Scientology crime syndicate in Trementina, California
N.Y. TIMES DETAILS CHURCH'S TAX BATTLE
March 13, 1997
Tom Sharpe Journal Staff Report
Scientologists: Parts Of Story Inaccurate
The Church of Spiritual Technology, which stores Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard's archives in a San Miguel County mountainside, quit paying property taxes on its central compound in 1995, about two years after it was granted tax-exempt status. But the San Miguel County Assessor's Office says the church has not sought tax exemptions for 4,570 acres surrounding its isolated compound in the headwaters of the Rio Trementina.
The New York Times on Sunday carried an extensive story on the Church of Scientology's long battle for a tax exemption. Local property tax exemptions usually hinge on federal tax rulings.
The Times reported that the U.S. Internal Revenue Service granted the church and its subsidiaries tax-exempt status in 1993, after a "war" in the courts and private investigations of its perceived enemies within the IRS.
Church of Scientology public affairs officer Karin Pouw of Los Angeles said the Times' story is "old" in that it dealt with things that happened more than three years ago.
Kurt Weiland, who is in charge of external affairs for the Church of Scientology in Los Angeles, said the Times story created an "unfortunate impression" about Scientology and that parts of the story are wrong.
For example, Weiland said, the story by Douglas Frantz reported that Scientology leader David Miscavige had "an unusual unscheduled meeting" with IRS Commissioner Fred T. Goldberg Jr. in October 1991. Weiland said the meeting occurred months after Miscavige's unscheduled stop at Goldberg's office in Washington and not, as the Times reported, on the same day.
Weiland also said the Times reported the IRS "felt comfortable" with Scientology's request for tax-exempt status after Hubbard's death in 1986, implying incorrectly that the church's founder personally profited from the church's activities.
Frantz, a former Albuquerque Tribune city editor, declined to comment Tuesday. Times spokeswoman Nancy Nielsen said Tuesday, "We believe our reporter did a thorough and fair job and reported the story accurately."
Tuesday's Times carried a correction on Sunday's story, saying that it erred in reporting a settlement of a libel lawsuit brought by the Church of Scientology against Time magazine. "The settlement entailed the publication of a clarifying statement in Time, not a corrective paragraph," the New York Times correction said.
The Church of Spiritual Technology, the record-keeping arm of the Church of Scientology, began buying parcels of land near Trementina, some 50 miles east of Las Vegas, N.M., in 1984. During the early 1990s, it built a Y-shaped tunnel -- a 200-foot horizontal shaft and two 150-foot legs -- into a mountain, plus an airplane landing strip and three luxury homes, the largest with 12,000 square feet and 12 bedrooms.
The Trementina site is one of three archives for the writings and recordings of Hubbard, a science fiction writer who established the church in the 1950s. The other two archives are near Petrolia, Calif., and Crestline, Calif.
San Miguel County Deputy Assessor Albert Padilla said the Church of Spiritual Technology last paid property taxes in 1994 on its central 43 acres with three houses and the cave, collectively valued at about $3 million.
Padilla said this week that the church continues to pay some $8,500 a year on the surrounding 4,570 acres, valued at about $600,000.
Monique Yingling, an attorney representing the Church of Spiritual Technology in Washington, D.C., said Monday the church did not seek tax exemptions for the surrounding land because it is vacant and does not meet the requirements of the federal statute.
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