Cablegate: Hamburg Vs. Scientology

DE RUEHAG #0073/01 3551646
P 211646Z DEC 07

Friday, 21 December 2007, 16:46
EO 12958 DECL: 12/21/2017
HAMBURG 00000073 001.2 OF 003
CLASSIFIED BY: Karen Johnson, Consul General, U.S. Consulate General Hamburg, U.S. Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d) CONFIDENTIAL
1. (C) SUMMARY: Since the creation of the Working Group on Scientology (AGS) in 1992 within its interior ministry with its firebrand leader, Hamburg has been at sharp odds with the Church of Scientology and more recently has taken a leading role in an attempt to ban the organization. On August 7, Hamburg’s Interior Minister Udo Nagel (independent) announced the proposal to ban Scientology under Germany’s Law of Associations. In November, the Hamburg State Parliament mandated him with submitting the proposal to the state interior ministers at their December meeting. Leadership within the Hamburg interior ministry, including from the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (OPC), has confirmed to ConGen Hamburg that the proposal is mainly politically motivated and that they expect the issue to die down at the latest after state elections in Bavaria. This cable examines the background to the heightened debate over Scientology in Hamburg. END SUMMARY.
2. (SBU) In 1992, the Hamburg State Parliament created the Working Group on Scientology (Arbeitsgruppe Scientology or AGS) within the Hamburg interior ministry mandated to address all “destructive groups,” which endanger society, in particular young people. AGS not only focuses on Scientology’s activities within Hamburg, but also other organizations such as the Church of Satan, Transcendental Meditation, and the Unification Church. According to AGS Director Ursula Caberta, AGS and the Hamburg interior ministry view Scientology as a “politically motivated destructive cult.” Thus, Caberta explained, as a state institution, it is their duty to protect the public from such organizations. In her meeting with Hamburg’s Pol/Econ Officer and Specialist on November 13, she stressed that she viewed her work as that of a civil servant assigned to do a particular job by the state parliament. Currently, AGS’s responsibilities are three-fold: 1) to analyze what steps the state must take to protect the public from “destructive groups;” 2) to educate the public about the dangers of such organizations; and 3) to assist victims. Hamburg is the only state in Germany with a Scientology working group. Under Caberta’s leadership the working group has five employees. AGS offices were filled with books on Scientology, including all of L. Ron Hubbard’s works and many of his lectures.
3. (C) Caberta stated that Scientology has declared “war on Europe.” She cited evidence from Hamburg’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution (OPC) annual reports of how Scientology attempts to influence politicians and political institutions as well as the press. According to the Hamburg OPC’s 2006 report, Scientology continues to use methods that are “against the free, democratic constitutional structure,” as was established in the 1997 State Interior Ministers meeting. Caberta asserted that Scientology in Germany has received orders from the Los Angeles headquarters to “conquer” Europe. She contends that the new Berlin headquarters have been set up for this “campaign.” She continually stressed that she views Scientology not as a religious organization, but as a “political extremist” one. According to Caberta, the Hamburg Scientologists as well as most of the Scientology members in Germany are only “small fish” and the organization’s strategic planning is conducted in the United States. Caberta showed Pol/Econ Officer and Specialist a booklet she had received early November that appeared to be published by Hamburg’s mayor. The booklet contained the mayor’s photograph and signature, yet was actually a publication from Scientology’s “The Way to Happiness Foundation.” Caberta contended that Scientology regularly used misleading methods to fool individuals into joining and said that such booklets had been distributed to other German cities. For someone unfamiliar with Scientology publications, the booklet looked very much like information brochures from the City of Hamburg.
4. (C) In a meeting at the consulate on December 19, Hamburg OPC leadership explained that it was a political decision for the
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state OPCs to observe Scientology, based upon the “totalitarian assertions” described in L. Ron Hubbard’s writings. They called their observation of Scientology “special,” making it clear that they did not view the organization as a threat and that it was their responsibility to only collect information and not to pass judgment on the organization. They noted that while the OPC does not view Scientology as a religious organization, this would have no bearing on their work as the OPC observes both religious and non-religious institutions.
5. (C) In Hamburg’s Pol/Econ Officer and Specialist’s meetings with Hamburg Scientology figures , our contacts made it clear that the Hamburg church faces a particularly challenging situation with Caberta, who is now considered Germany’s “expert” on Scientology. They also noted that Hamburg is the only German state that has a Scientology working group, although Berlin’s ministry for education has a “sect-watcher” position. (Note: In a meeting on December 14, Hamburg Deputy State Minister of the Interior Christoph Ahlhaus told CG Johnson that Berlin has been trying to convince Caberta to transfer there. End Note.) Scientology press spokesman Frank Busch claimed that AGS is exempt from the German version of the Freedom of Information Act. He complained that Caberta is “above the law” and her work is not being assessed or monitored by the interior ministry. Busch questioned why this lack of scrutiny existed since Scientology found her work to be one-sided, factually incorrect, and “playing with the people’s emotions.” They believe that a normal citizen would have difficulty gathering objective information on Scientology in Hamburg. According to Busch, none of Hamburg’s public libraries have any of L. Ron Hubbard’s books. Scientology members are not allowed to distribute flyers in the city and private individuals allegedly monitor whether members overstep these boundaries. Busch also claimed that Hamburg’s Chamber of Commerce still screens out Scientology members from hiring and encourages members to do so as well, even though the city of Hamburg has ceased such practices (known locally as a “sect-filter”). (Note: Documents containing the “filter” are available on-line at the Chamber of Commerce’s webpage. End Note.)
6. (C) On August 7 at the press release of Caberta’s “Black Book Scientology” Nagel announced that he would propose discussing banning Scientology at the December 7 state interior ministers meeting. In a conversation with Pol/Econ Specialist on August 13, Hamburg Interior Ministry Spokesman Marco Haase suggested that the announcement was the result of several unrelated occurrences, such as the recent publication of Caberta’s book, the case of the Berlin girl and her brother seeking refuge in Hamburg (Ref.), the attention to Scientology generated during the filming of the movie “Valkyrie” in Berlin, in which Tom Cruise stars, and the summer media slump. According to Haase, Nagel believes that a ban alone is not the answer. Rather, assistance to ex-Scientologists and education on Scientology also have important roles to play. Nagel also believes that there is sufficient evidence suggesting that Scientology undertakes activities that undermine the German constitution.
7. (C) In a meeting on December 14 with Hamburg’s CG and Pol/Econ Officer, Hamburg’s Deputy State Minister for the Interior Christoph Ahlhaus clarified that Nagel certainly believes that Scientology should be banned, but he also realizes the political difficulties of such an endeavor. Ahlhaus explained that the Hamburg parliament charged Nagel in a unanimous decision on November 11 to propose the ban at the interior ministers meeting. He also stated that the ministry’s involvement in the issue stems foremost from the criminal cases brought annually against Scientology. Ahlhaus said these numbered over 100 and had been increasing significantly. He also explained that the issue of Scientology was very popular with voters and confirmed that it had come up because of the February 24 Hamburg state elections. Ahlhaus expected that findings would be addressed at the interior ministers’ spring meeting and that perhaps the issue would come up again with the Bavarian state elections next year. After that, he believed that the issue would fizzle out. Ahlhaus portrayed Hamburg as Scientology’s German headquarters and noted that the
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organization is also present in Berlin, Baden-Wurttemberg, and Bavaria, where banning Scientology also has political support. He commented that Scientology is almost like a “criminal organization” with Mafia-type structures.
8. (C) With a strong Scientology Church and the Scientology working group both located in Hamburg, the debate on Scientology in Germany reaches a zenith in this city. Caberta has become a national figure on the organization and Ahlhaus revealed that she often speaks to the press without clearing remarks through the interior ministry. He stated that Nagel believes she is a little “crazy” and assured the CG that Nagel’s office keeps a close watch on her activities. In the meantime, although Nagel is an independent, he has stakes in the upcoming elections and other local politicians are keen to show voters that they are actively addressing their concerns. It is doubtful that the Hamburg government will change their view of Scientology in the future even though officials openly and cordially discuss with ConGen representatives USG policy on religious freedom. Nevertheless, the ban proposal may move to the back burner once elections have passed, leaving Scientology Hamburg and AGS to deal with their regular concerns. END COMMENT.
9. (U) This message has been coordinated with Embassy Berlin. JOHNSON

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