'Going Clear' Director Calls for End to Scientology Tax-Exempt Status in Op-Ed

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
Courtesy of Sundance International Film Festival

Alex Gibney writes in the L.A. Times, "It seems clear that Scientology is ruled by only one man, David Miscavige."

Going Clear director Alex Gibney is calling for an end to Scientology's tax-exempt status.

In a Los Angeles Times op-ed on Saturday, documentary filmmaker Gibney, whose Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief aired on Mar. 29 on HBO, addressed the church's tax-exempt status and why that designation should be revoked.

"Regarding 'private interests,' it seems clear that Scientology is ruled by only one man, [Scientology head] David Miscavige," Gibney wrote in the op-ed. "Further, powerful celebrities within the church, particularly Tom Cruise, receive private benefits through the exploitation of low-wage labor (clergy members belonging to the Sea Org make roughly 40 cents an hour) and other use of church assets for his personal gain."

The director goes on to allege that numerous church activities have violated public policy or are illegal, and lawsuits and an FBI investigation have uncovered false imprisonment, human trafficking, assault, harassment and invasion of privacy allegations.

Gibney writes that "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. Or a congressional subcommittee investigation could force Miscavige — who was unwilling to answer questions for [Going Clear author Lawrence] Wright's book or the film — to testify under oath about allegations of abuse."

The Going Clear director provided an example of the 1983 Supreme Court ruling that upheld the decision to revoke the charitable status of a faith-based college. In Bob Jones University vs. United States, the Supreme Court said that "government has a fundamental, overriding interest in eradicating racial discrimination in education … which substantially outweighs whatever burden denial of tax benefits places on [the university's] exercise of their religious beliefs" concerning the college's rule that interracial dating was forbidden.

Gibney explains that Going Clear exposed how Scientology's success to be granted tax-exemption by the Internal Revenue Service involved lawsuits and the "vilification of its agents" in 1993.

"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 wrote, concluding with, "The First Amendment should not be a smokescreen to hide human rights abuses and possible criminal activities."

The church provided The Hollywood Reporter with a five-page letter — an attempt to make a final stand against the film prior to its premiere date — that aims to discredit Gibney's sources (former Scientology members) in the doc film. In the letter, THR is referred to videos published about Gibney and the former members with the following titles: Mike Rinder: The Wife Beater, Marty Rathbun: A Violent Psychopath and Sara Goldberg: The Home Wrecker, among others.

The Church of Scientology did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

More to come...