Rumor time: A Court Filing Against President Thomas Monson and a Summons for Fraud.

Greg February 4, 2014 22
monson summons

the official summons

640px-Thomas_S_Monson

Exmormon forums are buzzing today about the latest bit of gossip: that the current and former editors of the anti-mormon website mormonthink have managed to organize a lawsuit against Thomas S. Monson, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We’ve tried to confirm this story, but so far we’ve not found any secondary sources.[edit: we found some, see below] Here’s the details of the rumor, take it for what it’s worth:

One of the biggest critics of Mormonism is the website mormonthink. While the site claims to be unbiased in its views, the current managing editor, Tom Phillips, has made dozens of hateful remarks against the church, as has the previous managing editor, David Twede. Today (Febuary 4, 2014) Phillips on exmormon forums and Twede on his blog claim to have organized a lawsuit against Thomas S. Monson in a court in England.

The image of the purported summons appears on this page. We can not yet confirm if this is legitimate or not.

The substance of the summons is that President Monson has engaged in fraud.

Monson accused of fraud.

The basis of this claim is that because the church (and therefore Monson) knowingly teaches things which are false, (according to those behind the claim) and because the church asks for money in the form of tithing, Thomas S. Monson must therefore be lying in order to get money out of people.

To simplify the claims of these accusers, here’s the logic they’re using:

  1. The church teaches things which are false
  2. President Monson must know they are false
  3. Therefore asking for tithing is fraud.

Twede and Phillips claim that President Monson has been served with papers as of this morning which require him to attend the court, Westminster Magistrates’ Court, on 14th March 2014.

Responses

Those who claim to be close to those instigating the proceedings say that this is just a part of their overall goal, and suggest that they hope to force the church to reveal its notoriously secret financial statements. Additionally, the filing lists 7 specific “lies” told by the church. Exposing believing members to these lies is seen as a huge benefit of a public court proceeding for those who wish to discredit the LDS church.

As of this writing there is no response from the LDS church.

Beyond those facts of the situation, if this is true, the questions that remain are these:

Will President Monson attend? Will the court even consider hearing a case which seeks to determine what a church can or can not teach and therefore believe? Will the church bring in “experts” to refute the claim that their teachings are false? Are beliefs to be tried in court now? Perhaps most importantly: How could the accusers hope to prove, in court, that President Monson does not believe the promises of the church?

All these questions cast a shadow on the idea that this is real.

Will Monson Attend?

General consensus in the exmormon communities seems to be “no.” The people there suggest that appearing in person would reveal that he has been hiding some secret like that he has dementia. However not showing up means that he could be prevented from ever visiting England again. A high price for a frequently traveling prophet.

Will the court even hear the case?

England does have some precedent for making tough decisions against religious institutions. For example, scientology is not considered a religion and receives no tax benefit from the state there. On the other hand, a man tried to accuse a Catholic Priest of fraud for claiming Christ existed had his case thrown out and was fined “for bringing a fraudulent suit.” I’m not familiar with the British court systems, so anybody who is, please comment!

Are beliefs to be tried in court now?

In faithful lds forums, the question becomes “if a court can decide what a religion preaches based on if science declares it “true” or “false,” how long before beliefs are curtailed by the law? If a state says a religion can’t teach things which disagree with science, how is that different from the dark ages when the state said science couldn’t teach things which disagreed with religion?”

What do you think? Does this case have any merit? Is it even real? Will it go far? Pull out your urim and thummim and give us the predictions.

EDIT: 8:30PM: An attorney friend of mine, who wishes to be anonymous, says the following:

This is not a criminal condemnation of Monson.

The information presented to the magistrate only needs three things:

  1. Describes the offence in ordinary language. R.7.3(1)(a)(i) Crim.PR.
  2. Identifies any legislation that creates it. R.7.3(1)(a)(ii) Crim.PR.
  3. Contains such particulars of the conduct constituting the commission of the offence as to make clear what the prosecutor alleges against the defendant. R.7.3(1)(b) Crim.PR.

This is a very low bar. Basically, the writer needs to be able to form complete sentences.

Moreover, there is no obligation upon a magistrate or clerk to make any inquiries before issuing a warrant. A warrant may be issued without giving the parties an opportunity to make representations and without a hearing. R.7.4(1) Crim.PR.

What we have here is an exparte, rubber-stamped complaint made by a private citizen the UK court. The church will just send a lawyer to hearing and likely get it dismissed on constitutional grounds.

See Relevant UK Rules of Crim Pro & Summary of Private Prosecution
See also: Official guide to private prosecution which shows that information only needs to be sufficient to show a prima facia case i.e. can check the boxes for a fraud claim.

Pleading Fraud in Federal Civil Court in the US has a higher standard that what is present here. FRCP Rule 9

I’m not a UK lawyer, but I saw stuff like this in Court all the time. People would sue the Pope all the time. In this case, the distinction between a Civil case in the US and the Semi-Civil realm of Private Prosecution UK is not particularly compelling.

—-

So, based on that much, this seems to be more of a “statement” made notable only because of who is taking credit for it. If true, it puts quite a tarnish on the mormonthink claims of neutrality, since it chooses to have such strong antagonistic voices as managing editors.

Lawsuits are nothing new to the church, so I’m still reaching out to those in the exmormon community who might be able to explain the reasoning behind Phillips calling this “the mormon apocalypse.” But for now it seems to be a lot of sizzle with no steak.

 

EDIT 2: USA today has picked up the story. They found sources that confirm it’s a real court filing, however most people are saying it’s got no legs.

 

22 Comments »

  1. Tim Haines February 4, 2014 at 5:29 pm - Reply

    I am a former Mormon and although I don’t agree with the LDS Church and often try to help people out of it, I think a lawsuit against the church is wrong on a number of levels. First of God gives all of us the right to worship how, where, and what we may. That doesn’t mean that all religions bring salvation (That only comes from Christ) I think this lawsuit is ignorance at it’s finest. I hope these rumors are false. Just like you mentioned if a court can tell a church what to preach how long will it be until all Christianity is banned?

    • Susan Kelley March 25, 2014 at 1:08 pm - Reply

      I just want to say that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,but I do appreciate your comment even though you no longer are. I appreciate the fact that you are open minded to Christians everywhere & they we all have the right to worship how,where & what we may. As you know my church teaches that very same principle:) I too believe this lawsuit is plain ignorance & I have a firm & true testimony of my Savior & His atoning sacrifice for all mankind. And I do believe in & support my prophet. He is a wonderful & very holy man of God. Thank you:)

  2. Silly February 4, 2014 at 5:39 pm - Reply

    So dumb my comment ends here.

    • ianal February 4, 2014 at 8:51 pm - Reply

      If it is so dumb, then Tommy can just ignore the summons. Let me know how that works out for him, and if he still respects your legal advice.

  3. John February 4, 2014 at 5:43 pm - Reply

    Anyone attorney can file a pleading. This one probably won’t survive a motion to dismiss.

  4. George February 4, 2014 at 5:44 pm - Reply

    This “lawsuit” is f@$!ing idiotic, if it is even real. I don’t doubt for a second that he actually believes he is a prophet. Not only is it impossible to prove that he doesn’t, but it’s giving him way too much intellectual credit. This just makes the ex Mormons like like f@!)ing morons.

  5. sleepyhead February 4, 2014 at 6:19 pm - Reply

    You need to take your American heads off and put European heads on instead. Scientology was recently found to be a cult in France, and lost it’s charitable status. I don’t know, would that happen in a US court? However it pans out, make no mistake: this is a criminal charge to be answered under UK law. Americans blithely dismissing it because they don’t understand British law, won’t make it go away.

  6. Jesse February 4, 2014 at 6:20 pm - Reply

    No sway. If they honestly think you can claim fraud because they believe in biblical texts then you’d have to claim fraud on every religion. Or if you think that claiming a text is correct because you believe in the teachings is fraud you might as well go after the Quran next. If you don’t agree with it, leave it alone. That simple. If someone wants to pay tithing that goes towards welfare programs, temple and church construction etc. and you believe it’s a waste, let them waste their money! Why so much hate??

  7. neeny February 4, 2014 at 7:04 pm - Reply

    you have to realize that if this is true, that this is not a US Court hearing. This is a summons for another country, and they do not follow the same rules as The US.

  8. Hector Delgado February 4, 2014 at 8:24 pm - Reply

    This is only because they want attention

  9. SHN February 4, 2014 at 9:04 pm - Reply

    I am not a lawyer but I would be highly doubtful that a foreign entity can serve a summons outside of their sovereign territory. They could file for extradition if their was an extradition treaty.

  10. Joe February 4, 2014 at 10:24 pm - Reply

    I am very interested to see if this story is legitimate and, if so, what will come of it. On the moral standing, I don’t see this as a challenge to particular beliefs. Rather, it is against promoting said beliefs while knowingly withholding information that you know would undermine your position.

    It is irrefutable that the church has attempted to suppress non-faith-promoting aspects of its history.

  11. Angela February 4, 2014 at 10:33 pm - Reply

    As Richie would say: Stupid.

  12. Trevor February 4, 2014 at 11:47 pm - Reply

    The people USA Today talked to were not very impressed:

    “I’m sitting here with an open mouth,” said Neil Addison, a former crown prosecutor and author on religious freedom. “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.”

    Harvey Kass, a British solicitor, referred to the summons as “bizarre,” adding, “I can’t imagine how it got through the court process. It would be set aside within 10 seconds, in my opinion.”

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/02/04/mormon-president-ordered-to-court/5216645/

  13. cameron February 5, 2014 at 4:01 am - Reply

    This is not really about doctrine. Its about financial gain. The 2008 date is inrelation to the ruling on the miss selling of PPI’s. The witnesses say they are being used as they paid after this date. I am British and live here in London and I would just say don’t underestimate this. He can be convicted in his absence and while we all know he would never be extradited this would still hand over him and the church. Its in all our national papers today, soif they wanted was the Warren Jeffs style stigma they have got it.

  14. Rusty February 6, 2014 at 10:57 am - Reply

    Of course the case won’t hold but the true victory for the exmormon community is all the media attention bringing to light troubling Mormon issues such as the Book of Abraham translation. Also having the word fraud show up when you search Thomas S Monson will impact investigators.

  15. Teri Williams February 6, 2014 at 11:39 am - Reply

    I am glad I paid my tithing the times I did. By doing so, God helped me thru-out my life.

    Now that I am older tho, I have second thoughts about tithing. Like why would a billion dollar church keep asking for more and more money. In Salt Lake City, the LDS church built a outdoors mall and it cost the church two billion dollars. Their members sacrifice this money to the LDS church and the LDS church does not need anymore money.

    I do not believe that tithing should be the most important commandment that everyone should live. There are other commandments that are far more important to live than tithing. However, being a Mormon myself…….I see my church leaders just caring about the tithing commandment and nothing else. How much money you give them determines what position you are going to hold in church. I don’t like that idea.

    It is still a good church. The spirit in my church helps people change their lives for the better because God is running it. Some of its members, including some leaders, make the church appear bad. I question some of the things they do ……however, I am not running it, so I don’t get involve with the negative things in this church. I am too busy.

    • Trevor February 6, 2014 at 12:41 pm - Reply

      Teri, Tithing is used to pay for many things in the church (stake and ward buildings, temples, etc.), but it was not used to pay for the new mall in Salt Lake. And tithing is certainly not used to determine what callings a member gets (assuming they’re actually paying a full tithing). Tithing is an important commandment, and I know I’ve been blessed for keeping this commandment, as it sounds like you have.

  16. ing February 9, 2014 at 1:21 am - Reply

    the church of jesus christ of latter day saint is the true church upon the face of the earth.tithing is one of the commandment to help building his kingdom on earth.

  17. Doug February 11, 2014 at 2:57 pm - Reply

    The LDS church is recognized as a church by the Netherlands and other European states. Ergo, this suit, if brought will go nowhere.

  18. Corey Denns February 24, 2014 at 12:41 pm - Reply

    Well, I am LDS and very proud to be. I think these anti-Mormons should think hard about what they are doing, do some serious research on the LDS religion. If they would do their research they would find that the church is true and they would repent and join. What happens when they face God and find out that it is true? What they going to do then? I don’t care what anyone says I am a proud LDS member. If they want to put me up on the cross for it, fine, I’ll hang up there proud. I think taking the Prophet to court for what he believes is stupidly ridiculous. He didn’t get to be a Prophet by not believing in the church. He does believe it and it was God that appointed him as the Prophet. Also, the Prophet does NOT get paid for being the Prophet. If we want to believe in the church, let us believe in it. Leave us alone. We don’t take the anti-Mormons to court for not believing. CD.

    • Susan Kelley March 25, 2014 at 1:10 pm - Reply

      Amen & Amen! I am a proud member too! I appreciate your comment! Thank you! :)

Leave A Response »