The homeland of legendary church reformer Martin Luther said over the weekend it will seek to ban the Church of Scientology – an organization considered to be in conflict with Germany's constitution.
High level German officials, including all 16 state interior ministers, agreed to give the nation's domestic intelligence agency the job of preparing necessary information to ban the organization, which is considered by most Christians a cult, according to The Associated Press.
The ministers, including federal Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, "consider Scientology to be an organization that is not compatible with the constitution," said Berlin Interior Minister Ehrhart Koerting, who presided over the officials' two-day conference, according to AP.
The most recent annual report by their agencies criticized the church for disregarding human rights. The German government has also accused Scientology of brainwashing people, financial exploitation, and having political ambition in Germany, according to The Times of London.
Germany has monitored the Church of Scientology for a decade on suspicion that it "threatens the peaceful democratic order" of the country. Berlin does not recognize Scientology as a religion although its European neighbors, including Spain and Portugal, consider it a legal religious body.
Scientologists do not worship God or Jesus Christ, despite the word "church" in its name. They believe that man is an immortal spiritual being called a thetan and his capabilities are unlimited. There is no such thing as faith in Scientology, instead the truth is what is observed to be true. Often critics have accused the secretive organization of practicing cult-like mind control.
Wilfried Handl, 53, a scientologist for 28 years until he left five years ago warns about the hidden, but potential destructive power of the organization.
"You cannot underestimate Scientology," Handl said, according to The Times. "It's a small, totalitarian creed, based on a small book by Hubbard. But Nazism also began with a small book, by Hitler. And look what happened," he said.
Meanwhile, Scientology defector, Jeannette Schweitzer, who left the group on the verge of suicide, has worked for the past 17 years to help ex-Scientologists. She says Scientology should be "eradicated," detailing the anguish she endured for three years as a paid-up member, which cost her about $100,000, according to The Times.
If Germany is successful, it will become the first western country to shut down the organization.
The Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology was founded in 1954 by the late science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. It began operating in Germany in 1970 and officials estimate it has some 6,000 members in the country. Its followers include a number of Hollywood stars including prominent members Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
Worldwide, the organization claims to have more than 7,500 "churches," missions and groups and 10 million members in 163 nations.