Daily Notifications
Sign up for free emails to receive the feature story every morning in your inbox at


Tonight, Leah Remini looks at Scientology’s ultimate prize: The protections of tax exemption

[Jay Wexler]

Throughout Leah Remini’s third season, she’s worked hard to bring every show back to the concept that the Church of Scientology is abusing people, especially its own members, because it has the protection of the federal government.

As a tax-exempt religious organization, granted by the IRS in 1993, Scientology not only avoids paying certain taxes, but it also has vast legal protections that tend to frighten off law enforcement and the courts from digging into allegations of abuse.

But how did we get here? Alex Gibney’s 2015 documentary Going Clear has a good segment on it explaining how Scientology literally went to war with the IRS.

Alex Gibney: A decade into Miscavige’s leadership, a simmering crisis finally came to boil. For years Hubbard had insisted that Scientology was a religion and should be tax-exempt. So he had refused to pay any taxes.

Marty Rathbun: We were facing a tax bill of over a billion dollars, and the total assets, liquid and material, and property of the church was about a quarter of that at the time, in the 80s. And so just from a real simple accounting basis, it was life or death. If we don’t get exemption, we die. If we get it, we survive.


Gibney: Faced with this crisis, David Miscavige formulated a strategy.

Lawrence Wright: Think of the nerve that it takes to decide to take on a war with the IRS.

Rathbun: Being Miscavige’s right-hand man, I was in charge of all those efforts. We were not only suing them in every possible jurisdiction there was, we were investigating the IRS for crimes generally, or things that would offend the public.

Wright: A negotiation began to take place between the IRS and the Church of Scientology… Once the IRS has decided that you are a religion, then you are protected by the vast protections of the First Amendment.

And so, in October 1993, David Miscavige announced to a crowd at the Los Angeles Sports Arena that the war with the IRS was over. Scientology had won.

Can the IRS ever be convinced to revisit the (still formally secret) agreement that it made with Scientology?

There was recently a tantalizing suggestion that the White House might be interested in doing something.

At the Huffington Post, writer Yashar Ali in 2017 revealed that Leah Remini had heard privately from Lynne Patton, a longtime Trump family aide, who complimented Leah on her show. She also said she had mentioned Leah’s work to the Trumps, and when she suggested it was about time Scientology lost its tax exemption, the president agreed.

Patton didn’t respond to Yashar when he asked her to confirm the story, and there’s been no confirmation from the White House that the president has any thoughts one way or another about it.

However, we pointed out that if Trump wanted to have the IRS revisit Scientology’s agreement, his Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is by statute one of the very few number of people who could call for an investigation. And it’s not improper for the president to suggest such a thing to his own cabinet member.

Since then, we’ve heard nothing from the Trump camp about reviewing Scientology’s status.

The IRS, meanwhile, has been decimated in cost-cutting and bruised in scandals, and it doesn’t seem to be in the kind of shape it would need to be in for a battle with Scientology.

But is there still a chance that it could happen? We’re very interested to see what Leah finds out tonight in a new episode of Scientology and the Aftermath from Boston University School of Law professor Jay Wexler. Does he think there’s a way to get the IRS to revisit that 1993 decision?

Also, a programming note. We know that, just as in past years, A&E is calling this the “season finale” because it is the last of season three’s “regular” episodes, even though there will be more episodes to come.

We believe there may be a “special” episode airing next week (although we’ve also heard the network will air a re-run) on February 12, and then six days later, on Monday, February 18, A&E intends to air its resurrected episode featuring Danny Masterson’s accusers.

This third season has already experienced some schedule changes and confusing episode-numbering. We’ll try to stay on top of the latest twists and turns.


Start making your plans!


Scientology’s celebrities, ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and more!

[The Big Three: Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Kirstie Alley]

We’ve been building landing pages about David Miscavige’s favorite playthings, including celebrities and ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and we’re hoping you’ll join in and help us gather as much information as we can about them. Head on over and help us with links and photos and comments.

Scientology’s celebrities, from A to Z! Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Scientology’s ‘Ideal Orgs,’ from one end of the planet to the other! Help us build up pages about each these worldwide locations!

Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society!

Scientology Lit: Books reviewed or excerpted in our weekly series. How many have you read?



[ONE year ago] Best reactions to last night’s Scientology Super Bowl ad, which asked, ‘Curious?’
[TWO years ago] Scientology’s 2017 Super Bowl ad, ‘Your Full Potential,’ is another mystery sandwich
[THREE years ago] Scientology is the bomb diggety, and here’s proof, starring Leah Remini’s husband!
[FOUR years ago] SCIENTOLOGY DENIED: Australia’s only Narconon rehab center loses zoning fight
[FIVE years ago] The secret of everything? It’s time for Scientology’s Original Operating Thetan Level Five!
[SIX years ago] Jenna Miscavige Hill on her uncle, Scientology’s leader: A bully too afraid to show his face
[SEVEN years ago] Scientology Sunday Funnies: The Denver Miracle!


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,351 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,482 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,984 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,464 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 527 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 415 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 3,722 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,590 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,364 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,138 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,484 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,050 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 6,970 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,137 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,718 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,978 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,018 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,730 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,256 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,345 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,485 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,805 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,661 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,780 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,136 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,438 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,544 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,947 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,818 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,401 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,896 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,150 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,259 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on February 5, 2019 at 07:00

E-mail tips to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We also post updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. Our book about Paulette, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2018 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2018), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Other links: BLOGGING DIANETICS: Reading Scientology’s founding text cover to cover | UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists | GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice | SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts | Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates, or join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news | Battling Babe-Hounds: Ross Jeffries v. R. Don Steele


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email