German government refuses to recognize Scientology as a religion. The organization has officially been labelled an ‘abusive business masquerading as a religion’.
The Church of Scientology has been present in Germany since 1970. German authorities estimate that there are 4,000 active Scientologists in Germany today the Church of Scientology gives a membership figure of around 12,000. The Church of Scientology has encountered particular antagonism from the German press, suppression from the coalition government and occupies a precarious legal, social and cultural position in Germany.
German courts have so far not resolved whether Scientology should be accorded the legal status of a religious or worldview community, and different courts have reached contradictory conclusions. German domestic intelligence services have monitored the organization’s activities. The German government does not recognize Scientology as a religion. It views it as an abusive business masquerading as a religion and believes that it pursues political goals that conflict with the values enshrined in the German constitution. This stance has been criticized, most notably by the U.S. government, which recognizes Scientology as a religion and has repeatedly raised concerns over discriminatory practices directed at individual Scientologists.
Scientologists in Germany face specific political and economic restrictions. They are barred from membership in some major political parties, and businesses and other employers use so-called “sect filters” to expose a prospective business partner’s or employee’s association with the organization. German federal and state interior ministers started a process aimed at banning Scientology in late 2007, but abandoned the initiative a year later, finding insufficient legal grounds. Despite this, polls suggest that most Germans favor banning Scientology altogether.