BERLIN (RNS): A German court has ruled that the country's constitution does not allow it to block visits from the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the head of the Unification Church.
Germany's culture and legal system are designed to officially recognize only a few religions—such as Catholicism or Judaism, for example. Other faiths, such as Scientology or Moon's church, are allowed to operate, but do not receive official status. Additionally, because of its Nazi history, the German government tends to be suspicious of groups it labels as cults.
That outlook led the German government to ban Moon from an attempted visit to his followers in 1995. At the time, the administration argued that Moon's church—which practices mass weddings and preaches that Moon was asked by God to complete Jesus' work on Earth—stood against the ideals of the German constitution.
The government's attempt to block Moon's visit continued for more than a decade until last fall, when the German Constitutional Court ruled that blocking Moon from visiting violates Germany's freedom of religion laws.
Based on that ruling, the High Administrative Court of Koblenz ruled Friday (May 4) that Germany could no longer block Moon from visiting, according to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung (Southern German Newspaper).
The ruling reflects a general softening of bans—if not public sympathies—toward religions seen as "fringe" in Germany. Berlin, for example, recently was required to grant official recognition to Jehovah's Witnesses.
At the same time, the public remains wary of non-traditional faiths. The Dresden-based Hannah Arendt Institute for Research on Totalitarianism recently removed its director, Gerhard Besier, after he formed professional links with academics associated with Scientology.