Saturday, October 16, 2010

Government urges councils to stop giving tax breaks to Scientology.

I never thought I'd find myself in agreement with Eric Pickles, but, on this occasion, I do.

The government is urging councils across the country to stop giving hundreds of thousands of pounds in tax breaks to the Church of Scientology.

The communities secretary, Eric Pickles, said a majority of the public did not want the "controversial organisation" to be given the kind of favourable treatment usually reserved for charities and questioned this use of public money.

The church, which is not classed as a religion by the Charity Commission, was described as a cult by a high court judge in 1984.

It is the first time a cabinet minister has intervened in the long-running row over the tax breaks for Scientology.

At least four authorities have given tax breaks to the group, which counts a host of celebrities among its high-profile members.

I watched John Sweeney's recent Panorama programme about his revisit to Scientology, after his infamous episode where he totally lost it in front of a Scientologist, and it was hard not to find the whole set up extremely creepy. Sweeney was repeatedly followed, and even had ex-Scientologists tell him that he was goaded into his infamous blow out by the Scientologist, Tommy Davis, as a way of undermining his investigative work.

It was simply not the kind of behaviour one would expect from any church.

And yet certain UK councils are granting Scientology tax breaks.

At least four authorities have given tax breaks to the group, which counts a host of celebrities among its high-profile members.

City of London Corporation has asked it to pay only one-fifth of the usual rates on its London headquarters, near St Paul's cathedral. As a result, it has saved £1.3m worth of tax.

The six-storey building was opened in a lavish ceremony attended by the leading Scientologist Tom Cruise in 2006.

The corporation decided Scientology could be classed as a charity either for the advancement of religion "or other purposes beneficial to the community".

The council says it feared the organisation would take it to court were the tax breaks to cease.

I think Pickles, especially at this time when high earners are losing their child benefits and we are all being told to expect cuts of around 25-40% in public services, will find that there is huge support for the Church of Scientology to lose any tax exemptions which they are currently enjoying.

Anyone who watched Sweeney's investigation would find it impossible to describe the behaviour we witnessed as the kind one would expect from any religious organisation.

Click here for full article.

No comments: