US Court rules Orthodox Jews cannot use the same tax deductions as Scientologists

16 12 2008

An American court ruled this week that an Orthodox Jewish couple could not use tax deductions that Scientologists can use (deductions they obtained by way of a secret 1993 agreement with the Internal Revenue Service). In the case Sklar v. Commissioner of the IRS, Michael and Marla Sklar tried to claim their childrens’ tuition for their Jewish day school as a tax deduction but their argument was rejected by the US Ninth Circuit Court because it violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which states in the first sentence that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”.

The Sklars’ main argument was that section 170(f)(8) and 6115 of the IRS code authorized deductions for donations made to religious institutions if they provided “intangible religious benefits”. Scientologists can claim deductions for “religious” services provided by the “Church”, and the Sklars argued that they too should be allowed to utilize this benefit. If the “Church” of Scientology is allowed to violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, then they should be able to do the same thing in the name of consistency. The Ninth Circuit Court rejected this argument because “[t]o conclude otherwise would be tantamount to rewriting the Tax Code, disregarding Supreme Court precedent, only to reach a conclusion directly at odds with the Establishment Clause — all in the name of the Establishment Clause.”.

The court ruled wisely in favor of not violating the First Amendment, which unequivocally states that no religion should have an advantage over the other. But what to say about the “Church” of Scientology’s special privilege, which they allegedly obtained by shady means. Three years after the “Church” was established by L. Ron Hubbard in 1953, the IRS gave it tax-exempt status. However, in 1967, their tax-exempt status was stripped away because it was determined that the activities of the “Church” were commercial, and several US courts agreed. This meant war between the IRS and the “Church”, which continued for 25 years.

In 1973, L. Ron Hubbard initiated Operation Snow White against the governments of several countries, including the United States. The main target of “Project Hunter”, he American branch of Snow White was the IRS. Operation Snow White called for the infiltration of the IRS and other US government agencies in order to steal documents related to L. Ron Hubbard and the “Church” of Scientology. Eventually, several Scientologists, including L. Ron Hubbard’s wife Mary Sue, were caught, and the FBI invaded Scientology offices in Los Angeles and Washington DC. In 1979, eleven Scientologists, including Mary Sue Hubbard, were sentenced to five years in prison. That did not stop the war against the IRS. Private investigators were hired by the cult to dig up dirt on various IRS officials, and in many cases, they found enough damning evidence to blackmail these officials.

Finally, in 1993, then IRS Comissioner Fred Goldberg met with current “Church” leader David Miscavige and reached an agreement that would end all lawsuits against the IRS by the “Church” of Scientology: the war was finally over. Attempts by various IRS watchdogs to get the IRS to disclose this agreement were unsuccessful, even though by law the IRS has to release it.

The question to ask is: why is a pseudo-religion started by a charlatan solely to make money allowed these special privileges, while legitimate religions are not? This IRS agreement violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by making it a de facto “established” religion. It was wise on the part of the Ninth Circuit Court to reject Michael and Marla Sklar’s argument, but the “Church” of Scientology must be called out for this circumvention of the US Constitution.

Let me leave you with a quote from L. Ron Hubbard:

“Somebody some day will say ‘this is illegal’. By then be sure the orgs say what is legal or not.”

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Church of Scientology loses to First Amendment

14 12 2008

Crossposted at Counterknowledge.com

Recently, the “Church” of Scientology pushed an ordinance in Riverside County, California, to keep “members” of the group Anonymous away from their fortress-like Gold Base, and it was passed almost unanimously by Riverside County supervisors. But today, Riverside County decided to back away from that decision, at least for now because of the inevitable fall-out from such a restrictive ordinance.

The ordinance pushed by the “Church” would restrict picketers by prohibiting them from protesting within 300 feet of Gold Base. The “Church” and their friend inside Riverside County, Supervisor Jeff Stone, argued that Gold Base is a residential area, and there is already a law that prohibits picketers from picketing a person’s home. During the hearings, proponents tried to argue that Anonymous is a hate group by pulling images from imageboard 4chan, which is regarded as the “birthplace” of Anonymous. 4chan is an image board which has spawned many internet inside jokes and memes such as the Rick Roll. Its humour is often explicit, and, admittedly, sometimes offensive.

Free speech has not quite won this battle yet: the Riverside County board of supervisors still think this ordinance is worth “massaging and tweaking” so that a compromise can be reached. But, for now, this is a temporary victory for Anonymous, and a temporary loss for the tyrannical “Church” of Scientology.