Leipzig Award










Laudatio for Alain Vivien
by Minister Dr. Günther Beckstein

"Awareness alone of human rights is too little
if readiness to defend it everywhere
and under any conditions is lacking "

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, dear Minister Vivien,

I am very happy to be with you here today in Leipzig.  It is a great honor for me today to be able to give the laudatio for Minister Vivien on the occasion of his receiving the "Human Rights Award of the European-American Citizens Committee for Human Rights and Religious Freedom in the USA." 

This human rights award is now given out for the third time here in Leipzig.  It was no coincidence that the Committee decided upon Leipzig for the first award in the year 2000.  People associate the citizens of the City of Leipzig with the discussion about totalitarian organization and regimes.


More than ten years ago, the citizens of the City of Leipzig no longer found themselves content with a totalitarian state.  They resisted the Stasi state that voided the freedom of the individual, and they took to the streets for human rights and freedom of belief.

I myself still remember the very impressive events, the Monday demonstrations in November and December 1989.  I have to admit these demonstrations, for me, are not only unforgotten, but unforgettable, when thousands and thousands of people, using wholly peaceable means, namely, the right to demonstrate, spontaneously took to the streets to advocate and fight for a change.

When we today say in Constitutional law that the freedom to assemble and the right to demonstrate are the "freedom of press for the little man," then that, I believe, is a reality in Leipzig such as has never elsewhere been realized in Germany to this extent.

I also remember very well that at the time I was the state secretary in Bavaria, responsible for police issues, how I met up with the police in Leipzig in this very active and moving era -- when they were talking about their reaction plan by which it could be seen that they were nervous about whether everything would remain peaceful.

Looking back on it, one has to say "Yes, thank God!"  It was a great signal coming from Leipzig, at least for all of Germany, no, coming from all of Europe.  And also for this reason, Leipzig is the right place for this award to be given, otherwise I wouldn't be saying this.  If a Bavarian ever admits that somewhere outside of Bavaria is a much more appropriate place, then that is probably saying something very special.


I hope, as the applause shows, that this offhand remark is understood in the right way, and not as an expression of excessive [Bavarian] pride.

Like the men and women of Leipzig, the European-American Citizens Committee does not intend to resign itself to totalitarian systems.  It is particularly involved with new totalitarian organizations, with the Scientology organization in particular, and is engaged worldwide on behalf of human rights and religious freedom.

[Minister Vivien]

This year, too, the Committee has found a worthy recipient for its human rights award.  Minister Vivien, an outstanding person in French politics and a man of extraordinary dedication and courage, is receiving this award.  I find it both really good and interesting when a member of the Christian Social Union, when someone who is slotted as the person responsible for "internal security" for Edmund Stoiber's campaign in the 2002 federal elections, when somebody such as this expresses appreciation for a socialist minister.

Because this demonstrates that when we are talking about the really essential issues, then the question of party alignment is not our first priority.  The deciding factor is that people, in elementary issues, are in agreement across the boundaries of democratic parties.  And I would like this appreciation of a conservative union man for a socialist minister to be regarded in exactly this sense, as an expression of commonality in fundamental issues, in the battle against totalitarianism.


[Totalitarian Movements and Organizations]

For many years, Minister Vivien, you have been speaking out, in spite of intense hostility, tirelessly for the exposure of the risks that emanate from new totalitarian movements, just as you have for the appropriate preventive measures by the state.

As early as 1983 you were one of the first politicians to become involved with cults, totalitarian movements, and with the problems associated with them.  You were commissioned by Prime Minister Pierre Mauroy to produce the first situation report on this problematic area for the French National Assembly.


In 1983, you worked on the first French Enquete report on cults and totalitarian organizations.  Since November 1998, you, as president, have directed the "Mission Interminsterielle pour la lutte contre les sectes" (Interministerial Group to Combat Cults, MILS) and have been presenting annual reports.  Very early on you recognized the multi- dimensionality of the problem.  In your basic analysis, you pointed out the threat to the freedom of the individual, as well as the threat to free society on the whole from new totalitarian movements and organizations.
[Scientology Organization] 

As no other has done before you, you have publicly taken a position on the Scientology organization in a unambiguous way.  You categorized the Scientology organization as a "totalitarian" and "extremely dangerous cult" that should be prohibited in France.

[MILS report on Scientology] 

The January 2000 MILS report also arrives at an unambiguous assessment of the Scientology organization.  It says the propagation of religious goals is only a mask for the organization with a totalitarian structure.  It is not up to the state to make findings about the content of religions and ideologies.  Nevertheless the state has to be very vigilant when it comes to the law bring broken and when the word "religious" is being used only as camouflage.  The report emphasizes that Scientology belongs to that category of "cults" that continually attempts - and with great success, too - to infiltrate democratic institutions, official international organizations and non-governmental organizations.  In addition, Scientology operates outside the realm of democracy; its machinations clash with the public system and assail human dignity.  It is becoming clear that the Scientology organization threatens human rights and social equilibrium.

I cannot emphasize strongly enough that you, in your work, are a pioneer in the dispute with Scientology in Europe and in the entire world.


We know that takes courage.  The easy way would be to keep a low profile and dodge the issues.  I have respect for a man who does not streamline himself in such a way as to set his sails so that he will never travel into a headwind, for one who takes his own responsibility seriously.  That also means responsibility to individual people, especially the young, but also the elderly, so not only to the individual people, but also responsibility to the entire state and public presences.

I believe that, in fact, you have gotten involved in a specially diligent way in all these phenomena.  In any case, I'm speaking for the staff in the proper department in my ministry when I say that you have been involved with the material you and your people produce on an extraordinarily intensive basis, and that we have learned much from you.


And I want to clearly underline what you, too, have placed at the center of attention, that we, of course, have no comment on the content of religions or the content of ideologies.

As a French politician you are indeed much less assailable for having connections with any religious structures.  I, personally, am a member of the Evangelical State Synod myself, and I profess my convictions to a party that is Christian by virtue of its name.  It is very tempting for third parties to say that my actions are intended to shut out a competing organization.  I've read that from Scientology many times when they bother to write about me.  That sort of thing would never happen to a French socialist politician; everybody knows that there is a strong separation of church and state in France.

So, in a way, that is the case for you in France, where things are much stricter than for us in Germany, for instance.  The possibility that you are not just trying to disparage a competing religion can be demonstrated with greater credibility than with us.  The issue at hand is to make an example of and prevent the misuse of the word "religion" for totalitarian purposes.

And that is what you have shown on a wide scale: that requirements and regulations for psychological and psychic services need to be implemented.  We have also come to this conclusion.  This is not the place to go into details, but there is something I want to note.  The Bavarian state government commissioned the University of Munich to produce an expert opinion, which the scientists then presented, and this demonstrated the risks posed by Scientology, I believe, in a clear and impressive manner.

People have fallen into the clutches of Scientology and have, in their essence, been influenced to a great degree by the structures and elements of Scientology's treatment - in a special way you put up these dangers, which were the real background for your work, where they could be seen and from where people could take heed, and for this I thank you in the name of many citizens.


In your dealings with cults and totalitarian cultures, you also brought the attention of political opinion leaders to this phenomenon, thereby motivating critical discussion om the topic.  I would surely not betray a secret when I say former Minister Bluem called me up several weeks ago and told me, "So, I hear Minister Vivien will be receiving this award in Leipzig," and, in true Bluemian style, he continued in high spirits, "Beckstein, you have to go, they need someone who knows how to give a laudatio (applause) for the man who was the first one to wake up the slumbering politicians in many other countries."

[Threats to Human Rights]

That is another thing that quite clearly goes to your credit, that you have brought this phenomenon to the attention of many political opinion leaders and have thereby stimulated a critical discussion about it.  The French state, based on its history is counted as one of the first human rights states, has not only recognized these new threats to human rights because of your informational efforts, it has also taken special preventive measures to protect the freedom of the individual and has motivated society's democratic system to defend itself against totalitarian abuse such as is utilized by organizations like Scientology.  In that respect, you, Minister Vivien, are the trailblazer for political, structural and legislative assurance of human rights for those afflicted by these destructive cults.  The creation of a legal framework to protect the victims of Scientology and other similar organizations by the French parliament is to your credit.  With this award, the committee appreciates your engagement in a society at risk to the totalitarian Scientology organization, and your involvement with those who have left Scientology only to be attacked and prosecuted, to sum up, your extensive efforts for human rights.

[Meaning of Human Rights]

The idea and the implementation of human rights in the current of time does not need justification.  Human rights are an essential component of diverse value systems.  In the Federal Republic of Germany, human rights are anchored in the Constitution, and it is now one of the most interesting tasks in current politics to seek consolidation of the Basic Rights Charter that was proclaimed in the government conference of Nizza into the European agreements.

Our Christian-Occidental understanding of human rights is marked with the concept of a human being as self-accountable creature.  In this regard, the universally valid restriction applies that the rights of one person reach their limits at the rights of another person.  No culture and no religion can claim privilege in this perception.  They are part of every culture.  Neither may we forget this when we are confronted by attacks on human rights by terrorist or extremist quarters.

[Human Rights violations]

Our experiences of the past century, or even just our recent past, show that the mere recognition of human rights is not enough if the readiness to defend them under any and all conditions is lacking.  Human worth and human rights have been and continue to be violated in the worst manner.  However, we may not accept violations of human rights.  Even if the awareness about the significance of human rights has grown worldwide in recent decades, much more is still to be done to get them put in place, and, especially in view of the current threat to human rights in our European society and in the USA, my dear Minister Vivien, you have made an extraordinary contribution.


For your efforts made on behalf of the freedom of all people we most respectfully thank you.  We wish you much strength and courage to continue.  But appreciation is also due for the successful, important and dedicated work of all staff at MILS and to the French National Assembly, which, through its legislation, worked across all party lines to defend human rights from the new totalitarian threat.  And I might add here, although it might perhaps be unrealistic, that this is a challenge we in Germany need to address and to cooperate on across all party lines in order to be able to seriously counter the dangers at hand.


[Closing words]

The public discussion you have carried on with personal dedication and expert knowledge about the new totalitarianism of the Scientology organization is all the more deserving of recognition in that you have been exposed to not only massive internal, but also external, political pressure, in addition to which the Scientology organization has targeted you personally as a "suppressive person."  I have to add to that, though, that I see this sort of attack as a special form of modern nobility; you can tell you are doing the right thing when you are attacked by the right side.


May we never lose sight of our common goal, working for a peaceful and freedom-inducing cooperation for all people.  That includes the support of human rights and that also includes courageously confronting threats from totalitarianism.  It is important, especially for us in Germany, for us to deal with totalitarianism from rightwing extremists, and I ask your indulgence if I also include leftwing extremists.  But of course, it is also necessary that we confront the totalitarianism of Scientology, which abuses religion as a word to, in reality, pursue such completely different goals as making money.  And for this reason I also thank everyone who has come here today to advance this cause a little further.

Heartfelt appreciation for your attention.





Award Winner




In the Media









Home    About    Charter