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Cablegate: German Court Rejects Scientology Appeal Against

VZCZCXRO3755
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN RUEHLZ
RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHDF #0009/01 0521431
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 211431Z FEB 08
FM AMCONSUL DUSSELDORF
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0115
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE
RUEHDF/AMCONSUL DUSSELDORF 0131

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DUSSELDORF 000009

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KIRF PHUM PGOV GM
SUBJECT: GERMAN COURT REJECTS SCIENTOLOGY APPEAL AGAINST
SURVEILLANCE

DUSSELDORF 00000009 001.2 OF 002


Sensitive but Unclassified -- Not for Internet Distribution

1. (U) Summary: The Higher Administrative Court in Muenster
rejected an appeal by the Church of Scientology (COS) of
Germany February 12 to end surveillance of the Church by the
Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (OPC).
The court found that COS maintained "ambitions against Germany's
free and democratic basic order," thus justifying continued
surveillance, including via intelligence means. The court did
not rule as to whether COS is a religion, arguing that this
issue was not relevant for the decision at hand. The decision
confirmed the Federal Government's position on this matter and
represents a major setback in COS Germany's long-standing legal
campaign against OPC surveillance and for recognition as a
church. End Summary.

2. (U) The Muenster Court decision is part of an ongoing legal
battle that goes back to a 2003 joint suit by COS Germany and
COS Berlin against the Federal Republic of Germany in connection
with the surveillance of COS by the federal OPC. Since the OPC
is headquartered in Cologne, courts in North Rhine-Westphalia
(NRW) have jurisdiction over the case. The Cologne
Administrative Court rejected the initial petition of COS in
November 2004, finding that the OPC monitoring was legal. COS
appealed the decision to the Higher Administrative Court in
Muenster, where the case had been pending for the last three
years. This report is based on the observations and
conversations of Duesseldorf Pol/Econ Specialist, who attended
the hearing.

--------------------------------------------- --------------------
Scientology Claims Discrimination and Violation of Religious
Freedom
--------------------------------------------- --------------------

3. (U) During the February 12 five-hour court hearing, COS
lawyers built their case around two main legal arguments: that
COS has been the victim of government discrimination and that
the government actions have violated COS' right to religious
freedom pursuant to Article 4 of the German constitution. The
court appeared to be unimpressed by these arguments, focusing
instead on certain statements made by Scientology founder L. Ron
Hubbard which the court characterized as extremist and relevant
for COS operations today. COS lawyers tried to play down these
statements, likening them to certain passages in the Old
Testament which, they argued, also had no relevance for
Christian churches today. OPC legal counsel refuted this
argument, however, quoting Scientology documents that they
asserted demonstrates the direct relevance of Hubbard's
teachings and statements to COS's current activities.

--------------------------------------------- -----------------
Court says Scientology Efforts go Against Free, Democratic Order
--------------------------------------------- -----------------

4. (U) Michael Bertrams, the presiding judge of the five-member
panel, presented the main grounds for the decision in a brief
oral statement. (The full written text of the decision will not
be available for several weeks.) Bertrams argued that there are
concrete indications that the COS and its members are engaged in
"efforts directed against (Germany's) free and democratic basic
order." He asserted Scientology is striving to establish a
social order in which "central constitutional principles such as
human dignity and the right to equal treatment are to be
repealed or restricted." In particular, he said, there is
"suspicion that in a Scientological society only Scientologists
could have civil rights." (NOTE: Bertrams is the most senior,
and many maintain most respected, judge in NRW, as he is the
longtime President of the Higher Administrative Court in
Muenster and is also President of the NRW Constitutional Court,
where he is Chief Justice. END NOTE.)

--------------------------------------------- --------------
-------
Court does not Address Claim of Religion -- COS Announces Appeal
--------------------------------------------- --------------
-------

5. (U) Bertrams further asserted that given its findings and
because Scientology is currently expanding its activities in
Germany, the continuation of OPC surveillance of COS is
"justified, including surveillance by intelligence means" (i.e.
through the use of undercover agents and eavesdropping devices).
He also noted that the court had intentionally left open the
question of whether COS is a religious community, arguing that
this issue is not relevant for its decision. Finally, the court
ruled that the COS may appeal the decision only on procedural
grounds and not on the merits of the case. This limited appeal
would be handled by the Federal Administrative Court (FAC) in
Leipzig; Scientology has announced it will do so.


DUSSELDORF 00000009 002.2 OF 002


--------
Comment
--------

6. (SBU) The February 12 decision constitutes the highest court
ruling to date in Germany on the matter of OPC surveillance of
Scientology. In the past, COS Germany had partial successes at
lower administrative court level in Saarlouis and Berlin in
cases that involved monitoring by state-level OPCs. In its
efforts to end surveillance at the national level by the Federal
OPC, however, COS Germany has suffered a major setback. The
German Federal Government and certain state governments will
likely view this decision as a confirmation of their position on
the need for continued OPC monitoring. The fact that the court
did not consider the issue of whether or not COS constitutes a
religion indicates that the COS lawyers' strategy of building
their case primarily on this argument was unsuccessful. It
remains to be seen whether COS will pursue what some observers
believe may be a promising legal course of action by filing a
petition with the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe.

7. (U) This message was coordinated with Embassy Berlin.
BOYSE

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