On 10 June 2013, PACE rapporteur on "the protection of minors against sectarian influence" at the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Rudy Salles (France, EPP/CD), published a press release (http://www.assembly.coe.int/ASP/NewsManager/EMB_NewsManagerView.asp?ID=8819 ) in which he “welcomes the German authorities’ determination to combat the phenomenon of sectarian abuses”.
Quoted in the release, Rudy salles said: “This task is made considerably easier by the fact that the German state recognizes only a limited number of religions in law, such as the Catholic and Protestant Churches, the Jewish community and certain Muslim communities, which automatically rules out other movements acquiring the status of a ‘religion’".
Unfortunately, this statement is everything but true. The reality of the German religious statuses is a little more complex, and when examined it is obvious that the Rudy Salles’ statement is wrong. First of all, he is referring to the special privileged status that a few religions get that is different than registering as a religion, which many do.
In Germany, Religious organizations are not required to register with the state. But if they wish to qualify as nonprofit associations with tax-exempt status, they must register. State level authorities review registration submissions and routinely grant tax-exempt status. If a religious organization wants to apply for this status, it must provide evidence through its statutes, history, and activities that it is a religious group.
Then, beside the separation of State and religion, a special partnership status exists in Germany for religious groups which makes them “partners” of the State. This status is called “Public Law Corporation” (PLC), and entitles the group to have public chaplains, and to levy tithes on its members (collected by the state). PLC status gives tax exemptions and other rights.
It’s very interesting to compare which religious groups have the PLC status with the Rudy Salles’ statement, in order to see if he is conducting a fair investigation in order to make his report. Currently, around 180 religious groups have been granted PLC status in Germany, including many groups labeled as “sects” or “cults” by some French authorities linked to Rudy Salles. Amongst these religious groups are the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Seventh-day Adventists, Mennonites, Baptists, Methodists, Christian Scientists, and the Salvation Army. Jehovah’s Witnesses have been granted PLC status in 13 federal states.
It is also interesting to see that no Muslim communities have been granted PLC status per the US State department report 2011, contrary to Rudy Salles’ statement.