President Trump’s promise to drain the swamp has definitely spurred his doubters to criticize his billionaire cabinet but now the president is taking on a different beast — and one on an entirely different coast.
A longtime aide and friend of Trump’s told actress and former Scientologist Leah Remini that Trump may have his eyes set on revoking the tax exempt status of the Church of Scientology. Lynne Patton, who has worked for the family since 2009, told Remini in a Twitter message that Trump is in favor of taking away the coveted status, which is donned on religious groups, HuffPost reports.
A former federal elections commission lawyer pushed back on the claims that Trump might be able to strip the Church of Scientology of their status, saying “for the White House or any administration official to try and influence who the IRS targets, for whatever reason, is wrong and could result in a violation of the law,” adding “the IRS must make these decisions independently without any influence by the White House or administration officials.”
But President Trump has reportedly shown no hesitation in whispering to powers outside of the control of the executive branch, allegedly firing the killing bullet in former FBI Director James Comey’s tenure at the bureau.
Remini, who was once a star on “The King of Queens,” has since become famous for her show “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” that depicts life inside the organization. In a message, Patton delivered the following statement to Remini, per HuffPost,
From [t]he moment I saw your series I told President Trump & his family we needed to revoke their tax exempt status. They couldn’t agree more, but please don’t publicize that yet. I want to do more due diligence on what the IRS has attempted in the past (or maybe you can enlighten me), then I’ll identify who we need to connect with again.
In 1993, the Church of Scientology was awarded with tax exempt status after their legion of lawyers descended on the agency; allegedly filing dozens of lawsuits against the IRS and individual workers, Fortune notes. The bombshell HBO documentary “Going Clear” outlined the battle between the IRS and the Scientologists, though the church says that the film is “replete with false and misleading statements.”
Since they are tax exempt, it’s difficult to figure out just how much the church is actually pulling in. Fortune set a rough number at $20 million, which would set their tax bill at $7.82 million annually. But the website also noted that, more substantial than income taxes are the property taxes that the church is not paying. Since there is a Scientology church in almost every major city in the United States, Fortune estimated that they might be skirting around another $20 million in property taxes — again, these numbers are all rough estimations.
However, the Church of Scientology is not known for backing down and even reportedly urges their influential members to make phone calls when they come under scrutiny. There’s a good chance that President Trump has an few Scientologist friends who might drop a line in the Oval Office if he takes a serious look at this debate.