IRSTaxes published an article on May 1st on the IRS decisions that have led to a tax deduction for Scientology services, and the ability of non-Scientologists to deduct tuition to religious schools. "In M. Sklar, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the taxpayers were not permitted to deduct, as a charitable contribution, any portion of the amounts they paid for their children's religious school tuition. The Sklars lost in court, largely because they failed their burden of proving the amount of the tuition payments that were allocable to 'intangible religious benefits.' This column discusses Sklar and the possible planning opportunities suggested by the case. "In RL Hernandez, the United States Supreme Court upheld the denial of the deduction for the Scientologists' auditing and training payments. Pursuant to a central tenet known as the 'doctrine of exchange,' the Church set forth schedules for mandatory fixed prices for auditing and training sessions that varied with the length and the level of sophistication of the auditing or training sessions. "Notwithstanding the government's victory in Hernandez, the IRS obsoleted its earlier ruling disallowing charitable deductions for Scientologists' payments auditing and training sessions. In October 1993, the IRS released favorable exemption ruling letters to at least 25 Church of Scientology-related groups. Shortly after Hernandez was decided, the IRS also entered into a closing agreement with the Scientologists. "The Sklars argued that in allowing the Scientologists to deduct the cost of religious instruction and denying the deduction they claimed for religious instruction, the IRS had violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Ninth Circuit disagreed, noting that the Supreme Court had rejected a similar claim in Hernandez because adopting such a policy could require excessive government entanglement with religion. The Ninth Circuit also dismissed the Sklar's administrative inconsistency claim. A taxpayer may challenge the IRS's disparate treatment of the taxpayer if the taxpayer can show that it is similarly situated to the group being treated differently by the agency. The court, however, doubted that the Sklars were similarly situated to the persons who benefit from the Scientologists' closing agreement because the religious education of the Sklars' children did not seem to be similar to the auditing and training or 'other qualified religious services' conducted by the Church of Scientology. "While the Sklars lost the case in the Tax Court and in the Ninth Circuit, it is likely that other taxpayers will assert similar claims. The Ninth Circuit's opinion offers some indication of the facts that must be proved to win such a case. In future cases, taxpayers may present more facts concerning the nature of the auditing and training offered by the Church of Scientology to establish that the religious training that they or their children received was similar to the religious training received by the Scientologists. "Allowing taxpayers to claim charitable deductions for tuition paid for religious training could cause a significant drain on federal income tax revenues. Many commentators have questioned the IRS's authority to disregard the Supreme Court's Hernandez opinion. If taxpayers like the Sklars prevail on an administrative inconsistency claim, the IRS may regret its concession to the Scientologists. "Determining whether taxpayers who pay for religious training or other intangible religious benefits may claim charitable deductions may create an intractable problem. The closing agreement between the IRS and the Scientologists is not source of the problem. Allowing a charitable deduction for some, but not all, payments made to religious organizations inevitably requires government entanglement with religion. Indeed, determining whether an organization is organized for religious purposes requires government entanglement. Whether such entanglement is excessive enough to violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is likely to be an issue in many of these cases." Message-ID: 3CD15813.email@example.com
RussiaThe Associated Press reported on May 1st that Scientology has won a decision in Russia that may allow them to register as a religion. "The Church of Scientology has won a ruling in a Moscow court preventing authorities from using a widely criticized religion law to stop the group from registering, church officials said Wednesday. In a one-day trial Tuesday in a Moscow district court, judges argue that liquidating a religious organization that doesn't pose a threat to public order is a violation of freedom of religion, the church said. Leisa Goodman, human rights director for the Church of Scientology, said by telephone from Los Angeles that the ruling 'opens the door not only to Scientology but to thousands of other religions.' "The religion law, championed by the dominant Russian Orthodox Church, requires all religious groups to register with Russian authorities. Several groups, particularly foreign-based ones, have met with legal troubles since its passage and say it limits religious freedoms Russia that were won with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Authorities have 10 days to appeal the ruling to a higher court, Goodman said." Message-ID: firstname.lastname@example.org
BelgiumLe Soir reported on February 22nd that a court in Belgium has ruled that by keeping PC folders on its members, Scientology is violating personal data laws. "On one hand members demanded their folders back as individual citizens. On the other hand the cult demanded everything back intact, asserting it was the cult's property. The Brussels law court could only determine that the contents of these files stood in contravention to the personal data security law. There was detailed medical information, reports on people's intimate lives, including sexual conduct, testimony about family members, and confessional reports obtained through the use of the electrometer. This was data which would be illicit for an organization to own without written agreement of the individual. Besides that, the people upon whom these reports were kept did not have access to them to make corrections, in accordance with law." Message-ID: Pine.LNX.3.96.1020502193119.110Aemail@example.com
CCHRThe Vancouver Sun reported on April 30th that officials are reviewing the treatment of an ECT patient whose cause has been publicized by Scientology and the CCHR. "The newly created Provincial Health Services Authority is beginning its own probe of an elderly Riverview Hospital patient who has received more than 100 electric shock treatments against his will. At the same time, the Public Guardian and Trustee's office of B.C. is 'pursuing and making inquiries' about alternatives to the electroconvulsive treatments that 71-year-old Michael Matthews has received. "Matthews, who has been confined to Riverview for the last four decades, was interviewed recently by a Vancouver Sun reporter and photographer who were later ordered off the Riverview property by hospital security guards. At the time, Mathews said of his treatments: 'I'm braver now, but I don't like it. They hurt, I don't want it.' "Matthews' situation was documented in The Vancouver Sun after records of ECT doctors' billings were obtained by Vancouver resident Julie Butler, director of an organization called the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a Church of Scientology affiliate that exposes, and lobbies against, 'psychiatric abuses.' "Case manager Linda Irwin advised Butler in a letter that alternatives to ECT are being investigated in the Matthews' case. Butler has been visiting Matthews for the past several months and was apparently his only visitor, but Riverview authorities banned her from the hospital last week." Message-ID: firstname.lastname@example.org
Penelope CruzThe National Enquirer reported on May 2nd that Penelope Cruz has decided to adopt Scientology in an effort to win back Scientology celebrity Tom Cruise. "Determined Spaniard Penelope does her best to win back the vertically challenged Tom. Insiders say that Penelope is 'desperately trying' to win him back. 'Penelope has decided to do whatever it takes to become Mrs Tom Cruise,' whispers a source close to the couple. 'But Tom's friends believe the relationship is done for.' Indulging in some serious soul-searching in Madrid after he kicked her out of his Beverley Hills home, Penelope 'realised she'd caused all the problems with Tom' and, 'in a series of teary phone calls, she promised Tom that she'd mend her ways.' No longer will she squabble with Nicole Kidman or regard their children with distaste. She will ditch her own religious beliefs for the teachings of the Church of Scientology." Message-ID: 6P0B8.email@example.com
Lisa McPhersonThe St. Petersburg Times reported on April 29th that Scientology is trying to remove attorney Ken Dandar from the Lisa McPherson wrongful death case. "The Church of Scientology is rolling out an aggressive set of legal maneuvers aimed at wiping out one of its biggest headaches: the lawsuit blaming the church for the 1995 death of Lisa McPherson. The church is zeroing in on Tampa attorney Ken Dandar, who in representing McPherson's family has mustered an unrelenting challenge costing the church millions and fueling unending bad publicity. Accusing Dandar of professional misconduct and perjury, the church is taking the rare step of trying to get him removed from the case. "In a hearing before Circuit Judge Susan Schaeffer, the church intends to argue the whole case should be tossed because of alleged 'misconduct, sham pleadings, (and) perjury' by Dandar; his client, McPherson's aunt, and millionaire Bob Minton, who spent $2-million to keep the case going. 'Plaintiff herself and not merely her counsel or her financier or her consultants and witnesses chose to convert this case into a broadside attack on the church and the Scientology religion,' the motion says. Dandar called the claims 'outrageous lies by Scientology.' "The wrongful death case erupted on April 19 when Minton, the New England millionaire who has devoted the last half-decade to fighting Scientology, stunned all those following the case by taking the stand as a witness for Scientology and attacked Dandar, calling him a 'lying thief.' Minton's surprising testimony was not a reversal of his opposition to Scientology, said his attorney Bruce Howie of St. Petersburg. Minton was facing possible jail time for contempt of court and needed to clear the record, Howie said. 'He realizes that the church will take advantage of his testimony, but in the long run it's in his own best interest to tell the truth,' Howie said. That hearing, before Judge Baird, set in motion the church's strategy to compromise Dandar. "Dandar has a backup. Waiting in the wings is Tampa attorney Luke Lirot, famed defender of Tampa's adult entertainment industry. 'I would consider it a privilege to be involved in the case,' said Lirot, who is representing Dandar. 'I'm going to do whatever is necessary to assist.' Lirot said he is not fazed by the scale of the lawsuit or the Church of Scientology as a legal opponent. 'I often embrace difficult issues,' he said." From the St. Petersburg Times on May 1st: "Millionaire Scientology critic Robert Minton has expanded his criticism of the lawyer fighting the Church of Scientology over the death of Lisa McPherson. In a 26-page affidavit, Minton elaborated on his earlier testimony in the case, arguing that Tampa attorney Ken Dandar asked him to lie, drew up false court records for him to sign and urged him to generate bad publicity for Scientology to prejudice potential jurors in the McPherson wrongful death case. Minton has become Scientology's star witness as it tries to get the wrongful death case dismissed on grounds of serious misconduct by Dandar and his client. "For two hours Tuesday, Scientology's New York attorney Samuel Rosen tried to grill Dandar about his financial arrangement with Minton and how he has spent the more than $2-million Minton has given to the case. It was a fiery exchange, with Dandar refusing to answer some questions and responding to others: 'It's none of your business.' Baird, who will decide whether Dandar should be disqualified from the case, gave Dandar a stern warning. 'This isn't a game,' the judge said. 'Listen to the questions. Answer the questions, and we'll get through this.' "Much of the inquiry centered on two Swiss bank checks totaling $750,000. Minton says he gave the checks to Dandar. However, Dandar says Minton told him only that the money came from an anonymous donor. Rosen questioned why Dandar never investigated the source of the money." From the Tampa Tribune on May 3rd: "Even if a leading Scientology critic lied in court about paying more than $2 million to fund a lawsuit against the church, 'Who cares?' said the judge in the case. Millionaire church critic Bob Minton likely will face contempt of court proceedings and could be prosecuted for criminal perjury, but that does not affect a wrongful death lawsuit brought against the church by the Lisa McPherson estate, Pasco-Pinellas Circuit Judge Susan Schaeffer said Thursday. 'You guys are spending too much time on stuff that doesn't have anything to do with this trial,' the judge told a panel of church attorneys. "Whether or not Minton chooses to spend his money underwriting the lawsuit on behalf of McPherson's elderly aunt has no effect on the issue of whether McPherson's death while under church care in December 1995 was an accident or homicide, Schaeffer said. The judge repeatedly wondered aloud why Minton would fund the lawsuit without a contract stating the bulk of any monetary award would be donated to groups critical of the church, as he now contends. 'I don't know what the funny business is, but there are weird things going on when someone gives someone $2 million and there's not a written agreement,' Schaeffer said. 'There is something crazy going on.' "Schaeffer also had sharp words for Dandar. She scolded Dandar for implying in court records that the church was 'blackmailing, extorting or otherwise convincing Robert Minton to change his deposition testimony' without firm evidence to back up the allegation. 'No wonder people look so askance at lawyers these days,' the judge said. "The case is simple, the judge repeatedly told church attorneys. Either McPherson died from an accidental blood clot while undergoing a religious procedure to heal mental problems or she died after becoming dehydrated and falling into a coma while church officials ignored the situation, Schaeffer said." From the St. Petersburg Times on May 3rd: "Scientology lawyers want Circuit Judge Susan Schaeffer to remove Dandar and dismiss the lawsuit because of 'a pattern of misconduct' by Dandar, his client and Robert Minton, an outspoken church critic who has given $2-million of his own money in support of the lawsuit. That misconduct, church lawyers claim, has resulted in 'incalculable damages' to the church that can only be remedied by the lawsuit's dismissal. 'The complaint was written to say they murdered her - the whole church is murderers,' church attorney Eric Lieberman told the judge. Schaeffer told him, 'Just because you have to fight hard (against) some of the allegations doesn't mean I make the case go away.' "Minton is now accusing Dandar of urging him to lie under oath, drawing up false court records and urging him to drum up anti-Scientology publicity. On Thursday, Schaeffer questioned the relevancy of Minton's allegations, many of them centered on how the case was financed and what would happen to any money awarded by a jury. 'It doesn't matter if Mr. Minton gave six trillion dollars,' she said. 'I don't know why in the world anybody cares about it. It surely doesn't get the case thrown out.' "Minton will answer to the court for any perjury he might have committed, Schaeffer said. But, she noted, he is not a witness in the wrongful death case. Over and over, she asked church lawyers, 'What does that have to do with the wrongful death case?' 'We're going to trial,' she said. 'I want to deal with the wrongful death case set for June. It's set, and it's going. This case is about money, money on both sides,' Schaeffer said. 'If you're going after the church just to go after the church just to create more rancor in Clearwater you can't use my courtroom for that.' "One of the more graphic claims in the lawsuit is that McPherson was bitten by cockroaches as she lay dying at Scientology's Fort Harrison Hotel. But at the end of the hearing Thursday, Schaeffer told Dandar she has decided he does not have enough evidence to make that claim to a jury." Message-ID: firstname.lastname@example.org Message-ID: email@example.com Message-ID: dNxA8.69$0B4.firstname.lastname@example.org Message-ID: qSxA8.72$0B4.email@example.com
Protest SummaryKeith Henson reported protests at the Toronto Scientology org on April 28th and May 5th. "Gregg and I showed up at the Toronto org about noon. The org was flat out deserted, no 'bodies in the shop' not even the oldtime members. A passer by told Gregg they had all moved about ten blocks away to 49 Front street where they were holding a scientology 'revival meeting' complete with a bunch of white and blue balloons. About half an hour into the picket, we shut off the camera and moved. It was an area with about the same pedestrian traffic as Yonge St., but unlike the main location not as many people are clued in. "I took up a station about 120 feet down the street. I was splitting my time handing out flyers and talking to a religious studies guy when Brian McPherson came up and started needling me about about Dandar and Minton. "Gregg gave out 75 flyers right in front of the doorway of the rented art gallery where scientology was running a 'What is Scientology exhibit.' Virtually every one of the people who were not scientologists coming out took a flyer. One of the store employees in front of my location came out and thanked me, took a flyer and said he would check out Scientology on the web. Gregg said the woman running the store next door to the Scientologists came out and talked to him. She was not very happy with them, said it has really hurt business the entire week. "Buttnor, Felsky, and McPherson called the cops. They had quite a conversation with the cops, but while the cops did ask for our names, they blew off the org." "Gregg and I put in one hour and a half starting about 1:30. Then we broke for a long lunch and came back about 5:40 for another session. The org had a tent out with table and chairs. There were few takers Gregg saw. When Gregg showed up Mario could be heard running about saying 'f*ck, f*ck, f*ck' in total frustration. The cult was largely in hiding for Gregg. "Ms. X was picketing with us one of the cult drones got right in her face with a camera. Gregg got good tape of one incident in the late picket. Brian McPherson and Gwen Jones were trying to rag at Gregg, who promptly played some head games on them. 'Big Mike' showed up, pushed Gregg and grabbed a handful of flyers out of Gregg's hand. Caught nicely on tape too. Gregg was able to recover the Xenu flyers to the extreme surprise of the cultie. "The Toronto org had some kind of event going, something about going OT in CW. Gregg counted the chairs (160) and the people who showed up. They filled about 1/4 of the chairs. Most of the people Gregg recognized as tapped out old timers. There were 10 or fewer new faces and most of them got a Xenu flyer. Even if the cult took the flyers away from them inside the door, the people know they can look it up on the net. "Gregg gave out about a hundred Xenu flyers. I must have given out something like 250 of several kinds for the whole day. I didn't get a count on how many Ms X gave out, but Gregg said lots of people were coming by with flyers in their hands. It is getting harder to give out flyers because such a high fraction of the people already have taken one." Message-ID: firstname.lastname@example.org Message-ID: email@example.com
Salt Lake CityDeseret News reported on May 4th that Scientology volunteers will be spending time with the elderly in the area. "In recognition of the recent National Volunteer Week, the Church of Scientology's volunteer ministers are launching a new program, 'Listeners for the Living.' It involves spending time with the elderly and listening to their stories." Message-ID: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reed SlatkinReuters reported on April 29th that Scientology minister and Ponzi scheme creator Reed Slatkin pled guilty to fraud charges. "Reed Slatkin, the investment advisor who provided start-up funds for Internet service provider EarthLink pleaded guilty on Monday to 15 charges of fraud and conspiracy for bilking almost 800 clients out of nearly $600 million. Slatkin entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Margaret Morrow under the terms of a plea deal announced by the U.S. Attorney's Office on Mar. 27. "'Your Honor, it is an acceptable representation of my conduct,' Slatkin told Judge Morrow after prosecutors described to the court how he had used investments from new clients to pay returns to old clients, in what is commonly known as a Ponzi scheme. It is not clear whether Slatkin can pay the $254.6 million in restitution he agreed to pay since he has filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors. Slatkin was led by U.S. marshals into the courtroom wearing the standard-issue green jacket, blue pants and manacles around his waist and wrists." From the Santa Barbara News-Press on April 30th: "After spending the weekend in the federal detention center in downtown Los Angeles, EarthLink co-founder and former Hope Ranch resident Reed Slatkin pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to orchestrating one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in U.S. history. Mr. Slatkin, 53, pleaded guilty to 15 charges, ranging from mail fraud and money laundering to conspiracy to obstruct justice. The charges against Mr. Slatkin carry a maximum sentence of 105 years in federal prison and fines of up to $3.75 million. Federal authorities believe the sentence could range from 12 to 15 years; his defense attorney believes it could be much lower." Message-ID: email@example.com Message-ID: firstname.lastname@example.org
Xenu.netLinux Journal published an interview with the creator and ISP for xenu.net on April 30th. "Google's decision to pull Xenu.net from its index, under the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and the later commitment to making DMCA takedown letters public caused a publicity storm that, when it cleared, left 'Operation Clambake,' Xenu.net, at the top of a Google search for the word 'Scientology.' We asked Andreas Heldal-Lund, the site's webmaster, and Paul Wouters, of their long-suffering ISP, Xtended Internet, how the popular site is handling the load. "LJ: What hardware are you running Linux on? "Paul: The main servers are running on Intel ISP boxes (1150s and 2150s). The load-balanced server at XS4ALL is a Penguin 2U server. "LJ: Andreas, what are the secrets of developing a search-engine-friendly site? "Andreas: I've not had to focus on being search-engine-friendly for years. Xenu.net is on top now basically because the cult attacks have generated so much attention. "LJ: How do you get so many incoming links? "Andreas: Mostly the same reason as above. Few are so disliked as this cult here on the net. Each time the cult tries to close my site, the more attention they send my way. "LJ: Can your Linux server(s) handle the traffic? "Paul: Right now there is no problem whatsoever. The servers are doing less then 80KB/sec. We did have some problems after being slashdotted twice and the site appearing in the Washington Times and on CNN. We found the hardcoded limit of 128 Apache children had been reached on the main server. We recompiled Apache with 512, which was reached again around 6pm. We then went for 1024 and restarted. At this point we also added two more servers and used DNS roundrobin to try and load balance things a bit. "At the peak, at 8pm, we ran into performance problems on the Linux firewall. These weren't resolved until after the massive peaks. We optimized all the TCP socket options and we added more memory to the firewall (the socket options eat up a lot of memory). "When the Church of Scientology coerced the search engine, Google.com, into dropping the anti-Scientology site Xenu.com from its listings, free-speech advocates were outraged. But Xenu's owner wasn't worried; he knew what happens when you mess with the Net." From Readme on May 1st: "Seventy-five million years ago, a galactic tyrant named Xenu (pronounced 'ZEE-NOO') killed all living beings with a hydrogen bomb, then brainwashed their disembodied minds. Eventually, Xenu was overthrown by his former followers and locked away in a mountain prison encircled by an impenetrable force field. He remains there to this day. "This story is one of the fundamental beliefs of the religion known as Scientology. According to 'Countercultures', a 1995 book by the cult critic William Zellner, the Church of Scientology charges as much as $400,000 to completely free a believer from the residual effects of Xenu's brainwashing. Scientology has come under fire for its controversial practices, which critics allege include cult-like brainwashing and lucrative global racketeering. The Church has trademarked its teachings and has a reputation for using legal threats, specifically the charge of copyright infringement, to muzzle these disaffected onetime believers and anti-cult activists. "In the most recent Web war between Scientology and its critics, the popular search engine Google caved in to legal pressure from the church and removed any mention of the most well-known anti-Scientology website Xenu.net from its search results. According to the church, Xenu had made secret Scientology teachings public, in violation of church-owned copyrights and trademarks. "On March 21 Google sent Heldal-Lund an e-mail with a listing the Xenu pages that they had removed from their searchable archives. The e-mail also stated that his webpages could be reinstated if he submitted a counter notification to Google. Heldal-Lund did not respond. Because of his silence, recent articles portray the Xenu founder as a cowering victim of Scientology's legal abuse, afraid of being sued. Two days after sending the e-mail, battered by a barrage of protests and under scrutiny from free-speech advocates for the hasty decision, Google restored Xenu.net's homepage and related links to its archive, claiming they had been 'inadvertently removed.' "'I do not consider this a Scientology victory,' said Heldal-Lund, in an e-mail interview. 'The result [of the church's actions] is a lot of media attention and hundreds of thousands of hits on Xenu. The cult achieved the opposite of what they aimed for.'" From an editorial in the San Jose Mercury News on May 2nd: "Search engines like Google provide an indispensable road map for navigating the Internet; hypertext links are the vehicles that quickly take you where you want to go. Search engines and links provide information in context; they enhance the Internet's richness of ideas. As such, they warrant full free-speech protections. But a tussle between the Church of Scientology and Google has exposed a First Amendment vulnerability. A poorly worded copyright-protection law is putting dissent and speech on the Internet at some risk. "The church threatened to sue Google for contributory copyright violations for merely listing links to Web pages that, the Scientologists said, illegally published copyrighted passages. The church demanded that Google remove the links to the site, Operation Clambake, from its automated search results. The brash tactic initially worked. Google complied because of potential liability that Congress created in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The law provides search engines with immunity if they take down a disputed link in response to a complaint. "The Church of Scientology was the first to target search engines; if it succeeded, others may follow, filing complaints to stifle critics or to isolate Web sites that make fair use of copyrighted works. Word that the largest stand-alone search engine had caved to the Scientologists stirred a small protest at Google's Mountain View headquarters. And that, in turn, inspired the company to try a novel approach. "As of last month, whenever it receives a complaint that causes it to remove a link, Google is forwarding a copy of the complaint to the Web site of Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, a new Internet civil liberties organization. Chilling Effects posts each complaint, which also lists the Web address of the site that Google no longer carries. The result may be to give substantial attention to sites the Scientologists hoped to make invisible. Google is also including information on its site on how Web page owners can seek to have their links reinstated by filing a countercomplaint. Google's new approach is commendable, even ingenious. But it doesn't remove the shadow of liability that Congress created in the 1998 copyright protection law. Courts and Congress should make clear: Linking is a virtue of the Internet, not a crime." Message-ID: email@example.com Message-ID: QFxA8.67$0B4.firstname.lastname@example.org Message-ID: mrQA8.email@example.com
A.r.s. Week in Review is put together by Rod Keller ©
This collection is organised for WWW by Andreas Heldal-Lund.
Only edits done by me is replacing word encapsuled in * or _ with bold and underscore, and made links into HTML.