Subject: Is Scientology a Religion in Austria?
Date: Wed, 20 May 1998 20:55:04 GMT
Organization: Deja News - The Leader in Internet Discussion
Is Scientology a recognized religion in Austria?
This page refutes the assertion that Scientology is recognized as a
religion in Austria. More to follow.
Scientology itself claims to be recognized in Austria, and calls on
the "Unabhšngigen Verwaltungssenat" (UVS) [Independent Senate]
of the city of Vienna, which is conspicuous for its peculiar decisions.
In 1995, the UVS had determined that Scientology is a religious
community and not a taxable, commercial enterprise. They focused
their attention on just one thing: must taxes be paid on auditing and
the sale of Scientology literature? Not according to the UVS's
decision, because they determined that they were dealing with a
The UVS, however, does not have the least ability to recognize
whether something is a religious community or not. The only one
responsible for that is the federal government, not the community,
nor Vienna, but the Culture Department of the Ministry of
Education. They have never recognized Scientology.
There are twelve religious communities in Austria. These have
extensive rights available to them. They are:
If a religion is officially recognized, it is a corporation of public
rights, and may, among other things, conduct its religious education
in public schools at state expense (the religious instructors are
provided by the religious community itself), is exempt from taxes,
does not have to participate in collective agreements, etc.
In 1997 the application of the Jehovah's Witnesses was turned
down. The basis of this decision was that they were not
pro-government, because they refuse to take part in elections. They
describe this attitude as being "politically neutral."
In 1997 a federal law was passed that re-vamped the rules for
recognition as a religious community. The fact that it placed new,
built-in hurdles for those wishing to be recognized as a church
became evident when it was found that at least five of the previously
recognized churches did not have enough members to qualify for an
application. Besides this it became clear, after reading the fine print,
that a few of the passages in this law referred to Scientology.
Scientology is not only not recognized in Austria, but it does not
stand a chance of being recognized.
- Roman Catholic
- Evangelical A.B.
- Evangelical H.B.
- Greek Orthodox
- Catholic Orthodox
- Armenian Apostolic
- New Apostolic and the Syrian Orthodox Churches
- The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons)
- Islamic Hanefitic rite
The UVS decision has also been criticized in high places
Ombudsman Horst Schender has called upon the
responsible officials to review the activities of the
Scientology sect in reference to commercial and tax
laws. For about three years, the attorney has been
pursuing an investigative proceeding which is
supposed to determine whether certain activities of
Scientology are undermining the commercial
establishment, he stated in a press conference from his
In essence, the matter deals with whether the
so-called "auditing" is a religious exercise or a type of
life and social counseling. If the latter were the case,
then the commerce officials are being deprived of
some financial contributions. Also the sales activity of
Scientology, to the extent that books are offered for
sale, could be categorized as commerce in trade under
certain circumstances, according to Schender.
Financially, Scientology has a lot at stake in the
question of whether it is a church or a business,
because churches in Austria are not required to pay
The Ministry of Commerce has assigned the three
state governments of Vienna, Salzburg and Karnten, in
which Scientology associations exist, the task of
clarifying this question.  In Vienna only, a charge
against the sect on suspicion of unauthorized
commerce was mentioned. In the first instance, a civil
fine could result, depending on whether a finding of
commercial exploitation as a life and social consulting
company without authorization were made.
Scientology states that this decision was already
granted by the UVS. Punitive procedure is suspended
if Scientology were to be considered a church.
Schender does not agree with this decision. "The
determination as to whether an institution is a church
or not does not lie in the realm of an independent
Senate, but is made by the appropriate department in
the Ministry of Education. To date, they have not yet
recognized the Scientology Church as a religion,"
stated the attorney. For this reason, he sees a much
wider field of operation for the commerce officials.
This area should be used to conduct new
investigations, demanded Schender. The attorney will
see to it in the future "that the officials comply with
their area of responsibility in regards to the activities of
the Scientology Church," said Schender.
APA302, April 24, 1996
The Ministry of Education Speaks about Scientology Publications
In a brochure, the Ministry of Education had the
following to say about the Church of Scientology's
announcement that it would distribute Scientology
material to all schools in Austria:
Another official opinion on Scientology (and other like groups) is
contained in a sect brochure which is distributed by the Ministry of
"This method contradicts the normal procedure
followed by non- government organizations, who
obtain the agreement of the Education department
before distributing newspapers or publications [in
Since that time, Education Minister Elisabeth Gehrer
has directed all state school boards and directors to
refrain from distributing the Scientology publications.
The schools were instructed to return the materials
sent to them by the Scientology Church. These
[Ministry of Education] brochures are available from
the Ministry of Education in Vienna.
÷PV press release,
July 1, 1997
Politicians on Scientology
Representative Fritz Neugebauer, SP÷:
Several days ago, the Commission for Psychiatric
Violations of Human Rights distributed a booklet
entitled: "Psychiatry - the Decline of Schools." The
people behind this group are the Scientologists, a sect
which is being considered for prohibition throughout
all of Europe. On the inside cover of the booklet, it
states that the publication has been made possible by
a grant from the International Association of
Scientologists. In the booklet, the psychological care
of school children is demonized and is labelled as
"child abuse." "In reality it is the Scientologists who
upset people with psychological stress to make them
receptive of their sect," warns Representative and
÷GB Vice President  Fritz Neugebauer.
÷VP Press Release:
The high gloss booklet imparts the impression of
seriousness. "All the more reason for the urgent
"Today, psychological care of school children is an
important bastion of pedagogy, and is not an aid with
which children and their parents can do without," the
representative summed up from his own experience as
Besides that there are numerous obstacles, school
stress, and psychological troubles which need to be
"In any case, the best place for the Scientology
booklet is in the trash can," is the final
recommendation from Neugebauer to his professional
Press release of June 14, 1996
Vienna, July 22, 1997 (÷vp-PD) A discussion took
place this afternoon at the request of Werner Amon in
the ÷VP federal party. The discussion participants
were: ÷VP General Secretary Mag. Othmar Karas,
Rep. Maria Rach-Kallat, the ÷VP Security Speaker,
Rep. Paul Kiss, and the ÷VP sect speaker [sic!] Rep.
Werner Amon (z. NR).
Letter to the Editor by Karl ÷llinger, National Council
Representative for the Green Party:
It was unanimously decided by all participants that the
Scientology Sect be rejected by the ÷VP as
unmistakably socially disruptive and personally
destructive, and that people be warned about it. This
sect not only endangers democracy (as stated by
Families Minister Dr. Martin Bartenstein in the
Morning Journal), but also pursues commercial
interests and political power under the guise of
I do not at all know whether Josef Hoechtl (VP) is for
the prohibition of Scientology. I am quite sure that I
have not required it. I am also sure that Scientology
should not be recognized as a religion and valued
accordingly, as Michael von Bruck the theologian
If the concept of religion has gone so far as to
encompass Scientology, then Coca-Cola or Pepsi
would also be world religions. However, in contrast to
a commercial enterprise, Scientology pursues goals
which lie in the direction of totalitarian domination.
Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology stated,
"Perhaps some time in the future the goal will be
reached, when only the non-aberrated receive
citizenship and can profit from it. This is a worthy goal,
the attainment of which would enable a considerable
increase of the ability to survive and of the happiness
of mankind." (By "aberrated" - "sick" - is meant
Scientology is cut from a whole different block of
wood than a group which calls upon the teachings of
Buddhism or Hinduism. In order to come to terms
with Scientology, it will require more than just the
symbol of a round table used by Michael von Bruck.
The state may not shirk its responsibility, but must
proceed upon a (very difficult) detour between the
right to religious freedom and the right to spiritual
"Der Standard", May 8, 1996
Federal law of the legal character of religiously
Sect brochure of the Ministry of Families
Press release from Scientology about the alleged recognition
Dr. Ernst Kollmer's testimony about Scientology allegedly
being a genuine religion.
German Scientology News
- In Austria religious groups are not permitted to organize into
associations. For this reason, an association of the
Unification Church (Moony sect) was dissolved in the
1970's. Since then, this regulation has not been stringently
- ÷GB: ÷sterreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund [Austrian Labor
- According to Bruck, a theologian from Munich, all religious
groups must be treated identically in a democracy.
Discussions should be held in its own public institutions
(round tables). ÷lliger's letter was the report about the
"Dialogue of Religions", which appeared in Salzburg in May