On 11 March 2016, social media users began spreading a report that the U.S. Supreme Court had revoked the Church of Scientology’s tax-exempt status:
In a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court today, the eight justices ruled in favor of revoking the Church of Scientology’s tax-exempt status in the United States. Under the ruling, Scientology will still be able to operate as a business but no longer as a non-profit religious organization.
There was no truth to this rumor, however. It was just a bit of fiction apparently originating with one of the clickbait fake news malware sites that illegally appropriate the trademarks of legitimate news organizations in order to drive traffic and thereby generate advertising revenues. One such site carries a disclaimer reading:
If you are reading this, you’ve been duped yet again by one of my unimaginative, unfunny fake “news” stories. More money for me, you stupid idiot. Ha, ha!
In reality, the history of the relationship between the Church of Scientology and the Internal Revenue Service is a long and complicated one. The Church of Scientology was founded in 1954 but lost its religion-based tax-exempt status in 1967 when the IRS determined the outfit was a commercial enterprise and not a religious one. However, after Scientology operatives engaged in a lengthy organized campaign by (including lawsuits, investigations by detectives hired by Scientology’s lawyers to dig into the private lives of IRS employees, the creation of phony news bureaus, and the group’s financing of whistleblowers to attack the IRS publicly), the Internal Revenue Service granted tax exemptions to Scientology organizations again in 1993.