Scientologists celebrate anniversary in community hall

"Stuttgarter Zeitung", Germany/January 29, 1999

On February 17, the controversial Scientology Church will celebrate its "40 years of existence in Europe." The anniversary will be held on municipal property: the sect has rented the Cannstatt Community Center for an "information presentation" for three days.

Alfons Schwedler, senior attorney at city hall, justified the letting of the rooms: the Scientologists are recognized neither as unconstitutional nor as banned, therefore the city had no other choice but to rent them the hall. In stating this, he referred to the agreement from 1975, which, as a matter of fact, contains no exclusion clauses. It states there, "The community hall is a public establishment. It is available for business conferences, association and union get-togethers, meetings and conventions. Exhibitions can be permitted if they do not interfere with other arrangements." If the city were to close off the community center to the Scientologists, "then we would not be able to hold our case in court," was the decision of the codes office. One official joked, "We could only get rid of them if we called in the painters."

It is a different story in the legal situation as to the public appearances of the Scientologists: advertisement by the sect on streets and squares has been forbidden by the city for years; no flyers may be distributed in the pedestrian zones. In these issues, the legal options for the Scientologists have been closed. In July, 1996, the Baden-Wuerttemberg Administrative Court in Mannheim had confirmed the bans by the city. Commercial street advertisement in Stuttgart requires a special permit. That decision was accepted by the Scientologists without appeal (case number 5 S 472/96). kAe.

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