Church of Scientology tax exempted

WCJB, UK/November 9, 2009

The Labour Government is introducing a series of laws that will see tax breaks being offered to the British missions of the Church of Scientology.

While thousands of UK companies will be facing higher tax bills starting in April and homeowners are expecting steeper council taxes, the wealthy religious organisation will be exempt.

The modifications which are being pushed through via a Bill authored by Equality Minister Harriet Harman, will, for the first time, see the Church of Scientology be viewed on equal footing as the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England.

Under British legislation, all religious entities benefit from a business tax exemption while council tax discounts are given for the homes of religious leaders. Under British law, a building must be the venue used for worshipping a God or deity, but not a philosophy, in order to be considered as a place of religious worship.

But the Equality Bill has some small print which asks councils to protect all religious or philosophical beliefs from local taxes just as a new public-sector equality duty forces authorities to promote equality of those who hold philosophical beliefs and stops them from any discrimination against all philosophical beliefs.

The Church of Scientology thus would qualify for complete exemption from business taxes on public venues while residential property used by Scientologist Church leaders would see council tax discounts.

According to Shadow Local Government Minister Bob Neill, the public might find it alarming that Harriet Harman is pushing through a proposal which would offer local tax breaks to Scientologists. He said families and local firms which are going through rough times because of the recession will see unfit that the Church of Scientology will avoid business rates and council tax, while their tax bills have increased dramatically.

He added that freedom of expression and tolerance have become key British values but this shouldn't translate into organisations such as Scientology deserving special tax treatment.

Tens of thousands of pounds in taxes will saved the Church of Scientology with this move through its bases and missions across the country. In the UK, Scientology has missions in Saint Hill Manor in West Sussex, Bournemouth, Tunbridge Wells, Eastbourne, York and Belfast.

A Church of Scientology official said that it's ready to accept any regulation that upholds the rights of people of any religious beliefs, faiths, cultures and races to receive equal treatment in the UK.

The Church of Scientology, which was made famous thanks to Hollywood followers such as John Travolta and Tom Cruise, get its ideologies from the teachings of the late L Ron Hubbard, who was a the science fiction author.

Church of Scientology claims to have 7,900 churches, missions and groups thrpugh out 164 countries around the world where eight million followers gather.

The Charity Commission had ruled against the church in 1999 by stating the religious organization was not eligible for and tax breaks on its properties because it was not deemed as providing a public benefit.

But Inland Revenue ruled in 2000 it was conducting its practices as a not-for-profit organisation and thus qualified for VAT exemption.

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