Church of Scientology responds to questions about fundraising, tax exemption

Published Nov. 20, 2011

Excerpts from the Church of Scientology's response, in the words of its spokeswoman, Karin Pouw:

Due to the unique nature of its ministry, the Church of Scientology has found that a donation system for participating in religious services is its most practical method of support. Scientology auditing and training require the time of and facilities for a large number of highly trained ministers and other staff, but the resources of Churches of Scientology are determined by its parishioners' level of support. Thus, churches seek financial support from those engaging in the religious services that require the greatest dedication of time and resources of the church. This donation system is the most fair and equitable method of accomplishing the religion's purposes.

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All Church of Scientology fundraising practices were addressed by the United States Internal Revenue Service before ruling in 1993 that the Church and its related organizations were tax exempt. The IRS determined that the manner in which Churches of Scientology raise funds is indistinguishable from the fundraising practices of other major religions. The principal IRS concern was the church's eventual use of the funds raised and with respect to that issue, the IRS reached the conclusion that no funds are expended for the benefit of any church leader or other individual and that the church serves "exclusively religious and charitable purposes."

The church demonstrated specific projects it intended to fund through its present and anticipated future resources, and the IRS was satisfied that these plans reflected appropriate exempt religious purposes. In the almost 20 years since the exemption proceedings, the church has greatly surpassed those initial plans, including but by no means limited to the dozens of new Ideal Church buildings around the world. Contributions to Churches of Scientology in the United States are tax deductible, just as contributions to any other recognized church are deductible.

Courts examining the issue also have determined that the method of fundraising used by Scientology Churches is no different in substance from fundraising practices of other religions.

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The Scientology financial contribution system is comparable to the financial systems of many other religions and does not differ in substance from donations by parishioners of other religions to secure access to worship and similar religious rituals in their respective faiths.