Just-released tax returns for movie star Will Smith's charitable foundation show he and wife, Jada, gave $1.3 million in donations last year to a variety of religious, civic and arts groups.
Smith's biggest single contribution was, as usual, Yesha Ministries of Philadelphia. He gave the born-again Christian based organization run by Reverend James Robinson a whopping $250,000. That's a hefty raise from the $140,000 he gave them the previous year. Another $200,000 went to a Christian ministry outside Los Angeles called Living Waters.
He also gave a combined $122,500 to the Church of Scientology, broken into these donations: $67,500 to the New York Rescue Workers Detoxication Fund, $50,000 to the group's Celebrity Center in Hollywood and $5,000 to ABLE, another Scientology offshoot. Smith and his wife have also supported a private school called New Village Academy they opened this fall in suburban Los Angeles that uses Scientology learning concepts.
The star of movies like "Hancock," "I Am Legend," and the upcoming "Seven Pounds" also donated thousands of dollars to a Los Angeles mosque, other Christian-based schools and churches, and to the Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Center in Israel. And though Smith is not featured in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," he also sent $25,000 to the Progeria Research Foundation. Progeria is a disease that causes rapid aging.
The newest federal tax filing for the Will Smith Foundation covers 2007, and there is no donation to New Village Academy. So far there is no listing with guidestar.org, the website that tracks charities and not-for-profit institutions, for New Village. That seems odd since it was announced more than a year ago that Smith had given them a $1 million endowment.
It's the Smiths' intense and sudden friendship with Tom Cruise over the last couple of years that sparked speculation the superstar couple had joined Scientology. But Smith told me earlier this year he was definitely not a Scientologist. He told "Access Hollywood" some time before that: "I was introduced [to] it by Tom and I'm a student of world religion. I was raised in a Baptist household, I went to a Catholic school, but the ideas of the Bible are 98 percent the same ideas of Scientology, 98 percent the same ideas of Hinduism and Buddhism."