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Germany’s Highest Administrative Court Rules for Scientologist Against Bavaria in Human Rights Case

March 10, 2005

On the day Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber meets with politicians in California to promote his state, a Scientologist in Germany has won a major religious discrimination ruling against the Bavarian government in Germany’s highest administrative court.

The Federal Supreme Court’s ruling marks a precedent against the German state most frequently cited by the US State Department when criticizing Germany in its international human rights and religious freedom reports for discriminating against members of the Church of Scientology.

The Court found that the Bavarian Ministry of the Interior (MOI) violated Mr. Christian Winkler’s constitutional rights by relaying to his employers, the City of Munich, that he is a member of the Church of Scientology. As a result of the MOI’s action, Mr. Winkler was instructed by the City to disavow in writing any association with the Scientology religion as a condition for his continued employment, by signing a declaration similar to that used by former regimes against persecuted minority faiths.

Mr. Winkler refused and filed suit, winning a permanent injunction against the City in October 2000. He also brought a separate action against the Bavarian Ministry of the Interior over the MOI’s violation of his privacy rights.

“The ruling is historic because it brings the most religiously intolerant state in Western Europe – Bavaria – back under the German Constitution,” said Leisa Goodman, Human Rights Director of the Church of Scientology International. “It condemns Stoiber’s government and his Minister of Interior, Beckstein, for trampling the civil rights of a Bavarian citizen solely because of his religious beliefs and practices.”

During a hearing yesterday, the Federal Court pointed out that the MOI’s action raised serious constitutional issues, threatening Mr. Winkler’s ability to make a living and thereby survive in Germany. The Court criticized the Bavarian Administrative Appeals Court in Munich for readily agreeing to toss aside fundamental constitutional rights. The Court held that officials of the state are not allowed to exchange personal data with impunity, as the Bavarian Ministry of the Interior had essentially argued. Furthermore, Mr. Winkler had done nothing that would justify the Ministry’s action in violating his basic rights.

The Scientology religion was established in Germany in 1969. Today there are Churches of Scientology in Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hanover, Munich and Stuttgart and smaller organizations, known as Missions, throughout the country.

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