Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Apostate Ex-Mormons Launch "Private Prosecution" Against LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson For Fraud, British Judge Orders Him To Appear

Although the American mainstream media is just now starting to pick up this story, we have a report from several mainstream British media sources. The Telegraph and the Daily Mail report that an anti-Mormon activist, Tom Phillips, who runs the MormonThink website, has launched a private prosecution attempt in the United Kingdom on behalf of two apostate ex-Mormons, Stephen Bloor and Christopher Denis Ralph, claiming that President Monson fraudulently obtained tithing from them under Section 1 of the Elizabeth II Fraud Act 2006 on the basis of doctrinal teachings which the apostates claim are untrue. According to the Arizona Republic, Phillips alleged that the Mormon Church in the UK has received $257m (£157.5m, €190m) in member donations since 2007, and that these donations were "mandatory" for good standing in the church. As a result, District Judge Elizabeth Roscoe issued a formal summons for President Monson to appear at a hearing scheduled to take place at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London on March 14th, 2014 and answer the seven allegations laid against him.

The summons was signed on January 31st, 2014 and issued under section 1 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980, which specifies that upon receiving a formal statement alleging that someone has committed an offense, the court may issue a summons requiring that person to attend court, and even issue a warrant for that person's arrest if the alleged offense must or may be tried in the Crown Court, and if the alleged offense is punishable with imprisonment.

Two separate summons were issued, one on behalf of each plaintiff. They are otherwise identical, and a screenshot is posted below:

Click to enlarge

Ironically, although Tom Phillips is identified as the webmaster of MormomThink, the website currently and disingenuously states "The MormonThink website is not involved in this private legal action. We merely report the news" Yeah, surrre. LOL!.

Details of the Plaintiffs: According to IBTimes UK, Phillips, who lives in Portugal, formerly served as a stake president, area controller and financial director for the LDS Church's UK corporate entities, as well as other positions within the church between 1969 and 2002. Phillips also allegedly received the Second Anointing. Stephen Bloor was a third generation Mormon, a podiatrist who served as a bishop until he decided the LDS Church gave many "false representations". He penned a resignation as bishop and now writes a blog. Christopher Ralph was a Mormon convert since 1971, who served in bishoprics, and in 2012 helped write open letters to the European Area Presidency, the First Presidency, and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on behalf of some UK Mormons who were troubled by questions and doubts. He supposedly received no response.

Worst Case Scenario: The summons declares that failure to attend could result in a warrant being issued for President Monson's arrest, although extradition would be required, and the offense must also be an offense in the United States for extradition to be approved. Once President Monson is processed by Westminster, the court could refer the case to Southwark Crown Court for further proceedings. According to Section 3 of the Fraud Act 2006, the maximum penalty for the allegations contained in the summons is ten years imprisonment and a fine for each offense.

LDS Church Reaction: The Church dismissed the summons as based upon bizarre allegations, and signalled that President Monson has no plans to attend. Malcolm Adcock, the church’s public affairs director for Europe, said, “The Church occasionally receives documents like this that seek to draw attention to an individual’s personal grievance or embarrass church leaders. These bizarre allegations fit into that category.” Unofficial LDS reaction is documented on LDS Freedom Forum.

Prognosis: British legal scholars expressed bewilderment at the summonses, saying British law precludes challenges to theological beliefs in secular courts. Neil Addison, a former crown prosecutor and author on religious freedom, was quoted as saying "I think the British courts will recoil in horror. This is just using the law to make a show, an anti-Mormon point. And I'm frankly shocked that a magistrate has issued it." An active British Mormon who says he's been a criminal lawyer who has worked for over 25 years in Magistrates' Courts provides a more in-depth explanation of the legal process and believes this will go nowhere. He says that the Magistrate has the power to dismiss the charges as "malicious", and even if the Magistrate forwards the charges to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for further action, the CPS can choose to withdraw the charges without the consent of the instigator (Tom Phillips). According to IBTimes UK, Phillips, who lives in Portugal, formerly served as a stake president, area controller and financial director for the LDS Church's UK corporate entities, as well as other positions within the church between 1969 and 2002.

Even some prominent anti-Mormons concede this prosecution will go nowhere. From Infymus, the webmaster of the anti-Mormon Mormon Curtain website:

However, I approach all of this with skepticism on its success. The LDS Church is very wealthy, retains full-time about half of the 150+ lawyers at McConkie and has a team of lawyers in its own legal department. You can bet they will throw their full effort into defending against these charges and try to get even the summons dismissed. The LDS Church has considerable political weight in the US, with church members occupying positions on the judicial bench at every level in both state (UT) and federal branch. They have church members holding 7% of the US Senate, including the senate majority leader, the ranking member of the finance committee and more. This from a church whose US membership is just a hair below 2% and whose active members might peak 1% of the US population. That is a lot of political, judicial and legal might for such a fraction of a minority of the population.

Furthermore, I believe no judge, UK or US, will want the responsibility to set a precedence of finding a church leader as powerful as even the small church's Mormon Prophet guilty of fraud through "ideological" deceit. To most eyes outside of the LDS Church, this case will look mostly ideological, and that sets it up for problems because no judge wants to convict against free exercise of religion. At least, that would be the public perception, even if the fraud claims are about false representations made on facts of science and history, and not just about beliefs. But the public will not understand such nuances. The LDS Church PR machine will ensure that it appears victimized by ex-members and "anti-Mormons" who challenge its basic rights to free exercise.

This responsibility is probably too high for even a liberal judge in the UK or other parts of Europe.

However, Infymus still rejoices at the prospect of giving a black eye to the Church nonetheless. These anti-Mormons are so desperate to discredit Mormonism that they'll launch these hit-and-run guerrilla attacks just to make political statements.


Ben L. Kemer said...

That's the biggest irony here: these people state that the church has things to hide, and yet, none of them step forward to back the attempted lawsuit.

Second, if you really want to charge fraud, the problem there is that the law doesn't require you to believe the doctrines of the church. The church doesn't claim scientific authority, so it's not fraud, the law of Britain or the U.S. does not require you to believe or be schooled in what the Church's own side of their own history is either, so in essence, a person must be either really obssessed about the church to try and pull this. It's kind of sad that some people expend to much of their life on one obssession when they could spend it more productively in other ways.

Anonymous said...

I read that Steve Benson, grandson of Pres. Ezra T. Benson, helped Tom Phillips set up this lawsuit and calling it a "slam dunk" and publicly has stated he wants to destroy the LDS church. Wow.