British Magistrate Summons Head of Mormon Church to Court Over “Fraudulent” Beliefs

President Thomas S Monson, the head of the Mormon church, has been summoned before a Magistrate in Britain. The charge is that the teachings of his faith are fraudulent and that religious leaders can be prosecuted for teaching these beliefs and then asking for donations.

The charges were originally filed by Tom Philipps, a former Mormon bishop, stake president and area secretary who has evidently decided that he no longer believes the teachings he once taught. A Mormon convert named Stephen Bloor also filed a charge. Mr Bloor has, presumably, deconverted.

That, of course, is their privilege. I don’t believe in the teachings they once taught and believed, either. What I do believe is that people have the right to think whatever they want and that neither of these two men should interfere with others in this matter. I do not understand the spiteful, I’ll-burn-your-house-down crazy meanness of people who do things like this.

However, I do see a pattern of nuisance lawsuits against people of faith on both sides of the Atlantic. Being drug into court has a chilling effect on the exercise of free speech and the rights of personal religious belief. I think that is the immediate (but not the only) purpose behind these legal actions; to intimidate people of faith into backing down and withdrawing from public debate.

President Monson is an American citizen who lives in Salt Lake City, UT. I don’t know if the British government intends to make this an international situation by starting extradition proceedings. According to news stories, probably not.

President Monson is not charged with breaking American law. In fact, his work as a religious leader is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. He is not subject to this British Magistrate and her fanciful court orders. If it was me, she could just go ahead and draft up her arrest warrant. I wouldn’t be going to England.

The same procedure by which the summons was issued to President Monson was also used in the past by a Palestinian activist against the Israeli justice minister.

District Judge Elizabeth Roscoe signed this order.

From The Telegraph:

A British magistrate has issued an extraordinary summons to the worldwide leader of the Mormon church alleging that its teachings about mankind amount to fraud.
Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been ordered to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London next month to defend the church’s doctrines including beliefs about Adam and Eve and Native Americans.
A formal summons signed by District Judge Elizabeth Roscoe warns Mr Monson, who is recognised by Mormons as God’s prophet on Earth, that a warrant for his arrest could be issued if he fails to make the journey from Salt Lake City, Utah, for a hearing on March 14.
In one of the most unusual documents ever issued by a British court, it lists seven teachings of the church, including that Native Americans are descended from a family of ancient Israelites as possible evidence of fraud.
It also cites the belief that the Book of Mormon was translated from ancient gold plates revealed to the church’s founder Joseph Smith by angels and that Adam and Eve lived around 6,000 years ago.
The document suggests that asking members of the church to make contributions while promoting theological doctrines which “might be untrue or misleading” could be a breach of the Fraud Act 2006.The Church dismissed the summons as containing “bizarre allegations” and signalled that Mr Monson has no plans to attend.It was issued in response to a private prosecution attempt by Tom Phillips, a disaffected former Mormon who now runs MormonThink a website highly critical of the church.


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  • SisterCynthia

    I am with you on this one.

  • Dave

    Part of me says this is good, because Mormon beliefs have extremely little factual support behind them, and in fact, most scholars say that the Book of Mormon allegedly obtained by Joseph Smith from some ancient artifacts was in fact fraudulently plagiarized from another document Joseph Smith obtained entitled “View of the Hebrews”

    However, just because of the fact that people in power can declare anything that they don’t like to be fraudulent, this is not a good precedent to allow to happen.

    • Russell Spencer

      And what scholars, precisely, make the claim that Joseph Smith copied “View of the Hebrews?” None that I’m aware of. Nor could anyone who has actually looked at both books make such a patently absurd claim. I’m pretty sure that most scholars today simply skirt the issue of the Book of Mormon’s origins (likely because all of the historically reliable testimony, like Cowdery, the Whitmers, and Harris–all of whom claimed firsthand knowledge of the Book of Mormon’s origins, later left the Church claiming that Joseph was a fallen prophet, but would not deny the existence of the golden plates or Joseph’s translation therefrom–would require the acceptance of angels interacting with man, etc.), the pseudo-scholarly consensus is that Joseph Smith authored the book himself, and the apologetic consensus is that he translated it by the gift and power of God. No serious scholar since 1895 and the rediscovery of the Spaulding Manuscript has maintained that he copied it from another source.

      • hamiltonr

        I’m allowing this to allow a reply. I don’t want this blog to descend to a contest between various faiths, so I’m cutting this discussion of here. Take it outside, gentlemen.

  • oregon nurse

    So, let’s see how many ‘separation of church and state’ libs jump in to defend the Mormons on this.

    • Tom Phillips

      Freedom of religion does not mean a religion is free to commit crime.

  • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

    It’s that damned stage musical. Want to bet Her Honour had been to see The Book Of Mormon in the recent past?

    • Manny

      That’s funny. :)

    • SisterCynthia

      I hate that thing. Partly because I have family who are Mormon, and I find how they are painted ridiculous and offensive, and partly because I know the Liberal Arts world well enough to know that Mormons are just stand-ins for anyone of faith and conservative mores. Can you imagine how well a similarly plotted musical would sell if it was called “The Torah” or “The Koran”? I almost wish the creators of this abomination would try that…

  • Manny

    This is baloney. How do you prove any religious belief? How does one proove Christ’s resurrection to a court standard? Britain has become one of the most anti religious countries in western civilization.

  • Rebecca Fuentes

    This strikes me as a monumental case of sour grapes.

  • 1firstborn

    Unfortunately, and with respect, you are unfamiliar with the facts and the real reason for the criminal court summons being issued against the Mormon Church.
    Please allow me to explain.
    In the Mormon church, members have been coerced into paying 10% of their annual income (Tithing) into the church, as a direct requirement to enter Mormon Temples, to partake of sacred and essential temple ordinances therein, and by dutiful repetition, gain eventual entry into Mormon Celestial Heaven.
    The member must also attend two bi-annual interviews and answer specific questions regarding personal obedience and worthiness to Mormon standards. One of them is obedience to the regular payment of Tithing as part of the qualification process.
    Furthermore, an annual Tithing Settlement interview is conducted with the member at the end of each year, to ascertain that the member is indeed a full Tithe payer.
    These demands on each member to comply to the payment of Tithing, as it relates to Temple attendance qualification and essential Celestial advancement in Mormon doctrine, amounts to nothing more than serious financial extortion on a massive scale.
    Furthermore, this enforced payment of money into the Mormon church by members was financed in part by the UK Tax Payer through the Gift Aid Scheme.
    Hence the reason for the Court Summons issued to the Mormon President by HM Magistrates Court in London.

    • hamiltonr

      Is membership in the Mormon Church voluntary?

      • Minjae_Lee

        It is, departure is easy (as evidenced by the departure of Tom Philipps), and tithing is not forced or coerced, no matter what 1firstborn claims. There is no end to the lies they will tell to justify their hatred.

      • HematitePersuasion

        Many churches practice active shunning of apostate members. Thus, leaving the Church means leaving family, friends, often business partners and relationships to the point of being financially ruinous. If the consequences of declining membership are sufficiently severe, then to what extent is retaining membership ‘voluntary’?

        Does the Mormon Church practice shunning to that extent? I’ve heard it both ways from ex-Mormons. I don’t know. Summing up the entire complicated conundrum of severing one’s family and social networks in a single word — voluntary — seems like it misses the point of the question entirely.

        • Manny

          Even if they do, so what? Everyone has freedom to associate or not associate. There are plenty of ex-Mormons. There is no coersion.

        • SisterCynthia

          Having Mormon family and friends, I can say I have not personally seen any kind of shunning forced onto those who walk away. Perhaps in some areas, and with some families it occurs, but then a Jew or Muslim who joins any form of Christianity often is treated very badly by family, as not merely now a heretic but especially as a traitor. In fact, in some Muslim countries it can lead to your execution, not merely being ignored by your relatives and old friends! That is NOT something a former Mormon faces. So, I don’t buy that they are being unduly “kept” in their church. The choice to leave is theirs. The downsides to leaving are not so great as to prevent departure, unless the person utterly lacks a spine.

        • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

          You might say the same about moving town or changing soccer teams.

          • HematitePersuasion

            In the days before telephones and automobiles, yes, moving out of town was exactly like that.

            I know many persons who have moved, and not changed preferred sports teams. I don’t know any who have moved, and changed (or at least, who claimed to have left the fandom of their previous team). It’s not something I monitor.

            I do know ex-Mormons who have been shunned by their families. And I know some who are not shunned. I don’t pretend to know what the Church’s official or actual position on that.

        • bytebear

          The LDS Church does not practice shunning. Even excommunicated members are welcomed to church services and participation in non-ecclesiastical activities. Excommunication is rare, and most people simply choose to “go inactive” and stop attending church.

          • HematitePersuasion

            I don’t know the policy of the official persons who make official policy for the LDS church. I know persons who have left the LDS community and been shunned. I know persons who have left, and not been shunned. I am perfectly willing to believe that shunning is not a general or expected practice within the community of the LDS Church.

    • Manny

      Coerced? Ridiculous.

    • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

      Unfofrunately you said nothing whatsoever to show that this is not a gross assault on freedom of religion. Tithing is traditional in many Christian environments (and something of the kind is compulsory among Muslims) and as for making sure that members live up to Mormon standars – how dreadful of the Church! I dare say they ought to let anyone just do as they please.

  • perpper

    Is there a corresponding summons to prominent Hindu and Muslim leaders? To the Archbishop of Canterbury? To the Pope? To the head rabbi of Jerusalem?

    Why not?

    • bytebear

      To the Queen herself, as defender of the faith.

  • Tom Phillips

    Well said.