DPA (Germany), Feb. 3, 2003
BONN – In a stunning move, German tax authorities have granted tax-exempt status to the controversial Church of Scientology, retroactive back to 1994, Scientology officials announced Monday.
The announcement sent shock waves through Germany, where Scientology is widely viewed as a subversive cult.
The organization is under surveillance by German intelligence as “a movement posing a threat to the free and constitutional order” in Germany.
The German federal government, various state and local governments have all produced booklets and other information to warn unwary citizens about the “dangers” of Scientology.
The US State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report has repeatedly accused the German government of discrimination against Scientologists.
The tax ruling came from the Federal Office of Finances in Bonn on the basis of laws covering double taxation of American organizations operating in Germany.
Because the Church of Scientology is classified as a tax-exempt religious organization in the United States, it cannot be taxed in Germany, according to the ruling.
The ruling, applicable to the period 1994 to 2005, affects organization licensing fees. Until now, 25 per cent of the fee revenues was handed over to German tax coffers.
Scientology welcomed the ruling, issuing a statement saying, “This decision is a major step in our efforts to be treated like all other religious organisations in Germany, as is spelled out in the German constitution and international agreements.”
Scientology was founded in 1954 by Science-Fiction author L. Ronald Hubbard. It set up a chapter in Germany in 1970 and claims between 20,000 and 70,000 members. German intelligence puts the figure at closer to 6,000.