Hoooo boy, wouldn’t that be a fun precedent. The idea that a religion must account for its factual claims before using them to solicit donations would be religious dynamite.
A disgruntled former Mormon has convinced an English court to file two summonses to appear against Thomas S. Monson, the current president of the Mormon Church.
Tom Phillips based his complaint on the Fraud Act of 2006, a British law that outlaws making a profit off of false representations. According to Phillips, this is precisely what the Mormon Church does — it uses statements it knows to be factually untrue in order to secure tithes from members of the Church.
The facts in question, court records show, are tenets of the Mormon faith, including that Joseph Smith translated The Book of Mormon from ancient gold plates, that Native Americans are descendants of a family of Israelites, and that death didn’t exist on this planet until 6,000 years ago.
“These are not statements of mere ‘beliefs’ or opinions or theories,” Phillips wrote. “They are made as actual facts and their truthfulness can be objectively tested with evidence.”
Our neighbor in the Mormon portal, Daniel Peterson, asks Will England return to its onetime practice of criminalizing unpopular religious ideas? But that, I think, misses the point.
The idea that an institution should be able to back up the major claims that it makes while asking for money isn’t an inherently bad one. The case is under the Fraud Act, after all. And if all institutions are held to the same standard, then this can’t be considered persecution.
That said, I think the courts is overreaching by summoning Monson. This case has a snowflake’s chance in a blast furnace of moving forward, and it’s likely that the judges will get smacked down for it. The Church has also been moving away from many of those historical claims, so at the very last they have a credible defense.
Sill, if Monson wants to defuse the situation by flying out there and laying out all the evidence, I’ll chip in for his airfare.
For the record, Tom Phillips seems like an interesting man who has been a squeaky wheel before. Here’s his page at MormonThink.