Yesterday, Karen de la Carriere memorialized her son, Alexander Jentzsch, who was found dead at a home in Los Angeles on the morning of July 3. He was only 27 years old.
Because the Church of Scientology would not give her access to her son’s ashes, Karen had rose petals cast on the Pacific Ocean as other former members of the church and friends took part in a moving ceremony.
Aboard the Spirit out of Long Beach harbor, the attendees included filmmaker Mark Bunker and a crew from Inside Edition as Jentzsch was memorialized by de la Carriere in a Scientology service.
“It was very nice,” de la Carriere told me last night on the phone. “We believe in immortality. We believe that the soul lives on. Alexander’s spirit, it’s OK.”
The previous day, on Thursday morning, beefed up security and people carrying flowers were spotted at Scientology’s Hollywood Celebrity Centre on Franklin Avenue as the church put on its own memorial after initially telling de la Carriere that it would not have one. Karen received an unconfirmed report that Alexander’s father, 76-year-old Heber Jentzsch, who is the president of the Church of Scientology but who had not been seen in public since about 2004, did attend, and looked frail and emaciated.
De la Carriere was not invited to that event, and she’s convinced that it only happened as Scientology relented from the media attention to Alexander’s death. News organizations were paying attention that she had been barred from seeing her son’s body before he was cremated because she was excommunicated from the church in 2010 for speaking out about Scientology’s abuses.
“Ann Tidman got no funeral, no memorial. I wouldn’t have had anything for Alexander if it weren’t for the media. That flap made them hold an event and had Heber come down,” she said.
The people aboard the Spirit for de la Carriere’s service yesterday included actor Michael Fairman and his wife Joy Graysen, Tory Christman, Tiziano Lugli, Bent Corydon, and, all the way from the UK, Samantha Domingo.
Forbes and Scientology’s Tax Exemption
With every publication on earth seemingly scrambling to find some way, any way, to dip into the public’s fascination with Scientology because of the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes split (and who could blame them), even Forbes tax writer Peter J. Reilly got into the act, as he delved into the 1993 IRS decision to give Scientology tax-exempt status.
Reilly briefly reviewed the litigation history surrounded Scientology and tax matters, and then came up with this conclusion:
Myself, I think the IRS “treaty” with Scientology seems to make a lot of sense. The churches were required to put controls in place that probably make them more compliant than most churches, unless they have eroded over time. To the credit of the Service and the courts, it was never about the specific beliefs, but always about the inurement issues, which tend to be applied pretty even handedly.
Um, say what? Reilly may be the first writer I’ve seen who thought it was a good idea for the IRS to cave to Scientology after the way it came about — thousands of frivolous lawsuits thrown at the government for years and years until George H.W. Bush’s IRS commissioner, Fred Goldberg, simply gave in out of sheer exhaustion.
Our legal expert, Manhattan attorney Scott Pilutik (“Tikk”), took Reilly to school in the comments to his piece…
Peter, you may be the first person to look at the IRS Scientology agreement and conclude that it “makes a lot of sense.” Or perhaps you didn’t really look closely, or consider the relevant context…
Inurement isn’t the only basis upon which to deny Scientology its tax exemption — besides the continued inurement, Scientology (2) utilizes funds to hire private investigators to harass its perceived enemies, (3) forces its members to disconnect from families, (4) treats and therefore mistreats child staff members (google ‘children + sea org’ for horror story after horror story), (5) coerces its staff members to have abortions, (6) maintains a practice of what it calls “Fair Game” by which its perceived enemies can be and often are retaliated against in extrajudicial manners, and finally (7) operates in every way as a taxable for-profit business, by accepting money in a quid pro quo exchange for its services.
Pilutik did such a good job, Reilly — to his credit — has invited him to write his own piece for Forbes. I hope that comes to fruition!
UPDATE: And now it has! Go here to see Scott’s amazing analysis of the IRS decision at Forbes.
Meanwhile, we were reminded of something a former IRS commissioner told us about Scientology, which was part of our lengthy 2008 story on Lawrence Wollersheim. In that story, we discussed the IRS decision to grant Scientology tax-exempt status in 1993, and also the 2002 payment of nearly $9 million that Scientology paid Wollersheim to end his decades-long lawsuits.
“The IRS wrongly, as I believe, entered into a closing agreement with this cult,” says Donald C. Alexander, a former IRS commissioner. “I don’t think the IRS is going to go back and unravel that closing agreement as much as it might be in the public’s interest to do so.”
Alexander was commissioner in the 1970s, when Hubbard’s agents were breaking in and stealing from government offices. His conference room was bugged and he was unnerved by 2 am phone calls on his unlisted home number. But while he was commissioner, he says, he vowed never to give in to Scientology’s harassing tactics. “One of my successors didn’t feel that way,” he says. “Maybe [Fred Goldberg] actually believed this thing was a church. Stranger things have happened, but I can’t think of any.
“I’m glad Scientology had to come up with almost $9 million. I wish it had been $90 million,” he says.
I’m still getting a lot of messages from new readers who often ask me two questions: why does Scientology have tax exempt status, and why hasn’t law enforcement done anything about the “disappeared” executives, the stories of extreme child labor, forced abortions, and people held against their will?
In that lengthy piece about Wollersheim, we tried to convey what the IRS went through as it granted Scientology the status of a church. Since then, the US government simply hasn’t seemed to have any interest in revisiting that decision.
As for law enforcement, it can be very tricky to interfere with an organization like Scientology which exerts control over people who are so conditioned to expect their confinement, they may be convinced that they require no rescuing.
We wrote earlier how the FBI did get interested in a big way in Scientology in 2010, something that Lawrence Wright revealed in his profile of director Paul Haggis in the New Yorker last year. But by the time Wright’s article had come out, the FBI had pulled back — Tiziano Lugli had been told that Washington had killed the probe, and Mike Rinder and John Brousseau had been told that they were no longer official informants.
However, it’s important to note that the FBI never truly closes a case like that, and with all of the public interest in Scientology and its abuses, the bureau can always swing back into action.
And, we have to say, we hear rumblings…
We’ll leave it at that this morning. Please check our Facebook author page for updates and schedules!
Tony Ortega has been the editor in chief of the Village Voice since March, 2007. He started writing about Scientology in 1995. You can catch his alerts at Twitter (@VoiceTonyO), at his Facebook author page, on Pinterest, and even this new Google Plus doohickey.
New readers might want to check out our primer, “What is Scientology?” Another good overview is our series from last summer, “Top 25 People Crippling Scientology.” At the top of every story, you’ll see the “Scientology” category which, if you click on it, will bring up all of our most recent stories.
As for hot subjects we’ve covered here, you may have heard about Debbie Cook, the former church official who rebelled and was sued by Scientology. You might have also heard about the Super Power Building, Scientology’s “Mecca,” whose secrets were revealed here. We also reported how Scientology spied on its own most precious object, Tom Cruise. (We wrote Tom an open letter that he has yet to respond to.) Have you seen a Scientology ad on TV lately? We debunked some of the claims in that 2-minute commercial you might have seen while watching Glee or American Idol.
Other stories have looked at Scientology’s policy of “disconnection” that is tearing families apart. You may also have heard something about the Sea Org experiences of the Paris sisters, Valeska and Melissa, and their friend Ramana Dienes-Browning. We’ve also featured Paulette Cooper, who wrote about Scientology back in the day, and Janet Reitman, Hugh Urban, and the team at the Tampa Bay Times, who write about it today. And there’s plenty more coming.