Has Munich’s Haus der Kunst Been Infiltrated by Scientology?

In Bavaria, employees must declare any links to Scientology.

Haus der Kunst, Munich. Courtesy Haus der Kunst.

The Bavarian state security agency is investigating claims that a longtime contractor at Munich’s Haus der Kunst museum has ties to Scientology. The investigation focuses on the work of a senior human resources manager with far-reaching responsibilities over the museum’s staffing.

Bavarian culture minister Ludwig Spaenle, who functions as the chairman of the board of the state-sponsored museum, confirmed the investigation, speaking to the Süddeutsche Zeitung. “We are more than aware of the seriousness of the situation,” he told the German newspaper.

Scientology is not recognized by the German government as a religion. It is viewed by the state, the media, and society at large with extreme suspicion and is regarded as cult-like business operating under the guise of a religion. The organization is routinely monitored by domestic intelligence agencies.

In the state of Bavaria, since 1996, anyone applying for public service positions must provide information regarding their affiliation with Scientology. Although this does not apply directly to the Haus der Kunst, the museum receives financial support from the Bavarian government.

The man under investigation is reportedly a Scientologist who has been working for the museum since 1995, when he was subcontracted as payroll accountant. While it is not unusual for the museum to delegate tasks to outside contractors, the degree of responsibility outsourced to him has aroused suspicion.

“There would be nothing more unpleasant than to lose to Scientology in court,” said Spaenle.

Over time he was promoted to staff administrator, assuming significant responsibility for the institution’s employment policy, where he became responsible for delegating shifts and other tasks.

“Everything goes past his desk,” one employee, a supporter of the embattled subcontractor, told Süddeutsche Zeitung, adding, “Almost all of us were hired by him.” The employee explained that the man was more or less the head of human resources—an arrangement that sits uneasily with some staffers. The controversy, he said, was a smear campaign to discredit him.

Other employees see things differently. They say he took advantage of the leeway granted to him by senior managers. They cite poor working conditions and extreme workloads as well as a draconian system of reward and punishment implemented by him.

Several complaints to the board of directors have been filed, and, in November 2015, several dozen employees signed a collective complaint over poor conditions and treatment. In a follow-up letter in July 2016, obtained by Süddeutsche Zeitung, employees write that “All this leads to the management of the museum, who tolerate gross mistreatment and violations of human dignity.”

That same month, the board reprimanded the museum’s director Okwui Enwezor and other senior managers, seeking assurances that they were not Scientologists. Following the management’s unsatisfactory response to the rebuke, the board alerted the state security agency and commissioned the independent report.

Enwezor emphasized that the employment relationship with the person concerned “has already existed before the obligation [in Bavaria] to self-report on the subject of Scientology, which was introduced in 1996.”

The organization, founded by L. Ron Hubbard, was the subject of the acclaimed documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015), directed by Alex Gibney. “The goal in the film is not to delegitimize anybody’s belief,” says Gibney. “It’s to question the way an outfit like Scientology can take the belief of good-hearted people and turn it in a very sinister direction.”

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