Tax Status

L.A. Times, Op Ed Calls Scientology IRS Tax Exemption “Fully and Fairly Earned”

Tax Status

Scientology Attorney Refutes the Information and Conclusions of Daily Beast Correspondent’s Contentious Opinion Piece

The Los Angeles Times printed a rebuttal February 1 of the November 2017 opinion piece by Daily Beast correspondent James Kirchick. In her Op Ed, Monique Yingling, the Church of Scientology’s primary tax counsel in its successful efforts to obtain federal tax exemption, answers the question with which Kirchick titles his editorial, “In the world of religious tax exemptions, does Scientology measure up?” with “a resounding yes.”

‘L.A. Times’ Op Ed Calls Scientology IRS Tax Exemption “Fully and Fairly Earned”[/tweetthis]

In an article titled “Where bad arguments against Scientology’s tax exemption go to die: courts of law,” Monique Yingling, partner of Washington, D.C.-based Zuckert, Scoutt & Rasenberger, L.L.P., takes issue with Kirchick’s assertion that there was “no legal justification” for the Church of Scientology prevailing in its negotiations with the IRS.

Ms. Yingling was the Church of Scientology’s primary tax counsel in its successful efforts to obtain federal tax exemption—negotiations that took place 25 years ago. She describes the exemption as, “a status it [the Church of Scientology] fully and fairly earned and continues to merit,” and she goes on to state “Unlike Kirchick, I know exactly where of I speak.”

She indicates that the examination process resulting in exemption in 1993 was fully documented “through an extensive administrative record.” Apparently the papers comprising this investigation would be 14 feet tall if stacked up. In fact, Yingling states that the IRS’ record on Scientology is “the largest in the history of exempt organizations.”

“The Church of Scientology is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as tax exempt because it established to the agency’s satisfaction that it is organized and operates as a charitable religious organization,” she says. Kirchick is in error when he claims the church prevailed because of a “ruthless battle to win a religious tax exemption.” No, she says. “it simply worked continuously to demonstrate that it should be treated the same as other religious denominations.”

One interesting point Yingling brings up is that all of the administrative records have been available for the public to review ever since the original decision in 1993.

Yingling then takes up Kirchick’s description of America’s recognition of Scientology as “an anomaly in the Western world”—an assertion that the U.S. stands alone in this opinion. She counters with an impressive list of religious recognitions of Scientology:

“There are judicial decisions from the highest courts in Australia, the United Kingdom and Italy, in addition to numerous decisions from lower courts in dozens of other countries, including Spain, France and Germany, all holding that Scientology is a religion. Indeed, many of these decisions have provided the modern definition of religion in their respective jurisdictions.”

“The Australian High Court’s unanimous decision in 1983 stands as the leading precedent throughout the British Commonwealth for the definition of religion and charity status. In another unanimous decision, the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court in 2013 not only recognized Scientology as a religion but also replaced that country’s Victorian-era definition of religion with a modern one that fully embraces Scientology.”

“In 1997, the Supreme Court of Italy not only recognized the religiosity of Scientology, but also found the church’s fundraising practices to be fairer than those of the Roman Catholic Church. Scientology has been recognized as a religion by courts and governments across the globe, including most recently in Colombia last May and Mexico in October.”

Finally, she agrees with him on one point.

“Kirchick did get one thing right,” she says “in observing that Mormonism ‘was long considered a cult (its adherents the targets of episodic violence) but is now increasingly accepted by mainstream society as just another branch of Christianity.’ This experience, however, is not unique to Mormons: History shows that virtually every new religious faith has been defamed, persecuted and suppressed by the society from which it emerged.”

“Before Constantine, the Roman Empire considered Christianity an obscure Jewish sect and a dangerous one at that. Genuine religions weather these storms and emerge even stronger because their adherents find sufficient value in the religious teachings to endure the attacks of religious bigots and the prejudice and discrimination they produce. This has proven true of Christianity and Mormonism and is continuing to prove true of Scientology.”

“Indeed, Scientology’s acceptance as a world religion has come quickly by historical measures. The church increasingly enjoys cooperative relations with numerous governments worldwide as well as with like-minded religious, social and humanitarian institutions in the communities it serves. Lost in a tabloid obsessed, click-bait culture is the real story of Scientology.”


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