Buyer beware in your search for happiness -- Scientology crime

15 Jul 2001

German_Scn_News <german_scn_news@hotmail.com>

Happiness avoids considerations of usefulness

Ingo Heinemann

Spokesman of the member association
for sects and psycho-market consultation
(AGPF*) on consumer protection for the

Berlin, Germany
July 9, 2001

taz: Why do you promote more consumer protection in dealings with psycho-groups and designer religions?=20

Ingo Heinemann: Exotic religions are cultural apparitions. Most of them are offered in return for payment or for pre-determined donations. They belong to the psycho-market. The psycho-market promises health, happiness, perfection and sometimes immortality. Often scientific proof is offered as advertisement, even some of the more exotic religions and sects do that. Science means verifiability.=20

And consumer protection seeks verification?=20

In the ideal situation it does exactly that. Once culture is being sold, then it involves money, liability, risk, and consumer protection along with that.=20

Don't failures in dealing with sects have more to do with the emotional and spiritual level than they do with information and verification, which are the traditional realm of consumer protection?=20

Many people today seek out gurus according to rational criteria. Some even check with consumer protection agencies before they make inquiries. They don't want to be cheated. There are objective criteria for danger, risks and side-effects. In spite of this, many groups deceive those who make inquiries. The interested applicants receive offers of saving the world, of becoming perfect and of becoming happy.=20

And how do objective criteria fit into such cases?=20

In these cases, methods are often applied that were described by Professor Kroeber-Riel in his 1980 book "Konsumentenverhalten" as "emotional conditioning." Kroeber-Riel was not involved with sects, but with advertisement and the behavior of the consumer. He described advertisement which addresses the "innate disposition" of people as a "dangerous weapon" in the hands of the advertiser. According to Kroeber-Riel, this can only be prevented by consumer protection, which neutralizes the conditioning. Therefore steps against this sort of advertisement must be taken in accordance with the law against unfair competition. However that law has not yet been applied to the psycho-market.=20

In your opinion, how should consumer protection appear in dealing with sects and psycho-groups?=20

The present law is not adequate. Therefore the German Parliament's Enquete Commission on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups" in 1998 urgently recommended the passing of a psycho-contract law and a life management law. The law is not supposed to regulate life management, it is supposed to set the minimum contents of the contract. Often the customers don't even know who they should transfer their money to. The first question therefore almost always is: what kind of group is this? What are they offering and what kind of teachings do they use? What are the risks?=20

So what are they?=20

The customers are at risk not only in regards to their health, but also in regards to freedom, rights and money. Psychotherapy is considered the equivalent of medicinal means, in accordance with the medical advertisement law, "in so far as the advertisement relates to the recognition, removal or alleviation of sickness, suffering, bodily injuries or medical complaints of humans or animals," as it says in paragraph 1 of the medical advertisement law. Most of the time that is exactly the case.=20

Will the sect law recently passed in France be helpful in the sense of consumer protection?=20

The French sect law is a criminal law. It is supposed to protect customers of the psycho-market from notorious criminals. In Germany an attempt is being made to activate the contract law. That is a mild variant. If that does not succeed, there undoubtedly will also be an increased demand in Germany to strengthen the criminal law.=20

Offers from the psychomarket are manifold and intercultural. The customer is promised happiness. Can it be proved that the customer is not happy?=20

The are no objective criteria for the usefulness of the offerings. Consumer protection can only warn people about the risks and side-effects. Every time you get training that can be considered an offer from the psycho-market.=20

Interview: Sven Hansen=20

* AGPF - Aktion f=FCr Geistige und Psychische Freiheit e. V., Bonn, Germany


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