Activists Are Clear on One Thing: Scientology Better Start Paying Taxes

A new petition calls for the IRS to revoke the Church of Scientology’s tax-exempt status.

(Photo: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

Mar 31, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

HBO's revealing documentary Going Clear is reigniting a storm of criticism aimed at the Church of Scientology and driving a new petition seeking to have its tax-exempt status as a religious institution revoked.

The petition was launched independently about a week ahead of Going Clear's premiere on Sunday night. It has since gained traction on social media, with the documentary's filmmaker, Alex Gibney, tweeting the link on Tuesday and stars such as Mia Farrow calling for an end to the "thuggish, dangerous, cruel cult."

The petition asks the IRS to revoke the Church of Scientology's tax-exempt status and has garnered more than 6,000 signatures to date. It reads in part: "The money is used to harass former members, coerce abortions, to secure their Int. base so people can't escape, child abuse, forcing members to disconnect from family who aren't Scientology friendly, and to litigate to death anyone who opposes them."

Scientology's three organizations claimed a $1.5 billion combined value, according to a 2011 tax filing exposed in the movie and reported in The Wrap. The Church of Scientology did not immediately return TakePart's request for comment.

The allegations made in the petition have been widely circulating for years but were presented in thorough detail in Going Clear, which interviewed several former high-ranking members of the church, including screenwriter and director Paul Haggis, publicist Sylvia "Spanky" Taylor, and Tom De Vocht, a former aid to current Scientology leader David Miscavige.

The subjects who appeared in the film were threatened with physical and financial harm, Gibney told The Wrap on Sunday—a claim the church denied, saying Gibney "lacks corroboration and proof." Going Clear alleges that the Church of Scientology achieved its tax-exempt status in 1993 after filing thousands of lawsuits against the IRS for failing to recognize it as a church.