Wednesday, 1 August 2012

US State Department Religious Freedom Report 2011.

Listed below are passages that mention Scientology in certain country sections of the U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom Report for 2011, released on July 30, 2012.

Executive Summary
In Russia, violent extremism in the North Caucasus region led to negative popular attitudes in many other regions toward traditionally Muslim ethnic groups. The government continued to use the “Law on Combating Extremist Activity” to justify raids on religious organizations, detain and prosecute their members, and restrict the freedom to worship of minority group members, particularly targeting Muslim followers of Turkish theologian Said Nursi’s works, Jehovah's Witnesses, Falun Gong, and Scientologists.

Religious groups that do not qualify for either religious society or religious confessional community status may apply to become associations under the Law of Associations. Associations have juridical standing and have many of the same rights as confessional communities, such as the right to own real estate within the parameters of the law on associations. Some groups organize as associations even while applying for recognition as religious societies. The Church of Scientology, the Unification Church, and a number of smaller groups are organized as associations.
The embassy maintained an active dialogue with members of the Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim communities, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Church of Scientology, the Unification Church, and other religious groups.

According to a 2007 report, larger non-recognized religious groups who do not receive funds from the state include Jehovah’s Witnesses with 23,701 baptized and 50,000 “churchgoers”; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) with 4,000 members; Seventh-day Adventists with 2,000; Hindus with 5,000; Sikhs with 3,000; Hare Krishnas with 1,500; and the Church of Scientology with 200 to 300 members. Experts consider these statistics to be accurate still.
The government funds the Center for Information and Advice on Harmful Sectarian Organizations (CIAOSN), which collects publicly available information on a wide range of religious and philosophical groups, provides information to the public, and, upon request, gives advice to authorities on “sectarian” organizations. CIAOSN published no reports during the year. CIAOSN continues to maintain on its website a document that contains a list of 189 groups that could be considered “sects,” including the Church of Scientology, the Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
There have been no instances in which a group has applied for official recognition and been denied. However, the Church of Scientology claims it has not bothered to apply since its assumption is it would be denied recognition.

Groups that constitute 1 percent or less of the population include Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Scientologists, Baha’is , and adherents of Shintoism and Taoism.

Approximately 10 years ago, the Church of Scientology was denied official approval. The Church has no plans to apply in the future and continues to meet and worship. Leaders stated that there were no instances of religious discrimination during the year.

The Church of Scientology estimates 50,000 members
Even though MIVILUDES continues to monitor closely religious movements that it considers to be sects, the 2010 report does not deliberately single out Scientology and Jehovah’s Witnesses as it has in the past.
In October 2009 a Paris correctional court found the Church of Scientology and four of its leaders guilty of fraud and fined the organization 600,000 euros ($800,000) but stopped short of banning the group’s activities. The defendants had been charged under a statute targeting organized crime. Alain Rosenberg, described as the “mastermind” of the Spiritual Association of the Church of Scientology in France, received a two-year suspended sentence and was fined 30,000 euros ($40,000). The three other leaders received suspended prison sentences ranging from 18 months to two years and fines of 5,000 to 30,000 euros ($6,650 to $40,000). The Church of Scientology appealed the ruling. The ruling on the appeal will be made in 2012.
The Church of Scientology continued to report instances of societal discrimination during the year, including the difficulty some members had in obtaining bank accounts. Church officials noted, however, that the French National Bank often reversed the decisions of local banks that had refused accounts to church members even if the accounts ultimately granted were more basic than sought. Church officials also reported positive relations with local police and officials at the Ministry of Interior.

There were, however, individual reports expressing concerns regarding governmental (federal and state) treatment of some religious minorities, notably Scientologists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Muslims.
The Roman Catholic and Protestant churches continued to use “sect commissioners” to warn the public of alleged dangers from some minority religious groups such as the Unification Church, Scientologists, Universelles Leben (Universal Life), and Transcendental Meditation practitioners. Scientologists continued to find that “sect filters” were used to discriminate against them in education, employment, and political party membership. A sect filter is defined as a written agreement a new employee has to sign stating that he or she has no contact with Scientology, has not participated in its training courses, and rejects its doctrines.
The government does not consider Scientology a religion, and the organization has not been granted PLC status.
Some state governments and federal agencies did not recognize certain belief systems, including Scientology, as religions; however, the absence of recognition did not prevent their adherents from engaging in public and private religious activities.
Scientologists reported instances of societal and governmental discrimination. The Constitutional Court and various courts at the state level have not explicitly ruled that Scientology is a religion, but have left the question unanswered. Various courts at the state and federal level have condemned the improper use of so-called “sect filters” that have been used to blacklist and boycott Scientologists in the public and private sectors.

Federal and some state authorities described Scientology as a potential threat to democratic order, which resulted in discrimination against Scientologists in both the public and private sectors. Several states published pamphlets detailing the church’s ideology and practice, warning of the “dangers” the religion allegedly poses to democracy, the legal system, and human rights. In addition, government agencies at the federal and state levels and some organizations in the private sector established rules and procedures that discriminated against Scientology as an organization and against its members.

The federal and state Offices for the Protection of the Constitution (OPCs) in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg, and Lower Saxony continued to monitor the activities of the COS, mainly focusing on evaluating Scientology publications and public activities to determine if they violated the German constitution. The OPCs did not impede the believers’ freedom to practice their religion. In 2010, the OPC report from Baden-Wuerttemberg stated that monitoring by the OPC “creates considerable problems in recruiting new members for Scientology and has limited their ability to expand successfully,” and that trend continued throughout the year. The COS reported during the year that the OPC regularly contacted its members to question them about their organization. The COS also reported the OPC regularly collected names of members from church publications and digitally archived this information to be used in citizenship and employment proceedings.
In response to complaints from Scientologists, the government issued statements which proclaimed all individual members of the Church of Scientology enjoy full religious freedom rights and protection under the German constitution. However, the government stated the Church of Scientology is considered profit-oriented, and as such is not an officially recognized religious group and does not have tax-exempt status.
The Catholic and Protestant churches continued to oppose Scientology publicly. Additionally, several private organizations continued to issue public warnings about Scientology after school study programs.

Sect commissioners, primarily church officials from the Protestant and Catholic churches, investigated “sects, cults, and psycho groups” and publicized what they considered to be the dangers of these groups to the public. Protestant sect commissioners were especially active in their efforts to warn the public about alleged dangers posed by the Unification Church, Scientology, Bhagwan-Osho, Transcendental Meditation, and Universal Life. Print and Internet literature of the sect commissioners portrayed these groups unfavorably.

Scientologists in Hamburg continued to report discrimination due to the use of “sect filters,” stating that the Bundesagentur fur Arbeit (Federal Employment Office) continued to use “filters,” as did many small and medium-sized businesses. The Hamburg Chamber of Commerce continued to use the “filter” in its mediation department.

Four of the major political parties (the Christian Democratic Union, Christian Social Union, Social Democratic Party, and Free Democratic Party) have banned Scientologists from party membership. Scientologists unsuccessfully challenged these bans in courts.

The Ministry of Education and Religion indirectly recognizes groups as “known religions” by issuing house of prayer permits to them. A separate permit is required for each physical place of worship, but a religious group with at least one valid permit is considered a known religion and is protected under freedom of religion laws. Some religious groups, including Catholics, Pentecostals, Baha’is, Methodists, Mormons, evangelical Protestants, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, are recognized as known religions. Other groups, including Scientologists, Hare Krishna devotees, and polytheistic Hellenic religious groups, have applied for but never received house of prayer permits.

Some religious groups face additional legal and administrative burdens because they cannot function as religious legal entities. Scientologists and members of polytheistic Hellenic religious groups practice their faiths as registered nonprofit civil law organizations. Without the recognition afforded by house of prayer permits, weddings officiated by religious leaders are not recognized legally. To receive house of prayer permits, applicants must receive approval from the local urban planning department, attesting that a place of worship meets city planning regulations and “safe congregation” requirements prior to filing an application with the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs.

Some religious groups, including evangelical Christians and Scientologists, faced negative coverage from government-run media outlets and government-funded nongovernmental organizations (NGOs.)
The government enforced existing restrictions on unregistered groups and minority religious groups. Local officials attempted to limit, often through raids and brief detention of members, the practice of religion by some minority groups, such as evangelical Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientologists, and Muslims not affiliated with the Spiritual Association of Muslims of Kazakhstan (SAMK), a national organization with extremely close ties to the government and headed by the chief mufti in Almaty. The government applied laws governing unregistered religious groups unevenly during the year. Local and national law enforcement authorities prosecuted and fined nontraditional religious groups for conducting illegal or unsanctioned educational, religious, or entrepreneurial activities. No apolitical religious groups were banned.
Several government-controlled media outlets and government-funded NGOs continued to publish or broadcast stories critical of nontraditional religious groups, such as evangelical Protestant Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientologists, and Hare Krishnas, depicting them as dangerous sects harmful to society.
On April 20, the government-run television channel Khabar broadcast a documentary criticizing Sufism and claiming that a Sufi leader disseminated “destructive” and “non-traditional” teachings. A network of government-funded NGOs held numerous events throughout the country denouncing the work of “dangerous sects,” including the Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientologists, Baptists, and Ahmadi Muslims.

Police across the country participated in raids on various minority religious groups, often confiscating religious literature and other property. For example, on August 4, government officials, including officers from the Federal Security Service (FSB), Special Operations State Militia (OMON), and Moscow police, entered the Moscow Scientology offices, destroyed office property, and reportedly assaulted several staff members, leading to one hospitalization. During the 13-hour raid, the security forces verbally abused and insulted the Scientologists and allegedly removed cash, cameras, personal computer equipment, and mobile telephones. Office computers and 63 hard drives were confiscated and not returned. After the raid, authorities summoned 45 Scientology staff and family members to the prosecutor’s office for questioning, including about the theological foundation of Scientology. Authorities previously interrogated Scientologists and confiscated literature at the center in March 2010.

Publications declared extremist by a court were automatically added to the federal list of extremist materials. It was often difficult to remove an item from the list and court decisions on removal were not always consistent.
On April 14, the Surgut City Court of the Khanty-Mansiysk region overturned a 2010 ruling that classified the works of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard as extremist. Due to the ruling, all 29 Church of Scientology publications previously on the federal list of extremist materials were removed on April 26. However, the government appealed the decision, which was expected to be heard in the Moscow regional court in 2012. As of year’s end, no Church of Scientology publications were on the list.
The Church of Scientology continued to face difficulties registering its religious organizations. The government continued to ignore three ECHR rulings that it must register the Church of Scientology in Moscow, Surgut, and Nizhnekamsk. The ECHR declared that the 15-year requirement for registering an LRO violated the European Convention on Human Rights’ provisions on the freedoms of religion and association and awarded monetary compensation for damages and legal costs to the groups. As of the year’s end, the government compensated the church for damages and legal costs but did not register the church.
Law enforcement officials, the ROC, and legislative bodies called for protecting the “spiritual security” of the country by discouraging the growth of “sects” and “cults.” Within the MOJ there is a council of experts for conducting state religious studies expert analysis. The head of the council, Alexander Dvorkin, was an outspoken proponent of categorizing minority religious groups as “extremist cults” and “totalitarian sects.” Among the groups so labeled were Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientologists, neo-Pentecostals, and Mormons.
The U.S. government continued to engage the government, religious groups, NGOs, and religious freedom advocates in a regular dialogue on religious freedom. Embassy officers met with and actively sought feedback on the status and concerns of representatives of the Office of the Commission on Human Rights in the Russian Federation and representatives of Muslim, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Church of Scientology religious groups, among others.

South Africa
Other Christian groups include a variety of Protestant denominations (Methodist, Dutch Reformed, Anglican, Baptist, Congregational, Lutheran, and Presbyterian), the Roman Catholic Church, and Greek Orthodox, Scientology, and Seventh-day Adventist churches.

The Observatory of Religious Pluralism maintains an official directory of non-Catholic places of worship throughout the country. As of December, there were 5,320 other places of worship listed in the registry, an increase of over 1,000 entries from the previous year. There were 3,092 places of worship listed for evangelical and Protestant churches, amounting to over 50 percent of the directory’s entries. The directory also included 1,032 Islamic places of worship, 746 places of worship for Jehovah’s Witnesses, and 121 places of worship for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). Religious groups reporting fewer than one hundred places of worship in the country included: Buddhist (99); Orthodox (96); Jewish (31); Baha’i (28), other Christian religions (26); other religions (19); Scientologist (14); Hindu (10); and Christian Science (6).

The Church of Scientology, the Baha’i Faith, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mahikari Religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), and the Unification Church are registered.

Thank you mnql1.

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