Pressemitteilung des BVerwG
Hardenbergstr. 31
10623 Berlin
Tel.: (030) 3197 - 1

Termin: 28.10.1997 - 10.00 h

BVerwG 1 C 18.95 (VGH Mannheim 1 S 438/94)

Verein Scientology Neue Brücke, Mission der Scientology-Kirche e.V. - RA Blümel & Partner, München - ./. 1. Land Baden-Württemberg - RA Prof.Dr. Zuck & Partner, Stuttgart -, 2. Vertreter des öffentlichen Interesses

Der Kläger ist ein eingetragener Verein. Er wendet sich gegen den Entzug seiner Rechtsfähigkeit durch das beklagte Land Baden-Württemberg. Vor dem Berufungsgericht hatte er Erfolg. In dem Revisionsverfahren wird voraussichtlich zu erörtern sein, inwieweit sich der Kläger wirtschaftlich betätigt und welche Bedeutung dem Umstand zukommt, daß er als Religionsgemeinschaft auftritt.

  Report to de.soc.weltanschauung.scientology
From: (Tilman Hausherr)
Newsgroups: alt.religion.scientology,de.soc.recht.misc,
Subject: Report from Bundesverwaltungsgericht about scientology
Date: Wed, 29 Oct 1997 09:22:17 GMT
Message-ID: <>

Report from Bundesverwaltungsgericht about scientology

I was at the federal administrative court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht) today. The decision was whether the appellate court (VGH) erred when it said that the state of Baden-Württemberg was wrong to try to deregister the scientology org (in 1986 (!)). The appellate court had ruled that the state had not investigated whether or not scientology is a religion. A "deregistration" would mean that scientology would have to get another status than "non-profit", the judge later suggested a "Kapitalgesellschaft" (capital based organization).

The session started at 10:00. Lots and lots of journalists with huge cameras. Three seat rows but not enough place - worse than an airplane. The court room was unspectacular - nothing like US court rooms. Just a room with a few tables. There was no cross in the court room. There were some anti-cult people there, some scientologists, some people I didn't know and three violent-looking-guys who belonged together. The first of them had "reserved" three seats for him and the other two. It is unclear if they belonged to the scientologists or not, or were security or what was their purpose. All the time while the court was in session, people were getting in and out, sometimes cellular phones were ringing (I shut off mine because I thought this is very bad behavior, and that I would be ejected from the court room).

The trial was before a five judge panel. The presiding Judge (he was almost the only one of the judges who talked) was really nice, he explained the issues for the audience and the media: this court would only investigate whether the previous court erred, it would not decide about facts. (Nevertheless, attorneys argued about facts anyway) If the court had erred and these errors were substantial, then it would go back for re-trial.

Parties in the court was an attorney for the state (i.e. a normal attorney, but hired by the state), one for the "public interest", the scientology attorney with his junior attorney, and a "Bundesanwalt" (federal attorney)

To start, the scientology attorney made a motion to exclude the attorney for the state, Mr. Quaas. Reason: this attorney had, 15 years ago, worked for a different scientology organization, in a different matter. After a break (while people were making jokes that maybe the judge should also be provided by scientology to make things easier), the court dismissed the motion because these were different topics, but he suggested to the scientology attorney to make a complaint to the bar association if he is unhappy. (IMO this is a severe blunder by the state - I would have excluded that attorney)

The state attorney started by mentioning L. Ron Hubbard's wish to make a religion to make money, the "MAKE MORE MONEY" quote, and the "purpose of orgs" (the only purpose of orgs is to sell books and courses) quote. The scientology attorney later claimed that Elron had not said the "religion" quote but that scientology was getting tired of suing (which is untrue), and that the MAKE MORE MONEY quote was outofcontext, and that scientology had won in Italy. He did not dispute the "purpose of orgs" quote.

The state attorney explained that a religion had no "right" to register under a certain status, and referenced a decision of the Bahai religion. He made fun of the other attorney's arguments - that one had previously filed a scurrilous document that compared scientology with the ADAC (automobile drivers association) & TÜV (association that checks the safety of cars and electric appliances). The scientology attorney later continued on that line, even included soccer and ice-hockey clubs.

The scientology attorney disputed that scientology is in a "market". His "argument" was that a jewish burial is different than a catholic burial and that they do not compete with each other. He said that scientology is a law abiding group and that no scientologist was ever convicted (!). He said that donations to scientology can be compared to the days where people sacrificed a chicken or a cow to their god, and that today this is done with money, and that it is a very private, personal matter. The state attorney wondered why the donations are fixed and why there are exact lists that are no secret at all. He also mentioned that a for-profit organization does not contradict religion - many church hospitals are running as "GmbH" (= limited liability corp). The scientology attorney whined that such a status would fulfill the wishes of the late F.W. Haack, a longtime church critic, who had called scientology a "limited liability church". He often complained that the state was persecuting a "church with only 11 members". The state attorney explained that because their registration was "false", it was no persecution, that they were simple trying to get something "illegal" (the registration as non-profit community) removed from the books.

This went on for hours with no lunch break and I often almost fell asleep but I still tried listening. In the last hour the judges asked exact questions of law, to which the attorney made arguments. At 14:30 suddenly the presiding judge explained that the VGH had said that the state had not considered whether scientology is a religion, but that the VGH had declined to make up with this, i.e. find out in court whether scientology is a religion. He suggested that this might indeed have been an error of law. The state attorney agreed, I don't remember what the scientology attorney said. At that moment some members audience were visibly delighted. One journalist missed this moment because she was answering a phone call on her cellular phone outside.

The court took a short break. When the court came back it announced a decision for November 6th, 12:00, same place. I left the court at 15:00 with a few fellow critics and we went to lunch.

Before the yesterday my expectation was 70:30 that scientology would win this case; now it's 50:50. If scientology wins then the state will simply write a new deregistration; if it loses then it would be devastating for scientology, as the court made clear that there is no legal precedent for this dispute (which means that a decision will make this a legal precedent).