The highly obscene “R” word in the Church of Scientology is REFUND as in, “We hate to give anyone a refund!”
There are three types of refunds in the Church of Scientology:
1. Repayment of Advanced Payments (AP) which is often called “monies on account.” The Church has always solicited and encouraged its members to make advanced payments for future services. The push for advanced payments surged dramatically in the late 1970’s when financial inflation was rampant(1). The Church is said to have a large financial exposure on AP. Chaos could ensue on Church finance lines if there were a sudden mass demand for refunds by thousands of disaffected Scientologists.
2. Refunds for Services Delivered. If someone takes a Scientology service and is not happy with it, they are allowed to ask for a refund within a certain amount of time.
3. Refunds of Unrestricted Donations to the IAS and other “non-delivery” Church trusts. In other words, donations where no services or goods are delivered in exchange.”Unrestricted” simply means that the Church can spend the money however it sees fit. As a general rule, when a 501(c)3 solicits donations for a particular purpose such as a building, the money may only be legally spent on that purpose and no other purpose. Therefore, Scientology uses the IAS and its other trusts to solicit unrestricted donations for nonspecific and non-defined purposes such as “Defense of the Scientology Religion.” These funds can then be used for anything the Church deems to be in defense of the Scientology religion: Lawyers, PI’s, stalking, harassment, Super Bowl ads, building purchases, or for stockpiling in bank accounts. Tokens such as trophies, commendations, key chains, or trinkets are typically given for unrestricted donations given. The Church uses contracts in an attempt to make such donations completely nonrefundable. These contracts call for any disputes to be subject to binding arbitration within the Church conducted by Church members.
History: Beginning in 1991, the Church of Scientology International renewed its request to the IRS for 501(c)3 status as a tax-exempt church. The story is far more complex than David Miscavige and Mark Rathbun simply walking into the IRS headquarters in Washington D.C. and asking for a meeting with the IRS Commissioner. While that actually happened, Miscavige and Rathbun’s request to the IRS began a three year investigation by the IRS into the Church and its organizational structure and finances. The Church submitted a 1023 to the IRS. The 1023 is an application for 501(c)3 status as a tax-exempt organization. Church of Scientology 1023 here.
What the Church told the IRS: The Church told the IRS that it had an internal refund process in place. Among other things, the Church told the IRS about its CVB (Claims Verification Board) account. The implications here are scandalous:
What actually happens: The Church never told the IRS it gave refunds promptly or easily. Rather, the Church stated quite clearly that it handles refund “demands” on an “abandoned or met” basis. To say that the CVB must pass on the “validity” of a claim for a refund is a statement that the Church of Scientology wants to keep every dollar it takes in.
Scientology is quick and eager to grab money from people. However,when it comes to refunds the Church becomes an obnoxious, bureaucratic, sandbagging, fine print deadbeat. Some people who want refunds have to get an attorney after the Church denies their refund request. The Church of Scientology was simply not designed to give refunds with any shred of dignity or grace.
What becomes explicit from the Church’s fine print is the fact that the Church reserves the right to persuade, convince, or threaten a member into abandoning their refund “demand.”
The Claims Verification Board Routing form below (source) makes it clear that the Church of Scientology does not want to give refunds. The Church makes anyone requesting a refund run a gauntlet of Church officials whose goal is to convince that person to abandon their refund request.
The aftermath of getting a refund: If a person succeeds in getting a refund, they are banned from receiving future Scientology services forever. As a practical matter, most people who receive refunds are declared SP’s.
(1)On 16 September 1976, Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard issued an Executive Directive. Entitled Solution to Inflation, the ED laid out Hubbard’s plan for dealing with inflation in the Church:
“… we have no choice but to adjust set donation figures. But to do so suddenly would work great hardship on and deny those services to our public and parishioners.
“Until a recent study was complete there was no solution other than a sudden and huge price rise. Fortunately I have found a solution which avoids this.
“Accordingly, henceforth, beginning at midnight 31 October 1976 the requested donations of all services, books, meters, courses and processing, will increase 5%.
“On 30 November 1976 at midnight, all these prices will be increased 5% over October.
“In the United Kingdom, however, where the level of donations was already only half that of other parts of the world for each item and service, the increase will be 10% per month.
“Thereafter, at midnight on the last day of each month, the expected donations will increase 5% over the past month.
The formula for calculating the price or donation for any month for any item or service for any continent and any currency is simply to multiply the prices of the past month by 1.05 (1.10 for UK) and this will give the amounts for the following month…”
Hubbard’s Solution to Inflation generated a huge amount of advanced payments made by Scientologists wanting to lock in lower prices for future services. In context, and to be historically fair to Hubbard, the demand for Scientology services was such in the mid-1970’s that Hubbard could raise prices 5% per month while the Church membership continued to grow. Several of my sources have told me that the financial and membership zenith of Scientology occurred with the release of NED for OT’s on 15 September 1978. This makes sense to me inasmuch as the “Mission Holders Massacre” of 1982 saw 35,000 people leave the Church.
Recommended reading on the Mission Holders Massacre: