Yesterday, I ran across a petition to have the Church of Scientology's tax exemption status removed. Today, I came across a New York Times article on "Scientology's Puzzling Journey From Tax Rebel to Tax Exempt".
This is an important and complex topic. My own research suggests to me that Scientology is more of a business than a religion. If you want evidence of this, just check out the official Scientology website and look at the prices they charge for their books and courses. (Google "dangerous cult", that should get you there pretty quick. I won't link to that website.)
My opinion is that tax exempt status can become a type of government support. This is a serious concern if the organisation's activities are harmful to society. I consider Scientology's disconnection policy to be particularly offensive, especially since it breaks up families, the basic building block of civilization.
I'm more knowledgeable and personally involved with the situation of Jehovah's Witnesses. They are a giant real estate and publishing corporation. They don't give a public account of their finances and they don't have any charities. (It's true that they provide some assistance in disaster areas. However, they often ask the recipients to sign over their insurance checks. Since the labor is provided by volunteers, this could be a lucrative money making scheme.)
They also have a severe institutionalised shunning policy. As a taxpayer, I'm offended that the tax exempt Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is using its resources to publish literature that slanders former members like me and tries to intimidate their friends and family from having any contact with them.
Well, I hope recent media coverage of Scientology will prompt a more energetic debate on tax exemption for cults and high control groups. All tax payers and members of society have a right to be concerned.