The tax-exempt status of the Church of Scientology has been a matter of contention since it gained it in the early 50s. Through extensive litigation against the IRS, the organization has been able to retain its tax-free status. That may soon change.
The Church of Scientology has been central to Hollywood’s power structure, with many among its ranks counting themselves in the upper echelons of the movie industry.
According to the Huffington Post, private tweets from a Trump family friend and a top official in the Department of Housing and Urban Development claim that Trump and his family “couldn’t agree more” that the so-called church should lose its tax-exempt status.
“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,” Lynne Patton wrote to actress Leah Remini in the messages obtained and publicized by HuffPost. “This is going to get done in the next 4 years or I’ll die trying. Knock on wood!”
As The Hill states, Patton is a friend and business associate of the Trump family who has worked with them since 2009. Last year, Patton spoke in favor of Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention.
Remini, a former member of the Church of Scientology, has been an outspoken critic against the Hollywood celebrity religion, of which many prominent actors and actresses are a part of—including Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Actress Elizabeth Moss, best known for her role as the main character in the feminist TV series The Handmaid’s Tale, is a member, as is former That ‘70s Show alumni Danny Masterson.
The organization has reportedly used its influence to protect individuals like Danny Masterson, who has been accused of multiple rapes by fellow Scientologists, from prosecution by the law.
Adherents of Scientology are banned from reporting other Scientologists to law enforcement, as the action is considered a “suppressive act” and can lead to immediate expulsion from the organization that many pay tens of thousands of dollars to be a part of.
Recently, Remini produced the Emmy Award-winning show Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath—a documentary examining the insides of the Hollywood religion, which she left in 2013.
“I look forward to doing my part to help put an end to this ongoing nightmare and blatant misuse of our IRS rules & regulations,” Patton wrote to Remini. “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.”
HuffPost was unable to confirm whether Patton had gone forward to communicate with the IRS regarding the Church of Scientology.
Speaking to The Hill, Larry Noble, a former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission said that it would be illegal for the White House or any administration official to pull strings to influence IRS targets and decision-making.
“The IRS must make these decisions independently without any influence by the White House or administration officials,” he said.
The IRS website states that authorities may begin a church tax inquiry only if an appropriate high-level official in the Treasury department has a reason to believe “on the basis of facts and circumstances recording in writing, that an organization claiming to be a church or convention or association of churches may not qualify for exemption.”