

Such „sect commissioners" are appointed by the predominant Catholic and Lutheran Churches in Germany and are neither objective nor informed on religions other than their own.  The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance's report on Germany includes complaints about the bias and intolerance of the major churches' sect commissioners from Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Baha'i community, the Unification Church, and the Hare Krishna movement as well as Scientologists.  The information about Scientology given out in publications by sect commissioners is highly inaccurate and replete with distortions and stereotypes.

In addition to the above, the Church has documented state government censorship of Mr.  Hubbard's books in public libraries in, at least, Hessia, Hamburg, Berlin and Lower Saxony.
 When Scientologists attempted to place publications by Mr.  Hubbard in public libraries in Hessia, the Hessian Minister of Science instructed the libraries to return the books to their senders.  (Tab 3). The Ministry of Culture of Hessia has stated that libraries do not accept or provide to the public materials of the Church of Scientology. Similar communications have been received from the Ministry of Science and Arts and the Social Ministry of Hessia.  (Tab 4)

A Scientologist who contacted directors of public libraries in Hamburg to invite them to the opening ceremony of the Church's new quarters was informed that „there is an internal instruction given by the management of the public libraries that we are not allowed to accept either telephone calls, books from L.  Ron Hubbard nor any visits from Scientologists in the Public Libraries." (Tab 5)

A library system which issues such an improper and undemocratic order to its branches is most certainly not complying with the Free Hanseatic State of Hamburg development plan for the public libraries, which states that: „The [Hamburg] Senate sees it as an important task of state, cultural politics to finance a public library system which contributes to ease the access to literature and knowledge for broad parts of the public." (Tab 6)

The Lower Saxony Ministry of Science and Culture has ordered all libraries in that state not to stock Mr.  Hubbard's works.  In Bavaria, a senior official over the city libraries refused to accept Mr. Hubbard's books, stating that he had received a verbal order from his superiors not to stock them. Attached is additional evidence of government censorship of Mr. Hubbard's works in the form of letters from public libraries in Rottweil, Baden-Wuerttemberg; Halle, Saxony-Anhalt; Ahlen, North-Rhine Westphalia; Neumuenster, Schleswig-Holstein; the state library in Saarland; and Rostock, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.  (Tab 7).  In the city of Osnabrueck in Lower Saxony, not only did the town council implement a discriminatory „sect filter" against Scientologists, it also ordered that all city and school libraries be inspected to ensure they contained no works by Mr.  Hubbard.  (Tab 8)

On the other hand, books which describe Scientology in highly negative terms, containing prejudicial stereotypes filled with false and flagrantly distorted information, are readily available in city and state libraries throughout Germany.  In Stuttgart, a 
 computer list of books about Scientology contained the titles of no less than twenty-nine „anti-Scientology publications", while not one single publication by Mr. Hubbard, the Church or individual Scientologists writing about Scientology is permitted on the shelves or in stock.

In Berlin libraries, the number of „anti-Scientology" books totals fifty, compared with only two books by Mr.  Hubbard which portray the religion according to its own understanding. When someone attempted to loan one of those two books, he required considerable persistence to persuade the librarian to locate it.  It was finally tracked down to a dusty shelf in a basement where nobody would have found it.

This Censorship Violates Fundamental Freedom of Expression Rights

Such policies and practices of censorship of the works of a Founder of a religion constitute a flagrant violation of international human rights covenants guaranteeing freedom of expression and opinion.

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that „Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." (italics added)

Article 26(2) of the Declaration states, in part, „[Education] shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial and religious groups...."

These rights are further articulated in Article 19(2) of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, both signed and ratified by Germany.

Furthermore, Title 16j of the 1989 Concluding Document from the Vienna Conference of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe requires that 
 state parties „allow religious faiths, institutions and organizations to produce and import and disseminate religious publications and materials."

Government censorship of the works of Mr.  Hubbard in libraries throughout Germany not only constitutes a flagrant violation of international human rights covenants, it also inflames and perpetuates a climate of religious intolerance and discrimination facing Scientologists in Germany.

These official actions of censorship are in direct conflict with Germany’s human rights obligations to protect freedom of expression.  As the Human Rights Committee notes in General Comment 10 regarding Freedom of Expression (Nineteenth Session, 1983), freedom of expression includes the right to receive and impart information and ideas.  Neither Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights nor Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights  authorize these draconian measures. 

To justify an interference with freedom of expression  the Member State must show — and the burden is on it to do so — that there is ‘a pressing social need’ for the restriction on free speech for one of a number of purposes (such as the protection of health or morals, or the protection of the rights of others) set out in Article 19 (3).  Each interference with freedom of expression has to be justified by the State under these criteria.  The fact that the State acts in good faith, or has had the restriction complained of for a long time, does not make the interference valid under Article 19. As the Human Rights Committee notes in its General Comment on Freedom of Expression, „when a State party imposes certain restrictions on the exercise of freedom of expression, these may not put in jeopardy the right itself. Paragraph 3 lays down conditions and it is only subject to these conditions that restrictions may be imposed: the restrictions must be ‘provided by law’; they may only be imposed for one of the purposes set out in subparagraphs (a) and (b) of paragraph 3; and they must be justified as being ‘necessary’ for that State party for one of those purposes". Yet, no such justification which is  "proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued" has been identified by the German government here as none exists.  

Moreover, the European Court of Human Rights Court has ruled time and again that there is little scope under Article 10 § 2 of the Convention for such restrictions or on debate of questions of public interest. Indeed, the Council of Europe’s 1982 Declaration on the Freedom of Expression and Information, adopted by the Committee
 of Ministers of the European Council on April 29, 1982, encourages freedom of expression and discourages this very type of government censorship. 

Germany cannot, in conformity with international law, abuse freedom of expression rights by acting as the „thought police" responsible for regulating the conscience of individuals and promoting, imposing or censuring a particular faith or belief. Yet, that is precisely what German government officials have done by taking action to suppress the Church’s right to freedom of expression in order to protect Germans from „thinking for themselves" and making up their own minds. 
  
The prevalence of systemic and serious human rights abuses directed at Scientologists in Germany is beyond dispute.  Scientologists in Germany continue to be stripped of their fundamental right to freedom of opinion and expression by the government or with government approval and encouragement simply due to their personal beliefs. Under these circumstances, international reporting and assistance is necessary to ensure that the illegal actions of the German government suppressing the free expression of members of a minority religion in Germany cease.

Sincerely,    
 
William C. Walsh
 

Zurück zur Pressemitteilung    Originaldokument