The Scientologists Have Gotten to Scalia
The Supreme Court today declined to take the case of a Jewish man who wants to deduct the cost of his kids' Orthodox education as a religious expense, just like Scientologists get to deduct the cost of "auditing."
Politico's Josh Gerstein caught the news in the list of appeals that the Court declined to hear released this morning. When the Church of Scientology finally settled with the IRS in 1993 after years of litigation and black-bag operations conducted by the church against the IRS and FBI over the issue of whether Scientology was a proper religion—and thus qualified for tax-exempt status—the IRS agreed to let Scientologists deduct the cost of "auditing" from their taxes. Other poor saps in less litigious cults don't get similar allowances from the IRS, so Michael Sklar of Los Angeles sued to get the same standard applied to his own expenses for the religious education of his children.
Sklar lost in tax court and again on appeal, and today's decision by the Court ends his 15-year legal battle. Gerstein says the commitment in the 1993 settlement that allowed the deduction expired in 1999, and its not clear whether the IRS still lets Scientologists get audited tax-free. Anyway—if you pay thousands of dollars to send your kid to a yeshiva, you have to pay taxes on that. If you pay thousands of dollars to have them hold metal cans attached to a battery and tell lies about their past lives on distant planets? Eh, the feds might cut you a break. Why not?