President Trump reportedly wants the Church of Scientology to lose its tax-exempt status, a longtime aide and friend to the commander-in-chief told actress Leah Remini.
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Lynne Patton, a friend of the Trump family and official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), told Remini, a former member but now outspoken critic of Scientology, that Trump wanted to revoke the church’s tax-exempt status, the Huffington Post reported.
Patton was put in charge of HUD’s Region II in June, which oversees parts of New York and New Jersey.
Patton tweeted to Remini on May 30 to communicate in a direct message. Remini responded and offered Patton help, according to tweets obtained from the Huffington Post.
"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," Patton wrote to Remini in May. “This is going to get done in the next 4 years or I’ll die trying. Knock on wood!”
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Patton responded to Remini’s email the next day stating, “I look forward to doing my part to help put an end to this ongoing nightmare and blatant misuse of our IRS rules & regulations. … I want to do more research on Scientology’s history with the IRS, to date, so that I can better understand what tactics have been applied and where we can pick up. Would you have any of this information handy? If not, I will obtain it from the agency directly, Kindly advise!”
It was not clear if the IRS was contacted by Patton regarding Scientology’s tax-exempt status.
The IRS granted the church tax-exempt status following a long battle the church waged against the agency, Fortune reported. Scientology members filed dozens of lawsuits against IRS employees and the agency. Members also hired private investigators to find any information against IRS employees to use against them.
Remini, who was a longtime member of Scientology until 2013, has a documentary-series on A&E titled “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.” The show talks to former members of the church about the abuses and mistreatment they said they endured from Scientology and its members. Remini’s show has won an Emmy Award and universal praise for exposing the alleged abuses within the church.
The Church of Scientology was founded by L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer, in 1953. Hubbard worked hard to get the church tax-exempt but the feat was not accomplished until 1993, years after the leader’s death in 1986, Fortune reported.
The allegations were exposed in the 2015 documentary film “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.”
After a meeting, the IRS held with now-church leader David Miscavige and the former Commissioner of Internal Revenue, the church and 150 members were granted the status.
Miscavige declared “war is over” to members following the decision.
The Church of Scientology denied the documentary’s representation of how it was granted tax exempt status, Fortune reported.
However, The Hill said the IRS was the only organization that could make the decision to revoke the church's tax-exempt status.
“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,” a former general counsel member of the Federal Election Commission told The Hill. “The IRS must make these decisions independently without any influence by the White House or administration officials.”
Remini told the Huffington Post that she has not heard from Patton since June 8.