Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Two Constants: Death and Taxes

Now, I'm generally not one to go in for the whole conspiracy theory fascination that so many seem to have. Granted, I don't entirely trust my government any longer and I find a lot of things that happen in the world news to be "fishy" at best, but I have yet to fit myself with a tinfoil hat and I am proud to say I have never read--and do not own--a copy of Catcher in the Rye. Also, Conspiracy Theory is really one of Mel Gibson's worst movies.

That being said, in browsing the 'web today, two stories caught my eye. The first story--at World Net Daily--reveals a settlement agreement between the IRS and the Scientologists, courtesy of a recent report by the American Bar Association Journal and a Wall Street Journal report in 1997.

Apparently, under their secret agreement with the Internal Revenue Service, Scientologists "can deduct the cost of religious education as a charitable gift." Now the question becomes whether members of other religious groups can cut the same agreement or whether Scientology is getting special treatment.

The ABA Journal report deals with a case currently on appeal before the Ninth Circus Court of Schlemiels Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Granted, it may be the most-overturned court in the country, but it appears that there is some sanity on that court after all. "The [ABA Journal] report said Judge Kim Wardlaw noted during arguments that the issue 'does intrude into the Establishment Clause,' and that the 'bottom line' is whether the IRS has, in fact, agreed to treat members of one religious group differently from members of another group."

Proof? The WND story concludes with a comment that "when the Sklars attempted to take the deduction the IRS sent them letters explaining the terms for Scientologists to take such deductions, but then disallowed theirs because they didn't provide receipts from the Church of Scientology."

Then we had this story from the St. Petersburg Times.

Lonsdale, whose one-man crusade against Scientology made him a public enemy of the church, was found dead at his home over the weekend in an apparent suicide. He was 39.

Police discovered Lonsdale's body at 12:20 p.m. Saturday after neighbors reported a foul odor. They found a garden hose stretched from the exhaust pipe of Lonsdale's car into a window of his home at 510 N Lincoln Ave., according to Clearwater police spokeswoman Elizabeth Daly-Watts.

Daly-Watts said there were no signs of foul play, and police found what appeared to be a suicide note. It was not immediately available.

The medical examiner's office said the official cause of death is pending toxicology reports.

It was a lonely end for a man who emerged out of nowhere in 2006 as a thorn in the side of the Church of Scientology.

This was a man who taped hours and hours of camera footage, staking out Scientology buildings, and then produced a local "pseudo-documentary" for local cable television. Granted, there may be better ways to spend your time, and all indications point to the fact that Mr. Lonsdale had tired of his crusade and was pulling his life into good shape.

Then he kills himself?

Say what?

Randy Payne, a former Scientologist . . . said that he last spoke to Lonsdale two months ago, and that Lonsdale had found steady work. . . . He talked about going back to school and getting a private investigator's license.

"He was getting on with his life," Payne said. "He had every reason to live."

Landlord Joe Critchley said Lonsdale was an ideal tenant: He paid the $650 rent on time every month and he kept the place clean. The last time they talked, Feb. 1 or Feb. 2, Lonsdale seemed fine. "He would be one of the last people I would expect to commit suicide," Critchley said. "But you never know."

You never know.

Except sometimes you do.

There are much easier ways, I'm told, to commit suicide. But as a movie buff and avid reader, I know that there are many harder ways to kill someone else. There are also many more obvious ways to kill someone else.

I started out thinking about a humorous angle to the connection between these two stories; instead, I'm a little bit weirded out right now, to tell you the truth. Big time heebie-jeebies. The more I think about it, the more I wonder: the story says Clearwater, Florida is "the heart of Scientology's religious headquarters." It would be interesting to see exactly who in the community was on the church membership rolls. Any investigators on the Lonsdale case, perhaps?

Show of hands?

After all, we've seen that Scientology gets a pass from the government on Taxes. Why not also on Death, the other constant?

We don't have anything firm. Nothing but circumstantial evidence at this point.

So, you never know.

Except sometimes--deep down inside--you do.

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