President Trump’s promise to drain the swamp has definitely left his doubters criticizing 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 Trump family since 2009, told Remini in a Twitter message that Trump is in favor of taking away the coveted status, which is given to religious groups, HuffPost reports.
A former federal elections commission lawyer pushed back on the claim that Trump might be able to strip the Church of Scientology of its 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 the powers outside of the control of the executive branch, allegedly being the bullet in former FBI Director James Comey’s tenure at the bureau.
Remini, who once starred on TV’s “The King of Queens,” has since become famous for her show “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath,” which 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 its 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 the church is tax-exempt, it’s difficult to figure out just how much money it is actually pulling in. Fortune set the number at roughly $20 million per year, which would set their annual tax bill at $7.82 million. 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 the church might be skirting around another $20 million in property taxes. Again, these numbers are all rough estimations.
The Church of Scientology, however, is not known for backing down and even reportedly urges its 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 into the Oval Office if he takes a serious look at this debate.