Gerhard Besier
Erwin K. Scheuch (editors):

The New Inquisitors

 

 


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Ausführlicher Titel - Complete Title
Was steht in diesem Buch- Content Overview
Inhaltsverzeichnis - Table of Contents
Wer sind die Autoren - The Contributors?
Einleitung - Introduction
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Ausführlicher Titel - Complete Title

Gerhard Besier, Erwin K. Scheuch (editors):

The New Inquisitors

Mit zahlreichen Dokumenten und Anmerkungen.

1. Auflage 2003, 434 Seiten, DIN A5, broschiert

ISBN 3-929351-20-X

Preise: EUR 24,95 [D], EUR 26,96 [A], SFR 39,00, USD 29,95

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Was steht in diesem Buch? - Content Overview

Short text

Religious freedom is a fundamental right guaranteed in the constitutions of most modern democratic nations. Germany is among these nations, but conflicts persist, especially between German state churches and religious minorities. Minority religions in Germany today routinely must defend themselves against institutionalized mistrust, bias, and occasionally, outright persecution not only by officials of favored religions, but also by government officials themselves. Indeed, despite constitutional guarantees, the right to religious freedom for all German citizens and religious groups is not being realized.

In 1996, a special body, The Enquete Commission, was appointed by the German Parliament to investigate so-called “sects and psychogroups.” Unfortunately, the religious communities who were investigated were given no chance to react to allegations made against them. The commission’s findings, based on almost no credible evidence, referred to certain religious minorities as dangerous and suspect and recommended that surveillance of these groups be continued. The commission’s findings, therefore, did little to strengthen the free exercise of religion in Germany but rather exacerbated a climate of hysteria about certain religious groups whose members have been described by respected experts as some of Germany’s best citizens.

This volume gathers expert opinions, petitions, appeals and statements pertaining to the status of religious minorities in Germany today. The findings support the notion that indeed, there is an unnecessary “New Inquisition” taking place in Germany today. Special attention is paid to comparing the treatment of religious minorities in other countries, especially the United States where religious pluralism, and the accompanying difficulties of granting religious freedom to all religious groups, is perhaps more a reality than in any other nations of the world.

Preface

Continental Europe seems to have a problem: the so-called "sects and psychogroups". Governments in France, Germany, Belgium, and Austria started proceeding against the alleged "dangers" spreading from these groups with the help of parliamentary commissions and laws in recent years. Between 1996 and 1998 a unique chain of events unfolded in Germany. The German Bundestag (Federal Parliament) empowered a largely self-selected "Commission to Observe Sects and Psychogroups". It was the declared goal of the proponents of this committee not merely to alert the public that there might be problematic developments under the guise of religion. The prime purpose was to specify the basis for a tax-financed foundation to monitor the activity of sects and psychogroups. The foundation would institutionalize the training of observers, and only certified observers could then act as experts in court cases. At the time of the institutionalization of the Enquete Commission, there was a media inflation of reports about questionable practices of such sects as the "Moonies" or Scientologists - to name but a few (including Jehovah's Witnesses) that were singled out by the Commission as objects wanting close observation. This lead to widespread discrimination by public employers. Formal resolutions called for a ban on employing members of such religious groupings. If they were already public servants and their allegiance to one of these "sects" became known, their files in the employment offices were marked - as for example in the case of Scientologists with an "S". Systematic research resulted in the finding that only 0.7 percent of the adult population of Germany were members or close to one of these groupings. Why institutionalize a society-wide system of monitoring beliefs? A group of important intellectual figures called into question whether governmental institutions should be in the business of monitoring beliefs at all. A parallel to the McCarthy days in the USA was mentioned. The counter-position taken in this volume on the controversy about the freedom of beliefs is the stance that the state may regulate behavior only. And if proponents of society-wide monitoring argued that a sort of consumer protection was needed to shield citizens from the suggestive techniques of persuasion practiced by these groups, the group of public figures pointed to the freedom granted to campaigns in politics and advertising for consumer products: in a democracy we respect people as adults to make their own choices in view even of seductive forms of influence, and to bear the consequences of these freedoms. The wished for regulation of persuasive practices did not end with religious groups but included organized advice to citizens if this was offered by groups unconnected with the established churches, up to and embracing management training courses involving tactics of psychic pressure. Germany has a special legal provision for the established churches: Roman Catholicism and various Protestant denominations. Groups affiliated with these churches enjoy tax-free status, and for the established churches the tax offices collect a surcharge of nine percent on income tax. The groups under attack enjoy none of these privileges. They do not ask for them. What they do ask is to be left alone when their activities might overlap with that of church affiliated organizations. In Part one, well known intellectual figures from several countries argue against regulating beliefs and practices that are accepted for established churches, political parties and business. In doing so they analyze forms of constraint and outright intimidation that are unbelievable for a society that thinks of itself as being liberal. In the second part, the groupings under attack argue their case. The two parts together present an overview of a development where under the guise of patronizing protectionism and established morality, the freedom of developing dissent ways of beliefs and lifestyles is curtailed. The original German version of this book appeared in 1999 (Fromm Publishing House, Osnabrrck). In the meantime, one of our authors, Derek H. Davis, has published his contribution "Religious Persecution in Today's Germany: Old Habits Renewed" in his book Religious Liberty in Northern Europe in the Twenty-First Century (Waco, 2000, pp..107-124). We therefore omitted it in this volume. We are indebted to all those who made substantial contributions to this book and to those who rendered its publication possible by giving us some moral and financial support.

Gerhard Besier and Erwin K. Scheuch

Heidelberg and Cologne, December 2002

 
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Inhaltsverzeichnis - Table of Contents

Hier finden Sie das Inhaltsverzeichnis (mit Seitenzahlen) der The New Inquisitors:

 

Part One: Essays

Part Two: Documents

 


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Die Autoren - The Contributors

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Einleitung zum Buch - Introduction

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Stimmen zum Buch - Rezensionen

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