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Religion Library: Scientology

Missions and Expansion

Written by: J. Gordon Melton

Germany had been the most active in pursuing anti-Scientology efforts prior to 1994, but these increased markedly in the late 1990s.In 1997, while the Enquete Commission was still meeting, the government moved to place the Church of Scientology under surveillance. Yet when the Enquete Commission finally issued its report, it concluded that there was "no problem and no danger" from small religious groups in Germany and discounted the idea of brainwashing or mental manipulation.It hardly mentioned Scientology, though it did conclude that further investigation should be pursued.The defeat of the Christian Democratic Union (which had been most vocal in attacking Scientology) in the 1998 elections heralded a de-escalation of the often bitter rhetoric between the government and the church and opened the possibility of Scientology assuming a more positive role in the country.

In both France and Germany, the church has been in a variety of court battles, including a criminal case brought against some church leaders in Lyon.In spite of the negative image perpetuated in the press and the speeches and actions of government officials, the courts, especially national courts, have largely ruled in the church's favor.This was illustrated in Italy in 1986 when authorities announced the closing of all of the extant Italian offices of the church. Three years later seventy-nine church officials went on trial in Milan, charged with deceiving the public.Most were found non-guilty, but six were convicted.The six appealed, and throughout the 1990s the case went back and forth between the Appeals court in Milan and the Italian Supreme Court until 2000 when the Milan court accepted the Supreme Court judgment and found the six innocent.

Through the 1980s and 1990s, Scientology was a major target of anti-cultists and disgruntled former church members. With the abandonment of deprogramming and the demise of the Cult Awareness Network, in both of which events Scientology was closely involved, pressure on the church was significantly reduced. Since the mid-1990s, no new issues have generated any traction in the courts. Over all, the church has been free to grow, limited only by its ability to attract new members and provide leadership for new missions and church centers. Since the mid 1990s, it has grown at a modest but steady pace.

Study Questions:
     1.    Where did Scientology spread most rapidly?
     2.    Describe France and Germany's role in resisting Scientology. What were the underlying motivations?
     3.    What contemporary factors might limit Scientology's spread?


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