Will Smith and his wife,’Jada Pinkett-Smith, donated $70,000 to Scientology groups in 2008, according to a tax filing just obtained by this column.

The “Seven Pounds” actor contributed $60,000 to the World Literacy Crusade and $10,000 to ABLE International via his Will Smith Foundation. Each is a Scientology organization. In the past, he’s denied being a member of the group.

The $70,000 is relatively small amount in relation to a total of $1,275,699 in his total charitable donations for 2008. But it’s significant considering the criticism the Smiths have come under for the private school they’ve started in Calabasas, Calif. The New Village Leadership Academy has come under scrutiny for using Scientology teaching methods.

Over the summer, the Smiths dismissed Jacqueline Olivier, the school’s headmaster, and replaced her with Piano Foster, an educator who has completed Scientology classes.

According to its tax filing, the Will Smith Foundation –which had total assets of $182,852 last year– pays one salary of $61,000 to Karen Evans, Jada Pinkett-Smith’s aunt. The Foundation made no contributions to New Village.

Last year, Smith donated a total of $122,000 to Scientology groups. In the past, Smith has said in interviews that Scientology, a sect founded by the late science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, “is 98% like the Bible.”

Smith said in a 2008 television interview: “You have people who are attacking and want to fight. And don’t know nothing. How you gonna not know nothing about Scientology and attack somebody? It’s dangerous and it’s ignorant. And as an American I’m not gonna be a part of that.” In the same interview, Smith also called Scientology poster boy Tom Cruise “one of the greatest spirits that I have ever met.” You can watch the whole thing below:

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Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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