Report: Trump May Move to Cripple Creepy “Church” of Scientology
By Ben Marquis
November 16, 2017 at 6:41pm
The “church” of Scientology has long been a controversial issue as many people view it as not so much as a legitimate religious organization, but more of a wealthy cult that operates as a sort of tax haven due to its tax-exempt status.
But that may be changing in the near future, as President Donald Trump is reportedly in favor of revoking that exempt status, according to the Huffington Post.
Hollywood actress and former Scientologist Leah Remini — who left the “church” in 2013 and has since been an outspoken advocate against it — was contacted with messages in May from a Trump family friend and current official of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Lynne Patton. Patton revealed that revoking the tax-exempt status of the church was something both she and Trump were interested in.
“From the moment I saw your series I told President Trump & his family we needed to revoke their tax exempt status,” Patton messaged to Remini on May 30. “They couldn’t agree more, but please don’t publicize that yet. I want to do more due diligence on what the IRS has attempted in the past (or maybe you can enlighten me), then I’ll identify who we need to connect with again.”
She followed that up with a second message that read, “This is going to get done in the next 4 years or I’ll die trying. Knock on wood!”
The next day, Patton replied to an email from Remini and stated, “I look forward to doing my part to help put an end to this ongoing nightmare and blatant misuse of our IRS rules & regulations.”
“I want to do more research on Scientology’s history with the IRS, to date, so that I can better understand what tactics have been applied and where we can pick up,” she continued. “Would you have any of this information handy? If not, I will obtain it from the agency directly. Kindly advise!”
Remini, who recently turned the messages over to HuffPo, declined to comment any further, nor did the White House or HUD.
As for Trump’s ability to revoke the tax-exempt status of the Scientologist, it isn’t exactly something he could do single-handedly, and it would most likely be viewed as inappropriate if he leaned on the IRS to do so without them having gone through the proper procedures.
“For the White House or any administration official to try and influence who the IRS targets, for whatever reason, is wrong and could result in a violation of the law,” said a former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission, Larry Noble, who now is senior director of ethics and general counsel at the Campaign Legal Center. “The IRS must make these decisions independently without any influence by the White House or administration officials.”
Funny, we don’t recall similar protestations being published by HuffPo when the IRS targeted conservatives and tea party groups over tax-exempt status during the former Obama administration, but we digress.
For the record, the IRS states on their own website: “The IRS may begin a church tax inquiry only if an appropriate high-level Treasury official reasonably believes, on the basis of facts and circumstances recorded in writing, that an organization claiming to be a church or convention or association of churches may not qualify for exemption.”
Here’s looking at you, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
The “church” of Scientology first obtained tax-exempt status from the IRS in 1957, but had it revoked just 10 years later in 1967 as their activities were viewed as being “commercial in nature” and to the benefit of founder L. Ron Hubbard.
According to a Fortune report in 2015, the Scientologists regained their exempt status from the IRS in 1993 — former President Bill Clinton’s first year in office — after about two decades of bitter and protracted legal battles that involved dozens of lawsuits filed against both the agency and individual agents.
There were also reports of the church hiring private investigators and journalists to dig up dirt on the individual agents. Once the IRS caved to their demands and reinstated their tax-exempt status, many state and local governments followed suit as well.
It is estimated that the “church” is worth an estimated $1.75 billion, about $1.5 billion of which is invested in real estate all across the world, from California to New York to London.
It was further estimated that the “church” brings in roughly $200 million in annual revenue, which comes from donations as well as an auditing service they provide to members. It is worth noting that in this “church,” members are pretty much required to “buy” their way to higher status and salvation through hefty donations.
It is unclear exactly how much tax revenue would be generated if the Scientologists’ exempt status were to be revoked, though conservative estimates on both their “profit” and property values would easily be in the tens of millions of dollars annually.
Though it is not necessarily Trump’s move to make, it would be nice to see his administration take a close, hard look at this cultish tax haven that masquerades as a legitimate religious organization for tax purposes, and ultimately bring an end to their charade.
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