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Court Rules Scientology Has No Right to Postbank Business Account

September 6, 1996 GMT

STUTTGART, Germany (AP) _ A court ruled Friday that a German bank can refuse to handle business accounts for the Church of Scientology.

At issue were accounts the group had at the postal bank, a common conduit for businesses and individuals to transfer funds throughout Germany. The banks are located in post offices.

District Court Judge Hans-Juergen Voigt ruled that, although everyone has a right to postal services, that did not apply to Postbank, which was changed in January 1995 from a public to a private credit institution.

Voigt said the Scientologists had other options for opening bank transfer accounts, although an attorney for the organization, Wilhelm Bluemel, said 17 other banks in the area had turned the group down.

The president of the Church of Scientology Germany, Helmuth Bloebaum, said the group would appeal the decision.

``Such practices in other democratic states, like France or in the United States, are forbidden by law. Germany is apparently limping along behind,″ said a statement issued by Scientology’s office in Munich.

The Postbank said it closed four accounts held by Scientology in the town of Ulm because of fear the bank’s name would be associated with the church, founded in Los Angeles in 1954 by L. Ron Hubbard.

Members of Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s government have accused Scientology of being a danger to German society. Some ministers have called for its members to be banned from government jobs and be put under surveillance.

The church denies it has political aims and says it is the victim of a government-approved discrimination campaign.