Scientology in the Classroom?

Scientology in schools

European school systems have a long tradition of mandated religious education, which is becoming more difficult to implement as growing religious diversity makes it more and more controversial. Religious education is seen by traditional Europeans as a necessary basis for a moral society, and has only recently been backed off to the point where a secular alternative (Ethics), and in some cases an Islamic alternative, has become available.

In recent years a new player, Scientology, has decided it also deserves a state sponsored platform, which is unthinkable for Europeans. Spain is the only major European country that recognizes Scientology as a religion, who mostly condemn it as either a cult or a commercial scam. Scientologist disseminators don't need to rewrite their playbook because of it though, as they can apply the same strategies they have practiced in the USA, which does not allow religious indoctrination in schools anyway.

The insidious Plot!

The Church of Scientology produces teaching tools that do not overtly promote Scientology. It is so innocuous that teachers sometimes do not realize they are using material produced by a nominally religious organization. Some celebrities have been accused of being Scientologists simply for giving donations to schools that fall into this trap, which is something of a PR issue for both the school and celebrity.

Swiss officials encountered these tactics earlier this summer. They stopped a DVD "Youth for Human Rights," produced by the Church of Scientology, from being inserted into the public schools' history curriculum. While the DVD does not directly promote Scientology, Swiss officials are worried that such materials will make the unsanctioned "sect" seem modern, moral, socially engaged, and appealing to young people.

The Doublethink

Despite the tradition of cooperation between church and state, the idea of allowing a perceived competitor to the accepted state religions to present itself in a positive light is scandalous to the general population. It is a classic case of one religion suppressing another through political power.

Europeans are somewhat panicked by recent expansion efforts by Scientology in Europe. David Miscavige, lovingly referred to as the Chairman of the Board of Religious Technology Center on the Scientology website, oversaw the opening of new "Ideal Churches" in Berlin, Hamburg, London, Rome, Madrid, Malmö, Brussels, and Moscow, last year. This has resulted in protests and calls to the legislature in Moscow to make laws to curtail any possible influence of Scientology on malleable young minds.

Europeans generally do not recognize Scientology as a religious group. Commercialism is only considered sacred when your team is doing it. They generally tolerate this strange religion for the sake of their own laws governing freedom of religion, but it seems they tolerate it a little less than bigger religions that come with guns and governments.

The education systems in Europe grant a monopoly to Christianity, excluding other religions, even when they are making a secular point. The DVD produced by the Church of Scientology is not controversial in its content, but it is considered insidious because it might make Scientology look less crazy than parents would like. In a system where Catholics can teach children that contraception is morally wrong, this is an odd priority.

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