- The Washington Times - Friday, November 10, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

According to a longtime family aide, President Donald Trump agrees the Church of Scientology ought to have its tax exemption stripped.

Yep.

At the risk of coming under the aggressive angry eyes of Scientology bulldogs — the kind and type showcased in actress Leah Remini’s “Scientology and the Aftermath” A&E series — fact of the matter is, this brand of religion is little more than a cult. A massive, money-making, real-estate buying, pocket-enriching, nothing-to-do-with-God cult.

And cults in America just aren’t entitled to receive a tax exemption.

From the Huffington Post: “The history of the Church of Scientology and its tax-exempt status is complicated and has long been under a cloud of controversy. The church first obtained its tax-exempt status in 1957, but the IRS revoked the status in 1967. At the time, the agency said the church’s activities were commercial in nature and to the benefit of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, which would disqualify the church from exemption.”

Following, Hubbard and his colleagues spent 26 years fighting to win back the exemption. Then David Miscavige took over the organization when Hubbard died in 1986, and ratcheted the fight even further.

Specifically, church members filed lawsuit after lawsuit against the IRS and against individual IRS workers.

As the Huffington Post noted: “The church launched a sophisticated operation to infiltrate federal government agencies, the New York Times reported: Members filed scores of lawsuits … private investigators probed IRS agents’ personal affairs; and two private investigators set up a phony news bureau and posed as reporters to try to gather information about Scientology critics within the IRS.”

Mafia, move over.

The IRS ultimately gave back the church its tax exemption.

Miscavige declared to his members “the war is over” — meaning, the millions upon millions of dollars members must pay in order to move up in the church’s ranks is largely padding for the Friends of Miscavige’s top brass pockets.

More from the Huffington Post: “The [IRS] decision did indeed provide the cloak of legitimacy that Hubbard had wished for. … The exemption has also given the church an effective attack line when dealing with critics. Responding to allegations of slave labor and church-ordered punishment, members and staff cite religious freedom as the reason those allegations should not be further explored. The church and its staff members will often call reporters and critics ‘bigots’ when they question the church’s policies or actions.”

And into this, enters the Trump White House.

Lynne Patton, who’s worked for the Trump family for years and who now serves the administration in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, told Remini in a Twitter direct message that she was going to press for revocation of the church’s IRS exemption.

However, it’s not clear if Patton did indeed take the next step on this. It’s not exactly lawful for White House officials to try and sway the IRS on such decisions.

Still, the Huffington Post had copies of the Twitter messages, and they seem to suggest, at the very least, that Trump’s not a big fan of Scientology.

Here’s one message, from Patton to Remini: “From the moment I saw your series I told President Trump & his family we needed to revoke their tax exempt status. 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.”

And in another message, Patton wrote to Remini, according to the Huffington Post: “This is going to get done in the next 4 years or I’ll die trying. Knock on wood!”

What happens from here is an unknown. Really, the White House can’t order the IRS to revoke any group’s tax-exemption status — or grant one, for that matter. The IRS website states that the agency “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,” as The Hill noted.

But it’s high time to put the pressure on the Church of Scientology — to hold its cultish feet to the IRS fire. What’s leaked over the years about this organization isn’t just an offense to real religion. It’s an outrage and an affront to humanity. If even half of what Remini and other whistleblowers say of Scientology is true, America’s IRS, bluntly put, is simply being used to shelter and pad funding for a near-criminal organization.

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