I hope you’ve seen, or plan to see, the documentary by Alex Gibney called Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. Besides the whole insanity of Xenu, and thetans and Suppressive Persons, a big question raised is why exactly did the IRS classify L. Ron Hubbard’s science fiction stories as a religion, entitled to evade taxes? Was it a result of Operation Snow White? Or some other reason?
The latter half of Going Clear delineates how David Miscavige uses the above dogma to create a financial empire built on celebrity outreach, with the organization’s Celebrity Centre being a major landmark, and Hubbard’s directive of “fair game” (i.e., harassment and threats to enemies labeled “suppressive persons”). The result is extensive research and testimony based on the experiences of former church members, some of them former senior members, with allegations of torture, labor camps, re-education camps, human trafficking, and a non-profit religion that has at least $1.5 billion in the bank. If you or I paid someone who worked for us 40 cents an hour or forced someone to mop a bathroom with their tongue, we would probably be looking at spending some time in a courtroom.
However, because Scientology has tax-exempt status as a religion, these practices are protected by the First Amendment as “self-inflicted” punishments by adherents of a religion.
That tax-exempt status was also important in saving Scientology from bankruptcy. Going Clear asserts the church was looking at a $1 billion tax bill in 1993 after fighting the IRS for decades. Not only was the tax debt forgiven, but the classification of Scientology as a religion also means sales of Dianetics and other Hubbard books are not taxed either, since they’re considered “religious texts.” And all of this is supposed to be given a happy face by trotting out celebrities like Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and others so they can peddle Scientology in other countries and attempt religious recognition in Europe and elsewhere. However, Cruise is shown to be the equivalent of manipulated royalty within the church. Church insiders paint a picture of him as pampered and coddled to be Scientology’s ambassador to the world, with his every whim attended to, but Miscavige dictates who can be close to Cruise and is jealously protective of his own relationship with the star. And Travolta is implied to be either indifferent to the religion’s abuses or a “captive” who stays in his place because of the threat of blackmail.
(click here to continue reading ‘Going Clear’ offers a devastating exposé of greed and abuse.)
Truthfully, I don’t understand why any mega-rich church gets to be tax exempt. My taxes partially go to support schools, I don’t object to that despite me having no children of my own. I understand the idea of the public good – a well educated society is better for all of us. I pay for the park district, and I don’t object to that. I use the parks, I am happy to see others using the parks, families, dogs, whatever. But what good to society is Scientology doing? or any of us who aren’t Tom Cruise or John Travolta?
I don’t think the Catholic Church should be tax-exempt either, but at least they seem to do a small amount of good for the public – soup kitchens, outreach, etc. What is Scientology doing for the community? Other than separating rubes from their money?
The Nonprofit Risk Management Center reports that more than 100 501(c)(3) organizations are stripped of their tax-exempt status each year. The reasons can vary, covering the violation of laws that govern private benefits, lobbying, political campaign activity, unrelated business income, the obligation to report annually and maintaining operation in accord with stated exempt purpose.…
According to the film, Church of Scientology Chairman David Miscavige ordered the organization’s members to file individual lawsuits against the IRS for its failure to recognize it as a church. Overwhelmed by 2,400 individual suits and the prospect of defending itself against all of them, the IRS agreed to grant Scientology tax-exempt status in exchange for the withdrawal of the cases.
A 2011 tax filing reveals that the three organizations comprising Scientology claim a combined value of $1.5 billion, a sum that has allegedly been built on the backs of members who pay thousands of dollars to rise within the organization, are paid 40 cents an hour for labor and have been tortured for dissent, combined with the organization’s vast international property portfolio. “This issue is not about whether Scientology is a religion,” Gibney told TheWrap. “The issue is whether or not Scientology is pursuing policies that are not in the public interest.” The government simply needs to determine whether there’s a “fundamental overriding interest” in declassifying an organization involved in the above activities as exempt from taxation.
According to the IRS website, to be tax-exempt, an “organization’s purposes and activities may not be illegal or violate fundamental public policy.” An IRS representative told TheWrap he’s unable to comment on whether there’s currently an investigation into any organizations or individual cases.
(click here to continue reading HBO’s ‘Going Clear’ Triggers New Scrutiny of Scientology’s Tax-Exempt Status.)
So how exactly did the Scientologists get the IRS to reverse itself? There are many still unanswered questions:
For 25 years, I.R.S. agents had branded Scientology a commercial enterprise and refused to give it the tax exemption granted to churches. The refusals had been upheld in every court. But that night the crowd learned of an astonishing turnaround. The I.R.S. had granted tax exemptions to every Scientology entity in the United States.…The landmark reversal shocked tax experts and saved the church tens of millions of dollars in taxes. More significantly, the decision was an invaluable public relations tool in Scientology’s worldwide campaign for acceptance as a mainstream religion. On the basis of the I.R.S. ruling, the State Department formally criticized Germany for discriminating against Scientologists. The German Government regards the organization as a business, not a tax-exempt religion, the very position maintained for 25 years by the American Government.
The full story of the turnabout by the I.R.S. has remained hidden behind taxpayer privacy laws for nearly four years. But an examination by The New York Times found that the exemption followed a series of unusual internal I.R.S. actions that came after an extraordinary campaign orchestrated by Scientology against the agency and people who work there. Among the findings of the review by The Times, based on more than 30 interviews and thousands of pages of public and internal church records, were these:
*Scientology’s lawyers hired private investigators to dig into the private lives of I.R.S. officials and to conduct surveillance operations to uncover potential vulnerabilities, according to interviews and documents. One investigator said he had interviewed tenants in buildings owned by three I.R.S. officials, looking for housing code violations. He also said he had taken documents from an I.R.S. conference and sent them to church officials and created a phony news bureau in Washington to gather information on church critics. The church also financed an organization of I.R.S. whistle-blowers that attacked the agency publicly.
*The decision to negotiate with the church came after Fred T. Goldberg Jr., the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service at the time, had an unusual meeting with Mr. Miscavige in 1991. Scientology’s own version of what occurred offers a remarkable account of how the church leader walked into I.R.S. headquarters without an appointment and got in to see Mr. Goldberg, the nation’s top tax official. Mr. Miscavige offered to call a halt to Scientology’s suits against the I.R.S. in exchange for tax exemptions.
After that meeting, Mr. Goldberg created a special committee to negotiate a settlement with Scientology outside normal agency procedures. When the committee determined that all Scientology entities should be exempt from taxes, I.R.S. tax analysts were ordered to ignore the substantive issues in reviewing the decision, according to I.R.S. memorandums and court files.
The I.R.S. refused to disclose any terms of the agreement, including whether the church was required to pay back taxes, contending that it was confidential taxpayer information. The agency has maintained that position in a lengthy court fight, and in rejecting a request for access by The Times under the Freedom of Information Act. But the position is in stark contrast to the agency’s handling of some other church organizations. Both the Jimmy Swaggart Ministries and an affiliate of the Rev. Jerry Falwell were required by the I.R.S. to disclose that they had paid back taxes in settling disputes in recent years.
(click here to continue reading Scientology’s Puzzling Journey From Tax Rebel to Tax Exempt – NYTimes.com.)
From the IRS manual, your organization only needs to check these boxes off to be classified as a religion, and not even check all the boxes:
The Service considers all the facts and circumstances in determining whether an organization is a church, including whether the organization has the following characteristics:
- a distinct legal existence
- a recognized creed and form of worship
- a definite and distinct ecclesiastical government
- a formal code of doctrine and discipline
- a distinct religious history
- a membership not associated with any other church or denomination
- a complete organization of ordained ministers ministering to their congregations
- ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study
- a literature of its own
- established places of worship
- regular congregations
- regular religious services
- Sunday schools for religious instruction of the young
- schools for the preparation of its ministers
The above list of 14 church characteristics (first published by the Service in 1978 as a news release, IR–1930) is not exclusive—any other facts and circumstances that may bear upon the organization’s claim for church status must also be considered.
An organization need not have all of the characteristics (few churches do, and newly-created churches cannot be expected to); thus, no single characteristic is controlling.
Some of the characteristics may be given more weight than others in a given case.
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I took Everything You Do Leaves You Empty Inside on March 28, 2015 at 08:11PM
and processed it in my digital darkroom on March 29, 2015 at 05:41PM
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I took Waltz on March 26, 2015 at 11:54AM
and processed it in my digital darkroom on March 27, 2015 at 12:19AM
At the grand opening of the West Loop Whole Foods in Skybridge.
I wonder if anyone has ever challenged this kind of license? Most people probably don’t even read the sign, just like those software EULA that you click through without reading.
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I took Attention Customers – Photography taking place in the store today on March 25, 2015 at 12:00PM
and processed it in my digital darkroom on March 25, 2015 at 05:00PM
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I took Monday March Commute on March 23, 2015 at 08:46AM
and processed it in my digital darkroom on March 23, 2015 at 02:52PM
Up to 5 inches of snow to drop during rush hour – Chicago Tribune: “Spin-outs and near white-out conditions slowed the morning rush Monday as a burst of spring snow hit just in time for the commute and could bring as much as 5 inches of snow in some parts of the Chicago area.”
Progressives do have a history with Mayor 1%, Rahm Emanuel, and it isn’t a pleasant one. Sadly, it does look like Rahm-bo might squeak out a win over Chuy Garcia, but the special runoff election isn’t until April 7th, so there is still hope.
Digby writes, in part, a bit of the history:
Way back in the day (a decade ago) when the Progressive Netroots were just starting to organize, the first “scalp” any of the left leaning movement activists took was that of a Democratic hack from Maryland named Al Wynn when they backed a progressive challenger by the name of Donna Edwards. Edwards defeated Wynn in 2008 and is now running to replace Senator Barbara Mikulski who recently announced her retirement. In each congressional cycle Netroots progressives have fought a number of hard-fought primaries, losing more often than they won (just like the Tea Party) but slowly managing to make the House of Representatives a bit more progressive than it was before. Congressional representatives like Matt Cartwright, Beto O’Rourke and Senators like Jon Tester were backed strongly by the grassroots of the party and managed to unseat incumbents. Nobody in the beltway noticed or cared, of course. (Progressives always forget to order their tri-corner hats and Betsy Ross wigs…)
But over time, it’s had an effect and not just because of the “scalps” they took, but because all of those hard fought races, whether won or lost, showed the incumbents that there was a restive group of activists out there who could challenge the status quo. And aside from primary challenges, progressives in congress from Keith Ellison and Alan Grayson in the House to Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin in the Senate were enthusiastically supported by Netroots groups like, Move On, DFA, PCCC and Blue America (disclosure: I am a principal in that group) among a number of others, a support which translates into small donor involvement, campaign volunteering and strategic advice as well as engaged in grassroots activism for progressive congressional initiatives. It’s made a difference. The House and Senate today have progressive wings that are active and vocal in a way they did not a decade ago.
Back in 2006 when all this really started to come together there was one Democrat who quickly determined that this nascent progressive movement was a major threat to the status quo. His name was Rahm Emanuel who was, at the time, an Illinois congressman in charge of candidate recruitment for the congressional Democrats. If there’s anyone who can take credit for being the catalyst for this long term Netroots commitment to elect progressives to congress it is him. His crude dismissal of grassroots concerns was blatant. His contempt for anyone who disagreed with his centrist Blue Dog/New Democrat philosophy was palpable. While his wholehearted support for big money interests was seen as the ultimate in strategic brilliance by the beltway elites, it repelled Democratic activists everywhere.
Despite the fact that lame-duck George W. Bush and the war in Iraq were so unpopular that virtually anyone who could draw a breath who had a D after his or her name could have won, the conventional wisdom said that Emanuel’s DCCC win in the off year election of 2006 was a validation of his political savvy. (In case you were wondering, Emanuel wasn’t elected to congress until after the Iraq war resolution but was on record supporting it, saying that the U.S. needed a “muscular projection of force” there. You can let the shrinks sort out just what that language says about him …)
When the newly elected President Obama tapped him as chief-of-staff, you could hear progressives screaming “nooooooo” across the land. And when he departed to run for mayor of Chicago, the collective sigh of progressive relief (everywhere but Chicago) was just as audible. He is, in other words, the symbol of everything progressives are trying to change about the Democratic Party.
And right now, in Chicago, a progressive is giving him the personal challenge of his political lifetime. Political observers were stunned last month when a longtime Illinois politician by the name of Jesus “Chuy” Garcia forced Emanuel into a runoff for his second term as mayor. Perhaps stunned isn’t really the right word. Apoplectic is more apt. After all, Emanuel has a seemingly unending supply of money with which he tried to buy off every bit of institutional support and his network of elite friendships goes all the way up to the White House. But it turns out that his arrogance and corruption may be too much even for a city that is anything but starry-eyed about such things.
(click here to continue reading Why the left hates this man: Rahm Emanuel’s sins against the progressive movement – Salon.com.)
A slightly different way to play the random music on a Friday game, I started with a song I wanted to hear, and used the Create Genius Playlist on my iPhone to generate a list.
I’ve talked about my deep love for Guy Clark’s version of Desperados Waiting on A Train previously, instead of repeating that, I’ll just add that these songs do fit well together. Vocals and literate lyrics front and center, lots of stringed acoustic instruments, guitar, fiddle sometimes, lots of empty space. If I had been older instead of younger, I’d probably have seen all of these acts multiple times when I lived in Austin, as it is, I don’t remember ever seeing any of these acts live (maybe Joe Ely, but my memory is fuzzy). I really wish I had seen Townes Van Zandt at least once, his music can bring a tear to my eye.
- Clark, Guy- Desperados Waiting For A Train
Old No. 1
- Steve Earle- Mercenary Song
Train A Comin’
- Townes Van Zandt- Pancho And Lefty
Rear View Mirror
- Jerry Jeff Walker- Pissin’ In The Wind
20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: Best Of Jerry Jeff Walker
- Slaid Cleaves- Broke Down
- Ray Wylie Hubbard- Conversation With The Devil
107.1 KGSR Broadcasts Vol. 7 (disc 2)
- Ely, Joe- Me And Billy The Kid
Live At Liberty Lunch
- Earle, Steve- The Mountain
Just an American Boy
- Townes Van Zandt- Tecumseh Valley
Live and Obscure
- Jerry Jeff Walker- Desperados Waiting For The Train
- Mary Gauthier- I Drink
Bob Dylan – Theme Time 3 Drink
- Earle, Steve- Poncho And Lefty
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I took Foolish To Think Too Much About It on February 03, 2013 at 01:59PM
and processed it in my digital darkroom on March 20, 2015 at 02:18PM
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I took The World Is Full of Troubles on March 16, 2015 at 11:50AM
and processed it in my digital darkroom on March 18, 2015 at 02:35PM
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I took Porthole to Alaska on June 24, 2007 at 07:38AM
and processed it in my digital darkroom on March 11, 2015 at 02:23PM
I’m firmly in the camp of One Time per Time Zone Per Year. In other words, drop the whole Daylight Savings bullshit introduced by the Kaiser1 , and keep the time the same all damn year long. So what if it gets light later, or dark earlier. Most of us have electricity by now, and access to coffee, we can artificially create light, and wake our lazy asses out of bed when we need to.
Aside from getting one less hour of sleep on Sunday and getting more light in the evening, daylight saving time doesn’t affect me, does it?
Actually, it may have a more averse effect than it seems. A study done by Dr Amneet Sandhu, a cardiology fellow at the University of Colorado in Denver, shows that on the Monday immediately after daylight saving time heart attacks increase by 25 per cent, Reuters reported.
On the Monday after daylight saving time ends, heart attacks fall by 21 per cent. Dr Sandhu said the loss of sleep is the likely culprit of the increase of heart attacks seen after the clocks move forward, so make sure you get plenty of sleep on Sunday.
(click here to continue reading Daylight saving time: Why moving the clock forward increases risk of heart attacks – Americas – World – The Independent.)
- Germany and Austria-Hungary organized the first implementation, starting on 30 April 1916. [↩]
In general, I’m supportive of some civic attention being paid to Wabash Avenue, but I will be sad to lose the dramatic shadows underneath it when the lighting gets upgraded.
Wabash Avenue, critically located between the tourist attractions on Michigan Avenue and shopping on State Street, is poised to undergo a significant makeover.
After more than a year spent collecting input and brainstorming, the Chicago Loop Alliance, the organization that promotes the downtown business district, has issued final recommendations for transforming the iconic corridor under the “L” tracks into a more inviting street.
The 24 recommendations range from the immediate, such as removing graffiti and litter, to the long-term, which includes installing a kinetic lighting installation running the length of the tracks.
Wabash, given its location under the tracks, tends to be dark and loud, often gathering litter and flocks of pigeons. It has higher vacancy rates, lower commercial and residential rents and lower pedestrian and vehicle counts than neighboring streets. Twelve of the projects to improve the street should start within the next two years, nine of them in two to five years and three of them five to 10 years from now, according to a timeline in the final report.
(click here to continue reading Group lays out its plans to spiff up Chicago’s Wabash Avenue – Chicago Tribune.)
Sigh. The REAL ID boondoggle isn’t dead yet. Doesn’t it sound like everything the Big Govment’ haters rail against? And yet, it was passed “in the wake of 9/11”…
Currently, Illinois licenses and identification cards do not meet minimum standards mandated by the Real ID Act, which passed in 2005 in the wake of 9/11. If the Department of Homeland Security does not grant Illinois an extension, residents would need additional identification like a passport or face additional security checks to get on planes.
The act aims to thwart efforts by terrorists, con artists and immigrants in the country illegally to obtain government-issued identification. Arguments about costs, privacy and whether the additional information would actually reduce threats have delayed implementation of the law for more than a decade.
A major feature of Real ID is the verification of birth certificates, which Illinois currently does not require. The information is electronically scanned and stored in a federal database, and data can be shared easily among states and the federal government.
“It’s a large database that allows us to verify birth certificates and death certificates, things of that nature,” said Henry Haupt, spokesman for Secretary of State Jesse White. “It’s quite costly. We estimate, in order to utilize it and have all the birth certificates verified for Illinois drivers, it would cost about $3.75 million each year.”
White’s office estimated it would cost $100 to $150 million just for staffing, equipment and data storage. A Real ID driver’s licenses could cost an estimated $75 in Illinois. A license currently costs $30 for ages 21-68, according to CyberDrive Illinois.
That cost would largely be shouldered by Illinois drivers and taxpayers. The Homeland Security estimates it could cost $4 billion nationwide to implement the act.
States and territories were initially required to implement the program by May 2008, but the federal government delayed its start four times. Twenty-one states and four territories have been granted extensions to meet the law’s standards; 22 states and Washington, D.C., have implemented the act, according to a Jan. 30 Homeland Security statement.
Seven states — Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York — have no plans to implement Real ID. Residents of five of those states will not be able to board airplanes without additional identification like a passport starting in 2016; New York and Minnesota have driver’s licenses with enhanced security measures that will allow their residents to board airplanes, according to Homeland Security.
(click here to continue reading State eyes more secure driver’s license to avoid flying restrictions – Chicago Tribune.)
Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago), a long-time opponent of the bill, says:
“I viewed Real ID as yet another unfunded federal mandate on state governments already facing tough budgets for important priorities,” Martinez said. “The proposition of a creation of a ‘one size fits all’ ID card necessary to travel was of great concern.”
and the price of implementation to the states is steep:
Brian Zimmer, president of the Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License who helped draft the law’s provisions on driver’s licenses as a congressional committee staffer, said Illinois would have to construct or renovate buildings that issue licenses in order to meet security criteria, which could prove challenging.
The law prompted some states, like Wisconsin and Texas, to consolidate facilities. In Tennessee, licenses are issued from a single, secure location, he said. That means applicants get their license via mail instead of in person.
“Real ID required states to move from a business model where licensing was a revenue source to a business model where money needs to be invested in it to ensure it was done more securely,” Zimmer said. “The new model is security first, and security comes with a price.”
price, confusion, long lines, and of course, privacy theft concerns:
Critics of Real ID have complained that it is a blatant invasion of privacy and would make people vulnerable to identity theft.
Ed Yohnka, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said a government database of citizens and some of their personal information smacks of Big Brotherism and would be a gold mine for identity thieves.
“One of the troubling things is that the system to protect our data will no longer be dependent about what happens here in Illinois,” Yohnka said. “What happens in Mississippi or Maine or Montana will be a conduit to get to our data. If hackers can get into those systems, they can get to the national system.”
He noted that the state’s database of driver’s licenses has fought off tens of thousands of improper access attempts.
“From a pragmatic point of view, all this furor over something that doesn’t provide safety and security is ridiculous,” Yohnka said.
Sounds great! Can’t wait! Especially since I had such a bitch of a time getting my passport due to bureaucratic SNAFU ingrained in that system.
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I took Abstraction in Ice And Glass, Number 27 on February 27, 2015 at 02:22PM
and processed it in my digital darkroom on March 01, 2015 at 07:32PM
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I took Abstraction in Ice and Glass, Number 23 on February 27, 2015 at 02:22PM
and processed it in my digital darkroom on February 28, 2015 at 05:10PM