This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
- FAZ.NET November 28, 2009 Scientology
by Stefan Locke The letter is written in an official style: "Dear Sir or Madam, my name is Sabine Weber and I'm responsible for the public relations work of the Church of Scientology in the states of Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxonia and Saxonia-Anhalt", that's the first sentence in a letter which the organization has sent since the beginning of the year to advanced schools and universities in Berlin. There were unresolved issues, Sabine Weber writes and that's why there was an intent to educate. On the attached answer-fax there are the options of "have a conversation at school", "visit the Scientology Church in Berlin" and "Send me scientological writings" to choose from. So far there had been no faxes returned, said Sabine Weber. Scientology isn't a topic of interest anymore - which is exactly the reason for the image campaign. "We informed all the schools of the campaign" says Stefan Barthel of the "central place for cult-related questions" at the Berlin Senate. "But they already knew the deal." The targeted approach to youths is probably the desperate attempt by the organization which calls itself a church to get a foothold in Berlin after all. Around three years ago Scientology opened its "capital central" in Charlottenburg, a seven story building with a glass facade and an area of 4000 square-meters. From here Scientology intended to do lobbying work, to influence politics and the economy, to win support of celebrities and above all to grow fast. No Foothold in Berlin "In order to apply our campaign of planetary salvation we need to reach the uppermost levels in the german government in Berlin" states an internal strategy paper of 2006. It was the responsibility of Scientology in Berlin "to build the necessary roads into german parliament, in order to get our solutions actually incorporated into the entirety of german society." Politicians were flooded with letters, brochures and DVDs by the organization. But until today not a single one of those addressees has made a statement for Scientology. The road into parliament isn't even a small beaten path. That's why the Berlin Verfassungsschutz [Office for Protection of the Constitution (OPC)] - who is monitoring the organization due to its aggressive approach and its totalitarian worldview and human conception, like almost all the states are - attributed a lack of success to the organization. "The Berlin branch isn't the german central, not to mention the european central" the annual report of 2008 states. "The campaigns, which it had announced, the advertisement and lobbying measures have been without success for
the time being." Scientology was met with repulsion and had merely 200 members in Berlin. Sabine Weber states a number of 600, but she also says that this wasn't "sufficient by a long shot". Stagnating Numbers The federal OPC estimates a number between 5000 and 6000 members of Scientology in Germany, but this number has been unchanged for years as well. Scientology itself has lowered the statement of the number of sympathizers from formerly 80.000 to around 30.000, 12.000 of which were active members going to "Church" regularly. More than three quarters of german Scientologists live in Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Hamburg, but there is no sense of an expansion either in these regions. "The number of members has been stagnating for years now" states the Bavarian OPC, BadenWürttemberg even talks about a "slow demise" of the organization: "The SO is able to only bind few new members to itself in the long term and is unable to overcome its stagnation." Hamburg states that there is a "reduced offer of courses" due to "decreasing numbers" and "overaging". It is a surprise then, that the organization doesn't go on the offensive, given this situation. "Apparently the financial crisis has an impact here", Stefan Barthel of the Central Place for Cult Related Questions suspects. Furthermore, he had had the impression for quite some time that the indications of crisis of Scientology in the United States (celebrities leaving, managers leaving) had an effect on the european branches as well. "If you take Berlin, Scientology doesn't behave the same way as before" says Barthel. "They don't appear as strategical, but rather confused". "It's Not [Booming]" Not even Scientology itself denies that the expansion in Germany has trouble going forward. But this had no relation to the events in the United States or in France. "It's just going forward very slowly" says Jürg Stettler, spokesperson for the organization in Germany and its president in Zürich. "It has always been that way that only few people stay with us." He interprets this as other people's fault. "Due to the campaigns against us, people are extremely reluctant." However, there were talks with celebrities and also with politicians, but that was confidential. "If someone makes a public announcement he is attacked on a massive scale immediately." Sabine Weber too admits, that the inflow of people in Berlin wasn't exactly comparable to a "wildfire" and that there was still "a lot of space" in the new building. It was recently used by two high-ranking american Scientologists that were supposed to help the Berlin branch on its way. According to Barthel there hasn't been any effect of this yet. "Scientology appears to be very insecure and is acting in a rather secluded manner." There were hardly any contacts to the political sphere and while there were still a lot of "Dianetics" info tables, there were always the same people around, who would, however, put a merciless siege on any potentially interested person.
Not even the established churches are [seeing the devil approaching] anymore when it comes to the topic of Scientology. "It's not [booming]" says Michael Utsch of the Protestant Central Place for Questions of Worldview (EZW). In the past the entire Scientology building had been lit up in the evening, these days only the ground floor is lit up if there was even any light at all. Utsch traces this development back to the educational efforts, but also to the strong attention the Senate has directed at the organization in the past years. "The political sphere did react, but in a different way than Scientology imagined." Scientist Advocates Calmness "Scientology isn't particularly succesful in Europe in any place" says social- and religious scientist Gerald Willms, who is based in Göttingen. These days the organization was a far cry from its peak times in the 1980s. "90 percent of the people who did a course once don't find it interesting and don't ever go there again afterwards." Also of the other 10 percent hardly anyone decided to join the organization. "When someone does it anyway, that person apparently strongly believes in it", says Willms. During his research he had anyway "been surprised time and again, what kind of things people believe in." He's advocating for more calm in dealing with the organization, which has lead to strong criticism of him in return. That's because the aggressive fight against Scientology has become a business to some authors and talkshow-travellers. "Scientology wants to appear big, powerful and nice" says Willms. "That's the same way some opponents want the organization to be in order to justify the alarm they themselves have caused." These days, noone would become a Scientologist by accident. "Someone who claims this will also drown in a swimming-pool, because he doesn't know there's water in it." "If someone wants to become a Scientologist at any cost, then he should do so, but he has to know what he is in for." says Michael Utsch of the EZW. That's why the educational efforts must not relent, he says. The financial and psychological dependance into which members were getting into as well as the enormous pressure on people who are leaving, were a serious danger, which had to be met calmly, Stefan Barthel says as well. "Hysteria is only doing damage. You can achieve much more with a sober approach." That's why Berlin wants to inform more about the criteria of [psychologically monopolizing] groups within its preventive work and also to speak more with youths about those needs and longings which are exploited by groups such as Scientology. "We don't want to leave caring, listening and taking time for people to these groups" says Barthel. That's why community and security were supposed to play a bigger role in schools and institutions for youths as well. The head of Scientology in Berlin, Sabine Weber, wants to educate [[society]] herself, also with new activities, including at schools. There is at least one goal which she considers to have reached succesfully in Germany: "Very few communities survive such massive counter-campaigns like we do."
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?