Sunday, June 21, 2009

Paper Publishes Long Expose On Tactics Used By Church of Scientology

Today's St. Petersburg (FL) Times runs the first of a 3-part series on the Church of Scientology, revealing significant new insights into the organization's operations. The series is based on interviews with four former executives of the Church who later defected. Today's article traces the rise to power of the current leader of Scientology, David Miscavige. After the 1986 death of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, he cemented his control by obtaining possession of Hubbard's last writings through a ruse. He told his rivals for control, Pat and Annie Broeker, that the FBI was about to raid their ranch and take the papers. They turned the papers over to a Miscavige supporter.

The article claims that "physical violence permeated Scientology's international management team. Miscavige set the tone, routinely attacking his lieutenants."

One of the most interesting parts of today's long article is the account of Scientology's efforts-- ultimately successful in 1993-- to regain its tax exempt status from the IRS. The IRS had revoked the Church's 501(c)(3) exemption in the 1960's, arguing that it was a commercial enterprise. Hubbard unsuccessfully attempted to regain it through infiltrating the IRS, copying documents and withholding tax payments. (Background.) Miscavige used a new strategy, described at length by the Times:

Overwhelm the IRS. Force mistakes. The church filed about 200 lawsuits against the IRS, seeking documents to prove IRS harassment and challenging the agency's refusal to grant tax exemptions to church entities. Some 2,300 individual Scientologists also sued the agency, demanding tax deductions for their contributions....

The church ratcheted up the pressure with a relentless campaign against the IRS.
Armed with IRS records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Scientology's magazine, Freedom, featured stories on alleged IRS abuses: lavish retreats on the taxpayers' dime; setting quotas on audits of individual Scientologists; targeting small businesses for audits while politically connected corporations were overlooked. Scientologists distributed the magazine on the front steps of the IRS building in Washington.

A group called the National Coalition of IRS Whistleblowers waged its own campaign. Unbeknownst to many, it was quietly created and financed by Scientology.... They also knew the other side was hurting. A memo obtained by the church said the Scientology lawsuits had tapped the IRS's litigation budget before the year was up....Another memo documented a conference of 20 IRS officials in the 1970s. They were trying to figure out how to respond to a judge's ruling that Scientology met the agency's definition of a religion. The IRS' solution? They talked about changing the definition. .... Rathbun says that contrary to rumor, no bribes were paid, no extortion used. It was round-the-clock preparation and persistence — plus thousands of lawsuits, hard-hitting magazine articles and full-page ads in USA Today criticizing the IRS. "That was enough," Rathbun said. "You didn't need blackmail."

Miscavige says that the defectors who provided information for the series are liars and are attempting to stage a coup to seize control of the Church. Additional installments in the newspaper's series will appear tomorrow and Tuesday. Those installments, along with additional material already available, will be linked here.