The term ''sect filter'' was invented by Scientologists in reference to a German Federal Government policy.
An American Scientology recently sued Ursula Caberta, head of the Task Force on Scientology of the Hamburg, Germany, government over the ''sect filter.''
Policy guidance issued by the German Federal Government has raised concerns about a potential for discrimination against U.S. firms in procurement decisions by German entities. In September 1998, the Federal Economics Ministry issued procurement guidelines to be put into effect by all Federal Government Ministries. These procurement guidelines warn that a firm should be deemed ''unreliable'' if it refuses to sign a so-called sect filter. The filter requires a firm's leadership to attest that Scientology principles will not be used or spread in fulfillment of any contract; that the leadership of a firm will not recommend or approve participation in courses or seminars relating to Scientology principles during the course of business; and that firms reject Scientology principles in conjunction with any subsidiary. Procurement entities are permitted to reject bids and immediately terminate contracts if a firm does not sign the sect filter. Although issued at the Federal level only for use on procurements related to consulting or training services, state-level entities and even private firms currently appear to be using sect filters beyond that narrow scope.
Annual report on discrimination in foreign government procurement, Office of the United States Trade Representative, Washington, D.C., April 30, 2000
Certain elements in the U.S. government support Scientology's view that this policy amounts to ''religious discrimination.'' However, the Germany government does not consider the Church of Scientology to be a religion, but rather a business enterprise with an anti-constitutional agenda:
Americans don't like being told how to run their lives, or their country, especially by people who aren't Americans. But we have a fatal attraction for telling others how to govern their societies. A case in point is the annual survey of human rights around the world, wherein the State Department, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and other federal agencies hold the nations of the world up to American standards of democracy and freedom.
(...) When told by the likes of Madeleine Albright that they have earned a solid B-plus in human rights, our democratic allies are apt to grit their teeth and smile politely. Superpower status confers a certain presumption. Occasionally, however, one of our pupils will talk back in class. And that is what the Germans are doing now. At issue is the annual report to Congress of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, which complains that contracting practices of the German government discriminate against members of the Church of Scientology. In Germany, companies seeking certain training and consulting contracts with the federal government may be disqualified if they refuse to sign ''sect filter'' statements, which are designed to assure that the principles of Scientology will not be employed in their work, or the work of subsidiaries, and that Scientology will not be promoted by management. The official German attitude toward the Church of Scientology — of which it manifestly does not approve — has been a matter of concern to the Clinton administration.
(...) The State Department regards German hostility toward Scientology as a form of religious discrimination.
(...) The trouble with all this is that the Germans are wholly justified in their attitude, and the Clinton administration is merely responding to pressure from Scientologists and their lawyers. The Germans do not consider the Church of Scientology, founded by the late science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, to be a religion but a business enterprise, and a cult, with criminal overtones. The German ambassador in Washington, Juergen Chrobog, explains the contract regulations this way: They are ''not focused on membership in the Scientology organization but... designed to rule out the possibility that Ron Hubbard's methods, which seek to psychologically influence behavior, psychologically manipulate or oppress individuals, could be used for training or consulting purposes.'' As the Germans continually explain, because of their historical experience in the 20th century, they are peculiarly sensitive to the presence of cults and extremist groups in their midst. This may seem shocking to Americans, for whom tolerance is a kind of religious doctrine, but it makes sense to Germans, who have suffered greatly for past sins. For their part, the Scientologists have deployed all manner of crude propaganda in recent years, threatening critics and drawing parallels between the Hitler regime and legal restrictions on their cult. But the truth is that German regulations — which allow Scientologists to follow their leader, but bar them from government service — are designed to preserve German democracy, which cults like Scientology are likely to weaken. Americans understand the value of freedom in the world, but they do not necessarily appreciate cultural distinctions. The Germans are probably better equipped to judge how best to nurture their free society than bureaucrats at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Everyone in the world wants to be free, but not everybody yearns to be American.
U.S., the Germans - and Scientology, San Francisco Examiner, May 13, 2000 (Editorial)
... a security clause written by the [German] Federal Ministry of Commerce (BMWi) in September 1998 as an attachment to the federal policy on award of contracts. According to it, companies which perform schooling or consultation in public service must sign a statement that they do not employ the training, management or organization techniques of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, in which people are psychologically manipulated or put under pressure. This clause also is valid exclusively for the public sector and does not entail any associated effects for the private economy.
Crusade or Shadowboxing?, c't (Germany), July 7, 2000
How can companies protect themselves?
Company management can require course providers to sign a statement to verify that they do not use L. Ron Hubbard's techniques. In addition, the award of contracts for this alleged training can be contested at any time. Also, in political, public and religious work arrangements, employers can also ask individual workers about membership in Scientology in their recruitment and placement meetings. What is interesting is that Scientologists are allowed to deny their membership in response to the question ''Are you a Scientologist?'' Nevertheless one can ask them whether they use the techniques of Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard, and, according to the standards of their own teaching, they may not lie to that.
By doing that, is one discriminating against members of Scientology?
No, because they do not belong to a religious or weltanschauung community. That was decided by the Federal Labor Court (BAG). Scientology's goal is to obtain money and power.
Sect Commissioner issues warning about Scientology, Berliner Morgenpost (Germany), July 6, 2000
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(Sep. 9, 1999) USA: "Sect filter" violates Scientology Rights
(Sep. 9, 1999) USA condemns German Scientology politics