European Commission of Human Rights

The Church of Scientology and Another v. Sweden

[1979] E.C.C. 511

The Commission held that an injunction imposed by the Swedish Marketing Court on the phrase ‘an invaluable aid to measuring man’s mental state and changes in it’ used by the Church of Scientology in advertisements for the sale of its ‘E-meter,’ as being misleading advertising, fell outside the scope of Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights (freedom of religion0, that it was caught by Article 10 (1) of the Convention (freedom of expression) but that it was ‘necessary’ in a democratic society within the meaning of Article 10 (2) for the protection of the rights of theirs, and that there was no discrimination under Article 14 of the Convention. The application was therefore dismissed as inadmissible.

 

Freedom of religion. Religious cult objects. Marketing. Advertising.

There is a difference between advertisements by a religious group which are informational or descriptive in character and those which offer objects for sale and so are commercial. An advertisement of objects for sale, even if they are religious objects central to the practices of the cult, represents the manifestation of a desire to market goods for profit rather than the manifestation of a belief in practical terms. Consequently, the wording of such an advertisement – that the article is ‘an invaluable aid to measuring man’s mental state and changes in it’ – falls outside the proper scope of Article 9 (1) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and the subjection of the wording to the ordinary secular rules on misleading advertising does not constitute an interference with the rights of the advertising Church and its members to manifest their religion or beliefs.

 

Advertising. Freedom of expression. Restrictions on the permitted wording of advertisements constitute an interference with the freedom to impart ideas under Article 10 (1) of the European Convention on Human Rights when the advertiser is a religious body and the subject matter of the advertisement is a cult object.

 

Advertising. Freedom of expression. Commercial ‘speech’ as such is covered by Article 10 (1) of the European Convention on Human Rights, but the level of protection it receives must be less than that accorded to the expression of ‘political’ ideas, in the broadest sense, with which the values underpinning the concept of freedom of expression in the Convention are chiefly concerned.