Going Clear director Alex Gibney wants the IRS to revoke the Church of Scientology’s tax-exempt status.
In a a Saturday editorial in the Los Angeles Times, Gibney called on the IRS to lead a “proper criminal investigation” into the controversial church, which has been accused of widespread physical and mental abuse, as well as using intimidation tactics to silence its most vocal critics.
Gibney wrote that Scientologists are “entitled to believe what they want to believe.” He wrote that the reason the Church should lose its tax-exempt status is not because Scientology is not a “real religion.”
“To maintain the right to be tax-exempt, however, religions must fulfill certain requirements for charitable organizations,” the filmmaker wrote. “For example, they may not ‘serve the private interests of any individual’ and/or ‘the organization’s purposes and activities may not be illegal or violate fundamental public policy.'”
Gibney argued that the Church violates both of those IRS requirements.
First, the director said that Scientology appears to be controlled, and served by, just one man: chairman David Miscavige. Gibney also charged that celebrity adherents like Tom Cruise receive personal benefits from the Church’s tax-exempt workforce, most notably the Sea Org, whose workers are alleged to receive just $0.40 per hour.
On the second point, the director wrote that his film, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, detailed numerous instances of alleged church abuse including “false imprisonment, human trafficking, wiretaps, assault, harassment, and invasion of privacy.” These activities, Gibney wrote, appear to have been “either illegal or in violation of public policy.”
Furthermore, Gibney wrote, “the church doctrine of ‘disconnection,’ in which members are forced to ‘disconnect’ from anyone critical of the church, seems cruelly at odds with any reasonable definition of ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.'”
“It seems to me that our government has a ‘fundamental, overriding interest’ in protecting individual liberty by not subsidizing harassment or surveillance by gun-toting private eyes,” Gibney said. “The 1st Amendment should not be a smokescreen to hide human rights abuses and possible criminal activities.”
With regard to the IRS revoking the church’s tax-exempt nonprofit status, Gibney offers two proposals:
“A proper criminal investigation that followed the money – a virtual river of cash from tax-exempt donations and fees – could sort out some of these issues.”
Failing that, the courts could compel the notoriously tight-lipped church leader himself to speak out.
“Or a congressional subcommittee investigation could force Miscavige – who was unwilling to answer questions for Wright’s book or the film – to testify under oath about allegations of abuse.”
Check out the rest of Gibney’s LAT editorial here. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief is available now on HBO On Demand and HBO Go.