All thoroughfare came to a stop downtown on Monday. Members of the Scientology sect stood everywhere and pressed leaflets and balloons into the hands of passersby. On two stages on Stein Street and on Alsteranleger, sect members had rolled out red carpets. However, they were not greeted ceremoniously by any means, but with police whistles and boo's.
The Scientology Commissioner of the Hamburg Senate, Ursula Caberta, warned about the "psycho[logical] concern's strategy." She said it had hidden its goals behind formulations which sounded unobjectionable. The "Marathon for Religious Freedom" in the central city was said to be an example of the strategy. Scientology was not a church, but a psycho-concern which exploited people. "The organization's goals and ideology are directed against our liberal democratic basic order."
On the fringes of the activity, 15 members of the Youth Union (JU) distributed leaflets entitled, "Stop Scientology!" It said that the goal of the Scientology Organization was the achievement of a totalitarian dictatorship and legal system. While the organization claimed, unjustifiably, entitlements to the protection by Basic Law for religious freedom, it simultaneously harassed and spied on its opponents with its own secret service. It was said to use conspiratorial methods to infiltrate important areas of state and society.
Sect marshals immediately tried to drive off the protesters. "Go someplace else, we've rented this spot," is what Jan Foertsch of the JU repeated of the short exchange of words.
Rental, however, has nothing to do with it. The fact is that the demonstration had been reported, in advance, to the police. "Scientology is not a prohibited organization, therefore the demonstration falls under freedom of assembly," said a police spokesman. The big tents and the stages also fell under "assembly." The central district office had only given a special usage permit to the sect to set up three tents so that actors could change clothes. However, it denied Scientology the usage of a large crane which Scientology wanted to use to film the crowd. The sect sued for that, in vain, in administrative court.
The CDU citizens faction is appalled. "We will still check to see if the permit had to have been granted on legal grounds," said faction chief Ole von Beust. "We perceive this event in the middle of the city as a provocations of the Hamburg citizenry." He said that Scientology exploited its members, shamelessly exploited people in need, and wanted to bring its victims into a state of dependency.
In the central district office, it is believed that the permit for three small tents had to have been granted. "Under principle of equal treatment, we had to allow Scientology to set up the tents," said spokeswoman Claudia Eggers. "We cannot refuse to issue the permit at our whim." In the meantime, the sect is proudly moving into its new spaces: the sect center will now be found not far from the assembly building at the corners of Dom Street and Neuer Fischmarkt.