Blackmail, Bribery, Coercion: Scientology and the IRS
The legitimacy of an unconstitutional ruling by the IRS, that benefits only members of the Church of Scientology, is once again feeling the heat. After a decades long battle with the IRS, which resulted in numerous charges and prison time for leading members of the Church of Scientology, further questions arise regarding the apparently commercial nature of this ethically unconventional organization. The battles may wage across the globe, but, more and more, the center of the controversy sits squarely in the lap of the American government.
Scientology v. The World
Events in Australia this past week rekindle the flame of concern regarding the preferential taxation status of the Church of Scientology. After a March 10 broadcast by ABC’s Four Corners(1), chronicling allegations and court cases against the Church of Scientology, Senator Xenophon has made a fresh bid to challenge the tax-free status of the church(2). The Four Corners special outlines reports of child labor malpractice, physical and psychological abuse, coerced family separation, tax evasion and forced abortion(3), all allegedly perpetrated by the Church of Scientology.
This, the latest in a continuing series of rows with the church, comes only a year after French courts tried and convicted the Church of Scientology of fraud, charging the sect $900,000 in fines(4). The sect is not recognized as a religion in France, as it is in the United States. Germany has also taken a very strong stance against the organization. German officials “consider(s) the Scientology organization a commercial enterprise with a history of taking advantage of vulnerable individuals and (which has) an extreme dislike of any criticism. The German government is also concerned that the organization’s totalitarian structure and methods may pose a risk to Germany’s democratic society. Several kinds of evidence have influenced this view of Scientology, including the organization’s activities in the United States.” (5) Efforts to ban the organization from France were suggested by prosecutors but not pursued by the courts(6). This judgment follows yet another major court case in the United Kingdom that found the group culpable on several counts, requiring a fine of $235,000 and the possibility of prison time(7).
Scientology v. America
In America, the Scientologists have engaged in similar legal battles. In the late 1970′s, after the group lost its briefly-enjoyed tax exempt status, it was embroiled in an ongoing battle with the IRS that the church itself referred to as a ‘war’. Several high ranking members, including founder L. Ron Hubbard’s wife, Susan Hubbard, were imprisoned on a variety of charges including breaking into government offices, illegal electronic surveillance, and theft of classified government documents(8). Additional testimonies include harrowing accounts of personal harassment, illegal surveillance, stalking, malicious court filings and death threats (9). The Church is reportedly the sole client of several law firms and as early as 1991 was spending an estimated $20,000,000 annually on legal actions, according to Richard Behar in his Time Magazine article titled ‘The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power’.(10)
In the early 1990′s, with the aid of its own security and intelligence department, the Church of Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs (OSA), which reportedly rivals the intelligence agencies of many countries(11)(12), the Scientologists were able to ‘negotiate’ a deal with the IRS which not only reinstated tax exempt status but provided unprecedented preferential status in violation of the First Amendment. According to the New York Times, “. . . the exemption followed a series of unusual internal IRS actions that came after an extraordinary campaign orchestrated by Scientology against the agency and people who work there.”(13) The group reportedly used “bugging of government offices, theft of classified files, private detectives pursuing senior government officials, [and] thousands of lawsuits” (14) in its campaign to gain leverage against the United States Government. They were successful with this campaign, procuring the aforementioned status for themselves with the IRS. Details and specifics of the secret meeting leading up to the arrangement, between David Miscavige, current leader of the Church of Scientology, and Fred T. Goldberg Jr, past Commissioner of the IRS, have remained sealed.(15)
In 2008, the reinstated and preferential tax status of the Church of Scientology was once again challenged in U.S. courts. The case was Sklar v. Commissioner.(16) An Orthodox Jewish family wanted the same tax deductions afforded Scientologists. Their lawyer argued that it was discriminatory to give Scientologists a tax break no other religion is permitted. The exemption in question was for the part of his children’s education provided by a yeshiva school, which is an Orthodox Jewish religious school.
The court relied on Hernandez v. Commissioner to deny his tax deduction(17). The irony here is that Hernandez v. Commissioner apparently applies to everyone in the country except Scientologists. The decision involved a Scientologist and specifically states that the kind of tax deduction they get is illegal. Judge Wardlaw, in oral arguments of Sklar v. Commissioner, pronounced the preferential status of the Church unconstitutional and in clear violation of the First Amendment. It’s a constitutional question of the separation of church and state. If religious education becomes deductible, it means that taxpayers are subsidizing religion. Unfortunately, the court found itself in no legal position to change a deal ‘negotiated’ by the Church of Scientology with the IRS.
The Public Face of Scientology
In addition to its schools and various ‘Orgs’, the church also operates under front organizations Narconon, Applied Scholastics, Criminon, and the Citizens’ Commission on Human Rights. The history of the organization, both internationally as well as in the United States, is riddled with constant legal battles, many of which have been termed by American courts as malicious and abusive on the part of the church(18). The courts have been used by Scientology’s army of lawyers, who target any who the Church of Scientology deem an enemy, or in their terms, a Suppressive Person.(19) As their founder L. Ron Hubbard wrote, “The law can be used easily to harass, and enough harassment on somebody who is simply on the thin edge anyway, well knowing that he is not authorized, will generally be sufficient to cause his professional decease. If possible, of course, ruin him utterly.” – L.Ron Hubbard (A Manual on the Dissemination of Material, 1955)
As reported by Hubbard’s son; “My father and I created a ‘religious front’ only for tax purposes and legal protection ‘from fraud Claims’. We almost always told nearly everyone that Scientology was really science, not a religion, but that the religious front was created to deal with the government.” — Ronald DeWolf a.k.a. L. Ron Hubbard, Jr. (son of L. Ron Hubbard), Affidavit in Schaick v. Church of Scientology, US District Court Mass., No. 79-2491 (20)
Last year, amid international scandal and proven culpability, as well as domestic challenge, the church continued to enjoy preferred tax status over all other religions in America. The affluent Scientology organization has recently built, or renovated, opulent Scientology churches, which it calls Ideal Orgs, in Rome; Malmo, Sweden; Dallas; Nashville; and Washington, DC. At its base, on the Gulf Coast of Florida, it continues buying hotels and office buildings (54 at last count) and constructing a 380,000-square-foot mecca that looks like a convention center.(21)
Scientology in a ‘Nut’ Shell
According to Scientology: Seventy five thousand years ago, Xenu was head of the Galactic Federation, an organization of 76 planets that had existed for 20,000,000 years. The planets were over-populated. Xenu’s solution was to gather up large numbers of the people and kill them, freezing their thetans (souls). He ended up with over 1.3 trillion frozen thetans. He transported the frozen thetans to Earth, which he called Teegeeack. The thetans were left in the vicinity of volcanoes which Xenu destroyed with atomic weapons.
Now, each human has their own thetan as well as clusters of thousands of these dead thetans inside them. Scientology, which asks its followers to sign a billion year contract, seeks to free humans from these dead thetans through costly auditing and training programs, totaling as much as $500,000 USD, so that they can be truly clear, super-human, eternal beings(22).
Did I mention that L. Ron Hubbard, before founding the Church of Scientology, was a very prolific Science Fiction writer?(23)
What Are Scientology’s Crimes?
Regardless of the delusional spiritual landscape created by a commercially-minded and imaginative entrepreneur, the mafioso style tactics, and subversive governmental interference should be enough to shut this scam down, or at least remove any legal or taxation preferences and protections it enjoys. If nothing else, an official investigation is certainly warranted. That is, unless America has willingly become the last safe harbor for charlatans and snake-oil salesmen seeking tax havens for their grotesque profits padded with tax payers’ money.
If the courts are truly unable to address a recognized breach of the First Amendment of the Constitution, a public Congressional Inquiry should be convened to determine if the IRS has been compromised through either blackmail, coercion, or collusion, to cause such a violation. Such a breach of the institution threatens the credibility of the entire system and could prove to further erode confidence in the government and democratic institutions of the United States of America.
The only apparent recourse seems to lay in the hands of the citizenry. Investigate and compile available references and links regarding this issue. Send them, and this article, to your government representatives and request that an official investigation and inquiry be launched immediately into the preferential tax exempt status of the Church of Scientology, including all relevant tax codes, agreements and settlements. Insist that an investigation, or a reason not to investigate, is produced and that communication and responses are in writing. The First Amendment and the Citizens of the United States deserve no less.
“No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another, and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him.” Thomas Jefferson
(1) – http://www.atheistmedia.com/2010/03/abc-four-corners-scientology-ex-files.html
(2) – http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/xenophon-pushes-for-scientology-inquiry-20100312-q3wh.html
(3) – http://www.scribd.com/full/14464561?access_key=key-1fsp0mqjsb4aiy9a95ss
(4) – http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/nonprofit/2009/10/french-court-convucts-church-of-scientology-of-fraud.html
(5) – http://www.rickross.com/reference/scientology/germany/germany21.html
(6) – http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1901373,00.html
(7) – http://www.solitarytrees.net/pickets/sp861.htm
(8) – http://xenutv.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/marc_headley_v_cos_lawsuit.pdf
(9) – http://xenu.net/archive/personal_story/paulette_cooper/