Alex Gibney's HBO documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief has proven quite the public headache for the Church of Scientology. The documentary, a full-fledged hit for HBO, single-handedly renewed public interest in the mysterious practices of one of the most powerful (though ultimately least popular) religious institutions.

David Miscavige, leader of the Church of Scientology, is depicted in Gibney's documentary as a power-obsessed, increasingly paranoid tyrant with a zero tolerance policy for potential defectors. One of the largest takeaways from Going Clear and similar explorations of Scientology's storied past is the baffling lack of accountability surrounding its financial gains, particularly with regards to its tax-exempt status — achieved with much fanfare in 1993.

The Harvard Political Review is now joining the growing call for an IRS investigation of Scientology's financial practices, citing a variety of justifications for such an undertaking:

Gibney and others have noted that the leader of the Church of Scientology, David Miscavige, and other notable celebrity members have used Church assets for personal gain and exploited low-wage labor. The use of Church assets for private gain is strictly prohibited by the IRS for tax-exempt status, and these accusations alone merit another look and IRS investigation in light of the growing number of complaints by ex-members that Gibney interviewed.

The HPR also addresses the repeated claims of Monique E. Yingling, a lawyer whose close involvement with the Church during its tumultuous path to a tax-exempt status has made her an unflappable ally for the Church's renewed opposition. Yingling has denied all of Gibney's assertions, positing that he "mischaracterizes the Church and its activities" because the Church released all of its financial documents to the IRS during the 1993 proceedings:

The problem with Yingling’s take is that she assumes, without justification, that the Church’s finances and activities today are exactly the same as they were in 1993. For one, Yingling ignores new evidence of illicit activities, like instances of spying reported in both a 2012 confession of a former member of the Church and a 2013 police report. There was no substantial evidence of such unlawful acts in the 1993 application for tax-exempt status.

 

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