Is Germany, in 2019, really the democratic state we believe it to be? Are freedom of conscience and expression respected by the authorities as most Europeans think? There is every reason to believe that this is not the case when we consider the poor faith trials, as well as the discrimination suffered by the followers or sympathisers of the Church of Scientology whose inspiration and value system have their source in the thought and work of the writer L. Ron Hubbard.

The facts that have been reported to me – proven facts and each one verifiable – have nothing of an anecdotal tone – they are the fruits of a system. In the State of Bavaria, for many years now, several public organisations, but also private companies, have demanded during the hiring process that candidates sign a form stating that they are not members of the Church of Scientology – neither followers nor supporters. The same applies to the granting of funds to individuals.

Otherwise, the jobs they claim, or the public support to which they may be entitled, are simply refused. For its part, the Church of Scientology has not failed to react to these discriminatory practices by taking legal action in the context of Germany’s labour laws. In each case, the case ended with the formal determination that the practice was categorically deemed illegal. Unfortunately, the rule of law is one thing whilst the use and the habit are another. Despite these judicial decisions, discrimination of job seekers or subsidy seekers with links to Scientology remains a common practice.

It is shocking to see that a suspicion of spiritual and cultural belonging, in the heart of Europe – home of the Enlightenment – can still hit a group of people because of their opinions, their religion, or their beliefs. It is even more shocking to note that this kind of suspicion is notably cultivated by the Municipality of Munich.

In the past, there were nation decrees and laws that institutionalised this type of witch hunt. We thought we had completely left behind such totalitarian actions, but it turns out that they do not belong only to National Socialism or Stalinist Communism.

Has Bavaria, once known for its strong pro-Nazi tradition, not overcome this shameful tradition of quarantining a minority? As a Franco-Israeli scholar, I wonder about the persistence of ways that defeat the idea of a Europe with tolerance and equality.

So here I am in the role of Voltaire, ready to defend an opinion that is not his own: the banishment of a minority has always been a bad precursor for the vitality of a country where the defence of the rights of the individual should be now taken for granted. When the traits of a dictatorial policy are insinuated into the mentality, professional or civic, everyone is at risk of suffering this kind of attack one day.

The worst breaches of public liberties do not always prosper at a safe distance from the “civilised world,” the worst injustices often occur before our eyes, without anyone wanting to pay attention to them. By conformism? By the spirit of prejudice? By passivity?

Discrimination of individuals is not an abstract notion, it is a silent process that leads to exclusion, marginalisation, and stigmatisation. Exclusion, in this case, targets people who are at risk of unemployment. The economic and social marginalisation that this situation often entails is a factor of desocialisation. As for the stigmatisation that results, it is to banish those who are the object of this double indignity.

This state of affairs questions the true motives of these breaches of the law as much as of public morals. Prejudice is tenacious, it breeds fear, and justifies violence. Institutional violence is often the first step towards criminalising the group that suffers.

There is no need to be a genius to know that in terms of Scientology’s appreciation, it is ignorance of its ethical foundations – of its universalism and its moral aspirations – that is the cause of the continuation of the damage.

To call the existence the way of thinking and the way of life of a group “sectarian” or “cultish” aims to bring it into the disrepute of criminalisation.

In Europe, the charge of sectarianism is today a tool of lobbies who act themselves according to the methods they impute to their designated victims. Here again, the fact is known. And this effect of criminalisation is a machine to fabricate adversity. What I see is that at least in this case the judges are ahead of the public opinion. It is up to those who have the responsibility to “make” an opinion or to “enlighten” it, not to get bogged down in an inexplicable delay.

It is only a matter of learning a little about the plurality of emerging cultural trends, not to agitate, in each case, the spectre of “sectarian excesses”. Any self-respecting tradition has first erupted into history as a sectarian activity: starting with primitive Christianity, not to say anything about Islam. It has been a long time since Scientology was no longer a cult in the sense that is claimed: only its detractors fan the flames, with the spirit of malicious continuation, of which we are aware.

The media, which have such an important role to play in updating the public’s knowledge, is careful not to report on the progress of research in the field of “new religious movements”. We can only advise them that they, for example, agree to be interested in the work of reliable scholarly initiatives, such as the Center for the Study of New Religions.

They would learn a lot about finally coming out of the darkness.

 This content is part of the ‘Religious Freedom’ section supported by the Faith and Freedom Summit Coalition.