Lynne Patton, a member of the Trump administration and friend of the Trump family, has reportedly said that the president is looking to revoke the religious tax-exempt status of the so-called Church of Scientology. The Huffington Post reports that she shared this information with actress Leah Remini, once a member of the church, and now an outspoken critic who hosts and produces a show exposing their abuses.
Patton, who heads up the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Region II, reportedly reached out to Remini on Twitter in late May saying in a private message:
From the 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.
She later messaged Remini "This is going to get done in the next 4 years or I'll die trying!"
The Church of Scientology first got its tax exempt status in 1957, but that was revoked in 1967 when the IRS determined it was a commercial enterprise looking to benefit its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. After 26 years and countless lawsuits, the Church's tax exempt status was returned in 1993. They use this classification as a church not only to avoid paying taxes on their incredible wealth (members pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for supposed training, which the church uses to buy real estate which sits empty and attack critics). This status also allows the church cover when allegations are made against it, because it can cite religious freedom.
However, the decision isn't up to Trump, it's up to the IRS - but he's about to appoint a new head of that agency. Assistant Treasurer for Tax Policy David Kautter, an attorney whose accounting firm has helped clients avoid paying taxes to the tune of $2 billion, steps into the role of interim IRS commissioner on Monday until a permanent commissioner is named.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out.