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.