Inside Trump and Farrakhan’s Strange Ties to Scientology
Whistleblowers Leah Remini and Mike Rinder open up on the links between Donald Trump, the Nation of Islam, and the Church of Scientology, from loans and donations to fundraising.
On July 6, the Trump administration released federal data revealing which “small” businesses were awarded Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans because of the COVID-19 shutdown. In addition to the Kushner family, Trump’s fundraising pal Joe Farrell, and Kanye West, one name stood out among the recipients: the Church of Scientology.
The celebrity-obsessed church—which professes that an intergalactic overlord named Xenu brought billions of aliens to Earth 75 million years ago, arranged them at the base of volcanoes, blew them up with hydrogen bombs, and their surviving souls haunt the human race—received three loans of up to $350,000 each for its sites in New York, Florida, and Washington, D.C., supporting what it claims is a total of 137 employees.
It’s a curious decision by the Trump administration, awarding hundreds of thousands of dollars to a scandal-plagued organization that, due to its tax-exempt status, has reportedly amassed more than $1 billion in assets (mostly in real-estate holdings).
And it’s a decision that’s angered former Scientologists-turned-whistleblowers Leah Remini and Mike Rinder.
“It’s insane,” says Remini. “Mike and I have tried to meet many times with the IRS, and the IRS knows what they’ve done. They’ve known that they’ve cleared the way for Scientology to misappropriate their money. It’s run like a business for profit. And this just says that!”
Remini, a former high-ranking Scientologist who sank $5 million into the church, and Rinder, its ex-spokesperson/senior executive, are—along with journalist Tony Ortega—the premier sources for exposing abuses within the tight-lipped religion. After three seasons of their Emmy-winning A&E series Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, the duo has launched a new podcast, Scientology: Fair Game, that focuses on the church’s “Fair Game” doctrine, wherein leader David Miscavige’s army of acolytes are reported to do everything in their power to intimidate its enemies into silence. (The Church of Scientology did not respond to a request for comment.)
Since, as Remini and Rinder have repeatedly claimed, Scientology mostly operates via a series of volunteers, they’re confused about why the church would need government handouts to compensate paid employees.
“The PPP loans were about ensuring that people don’t lose their jobs, and Scientology, when confronted about the fact that they don’t pay minimum wage or anything, say these people are volunteers!” offers Rinder. “Staff members of Scientology organizations are ‘volunteers,’ they’re not employees, and they’re getting loans so that people don’t lose their jobs?”
The PPP loans mark the latest curious tie between Trump and Scientology.
According to a 2015 investigation by The Smoking Gun that analyzed—and published portions of—tax-return filings from the Donald J. Trump Charitable Foundation between 1990 and 2014, Trump’s charity arm made only one donation to a Sept. 11-related cause in the wake of the tragedy: $1,000 to the New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project. That program, started by the Church of Scientology and Tom Cruise, sought to heal first responders with smoke-damaged lungs via the “Purification Rundown,” a medically unproven detox method that involves pumping the body full of vitamins, performing loads of exercise, and spending many hours a day in a sauna. Scientists and health professionals have called it “dangerous.” (The Trump administration did not respond to requests for comment.)
“And Joy Villa has infiltrated the Trump administration,” adds Remini, referring to the Scientologist pitchwoman/singer who served on Trump’s Campaign Advisory Board. “I don’t know how this continues to be a thing. It should be criminal.”
Trump has also met with a number of big-money Scientology donors at the White House, where they were photographed together, while Vice President Mike Pence entertained top Scientology lobbyist Greg Mitchell.
Scientology’s reach doesn’t stop there. The church is also deeply connected to Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, which has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for Farrakhan’s rabid anti-Semitism and praise of Hitler, among other things. Since 2010, the Nation of Islam has been promoting the “benefits” of Dianetics, the core set of principles taught by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
“I found the tool that I know can help us. And I thank God for Mr. L. Ron Hubbard,” Farrakhan announced during a sermon in Chicago on July 1, 2012. “And I thank God for his research and teaching.”
Then there’s the matter of Tony Muhammad, the West Coast regional minister of the Nation of Islam whose face is plastered all over the Scientology website. Muhammad is the recipient of the IAS Freedom Medal, the church’s most coveted award, for spreading its teachings.
“It’s such an ugly marriage of convenience between these two, and it’s going to ultimately end in an ugly divorce, because both of these organizations believe that they are the only true answer,” explains Rinder. “Scientology, through David Miscavige, has done enormous things to try to engage and involve the Nation of Islam in Scientology. They have subsidized their involvement and given the highest Scientology awards to Tony Muhammad, the West Coast leader of the Nation of Islam. They have Nation of Islam people showing up to their events, acting as security people; and conversely, Farrakhan is preaching from his pulpit about the ‘great man’ L. Ron Hubbard who’s come to save the Black man. It’s utterly insane.”
And when it comes to Muhammad’s involvement with Scientology, few people know more than Remini—who says she served as Muhammad’s handler of sorts.
“When I was introduced to Tony Muhammad at Celebrity Centre, he was in a very tough spot. He was not doing well financially. He wasn’t making money, and yet he was working for Farrakhan as the Nation of Islam’s West Coast representative,” she says. “Celebrity Centre asked me to buddy him and indoctrinate him into Scientology, and that’s exactly what happened. Since he couldn’t even pay his rent, I ended up sponsoring him for his first introductory courses. Celebrity Centre asked me to do this. And he’s never paid me back and blocked me on Twitter.”
“I considered myself a friend to Tony and his family, yet I received threats [from the Farrakhan speech],” Remini continues. “And you receive a 10 percent commission any time you get somebody to do a Scientology service, and you’re called a ‘staff member’ once you start promoting Scientology courses—which is what they’ve done. So I think there’s also a financial benefit to the Nation of Islam telling their followers to study Scientology.”