Mormon Church fraud claim rejected


Mormon Conference

An attempt to force the head of the Mormon church to appear in a British court over claims that some of its teachings amount to fraud has been thrown out by a judge.

Two summons were issued to Thomas Monson, the president of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, alleging that, by seeking money using "untrue or misleading" statements, he breached the Fraud Act 2006.

But the private prosecution by Tom Phillips was thrown out at Westminster Magistrates' Court by Senior District Judge Howard Riddle, who said it was an "abuse of the process of the court".

He added: "I am satisfied that the process of the court is being manipulated to provide a high-profile forum to attack the religious beliefs of others."

Neither Mr Phillips nor Mr Monson was in court for today's hearing.

The summons, to Thomas Spencer Monson, of East Temple Street, Salt Lake City, alleged that between February 2008 and December 2013 he induced two men to pay an "annual tithe" based on teachings which were untrue.

These were:

:: That the Mormons' Book of Abraham was a literal translation of Egyptian papyri by founder Joseph Smith;

:: That Smith translated The Book Of Mormon from ancient gold plates and it is historically accurate;

:: That Native Americans are descended from Israelites who left Jerusalem in 600BC;

:: That Joseph and Hyrum Smith were killed as martyrs in 1844 because they would not deny their claims about The Book Of Mormon;

:: That Illinois newspaper the Nauvoo Expositor was destroyed for printing lies about Joseph Smith;

:: That there were no deaths on this planet before 6,000 years ago;

:: All humans are descended from two people alive approximately 6,000 years ago.

The summons, signed by District Judge Elizabeth Roscoe, ordered Mr Monson to appear at Westminster and threatened arrest if he did not.

However, Judge Riddle said today that the threat of arrest was "wrong" and should not have been made.

He described the attempted prosecution as "tenuous", with no chance of ever making it to trial even if Mr Monson attended.

He said it was "obvious" that the case was aimed at the beliefs of the church rather than Mr Monson himself.

He added: "To convict, a jury would need to be sure that the religious teachings of the Mormon church are untrue or misleading. That proposition is at the heart of the case.

"No judge in a secular court in England and Wales would allow that issue to be put to a jury. It is non-justiciable."

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said it was satisfied with the ruling.

In a statement, Malcolm Adcock, its assistant director for public affairs in Europe, said: "This case was a misuse of the legal system and should never have been brought."

The biggest scams of 2013

The biggest scams of 2013