Scientology member recruitment: eso group launches offensive

The Scientology sect is trying to regain a foothold in the North. Camouflage organizations are to establish contact with the population.

Among other things, this is where the new members are supposed to end up: Scientology headquarters in Hamburg Photo: dpa

Scientology is attempting a comeback. After it had been quiet around the sect for years, the eso group controlled from Florida has recently been trying harder to win new members, especially in Hamburg: through front organizations, whose connection to Scientology is wisely concealed.

For example, a "Commission for Violations of Human Rights by Psychiatry" (KVPM) is currently campaigning against the practice of youth welfare offices to take children whose well-being is acutely endangered – for example, due to domestic violence or neglect – out of their parents’ home in order to prevent worse. For the Scientology front organization, founded in 1972, which has a contact point in Rahlstedt, this is "state child theft". For Hamburg’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution, this in turn is a "not even remotely justifiable term" with which the Scientologists’ "front group" is trying to "position itself in a way that is effective for the public.

For years, Scientology has been trying to win new, solvent members in the social networks and through front organizations – mostly in the area of life support. Thus, the Scientology subsidiary "Narconon" already operated a "drug help facility" near Itzehoe in the 1980s and 1990s, through which it recruited addicted people for the sect.

With the topic drugs the sect tries to score also today still. For some weeks now, "information brochures" on the subject of drug abuse, which were already published in 2015, have been increasingly appearing in the mailboxes of private households in Hamburg. The publisher of the mini pamphlets on cannabis, LSD or heroin is an association called "Say no to drugs – say yes to life".

Marco Haase, Office for the Protection of the Constitution

"Scientology tries to gain new followers via the instrumentalization of socially accepted commitment"

This, too, knows the State Office for the Protection of the Constitution, is a Scientology cover organization, although there is not a single reference to this connection in the brochures. "Scientology is trying to gain new followers and improve its tarnished image by instrumentalizing socially accepted commitment," says Marco Haase, spokesman for the Hamburg Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

The Scientologists’ strategy also includes an attempt by "Say No to Drugs" to participate in the Hamburg Commercial Bank Run – the former HSH Nordbank Run – on June 22 in Hafen City as a group of runners. The organizers sought information from the Office for the Protection of the Constitution and, as the organization’s management confirmed to the taz, cancelled the Scientologists’ participation. Last year, the group had succeeded in participating in the sports event and using the event to promote itself.

The reason for all these activities: Scientology is running out of followers, the number of dropouts in Germany and also in Hamburg has for years far exceeded the number of new recruits. According to the report of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the number of cult followers living in Hamburg has more than halved in the past ten years – from 750 to 350 people.

Observed by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution

Also due to state involvement: Since 1997, the "Church", as the sect calls itself, has been observed by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution because of anti-democratic aspirations. For 18 years, from 1992 to 2010, there was even a "Scientology Working Group" in the Interior Department, headed by former SPD Member of Parliament Ursula Caberta, which looked after the sect’s activities and warned citizens about it.

The public relations work bore fruit: As late as the 1980s and 1990s, cult members had tried to use brokerage firms to push the conversion of rental apartments into property and thus raise money for themselves and the "Church." In the meantime, these companies have also disappeared from the market.