AP NEWS
Related topics

Scientology Loses Swiss Appeal

June 30, 1999

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) _ Switzerland’s supreme court threw out an appeal by the Church of Scientology on Wednesday, upholding a law aimed at keeping people from being ``dishonestly″ accosted on the street.

The Federal Tribunal ruled that the law, introduced last November in Switzerland’s second-largest city, Basel, involved an intervention in religious freedom but did not infringe it.

But the judges questioned whether the law, which was prompted by efforts to curb Scientology, could be enforced and said a blanket ban on recruitment in public places would be inadmissible.

The Basel law, which does not specifically mention religious organizations, punishes ``anyone who recruits or tries to recruit passers-by in a public place using deceptive or dishonest methods.″

The church issued a statement saying it was satisfied with the verdict. ``The court confirmed that approaching passers-by and missionary work in public places are not affected by this law and are permitted in principle,″ it said.

Unlike neighboring Germany, Switzerland says it sees no need to keep Scientology under nationwide surveillance.

In June 1997, Germany placed Scientology under national scrutiny, citing its alleged anti-democratic aims and intention to infiltrate government.

In April last year, a German security agent was arrested in Basel for attempting to spy on the church.

Germany apologized to Switzerland for the incident. The agent, employed by the Baden-Wuerttemberg branch of Germany’s domestic security agency, was released on bail three days later after the state’s interior ministry guaranteed he would return to stand trial.

The trial was scheduled to start Thursday, but was delayed earlier this week because one of the defendants was ill. No new date has yet been set.