‘Going Clear’ Filmmaker Calls for Revocation of Scientology’s Tax-Exempt Status
Just weeks after HBO aired the controversial documentary "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief," its director, well-known filmmaker Alex Gibney is calling for the revocation of Scientology's tax-exempt status.
In an op-ed piece published on the LA Times, Gibney admitted he had assumed to receive "vitriolic" response from the Church of Scientology after making "Going Clear," but hoped this reaction "may lead to the reform of an organization that has harassed its critics and, in my view, abused its tax-exempt status."
Gibney wrote that Scientology "maintains that its activities are protected by the 1st Amendment as religious practices." He explained that his documentary exposed the Scientology's method of convincing the Internal Revenue Service in 1993 to grant tax-exemption status to the church and make its all donations tax-deductible through "lawsuits and vilification of its agents."
The award-winning filmmaker argued that in order for religions to maintain their right to be tax-exempt, they should meet certain requirements for charitable organizations. Gibney said religions 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."
"Regarding 'private interests,' it seems clear that Scientology is ruled by only one man, David Miscavige. Further, powerful celebrities within the church, particularly Tom Cruise, receive private benefits through the exploitation of low-wage labor and other use of church assets for his personal gain," Gibney wrote.
Gibney alleged that numerous activities in the church have been illegal or violated public policy. In addition, he said various lawsuits, media accounts and an FBI investigation have exposed allegations of false imprisonment, human trafficking, assault and harassment, wiretaps and invasion of privacy against the church.
"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," Gibney said.
Since the premiere of "Going Clear," which is based on the book of Lawrence Wright, the church has not made any legal threats to HBO, according to the channel's executives. In a recent interview with CNNMoney, HBO CEO Richard Plepler maintained that "facts are stubborn things." "Everybody's entitled to their own opinion, but they're not entitled to their own facts," Plepler said. "I think the documentary bears up very well to any kind of scrutiny," he added.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, prior to "Going Clear" premiere date, the Church of Scientology provided them a five-page letter "as an attempt to make a final stand against the film," aiming to discredit the former Scientology members who served as Gibney's sources. Following the release of Gibney's op-ed piece, however, the church did not immediately respond to a request for comment, the publication said.