Scientology’s status as a tax-exempt religion is being analyzed by the media.
Forbes contributor Peter J. Reilly, who focuses on tax issues of individuals and businesses, wrote up a lengthy analysis of the well-known old battle of the IRS and the Church of Scientology regarding the religious organization’s tax-exempt status. While this story is not new, it has been in the news recently that President Donald Trump desires to revoke the church’s tax-exempt status. This was not a direct statement from the president; it was information relayed by Trump family retainer and head of Region II of the Department of Housing and Urban Development Lynne Patton to actress Leah Remini, who is these days an outspoken anti-Scientology crusader. The story originated from Huffington Post, in an article written by Yashar Ali.
Reilly states that “fundamentally, the IRS taking on Scientology is a very bad idea.” He continues, “Sending accountants, even ones who are armed and have arrest powers, is not the best response.” He also makes an inference to the point that Scientology is “probably” religious in nature, hence the removal of its tax-exempt status being a bad idea. He alludes to religions, where there are people who exploit others “without actually believing in it,” comparing to that phenomenon in Scientology with Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. He also says that although the question arises whether Scientology belief system “sounds like something that a bad science fiction writer would come up with,” Scientology is no less plausible than basic Jewish and Christian teachings.
Reilly notes that there has been “nearly twenty years of peace after a veritable Thirty Years War between the two organizations.” He again confirms the first notion that he sets out to prove, that Scientology is a church. Being a tax professional, he leaves the sorting out of this discussion to Professor Edward Zelinsky, who recently had a conference at Yeshiva University School for his Oxford University book “Taxing the Church: Religion Exemptions, Entanglement and the Constitution.” Reilly wrote an exhaustive review of the book.
The Forbes contributor also affirms his stance that Scientology is a church because it fulfills all of the IRS’ fourteen criteria in determining that an organization is a church. These are: a distinct legal existence; a recognized creed and form of worship; a definite and distinct ecclesiastical government; a formal code of doctrine and discipline; a distinct religious history; a membership not associated with any other church or denomination; a complete organization of ordained ministers ministering to their congregations; ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study; a literature of its own; established places of worship; regular congregations; regular religious services; Sunday schools for religious instruction of the young; schools for the preparation of its ministers.
Reilly then concludes: “Like it or not, it looks like a church. Just because it is a church does not mean that it is a good thing, but it does mean that it is presumptively an exempt organization.”